On the twelfth of the month, after a landing in which a cross had been erected, three sailors went inland, pursuing the Indians. They captured a young woman whom they brought to the fleet. She wore a large ring of gold in her nose. She was able to understand the other Indians whom they had on board. Columbus dressed her, gave her some imitation pearls, rings and other finery, and then put her on shore with three Indians and three of his own men.
The men returned the next day without going to the Indian village. Columbus then sent out nine men, with an Indian, who found a town of a thousand huts about four and a half leagues from the ship. They thought the population was three thousand. The village in Cuba is spoken of as having twenty people to a house. Here the houses were smaller or the count of the numbers extravagant. The people approached the explorers carefully, and with tokens of respect. Soon they gained confidence and brought out food for them: fish, and bread made from roots, "which tasted exactly as if it were made of chestnuts."
In the midst of this festival, the woman, who had been sent back from the ship so graciously, appeared borne on the shoulders of men who were led by her husband.
The Spaniards thought these natives of St. Domingo much whiter than those of the other islands. Columbus says that two of the women, if dressed in Castilian costume, would be counted to be Spaniards. He says that the heat of the country is intense, and that if these people lived in a cooler region they would be of lighter color.
On the fourteenth of December he continued his voyage eastward, and on the fifteenth landed on the little island north of Hayti, which he called Tortuga, or Turtle island. At midnight on the sixteenth he sailed, and landed on Hispaniola again. Five hundred Indians met him, accompanied by their king, a fine young man of about twenty years of age. He had around him several counselors, one of whom appeared to be his tutor. To the steady questions where gold could be found, the reply as steady was made that it was in "the Island of Babeque." This island, they said, was only two days off, and they pointed out the route. The interview ended in an offer by the king to the Admiral of all that he had. The explorers never found this mysterious Babeque, unless, as Bishop Las Casas guessed, Babeque and Jamaica be the same.
The king visited Columbus on his ship in the evening, and Columbus entertained him with European food. With so cordial a beginning of intimacy, it was natural that the visitors should spend two or three days with these people. The king would not believe that any sovereigns of Castile could be more powerful than the men he saw. He and those around him all believed that they came direct from heaven.
Columbus was always asking for gold. He gave strict orders that it should always be paid for, when it was taken. To the islanders it was merely a matter of ornament, and they gladly exchanged it for the glass beads, the rings or the bells, which seemed to them more ornamental. One of the caciques or chiefs, evidently a man of distinction and authority, had little bits of gold which he exchanged for pieces of glass. It proved that he had clipped them off from a larger piece, and he went back into his cabin, cut that to pieces, and then exchanged all those in trade for the white man's commodities. Well pleased with his bargain, he then told the Spaniards that he would go and get much more and would come and trade with them again.
On the eighteenth of December, the wind not serving well, they waited the return of the chief whom they had first seen. In the afternoon he appeared, seated in a palanquin, which was carried by four men, and escorted by more than two hundred of his people. He was accompanied by a counselor and preceptor who did not leave him. He came on board the ship when Columbus was at table. He would not permit him to leave his place, and readily took a seat at his side, when it was offered. Columbus offered him European food and drink; he tasted of each, and then gave what was offered to his attendants. The ceremonious Spaniards found a remarkable dignity in his air and gestures. After the repast, one of his servants brought a handsome belt, elegantly wrought, which he presented to Columbus, with two small pieces of gold, also delicately wrought.
Columbus observed that this cacique looked with interest on the hangings of his ship-bed, and made a present of them to him, in return for his offering, with some amber beads from his own neck, some red shoes and a flask of orange flower water.
On the nineteenth, after these agreeable hospitalities, the squadron sailed again, and on the twentieth arrived at a harbor which Columbus pronounced the finest he had ever seen. The reception he met here and the impressions he formed of Hispaniola determined him to make a colony on that island. It may be said that on this determination the course of his after life turned. This harbor is now known as the Bay of Azul.
The men, whom he sent on shore, found a large village not far from the shore, where they were most cordially received. The natives begged the Europeans to stay with them, and as it proved, Columbus accepted the invitation for a part of his crew. On the first day three different chiefs came to visit him, in a friendly way, with their retinues. The next day more than a hundred and twenty canoes visited the ship, bringing with them such presents as the people thought would be acceptable. Among these were bread from the cassava root, fish, water in earthen jars, and the seeds of spices. These spices they would stir in with water to make a drink which they thought healthful.
On the same day Columbus sent an embassy of six men to a large town in the interior. The chief by giving his hand "to the secretary" pledged himself for their safe return.
The twenty-third was Sunday. It was spent as the day before had been, in mutual civilities. The natives would offer their presents, and say "take, take," in their own language. Five chiefs were among the visitors of the day. From their accounts Columbus was satisfied that there was much gold in the island, as indeed, to the misery and destruction of its inhabitants, there proved to be. He thought it was larger than England. But he was mistaken. In his journal of the next day he mentions Civao, a land to the west, where they told him that there was gold, and again he thought he was approaching Cipango, or Japan.
The next day he left these hospitable people, raising anchor in the morning, and with a light land wind continued towards the west. At eleven in the evening Columbus retired to rest. While he slept, on Christmas Day, there occurred an accident which changed all plans for the expedition so far as any had been formed, and from which there followed the establishment of the ill-fated first colony. The evening was calm when Columbus himself retired to sleep, and the master of the vessel followed his example, entrusting the helm to one of the boys. Every person on the ship, excepting this boy, was asleep, and he seems to have been awake to little purpose.
The young steersman let the ship drift upon a ridge of rock, although, as Columbus says, indignantly, there were breakers abundant to show the danger. So soon as she struck, the boy cried out, and Columbus was the first to wake. He says, by way of apology for himself, that for thirty-six hours he had not slept until now. The master of the ship followed him. But it was too late. The tide, such as there was, was ebbing, and the Santa Maria was hopelessly aground. Columbus ordered the masts cut away, but this did not relieve her.
He sent out his boat with directions to carry aft an anchor and cable, but its crew escaped to the Nina with their tale of disaster. The Nina's people would not receive them, reproached them as traitors, and in their own vessel came to the scene of danger. Columbus was obliged to transfer to her the crew of the Santa Maria.
So soon as it was day, their friendly ally, Guacanagari, came on board. With tears in his eyes, he made the kindest and most judicious offers of assistance. He saw Columbus's dejection, and tried to relieve him by expressions of his sympathy. He set aside on shore two large houses to receive the stores that were on the Santa Maria, and appointed as many large canoes as could be used to remove these stores to the land. He assured Columbus that not a bit of the cargo or stores should be lost, and this loyal promise was fulfilled to the letter.
The weather continued favorable. The sea was so light that everything on board the Santa Maria was removed safely. Then it was that Columbus, tempted by the beauty of the place, by the friendship of the natives, and by the evident wishes of his men, determined to leave a colony, which should be supported by the stores of the Santa Maria, until the rest of the party could go back to Spain and bring or send reinforcements. The king was well pleased with this suggestion, and promised all assistance for the plan. A vault was dug and built, in which the stores could be placed, and on this a house was built for the home of the colonists, so far as they cared to live within doors.
The chief sent a canoe in search of Martin Pinzon and the Pinta, to tell them of the disaster. But the messengers returned without finding them. At the camp, which was to be a city, all was industriously pressed, with the assistance of the friendly natives. Columbus, having no vessel but the little Nina left, determined to return to Europe with the news of his discovery, and to leave nearly forty men ashore.
It would appear that the men, themselves, were eager to stay. The luxury of the climate and the friendly overtures of the people delighted them, They had no need to build substantial houses. So far as houses were needed, those of the natives were sufficient. All the preparations which Columbus thought necessary were made in the week between the twenty-sixth of December and the second of January. On that day he expected to sail eastward, but unfavorable winds prevented.
He landed his men again, and by the exhibition of a pretended battle with European arms, he showed the natives the military force of their new neighbors. He fired a shot from an arquebuse against the wreck of the Santa Maria, so that the Indians might see the power of his artillery. The Indian chief expressed his regret at the approaching departure, and the Spaniards thought that one of his courtiers said that the chief had ordered him to make a statue of pure gold as large as the Admiral.
Columbus explained to the friendly chief that with such arms as the sovereigns of Castile commanded they could readily destroy the dreaded Caribs. And he thought he had made such an impression that the islanders would be the firm friends of the colonists.
"I have bidden them build a solid tower and defense, over a vault. Not that I think this necessary against the natives, for I am satisfied that with a handful of people I could conquer the whole island, were it necessary, although it is, as far as I can judge, larger than Portugal, and twice as thickly peopled." In this cheerful estimate of the people Columbus was wholly wrong, as the sad events proved before the year had gone by.
He left thirty-nine men to be the garrison of this fort; and the colony which was to discover the mine of gold. In command he placed Diego da Arana, Pedro Gutierres and Rodrigo de Segovia. To us, who have more experience of colonies and colonists than he had had, it does not seem to promise well that Rodrigo was "the king's chamberlain and an officer of the first lord of the household." Of these three, Diego da Arana was to be the governor, and the other two his lieutenants. The rest were all sailors, but among them there were Columbus's secretary, an alguazil, or person commissioned in the civil service at home, an "arquebusier," who was also a good engineer, a tailor, a ship carpenter, a cooper and a physician. So the little colony had its share of artificers and men of practical skill. They all staid willingly, delighted with the prospects of their new home.
On the third of January Columbus sailed for Europe in the little Nina. With her own crew and the addition she received from the Santa Maria, she must have been badly crowded. Fortunately for all parties, on Sunday, the third day of the voyage, while they were still in sight of land, the Pinta came in sight. Martin Pinzon came on board the Nina and offered excuses for his absence. Columbus was not really satisfied with them, but he affected to be, as this was no moment for a quarrel. He believed that Pinzon had left him, that, in the Pinta, he might be alone when he discovered the rich gold-bearing island of Babeque or Baneque. Although the determination was made to return, another week was spent in slow coasting, or in waiting for wind. It brought frequent opportunities for meeting the natives, in one of which they showed a desire to take some of their visitors captive. This would only have been a return for a capture made by Pinzon of several of their number, whom Columbus, on his meeting Pinzon, had freed. In this encounter two of the Indians were wounded, one by a sword, one by an arrow. It would seem that he did not show them the power of firearms.
This was in the Bay of Samana, which Columbus called "The Bay of Arrows," from the skirmish or quarrel which took place there. They then sailed sixty-four miles cast, a quarter northeast, and thought they saw the land of the Caribs, which he was seeking. But here, at length, his authority over his crew failed. The men were eager to go home;—did not, perhaps, like the idea of fight with the man-eating Caribs. There was a good western wind, and on the evening of the sixteenth of January Columbus gave way and they bore away for home.
Columbus had satisfied himself in this week that there were many islands east of him which he had not hit upon, and that to the easternmost of these, from the Canaries, the distance would prove not more than four hundred leagues. In this supposition he was wholly wrong, though a chain of islands does extend to the southeast.
He seems to have observed the singular regularity by which the trade winds bore him steadily westward as he came over. He had no wish to visit the Canary Islands again, and with more wisdom than could have been expected, from his slight knowledge of the Atlantic winds, he bore north. Until the fourteenth of February the voyage was prosperous and uneventful. One day the captive Indians amused the sailors by swimming. There is frequent mention of the green growth of the Sargasso sea. But on the fourteenth all this changed. The simple journal thus describes the terrible tempest which endangered the two vessels, and seemed, at the moment, to cut off the hope of their return to Europe.
"Monday, February 14.—This night the wind increased still more; the waves were terrible. Coming from two opposite directions, they crossed each other, and stopped the progress of the vessel, which could neither proceed nor get out from among them; and as they began continually to break over the ship, the Admiral caused the main-sail to be lowered. She proceeded thus during three hours, and made twenty miles. The sea became heavier and heavier, and the wind more and more violent. Seeing the danger imminent, he allowed himself to drift in whatever direction the wind took him, because he could do nothing else. Then the Pinta, of which Martin Alonzo Pinzon was the commander, began to drift also; but she disappeared very soon, although all through the night the Admiral made signals with lights to her, and she answered as long as she could, till she was prevented, probably by the force of the tempest, and by her deviation from the course which the Admiral followed." Columbus did not see the Pinta again until she arrived at Palos. He was himself driven fifty-four miles towards the northeast.
The journal continues. "After sunrise the strength of the wind increased, and the sea became still more terrible. The Admiral all this time kept his mainsail lowered, so that the vessel might rise from among the waves which washed over it, and which threatened to sink it. The Admiral followed, at first, the direction of east-northeast, and afterwards due northeast. He sailed about six hours in this direction, and thus made seven leagues and a half. He gave orders that every sailor should draw lots as to who should make a pilgrimage to Santa Maria of Guadeloupe, to carry her a five-pound wax candle. And each one took a vow that he to whom the lot fell should make the pilgrimage.
"For this purpose, he gave orders to take as many dry peas as there were persons in the ship, and to cut, with a knife, a cross upon one of them, and to put them all into a cap, and to shake them up well. The first who put his hand in was the Admiral. He drew out the dry pea marked with the cross; so it was upon him that the lot fell, and he regarded himself, after that, as a pilgrim, obliged to carry into effect the vow which he had thus taken. They drew lots a second time, to select a person to go as pilgrim to Our Lady of Lorette, which is within the boundaries of Ancona, making a part of the States of the Church: it is a place where the Holy Virgin has worked and continues to work many and great miracles. The lot having fallen this time upon a sailor of the harbor of Santa Maria, named Pedro de Villa, the Admiral promised to give him all the money necessary for the expenses. He decided that a third pilgrim should be sent to watch one night at Santa Clara of Moguer, and to have a mass said there. For this purpose, they again shook up the dry peas, not forgetting that one which was marked with the cross, and the lot fell once again to the Admiral himself. He then took, as did all his crew, the vow that, on the first shore which they might reach, they would go in their shirts, in a procession, to make a prayer in some church in invocation of Our Lady."
"Besides the general vows, or those taken by all in common, each man made his own special vow, because nobody expected to escape. The storm which they experienced was so terrible, that all regarded themselves as lost; what increased the danger was the circumstance that the vessel lacked ballast, because the consumption of food, water and wine had greatly diminished her load. The hope of the continuance of weather as fine as that which they had experienced in all the islands, was the reason why the Admiral had not provided his vessel with the proper amount of ballast. Moreover, his plan had been to ballast it in the Women's Island, whither he had from the first determined to go. The remedy which the Admiral employed was to fill with sea water, as soon as possible, all the empty barrels which had previously held either wine or fresh water. In this way the difficulty was remedied.
"The Admiral tells here the reasons for fearing that our Saviour would allow him to become the victim of this tempest, and other reasons which made him hope that God would come to his assistance, and cause him to arrive safe and sound, so that intelligence such as that which he was conveying to the king and queen would not perish with him. The strong desire which he had to be the bearer of intelligence so important, and to prove the truth of all which he had said, and that all which he had tried to discover had really been discovered, seemed to contribute precisely to inspire him with the greatest fear that he could not succeed. He confessed, himself, that every mosquito that passed before his eyes was enough to annoy and trouble him. He attributed this to his little faith, and his lack of confidence in Divine Providence. On the other hand, he was re-animated by the favors which God had shown him in granting to him so great a triumph as that which he had achieved, in all his discoveries, in fulfilling all his wishes, and in granting that, after having experienced in Castile so many rebuffs and disappointments, all his hopes should at last be more than surpassed. In one word, as the sovereign master of the universe, had, in the outset, distinguished him in granting all his requests, before he had carried out his expedition for God's greatest glory, and before it had succeeded, he was compelled to believe now that God would preserve him to complete the work which he had begun." Such is Las Casas's abridgment of Columbus's words.
"For which reasons he said he ought to have had no fear of the tempest that was raging. But his weakness and anguish did not leave him a moment's calm. He also said that his greatest grief was the thought of leaving his two boys orphans. They were at Cordova, at their studies. What would become of them in a strange land, without father or mother? for the king and queen, being ignorant of the services he had rendered them in this voyage, and of the good news which he was bringing to them, would not be bound by any consideration to serve as their protectors.
"Full of this thought, he sought, even in the storm, some means of apprising their highnesses of the victory which the Lord had granted him, in permitting him to discover in the Indies all which he had sought in his voyage, and to let them know that these coasts were free from storms, which is proved, he said, by the growth of herbage and trees even to the edge of the sea. With this purpose, that, if he perished in this tempest, the king and queen might have some news of his voyage, he took a parchment and wrote on it all that he could of his discoveries, and urgently begged that whoever found it would carry it to the king and queen. He rolled up this parchment in a piece of waxed linen, closed this parcel tightly, and tied it up securely; he had brought to him a large wooden barrel, within which he placed it, without anybody's knowing what it was. Everybody thought the proceeding was some act of devotion. He then caused it to be thrown into the sea."(*)
(*) Within a few months, in the summer of 1890, a well known English publisher has issued an interesting and ingenious edition, of what pretended to be a facsimile of this document. The reader is asked to believe that the lost barrel has just now been found on the western coast of England. But publishers and purchasers know alike that this is only an amusing suggestion of what might have been.
The sudden and heavy showers, and the squalls which followed some time afterwards, changed the wind, which turned to the west. They had the wind thus abaft, and he sailed thus during five hours with the foresail only, having always the troubled sea, and made at once two leagues and a half towards the northeast. He had lowered the main topmast lest a wave might carry it away.
With a heavy wind astern, so that the sea frequently broke over the little Nina, she made eastward rapidly, and at daybreak on the fifteenth they saw land. The Admiral knew that he had made the Azores, he had been steadily directing the course that way; some of the seamen thought they were at Madeira, and some hopeful ones thought they saw the rock of Cintra in Portugal. Columbus did not land till the eighteenth, when he sent some men on shore, upon the island of Santa Maria. His news of discovery was at first received with enthusiasm.
But there followed a period of disagreeable negotiation with Castaneda, the governor of the Azores. Pretending great courtesy and hospitality, but really acting upon the orders of the king of Portugal, he did his best to disable Columbus and even seized some of his crew and kept them prisoners for some days. When Columbus once had them on board again, he gave up his plans for taking ballast and water on these inhospitable islands, and sailed for Europe.
He had again a stormy passage. Again they were in imminent danger. "But God was good enough to save him. He caused the crew to draw lots to send to Notre Dame de la Cintra, at the island of Huelva, a pilgrim who should come there in his shirt. The lot fell upon himself. All the crew, including the Admiral, vowed to fast on bread and water on the first Saturday which should come after the arrival of the vessel. He had proceeded sixty miles before the sails were torn; then they went under masts and shrouds on account of the unusual strength of the wind, and the roughness of the sea, which pressed them almost on all sides. They saw indications of the nearness of the land; they were in fact, very near Lisbon."
At Lisbon, after a reception which was at first cordial, the Portuguese officers showed an inhospitality like that of Castaneda at the Azores. But the king himself showed more dignity and courtesy. He received the storm-tossed Admiral with distinction, and permitted him to refit his shattered vessel with all he needed. Columbus took this occasion to write to his own sovereigns.
On the thirteenth he sailed again, and on the fifteenth entered the bay and harbor of Palos, which he had left six months and a half before. He had sailed on Friday. He had discovered America on Friday. And on Friday he safely returned to his home.
His journal of the voyage ends with these words: "I see by this voyage that God has wonderfully proved what I say, as anybody may convince himself, by reading this narrative, by the signal wonders which he has worked during the course of my voyage, and in favor of myself, who have been for so long a time at the court of your Highnesses in opposition and contrary to the opinions of so many distinguished personages of your household, who all opposed me, treating my project as a dream, and my undertaking as a chimera. And I hope still, nevertheless, in our Lord, this voyage will bring the greatest honor to Christianity, although it has been performed with so much ease."
CHAPTER VII. — COLUMBUS IS CALLED TO MEET THE KING AND QUEEN
—HIS MAGNIFICENT RECEPTION—NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE POPE AND WITH THE KING OF PORTUGAL—SECOND EXPEDITION ORDERED—FONSECA—THE PREPARATIONS AT CADIZ.
The letter which Columbus sent from Lisbon to the king and queen was everywhere published. It excited the enthusiasm first of Spain and then of the world. This letter found in the earlier editions is now one of the most choice curiosities of libraries. Well it may be, for it is the first public announcement of the greatest event of modern history.
Ferdinand and Isabella directed him to wait upon them at once at court. It happened that they were then residing at Barcelona, on the eastern coast of Spain, so that the journey required to fulfill their wishes carried him quite across the kingdom. It was a journey of triumph. The people came together in throngs to meet this peaceful conqueror who brought with him such amazing illustrations of his discovery.
The letter bearing instructions for him to proceed to Barcelona was addressed "To Don Christopher Columbus, our Admiral of the Ocean Sea, Viceroy and Governor of the islands discovered in the Indies." So far was he now raised above the rank of a poor adventurer, who had for seven years attended the court in its movements, seeking an opportunity to explain his proposals.
As he approached Barcelona he was met by a large company of people, including many persons of rank. A little procession was formed of the party of the Admiral. Six Indians of the islands who had survived the voyage, led the way. They were painted according to their custom in various colors, and ornamented with the fatal gold of their countries, which had given to the discovery such interest in the eyes of those who looked on.
Columbus had brought ten Indians away with him, but one had died on the voyage and he had left three sick at Palos. Those whom he brought to Barcelona, were baptized in presence of the king and queen.
After the Indians, were brought many curious objects which had come from the islands, such as stuffed birds and beasts and living paroquets, which perhaps spoke in the language of their own country, and rare plants, so different from those of Spain. Ornaments of gold were displayed, which would give the people some idea of the wealth of the islands. Last of all came Columbus, elegantly mounted and surrounded by a brilliant cavalcade of young Spaniards. The crowd of wondering people pressed around them. Balconies and windows were crowded with women looking on. Even the roofs were crowded with spectators.
The king and queen awaited Columbus in a large hall, where they were seated on a rich dais covered with gold brocade. It was in the palace known as the "Casa de la Deputacion" which the kings of Aragon made their residence when they were in Barcelona. A body of the most distinguished lords and ladies of Spain were in attendance. As Columbus entered the hall the king and queen arose. He fell on his knee that he might kiss their hands but they bade him rise and then sit and give an account of his voyage.
Columbus spoke with dignity and simplicity which commanded respect, while all listened with sympathy. He showed some of the treasures he had brought, and spoke with certainty of the discoveries which had been made, as only precursors of those yet to come. When his short narrative was ended, all the company knelt and united in chanting the "Te Deum," "We Praise Thee, O God." Las Casas, describing the joy and hope of that occasion says, "it seems as if they had a foretaste of the joys of paradise."
It would seem as if those whose duty it is to prepare fit celebrations of the periods of the great discovery, could hardly do better than to produce on the twenty-fourth of April, 1893, a reproduction of the solemn pageant in which, in Barcelona, four centuries before, the Spanish court commemorated the great discovery.
From this time, for several weeks, a series of pageants and festivities surrounded him. At no other period of his life were such honors paid to him. It was at one of the banquets, at which he was present, that the incident of the egg, so often told in connection with the great discovery, took place. A flippant courtier—of that large class of people who stay at home when great deeds are done, and afterwards depreciate the doers of them—had the impertinence to ask Columbus, if the adventure so much praised was not, after all, a very simple matter. He probably said "a short voyage of four or five weeks; was it anything more?" Columbus replied by giving him an egg which was on the table, and asking him if he could stand it on one end. He said he could not, and the other guests said that they could not. Columbus tapped it on the table so as to break the end of the shell, and the egg stood erect. "It is easy enough," he said, "when any one has shown you how."
It is well to remember, that if after years showed that the ruler of Spain wearied in his gratitude, Columbus was, at the time, welcomed with the enthusiasm which he deserved. From the very grains of gold brought home in this first triumph, the queen, Isabella, had the golden illumination wrought of a most beautiful missal-book.
Distinguished artists decorated the book, and the portraits of sovereigns then on the throne appear as the representations of King David, King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba and other royal personages. This book she gave afterwards to her grandson, Charles V, of whom it has been said that perhaps no man in modern times has done the world more harm.
This precious book, bearing on its gilded leaves the first fruits of America, is now preserved in the Royal Library at Madrid.
The time was not occupied merely in shows and banquets. There was no difficulty now, about funds for a second expedition. Directions were given that it might be set forward as quickly as possible, and on an imposing scale. For it was feared at court that King John of Portugal, the successful rival of Spain, thus far, in maritime adventure, might anticipate further discovery. The sovereigns at once sent an embassy to the pope, not simply to announce the discovery, but to obtain from him a decree confirming similar discoveries in the same direction. There was at least one precedent for such action. A former pope had granted to Portugal all the lands it might discover in Africa, south of Cape Bojador, and the Spanish crown had assented by treaty to this arrangement. Ferdinand and Isabella could now refer to this precedent, in asking for a grant to them of their discoveries on the western side of the Atlantic. The pope now reigning was Alexander II. He had not long filled the papal chair. He was an ambitious and prudent sovereign—a native of Spain—and, although he would gladly have pleased the king of Portugal, he was quite unwilling to displease the Spanish sovereigns. The Roman court received with respect the request made to them. The pope expressed his joy at the hopes thrown out for the conversion of the heathen, which the Spanish sovereigns had expressed, as Columbus had always done. And so prompt were the Spanish requests, and so ready the pope's answer, that as early as May 3, 1493, a papal bull was issued to meet the wishes of Spain.
This bull determined for Spain and for Portugal, that all discoveries made west of a meridian line one hundred leagues west of the Azores should belong to Spain. All discoveries east of that line should belong to Portugal. No reference was made to other maritime powers, and it does not seem to have been supposed that other states had any rights in such matters. The line thus arranged for the two nations was changed by their own agreement, in 1494, for a north and south line three hundred and fifty leagues west of the Cape de Verde Islands. The difference between the two lines was not supposed to be important.
The decision thus made was long respected. Under a mistaken impression as to the longitude of the Philippine Islands in the East Indies, Spain has held those islands, under this line of division, ever since their discovery by Magellan. She considered herself entitled to all the islands and lands between the meridian thus drawn in the Atlantic and the similar meridian one hundred and eighty degrees away, on exactly the other side of the world.
Under the same line of division, Portugal held, for three centuries and more, Brazil, which projects so far eastward into the Atlantic as to cross this line of division.
Fearful, all the time, that neither the pope's decree, nor any diplomacy would prevent the king of Portugal from attempting to seize lands at the west, the Spanish court pressed with eagerness arrangements for a second expedition. It was to be on a large and generous scale and to take out a thousand men. For this was the first plan, though the number afterwards was increased to fifteen hundred. To give efficiency to all the measures of colonization, what we should call a new department of administration was formed, and at the head of it was placed Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca.
Fonseca held this high and responsible position for thirty years. He early conceived a great dislike of Columbus, who, in some transactions before this expedition sailed, appealed to the sovereigns to set aside a decision of Fonseca's, and succeeded. For all the period while he managed the Indian affairs of Spain, Fonseca kept his own interests in sight more closely than those of Spain or of the colonists; and not Columbus only, but every other official of Spain in the West Indies, had reason to regret the appointment.
The king of Portugal and the sovereigns of Spain began complicated and suspicious negotiations with each other regarding the new discoveries. Eventually, as has been said, they acceded to the pope's proposal and decree. But, at first, distrusting each other, and concealing their real purposes, in the worst style of the diplomacy of that time, they attempted treaties for the adjustment between themselves of the right to lands not yet discovered by either. Of these negotiations, the important result was that which has been named,—the change of the meridian of division from that proposed by the pope. It is curious now to see that the king of Portugal proposed a line of division, which would run east and west, so that Spain should have the new territories north of the latitude of the Grand Canary, and Portugal all to the south.
In the midst of negotiation, the king and queen and Columbus knew that whoever was first on the ground of discovery would have the great advantage. There was a rumor in Spain that Portugal had already sent out vessels to the west. Everything was pressed with alacrity at Cadiz. The expedition was to be under Columbus's absolute command. Seamen of reputation were engaged to serve under him. Seventeen vessels were to take out a colony. Horses as well as cattle and other domestic animals were provided. Seeds and plants of different kinds were sent out, and to this first colonization by Spain, America owes the sugar-cane, and perhaps some other of her tropical productions.
Columbus remained in Barcelona until the twenty-third of May. But before that time, the important orders for the expedition had been given. He then went to Cadiz himself, and gave his personal attention to the preparations. Applications were eagerly pressed, from all quarters, for permission to go. Young men of high family were eager to try the great adventure. It was necessary to enlarge the number from that at first proposed. The increase of expense, ordered as the plans enlarged, did not please Fonseca. To quarrels between him and Columbus at this time have been referred the persecutions which Columbus afterwards suffered. In this case the king sustained Columbus in all his requisitions, and Fonseca was obliged to answer them.
So rapidly were all these preparations made, that, in a little more than a year from the sailing of the first expedition, the second, on a scale so much larger, was ready for sea.
CHAPTER VIII. — THE SECOND EXPEDITION SAILS
—FROM CADIZ AT CANARY ISLANDS—DISCOVERY OF DOMINICA AND GUADELOUPE—SKIRMISHES WITH THE CARIBS—PORTO RICO DISCOVERED—HISPANIOLA—THE FATE OF THE COLONY AT LA NAVIDAD.
There is not in history a sharper contrast, or one more dramatic, than that between the first voyage of Columbus and the second. In the first voyage, three little ships left the port of Palos, most of the men of their crews unwilling, after infinite difficulty in preparation, and in the midst of the fears of all who stayed behind.
In the second voyage, a magnificent fleet, equipped with all that the royal service could command, crowded with eager adventurers who are excited by expectations of romance and of success, goes on the very same adventure.
In the first voyage, Columbus has but just turned the corner after the struggles and failures of eight years. He is a penniless adventurer who has staked all his reputation on a scheme in which he has hardly any support. In the second case, Columbus is the governor-general, for aught he knows, of half the world, of all the countries he is to discover; and he knows enough, and all men around him know enough, to see that his domain may be a principality indeed.
Success brings with it its disadvantages. The world has learned since, if it did not know it then, that one hundred and fifty sailors, used to the hard work and deprivations of a seafaring life, would be a much more efficient force for purposes of discovery, than a thousand and more courtiers who have left the presence of the king and queen in the hope of personal advancement or of romantic adventure. Those dainty people, who would have been soldiers if there were no gunpowder, are not men to found states; and the men who have lived in the ante-chambers of courts are not people who co-operate sympathetically with an experienced man of affairs like Columbus.
From this time forward this is to be but a sad history, and the sadness, nay, the cruelty of the story, results largely from the composition of the body of men whom Columbus took with him on this occasion. It is no longer coopers and blacksmiths and boatswains and sailmakers who surround him. These were officers of court, whose titles even cannot be translated into modern language, so artificial were their habits and so conventional the duties to which they had been accustomed. Such men it was, who made poor Columbus endless trouble. Such men it was, who, at the last, dragged him down from his noble position, so that he died unhonored, dispirited and poor. To the same misfortune, probably, do we owe it that, for a history of this voyage, we have no longer authority so charming as the simple, gossipy journal which Columbus kept through the first voyage, of which the greater part has happily been preserved. It may be that he was too much pressed by his varied duties to keep up such a journal. For it is alas! an unfortunate condition of human life, that men are most apt to write journals when they have nothing to tell, and that in the midst of high activity, the record of that activity is not made by the actor. In the present case, a certain Doctor Chanca, a native of Seville, had been taken on board Columbus's ship, perhaps with the wish that he should be the historian of the expedition. It may be that in the fact that his journal was sent home is the reason why the Admiral's, if he kept one, has never been preserved. Doctor Chanca's narrative is our principal contemporary account of the voyage. From later authorities much can be added to it, but all of them put together are not, for the purposes of history, equal to the simple contemporaneous statement which we could have had, had Columbus's own journal been preserved.
The great fleet sailed from Cadiz on the twenty-fifth day of September, in the year 1493, rather more than thirteen months after the sailing of the little fleet from Palos of the year before. They touched at the Grand Canary as before, but at this time their vessels were in good condition and there was no dissatisfaction among the crews. From this time the voyage across the ocean was short. On the third day of November, 11 the Sunday after All Saints Day had dawned, a pilot on the ship cried out to the captain that he saw land. "So great was the joy among the people, that it was marvellous to hear the shouts of pleasure on all hands. And for this there was much reason because the people were so much fatigued by the hard life and by the water which they drank that they all hoped for land with much desire."
The reader will see that this is the ejaculation of a tired landsman; one might say, of a tired scholar, who was glad that even the short voyage was at an end. Some of the pilots supposed that the distance which they had run was eight hundred leagues from Ferro; others thought it was seven hundred and eighty. As the light increased, there were two islands in sight the first was mountainous, being the island of "Dominica," which still retains that name, of the Sunday when it was discovered; the other, the island of Maria Galante, is more level, but like the first, as it is described by Dr. Chanca, it was well wooded. The island received its name from the ship that Columbus commanded. In all, they discovered six islands on this day.
Finding no harbor which satisfied him in Dominica, Columbus landed on the island of Maria Galante, and took possession of it in the name of the king and queen. Dr. Chanca expresses the amazement which everyone had felt on the other voyage, at the immense variety of trees, of fruits and of flowers, which to this hour is the joy of the traveller in the West Indies.
"In this island was such thickness of forest that it was wonderful, and such a variety of trees, unknown to anyone, that it was terrible, some with fruit, some with flowers, so that everything was green. * * * There were wild fruits of different sorts, which some not very wise men tried, and, on merely tasting them, touching them with their tongues, their faces swelled and they had such great burning and pain that they seemed to rage (or to have hydrophobia). They were cured with cold things." This fruit is supposed to have been the manchireel, which is known to produce such effects.
They found no inhabitants on this island and went on to another, now called Guadeloupe. It received this name from its resemblance to a province of the same name in Spain. They drew near a mountain upon it which "seemed to be trying to reach the sky," upon which was a beautiful waterfall, so white with foam that at a distance some of the sailors thought it was not water, but white rocks. The Admiral sent a light caravel to coast along and find harbor. This vessel discovered some houses, and the captain went ashore and found the inhabitants in them. They fled at once, and he entered the houses. There he found that they had taken nothing away. There was much cotton, "spun and to be spun," and other goods of theirs, and he took a little of everything, among other things, two parrots, larger and different from what had been seen before. He also took four or five bones of the legs and arms of men. This last discovery made the Spaniards suppose that these islands were those of Caribs, inhabited by the cannibals of whom they had heard in the first voyage.
They went on along the coast, passing by some little villages, from which the inhabitants fled, "as soon as they saw the sails." The Admiral decided to send ashore to make investigations, and next morning "certain captains" landed. At dinnertime some of them returned, bringing with them a boy of fourteen, who said that he was one of the captives of the people of the island. The others divided, and one party "took a little boy and brought him on board." Another party took a number of women, some of them natives of the island, and others captives, who came of their own accord. One captain, Diego Marquez, with his men, went off from the others and lost his way with his party. After four days he came out on the coast, and by following that, he succeeded in coming to the fleet. Their friends supposed them to have been killed and eaten by the Caribs, as, since some of them were pilots and able to set their course by the pole-star, it seemed impossible that they should lose themselves.
During the first day Columbus spent here, many men and women came to the water's edge, "looking at the fleet and wondering at such a new thing; and when any boat came ashore to talk with them, saying, 'tayno, tayno,' which means good. But they were all ready to run when they seemed in danger, so that of the men only two could be taken by force or free-will. There were taken more than twenty women of the captives, and of their free-will came other women, born in other islands, who were stolen away and taken by force. Certain captive boys came to us. In this harbor we were eight days on account of the loss of the said captain."
They found great quantities of human bones on shore, and skulls hanging like pots or cups about the houses. They saw few men. The women said that this was because ten canoes had gone on a robbing or kidnapping expedition to other islands. "This people," says Doctor Chanca, "appeared to us more polite than those who live in the other islands we have seen, though they all have straw houses." But he goes on to say that these houses are better made and provided, and that more of both men's and women's work appeared in them. They had not only plenty of spun and unspun cotton, but many cotton mantles, "so well woven that they yield in nothing (or owe nothing) to those of our country."
When the women, who had been found captives, were asked who the people of the island were, they replied that they were Caribs. "When they heard that we abhorred such people for their evil use of eating men's flesh, they rejoiced much." But even in the captivity which all shared, they showed fear of their old masters.
"The customs of this people, the Caribs," says Dr. Chanca, "are beastly;" and it would be difficult not to agree with him, in spite of the "politeness" and comparative civilization he has spoken of.
They occupied three islands, and lived in harmony with each other, but made war in their canoes on all the other islands in the neighborhood. They used arrows in warfare, but had no iron. Some of them used arrow-heads of tortoise shell, others sharply toothed fish-bones, which could do a good deal of damage among unarmed men. "But for people of our nation, they are not arms to be feared much."
These Caribs carried off both men and women on their robbing expeditions. They slaughtered and ate the men, and kept the women as slaves; they were, in short, incredibly cruel. Three of the captive boys ran away and joined the Spaniards.
They had twice sent out expeditions after the lost captain, Diego Marquez, and another party had returned without news of him, on the very day on which he and his men came in. They brought with them ten captives, boys and women. They were received with great joy. "He and those that were with him, arrived so DESTROYED BY THE MOUNTAIN, that it was pitiful to see them. When they were asked how they had lost themselves, they said that it was the thickness of the trees, so great that they could not see the sky, and that some of them, who were mariners, had climbed up the trees to look at the star (the Pole-star) and that they never could see it."
One of the accounts of this voyage(*) relates that the captive women, who had taken refuge with the Spaniards, were persuaded by them to entice some of the Caribs to the beach. "But these men, when they had seen our people, all struck by terror, or the consciousness of their evil deeds, looking at each other, suddenly drew together, and very lightly, like a flight of birds, fled away to the valleys of the woods. Our men then, not having succeeded in taking any cannibals, retired to the ships and broke the Indians' canoes."
(*) That of Peter Martyr.
They left Guadeloupe on Sunday, the tenth of November. They passed several islands, but stopped at none of them, as they were in haste to arrive at the settlement of La Navidad in Hispaniola, made on the first voyage. They did, however, make some stay at an island which seemed well populated. This was that of San Martin. The Admiral sent a boat ashore to ask what people lived on the island, and to ask his way, although, as he afterwards found, his own calculations were so correct that he did not need any help. The boat's crew took some captives, and as it was going back to the ships, a canoe came up in which were four men, two women and a boy. They were so astonished at seeing the fleet, that they remained, wondering what it could be, "two Lombard-shot from the ship," and did not see the boat till it was close to them. They now tried to get off, but were so pressed by the boat that they could not. "The Caribs, as soon as they saw that flight did not profit them, with much boldness laid hands on their bows, the women as well as the men. And I say with much boldness, because they were no more than four men and two women, and ours more than twenty-five, of whom they wounded two. To one they gave two arrow-shots in the breast, and to the other one in the ribs. And if we had not had shields and tablachutas, and had not come up quickly with the boat and overturned their canoe, they would have shot the most of our men with their arrows. And after their canoe was overturned, they remained in the water swimming, and at times getting foothold, for there were some shallow places there. And our men had much ado to take them, for they still kept on shooting as they could. And with all this, not one of them could be taken, except one badly wounded with a lance-thrust, who died, whom thus wounded they carried to the ships."
Another account of this fight says that the canoe was commanded by one of the women, who seemed to be a queen, who had a son "of cruel look, robust, with a lion's face, who followed her." This account represents the queen's son to have been wounded, as well as the man who died. "The Caribs differed from the other Indians in having long hair; the others wore theirs braided and a hundred thousand differences made in their heads, with crosses and other paintings of different sorts, each one as he desires, which they do with sharp canes." The Indians, both the Caribs and the others, were beardless, unless by a great exception. The Caribs, who had been taken prisoners here, had their eyes and eyebrows blackened, "which, it seems to me, they do as an ornament, and with that they appear more frightful." They heard from these prisoners of much gold at an island called Cayre.
They left San Martin on the same day, and passed the island of Santa Cruz, and the next day (November 15) they saw a great number of islands, which the Admiral named Santa Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins. This seemed "a country fit for metals," but the fleet made no stay there. They did stop for two days at an island called Burenquen. The Admiral named it San Juan Bautista (Saint John Baptist). It is what we now call Porto Rico. He was not able to communicate with any of the inhabitants, as they lived in such fear of the Caribs that they all fled. All these islands were new to the Admiral and all "very beautiful and of very good land, but this one seemed better than all of them."
On Friday, the twenty-second of November, they landed at the island of Hispaniola or Hayti which they so much desired. None of the party who had made the first voyage were acquainted with this part of the island; but they conjectured what it was, from what the Indian captive women told them.
The part of the island where they arrived was called Hayti, another part Xamana, and the third Bohio. "It is a very singular country," says Dr. Chanca, "where there are numberless great rivers and great mountain ridges and great level valleys. I think the grass never dries in the whole year. I do not think that there is any winter in this (island) nor in the others, for at Christmas are found many birds' nests, some with birds, and some with eggs." The only four-footed animals found in these islands were what Dr. Chanca calls dogs of various colors, and one animal like a young rabbit, which climbed trees. Many persons ate these last and said they were very good. There were many small snakes, and few lizards, because the Indians were so fond of eating them. "They made as much of a feast of them as we would do of pheasants."
"There are in this island and the others numberless birds, of those of our country, and many others which never were seen there. Of our domestic birds, none have ever been seen here, except that in Zuruquia there were some ducks in the houses, most of them white as snow, and others black."
They coasted along this island for several days, to the place where the Admiral had left his settlement. While passing the region of Xamana, they set ashore one of the Indians whom they had carried off on the first voyage. They "gave him some little things which the Admiral had commanded him to give away." Another account adds that of the ten Indian men who had been carried off on the first voyage, seven had already died on account of the change of air and food. Two of the three whom the Admiral was bringing back, swam ashore at night. "The Admiral cared for this but little, thinking that he should have enough interpreters among those whom he had left in the island, and whom he hoped to find there again." It seems certain that one Indian remained faithful to the Spaniards; he was named Diego Colon, after the Admiral's brother.
On the day that the captive Indian was set ashore, a Biscayan sailor died, who had been wounded by the Caribs in the fight between the boat's crew and the canoe. A boat's crew was sent ashore to bury him, and as they came to land there came out "many Indians, of whom some wore gold at the neck and at the ears. They sought to come with the christians to the ships, and they did not like to bring them, because they had not had permission from the Admiral." The Indians then sent two of their number in a little canoe to one of the caravels, where they were received kindly, and sent to speak with the Admiral.
"They said, through an interpreter, that a certain king sent them to know what people we were, and to ask that we might be kind enough to land, as they had much gold and would give it to him, and of what they had to eat. The Admiral commanded silken shirts and caps and other little things to be given them, and told them that as he was going where Guacanagari was, he could not stop, that another time he would be able to see him. And with that, they (the Indians) went away."
They stopped two days at a harbor which they called Monte Christi, to see if it were a suitable place for a town, for the Admiral did not feel altogether satisfied with the place where the settlement of La Navidad had been made on the first voyage. This Monte Christi was near "a great river of very good water" (the Santiago). But it is all an inundated region, and very unfit to live in.
"As they were going along, viewing the river and land, some of our men found, in a place close by the river, two dead men, one with: a cord (lazo) around his neck, and the other with one around his foot. This was the first day. On the next day following, they found two other dead men farther on than these others. One of these was in such a position that it could be known that he had a plentiful beard. Some of our men suspected more ill than good, and with reason, as the Indians are all beardless, as I have said."
This port was not far from the port where the Spanish settlement had been made on the first voyage, so that there was great reason for these anxieties. They set sail once more for the settlement, and arrived opposite the harbor of La Navidad on the twenty-seventh of November. As they were approaching the harbor, a canoe came towards them, with five or six Indians on board, but, as the Admiral kept on his course without waiting for them, they went back.
The Spaniards arrived outside the port of La Navidad so late that they did not dare to enter it that night. "The Admiral commanded two Lombards to be fired, to see if the christians replied, who had been left with the said Guacanagari, (this was the friendly cacique Guacanagari of the first voyage), for they too had Lombards," "They never replied, nor did fires nor signs of houses appear in that place, at which the people were much discouraged, and they had the suspicion that was natural in such a case."
"Being thus all very sad, when four or five hours of the night had passed, there came the same canoe which they had seen the evening before. The Indians in it asked for the Admiral and the captain of one of the caravels of the first voyage. They were taken to the Admiral's ship, but would not come on board until they had spoken with him and seen him." They asked for a light, and as soon as they knew him, they entered the ship. They came from Guacanagari, and one of them was his cousin.
They brought with them golden masks, one for the Admiral and another for one of the captains who had been with him on the first voyage, probably Vicente Yanez Pinzon. Such masks were much valued among the Indians, and are thought to have been meant to put upon idols, so that they were given to the Spaniards as tokens of great respect. The Indian party remained on board for three hours, conversing with the Admiral and apparently very glad to see him again. When they were asked about the colonists of La Navidad, they said that they were all well, but that some of them had died from sickness, and that others had been killed in quarrels among themselves. Their own cacique, Guacanagari, had been attacked by two other chiefs, Caonabo and Mayreni. They had burned his village, and he had been wounded in the leg, so that he could not come to meet the Spaniards that night. As the Indians went away, however, they promised that they would bring him to visit them the next day. So the explorers remained "consoled for that night."
Next day, however, events were less reassuring. None of last night's party came back and nothing was seen of the cacique. The Spaniards, however, thought that the Indians might have been accidentally overturned in their canoe, as it was a small one, and as wine had been given them several times during their visit.
While he was still waiting for them, the Admiral sent some of his men to the place where La Navidad had stood. They found that the strong fort with a palisade was burned down and demolished. They also found some cloaks and other clothes which had been carried off by the Indians, who seemed uneasy, and at first would not come near the party.
"This did not appear well" to the Spaniards, as the Admiral had told them how many canoes had come out to visit him in that very place on the other voyage. They tried to make friends, however, threw out to them some bells, beads and other presents, and finally a relation of the cacique and three others ventured to the boat, and were taken on board ship.
These men frankly admitted that the "christians" were all dead. The Spaniards had been told so the night before by their Indian interpreter, but they had refused to believe him. They were now told that the King of Canoaboa(*) and the King Mayreni had killed them and burned the village.
(*) "Canoaboa" was thought to mean "Land of Gold."
They said, as the others had done, that Guacanagari was wounded in the thigh and they, like the others, said they would go and summon him. The Spaniards made them some presents, and they, too, disappeared.
Early the next morning the Admiral himself, with a party, including Dr. Chanca, went ashore.
"And we went where the town used to be, which we saw all burnt, and the clothes of the christians were found on the grass there. At that time we saw no dead body. There were among us many different opinions, some suspecting that Guacanagari himself was (concerned) in the betrayal or death of the christians, and to others it did not appear so, as his town was burnt, so that the thing was very doubtful."
The Admiral directed the whole place to be searched for gold, as he had left orders that if any quantity of it were found, it should be buried. While this search was being made, he and a few others went to look for a suitable place for a new settlement. They arrived at a village of seven or eight houses, which the inhabitants deserted at once. Here they found many things belonging to the christians, such as stockings, pieces of cloth, and "a very pretty mantle which had not been unfolded since it was brought from Castile." These, the Spaniards thought, could not have been obtained by barter. There was also one of the anchors of the ship which had gone ashore on the first voyage.
When they returned to the site of La Navidad they found many Indians, who had become bold enough to come to barter gold. They had shown the place where the bodies of eleven Spaniards lay "covered already by the grass which had grown over them." They all "with one voice" said that Canoaboa and Mayreni had killed them. But as, at the same time, they complained that some of the christians had taken three Indian wives, and some four, it seemed likely that a just resentment on the part of the islanders had had something to do with their death.
The next day the Admiral sent out a caravel to seek for a suitable place for a town, and he himself went out to look for one in a different direction. He found a secure harbor and a good place for a settlement, But he thought it too far from the place where he expected to find a gold mine. On his return, he found the caravel he had sent out. As it was coasting along the island, a canoe had come out to it, with two Indians on board, one of whom was a brother of Guacanagari. This man begged the party to come and visit the cacique. The "principal men" accordingly went on shore, and found him in bed, apparently suffering from his wounded thigh, which he showed them in bandages. They judged from appearances that he was telling them the truth.
He said to them, "by signs as best he could," that since he was thus wounded, they were to invite the Admiral to come to visit him. As they were going away, he gave each of them a golden jewel, as each "appeared to him to deserve it." "This gold," says Dr. Chanca, "is made in very delicate sheets, like our gold leaf, because they use it for making masks and to plate upon bitumen. They also wear it on the head and for earrings and nose-rings, and therefore they beat it very thin as they only wear it for its beauty and not for its value."
The Admiral decided to go to the cacique on the next day. He was visited early in the day by his brother, who hurried on the visit.
The Admiral went on shore and all the best people (gente de pro) with him, "handsomely dressed, as would be suitable in a capital city." They carried presents with them, as they had already received gold from him.
"When we arrived, we found him lying in his bed, according to their custom, hanging in the air, the bed being made of cotton like a net. He did not rise, but from the bed made a semblance of courtesy, as best he knew how. He showed much feeling, with tears in his eyes, at the death of the Christians, and began to talk of it, showing, as best he could, how some died of sickness, and how others had gone to Canoaboa to seek for the gold mine, and that they had been killed there, and how the others had been killed in their town."
He presented to the Admiral some gold and precious stones. One of the accounts says that there were eight hundred beads of a stone called ciba, one hundred of gold, a golden coronet, and three small calabashes filled with gold dust. Columbus, in return, made him a present.
"I and a navy surgeon were there," says Dr. Chanca. "The Admiral now said that we were learned in the infirmities of men, and asked if he would show us the wound. He replied that it pleased him to do so. I said that it would be necessary, if he could, for him to go out of the house, since with the multitudes of people it was dark, and we could not see well. He did it immediately, as I believe, more from timidity than from choice. The surgeon came to him and began to take off the bandage. Then he said to the Admiral that the injury was caused by ciba, that is, by a stone. When it was unbandaged we managed to examine it. It is certain that he was no more injured in that leg than in the other, although he pretended that it was very painful."
The Spaniards did not know what to believe. But it seemed certain that an attack of some enemy upon these Indians had taken place, and the Admiral determined to continue upon good terms with them. Nor did he change this policy toward Guacanagari. How far that chief had tried to prevent the massacre will never be known. The detail of the story was never fully drawn from the natives. The Spaniards had been cruel and licentious in their dealing with the Indians. They had quarrelled among themselves, and the indignant natives, in revenge, had destroyed them all.
CHAPTER IX. — THE NEW COLONY
—EXPEDITIONS OF DISCOVERY—GUACANAGARI—SEARCH FOR GOLD—MUTINY IN THE COLONY—THE VESSELS SENT HOME—COLUMBUS MARCHES INLAND—COLLECTION OF GOLD—FORTRESS OF ST. THOMAS—A NEW VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY—JAMAICA VISITED—THE SOUTH SHORE OF CUBA EXPLORED—RETURN—EVANGELISTA DISCOVERED—COLUMBUS FALLS SICK—RETURN TO ISABELLA.
Columbus had hoped, with reason, to send back a part of the vessels which made up his large squadron, with gold collected in the year by the colonists at La Navidad. In truth, when, in 1501, the system of gold-washing-had been developed, the colony yielded twelve hundred pounds of gold in one year. The search for gold, from the beginning, broke up all intelligent plans for geographical discovery or for colonization. In this case, it was almost too clear that there was nothing but bad news to send back to Spain. Columbus went forward, however, as well as he could, with the establishment of a new colony, and with the search for gold.
He sent out expeditions of discovery to open relations with the natives, and to find the best places for washing and mining for gold. Melchior Meldonado commanded three hundred men, in the first of these expeditions. They came to a good harbor at the mouth of a river, where they saw a fine house, which they supposed might be the home of Guacanagari. They met an armed party of one hundred Indians; but these men put away their weapons when signals of peace were made, and brought presents in token of good-will.
The house to which they went was round, with a hemispherical roof or dome. It was thirty-two paces in diameter, divided by wicker work into different rooms. Smaller houses, for persons of rank lower than the chiefs, surrounded it. The natives told the explorers that Guacanagari himself had retired to the hills.
On receiving the report of these explorers Columbus sent out Ojeda with a hundred men, and Corvalan with a similar party in different directions. These officers, in their report, described the operation of gold-washing, much as it is known to explorers in mining regions to-day. The natives made a deep ditch into which the gold bearing sand should settle. For more important work they had flat baskets in which they shook the sand and parted it from the gold. With the left hand they dipped up sand, handled this skilfully or "dextrously" with the right hand, so that in a few minutes they could give grains of gold to the gratified explorers. Ojeda brought home to Columbus one nugget which weighed nine ounces.
They also brought tidings of the King of Canoaboa, of whom they had heard before, and he is called by the name of Caunebo himself.(*) He was afterwards carried, as a prisoner or as a hostage, on the way to Spain; but died on the passage.
(*) The name is spelled in many different ways.
Columbus was able to dispatch the returning ships, with the encouraging reports brought in by Meldonado and Ojeda, but with very little gold. But he was obliged to ask for fresh supplies of food for the colony—even in the midst of the plenty which he described; for he had found already what all such leaders find, the difficulty of training men to use food to which they were not accustomed. He sent also his Carib prisoners, begging that they might be trained to a knowledge of the christian religion and of the Spanish language. He saw, already, how much he should need interpreters. The fleet sailed on the second of February, and its reports were, on the whole, favorably received.
Columbus chose for the new city an elevation, ten leagues east of Monte Christi, and at first gave to his colony the name of Martha. It is the Isabella of the subsequent history.
The colonists were delighted with the fertility of the soil under the tropical climate. Andalusia itself had not prepared them for it. They planted seeds of peas, beans, lettuces, cabbages and other vegetables, and declared that they grew more in eight days than they would have grown in twenty at home. They had fresh vegetables in sixteen days after they planted them; but for melons, pumpkins and other fruits of that sort, they are generous enough to allow thirty days.
They had carried out roots and suckers of the sugar-cane. In fifteen days the shoots were a cubit high. A farmer who had planted wheat in the beginning of February had ripe grain in the beginning of April; so that they were sure of, at least, two crops in a year.
But the fertility of the soil was the only favorable token which the island first exhibited. The climate was enervating and sickly. The labor on the new city was hard and discouraging. Columbus found that his colonists were badly fitted for their duty, or not fitted for it at all. Court gentlemen did not want to work. Priests expected to be put on better diet than any other people. Columbus—though he lost his own popularity—insisted on putting all on equal fare, in sharing the supplies he had brought from Spain. It did not require a long time to prove that the selection of the site of the colony was unfortunate. Columbus himself gave way to the general disease. While he was ill, a mutiny broke out which he had to suppress by strong measures.
Bornal Diaz, who ranked as comptroller of the expedition, and Fermin Cedo, an assayer, made a plot for seizing the remaining ships and sailing for Europe. News of the mutiny was brought to Columbus. He found a document in the writing of Diaz, drawn as a memorial, accusing Columbus himself of grave crimes. He confined Diaz on board a ship to be sent to Spain with the memorial. He punished the mutineers of lower rank. He took the guns and naval munitions from four of the vessels, and entrusted them all to a person in whom he had absolute confidence.
On the report of the exploring parties, four names were given to as many divisions of the island. Junna was the most western, Attibunia the most eastern, Jachen the northern and Naiba the southern. Columbus himself, seeing the fortifications of the city well begun, undertook, in March, an exploration, of the island, with a force of five hundred men.
It was in the course of this exploration that one of the natives brought in a gold-bearing stone which weighed an ounce. He was satisfied with a little bell in exchange. He was surprised at the wonder expressed by the Spaniards, and showing a stone as large as a pomegranate, he said that he had nuggets of gold as large as this at his home. Other Indians brought in gold-bearing stones which weighed more than an ounce. At their homes, also, but not in sight, alas, was a block of gold as large as an infant's head.
Columbus himself thought it best to take as many men as he could into the mountain region. He left the new city under the care of his brother, Diego, and with all the force of healthy men which he could muster, making a little army of nearly five hundred men, he marched away from the sickly seaboard into the interior. The simple natives were astonished by the display of cavalry and other men in armor. After a few days of a delightful march, in the beauty of spring in that country, he entered upon the long sought Cibao. He relinquished his first idea of founding another city here, but did build a fortress called St. Thomas, in joking reference to Cedo and others, who had asserted that these regions produced no gold. While building this fortress, as it was proudly called, he sent a young cavalier named Luxan for further exploration.
Luxan returned with stories even greater than they had heard of before, but with no gold, "because he had no orders to do so." He had found ripe grapes. And at last they had found a region called Cipangi, cipan signifying stone. This name recalled the memory of Cipango, or Japan. With tidings as encouraging as this, Columbus returned to his city. He appointed his brother and Pedro Margarita governors of the city, and left with three ships for the further exploration of Cuba, which he had left only partly examined in his first voyage. He believed that it was the mainland of Asia. And as has been said, such was his belief till he died, and that of his countrymen. Cuba was not known to be an island for many years afterwards. He was now again in the career which pleased him, and for which he was fitted. He was always ill at ease in administering a colony, or ruling the men who were engaged in it. He was happy and contented when he was discovering. He had been eager to follow the southern coast of Cuba, as he had followed the north in his first voyage. And now he had his opportunity. Having commissioned his brother Diego and Margarita and appointed also a council of four other gentlemen, he sailed to explore new coasts, on the twenty-fourth of April.
He was soon tempted from his western course that he might examine Jamaica, of which he saw the distant lines on the south. "This island," says the account of the time, "is larger than Sicily. It has only one mountain, which rises from the coast on every side, little by little, until you come to the middle of the island and the ascent is so gradual that, whether you rise or descend, you hardly know whether you are rising or descending." Columbus found the island well peopled, and from what he saw of the natives, thought them more ingenious, and better artificers, than any Indians he had seen before. But when he proposed to land, they generally showed themselves prepared to resist him. He therefore deferred a full examination of the island to his return, and, with the first favorable wind, pressed on toward the southern coast of Cuba. He insisted on calling this the "Golden Chersonesus" of the East. This name had been given by the old geographers to the peninsula now known as Malacca.
Crossing the narrow channel between Jamaica and Cuba, he began coasting that island westward. If the reader will examine the map, he will find many small keys and islands south of Cuba, which, before any survey had been made, seriously retarded his westward course. In every case he was obliged to make a separate examination to be sure where the real coast of the island was, all the time believing it was the continent of Asia. One of the narratives says, with a pardonable exaggeration, that in all this voyage he thus discovered seven hundred islands. His own estimate was that he sailed two hundred and twenty-two leagues westward in the exploration which now engaged him.
The month of May and the beginning of June were occupied with such explorations. The natives proved friendly, as the natives of the northern side of Cuba had proved two years before. They had, in general, heard of the visit of the Spaniards; but their wonder and admiration seem to have been none the less now that they saw the reality.
On one occasion the hopes of all the party, that they should find themselves at the court of the Grand Khan, were greatly quickened. A Spaniard had gone into a forest alone, hunting. Suddenly he saw a man clothed in white, or thought he did, whom he supposed to be a friar of the order of Saint Mary de Mercedes, who was with the expedition. But, almost immediately, ten other friars dressed in the same costume, appeared, and then as many as thirty. The Spaniard was frightened at the multiplication of their number, it hardly appears why, as they were all men of peace, or should have been, whatever their number. He called out to his companions, and bade them escape. But the men in white called out to him, and waved their hands, as if to assure him that there was no danger. He did not trust them, however, but rushed back to the shore and the ship, as fast as he could, to report what he had seen to the Admiral.
Here, at last, was reason for hope that they had found one of the Asiatic missions of the Church. Columbus at once landed a party, instructing them to go forty miles inland, if necessary, to find people. But this party found neither path nor roadway, although the country was rich and fertile. Another party brought back rich bunches of grapes, and other native fruits. But neither party saw any friars of the order of Saint Mary. And it is now supposed that the Spaniard saw a peaceful flock of white cranes. The traveller Humboldt describes one occasion, in which the town of Angostura was put to alarm by the appearance of a flock of cranes known as soldados, or "soldiers," which were, as people supposed, a band of Indians.
In his interviews with the natives at one point and another, upon the coast, Columbus was delighted with their simplicity, their hospitality, and their kindly dealing with each other. On one occasion, when the Mass was celebrated, a large number of them were present, and joined in the service, as well as they could, with respect and devotion. An old man as much as eighty years old, as the Spaniards thought, brought to the Admiral a basket full of fruit, as a present. Then he said, by an interpreter:
"We have heard how you have enveloped, by your power, all these countries, and how much afraid of you the people have been. But I have to exhort you, and to tell you that there are two ways when men leave this body. One is dark and dismal; it is for those who have injured the race of men. The other is delightful and pleasant; it is for those who, while alive, have loved peace and the repose of mankind. If, then, you remember that you are mortal, and what these retributions are, you will do no harm to any one."
Columbus told him in reply that he had known of the two roads after death, and that he was well pleased to find that the natives of these lands knew of them; for he had not expected this. He said that the king and queen of Spain had sent him with the express mission of bringing these tidings to them. In particular, that he was charged with the duty of punishing the Caribs and all other men of impure life, and of rewarding and honoring all pure and innocent men. This statement so delighted the old prophet that he was eager to accompany Columbus on a mission so noble, and it was only by the urgent entreaty of his wife and children that he stayed with them. He found it hard to believe that Columbus was inferior in rank or command to any other sovereign.
The beauty of the island and the hospitality of the natives, however, were not enough to dispose the crews to continue this exploration further. They were all convinced that they were on the coast of Asia. Columbus did not mean that afterwards any one should accuse him of abandoning the discovery of that coast too soon. Calling to their attention the distance they had sailed, he sent round a written declaration for the signature of every person on the ships. Every man and boy put his name to it. It expressed their certainty that they were on the cape which made the end of the eastern Indies, and that any one who chose could proceed thence westward to Spain by land. This extraordinary declaration was attested officially by a notary, and still exists.