Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

souls destined to be brought over into the bosom of the Christian church.”

After certain preliminary negociations with his Holiness the Pope, and with the monarch of Portugal, both of whom felt much inclined to possess a portion of the new territories, but did not know exactly how to obtain it, Columbus sailed on his second expedition to the New World, on the 25th of September, 1493. On the 3d of November he made an island, which he called Dominica, as it was first discovered on a Sunday. Other islands were soon seen, and boats were sent ashore at some of them. They were of different shapes and aspects, some green and woody, some covered with rocks of a bright azure and glittering white. To one of these groups he gave the name of the Eleven Thousand Virgins. On reaching La Navidad, at midnight, Columbus gave orders that guns should be fired to apprise the colonists of their arrival, but no answering signal was given. A canoe soon afterwards came off to the fleet, and inquired for the Admiral. The Indians refused to come on board till they had seen and recognized him. When questioned about the Spaniards who had remained there, they said that some of them had been taken sick and died, and that some had quarrelled, and gone away to a distant part of the island. The Admiral concealed his surmises in respect to their fate, and dismissed the natives with some trifling presents to their king, Guacanagari. On the next day he found but little reason to doubt as to the fate of the colonists. When the Admiral landed, he found all the houses in the neighborhood burnt, and the fort entirely destroyed. The only remaining tokens of the history of the colonists were eleven dead bodies, with some torn garments, and broken articles of furniture. They discharged all the cannon and musketry of the fleet at once, in hopes that the sound might reach the ear of some concealed wanderer, who still survived to tell the fate of his companions. But it was in vain.

Columbus was soon visited by Guacanagari, the King, who pretended to have been wounded in a descent of the Caribs, but who was suspected by the Spaniards of having been concerned in the slaughter of their countrymen. He was, however, dismissed in safety, and it was not till subsequent circumstances in some measure confirmed their suspicions, that the Admiral sent out a party to reconnoitre the island and take him prisoner. They scoured the shores, and the lighter caravels entered far into the windings of the rivers. Maldanado was at the head of this expedition, and, with his party, was going towards a high house they saw at a distance, where they supposed the cacique might have taken refuge. “ And as he was going,” says Peter Martyr, " there met him a man with a frowning countenance and a grim look, with a hundred men following him, armed with bows and arrows, and long and sharp stakes like javelins, made hard at the ends with fire; who, approaching towards our men, spake out aloud with a terrible voice, saying that they were Taini, that is, noble men, and not cannibals ; but when our men had given them signs of peace, they left both their weapons and fierceness. Thus, giving each of them certain hawks' bells, they took it for so great a reward, that they desired to enter bonds of near friendship with us, and feared not immediately to submit themselves under our power, and resorted to our ships with their presents."

It was learned that Guacanagari had retired to the mountains; and on this intelligence, the feet sailed from Navidad to Monte Christi. The Admiral intended to steer towar is the east, and establish a colony at the harbor of La Plata. But being detained by contrary winds, the fleet finally came to anchor in a haven about ten leagues west of Monte Christi, where there seemed to be a very fine situation for a colony. The soil was fertile, and the surrounding sea abounded in fish. Behind it were impenetrable woods, and the rocks below it might be easily crowned with a strong fortress. This was the place, therefore, chosen for the new settlement. A chapel was immediately erected, in which a Catholic festival was, for the first time, celebrated, on the 6th of January, 1494. The public buildings of the new town were erected of stone; the private houses were built of wood, and covered with grass and leaves. Seeds were sown, which sprung up with great rapidity. The neighboring Indians assisted them in building their houses, and provided them food, with the greatest diligence and zeal. Columbus called the new settlement Isabella, in honor of the distinguished patron of his expedition.

On the second of February, a fleet was dispatched to Spain, to communicate the progress of discovery, and the existing condition of affairs. The Admiral was now doomed to be the victim of new troubles. He was sick, and during his illness, a mutiny broke out among the discontented, who laid a plan to return to Spain, and prefer formal charges against Columbus. On recovering from his illness, and learning about the plot, he confined the ringleader, and inflicted some light punishment on the accomplices. Having thus arranged matters at the new settlement, he set out for the gold mines in the interior. After establishing a fortress, and leaving fifty-six men at St. Thomas, and sailing along the northern coast of Hispaniola, in the hope of obtaining an interview with Guacanagari, Columbus continued his course to Cuba, where he entered a spa. cious harbor, to which he gave the name of Puerto Grande. Still sailing along the coast, the Indian men, women and children, continually crowded to the shore, bringing whatever they could find to barter for beads and bells. All inquiries after gold they answered by pointing towards the south. While sailing in this direction, they reached a beauti

. ful island, which still retains the Indian name of Jamaica. It was found to be very populous and pleasant. On attempting to land, they were met by a large number of canoes, filled with armed Indians, who resisted their approach, darting arrows and javelins, and setting up menacing shouts. Columbus ordered a few shot to be fired among them; and a large dog was let loose, which occasioned great terror and confusion.

On the following day, however, they again resorted to the shore, and engaged in trafficing with the Spaniards. Most of them were painted with various colors, wearing feathers upon their heads, and palm leaves upon their breasts. Some of their canoes were ornamented with carved

work and paintings. These boats were each made out of a single trunk, and many of them were of great size. One was found to be ninety-six feet long and eight broad. Columbus now bore off for Cuba, resolving to sail severa. hundred leagues along the coast, and discover whether it were really the continent. A large group of islands, through which his ships now passed, he called the Queen's Garden. When coasting along Cuba, he frequently sent the boats ashore, with several men, who might inform themselves of the character and products of the country, and inquire of the natives as to its extent. While thus engaged, they saw a singular manner of taking fish among the natives of one of the islands of Queen's Garden. “Like as we with greyhounds do hunt hares in the plain fields,” says Peter Martyr, "so do they as it were with a hunting fish take other fishes.” This fish was of a form before unknown to the Spaniards, having on the back part of the head a very rough skin. The creature is tied by a cord to the side of the boat, and let down into the water. When the Indians see any great fish or tortoise, the cord is loosened, and the hunting fish fastens upon it, retaining its hold with so much force that the prey is drawn with it to the surface of the water, and there secured.

Columbus pursued his voyage till he had sailed along the coast of Cuba three hundred and thirty-five leagues. The natives could not tell him the extent of the country, though they knew that it exceeded twenty day's travelling: Comparing these circumstances with his previous notions, he arrived at the conclusion that “this country was the beginning of India, which he had intended to come to from Spain.” He caused this decision to be published on board the three ships, and all the seamen and most skilful pilots fully concurred with him in the opinion. They all declared under oath that they had no doubt upon the subject. The Admiral also swore to his belief, and the clerk formally attested it, on board of the Nina, on the twelfth of June. At this very time, a shipboy from the mast-top could have seen the open sea beyond the islands to the south; and if Columbus had continued his course in that direction but a single day more, he would have arrived at the end of his imagined continent. But in this error he lived and died : supposing Cuba the extremity of the Asiatic continent.

The Admiral relinquished all further examination of the coast, and stood south-east to an island which he named Evangelista. He here became inclosed in a large bay, which he had supposed a channel opening to the south-east. The water in some places in this sea was as white as milk; and according to one writer, there were sometimes such a multitude of tortoises that they arrested the progress of the ships. At length they were once more coasting along the beautiful and luxuriant shores of Cuba. Here Columbus sought for a pleasant and convenient harbor, where his weary crew might find refreshment and repose. An incident occurred here, while the Admiral was hearing mass upon shore, that is of considerable interest. An old man, of great dignity and gravity, came towards them, and behaved very reverently all the time that the ceremony was going on, When the mass was over, he presented with his own hands to Columbus a basket of fruit; and when he had been some time entertained there, he requested permission to speak a

[graphic]

few words through the interpreter. The amount of this speech is thus given by Peter Martyr

“I have been advertised, most mighty prince, that you have of late with great power subdued many lands and regions hitherto unknown to you, and have brought no little fear upon all the people and inhabitants of the same; the which your good fortune you shall bear with less insolence if you remember that the souls of men have two journeys, after they are departed from this body; the one, foul and dark, prepared for such as are injurious and cruel to mankind; the other, pleasant and delectable, ordained for them which in their time loved peace and quietness. If, therefore, you acknowledge yourself to be mortal, and consider that every man shall receive condign reward or punishment for such things as he hath done in this life, you will wrongfully hurt no man.”

Columbus was much pleased and affected by the eloquent wisdom of the old man, as it was conveyed to him by the interpreter. He answer. ed that the chief cause of his coming was to instruct the islanders in the true religion ; and that he had special commands from his sovereigns of Spain to subdue and punish the mischievous, and defend the innocent against violence from evil doers. The old man was delighted with the Admiral, and was desirous to accompany him upon the voyage, notwith. standing his extreme age. The entreaties of his wife and children alone prevented him. Columbus remained several days in the river, and on taking leave of his old adviser, he steered south for the open sea. Storms and adverse winds, however, detained him a few days about the island of Queen's Garden, and again visiting Jamaica, he was received with great kindness and confidence.

On the 24th of September, they had reached the eastern extremity of Hispaniola, and pursued their voyage towards the south-east. It was the design of Columbus, at the present time, to complete the discovery of the Caribbee Islands. But the fatigues which he had suffered during the voyage had completely exhausted him. Besides his great mental exertions, he had shared in the bodily labors of the expedition, with more unwearied activity than the best of his seamen. He had shared all their privations and toils with them. His body and mind at length sunk under these continued and unintermitted labors. A deep lethargy fell upon him, and his crew were fearful that he would die. He could neither remember, nor see, nor hear; and was carried back in a state of insensibility to the harbor of Isabella. What was his surprise and joy, on recovering his faculties, to find here by his bedside, his brother Bartholomew, whom he had not before met with for thirteen years, and whom he had supposed to be dead. He had been appointed by the Spanish Government to the command of three ships, and had received orders to assist his brother in all his enterprises. He reached Isabella just after the Admiral had departed for the coast of Cuba, with supplies of provision that arrived at a fortunate moment, to allay the discontents of the Spaniards, and to alleviate the maladies under which they had been suffering. Meantime the Indians had become much incensed by the outrages of the soldiers, and several Caciques united for their destruction. This was the state of things when the Admiral reached Isabella, and it was not till the island was restored to obedience, that Columbus determined to return to Spain. His enemies at court were many, active and influential, envious and malignant; and by their influence such accusations against the Admiral were laid before his sovereigns, that they determined to send a person of trust and confidence to Hispaniola, to inquire into the alleged abuses. Columbus received this emissary with dignity, and acknowledged complete submission to the will of his monarch. On the 10th of March, 1496, he set sail from Isabella on his return to Spain, leaving his two brothers to administer the government during his absence.

When Columbus arrived at Cadiz, he found three caravels in the harbor ready to set sail for Hispaniola. By these vessels the Admiral dispatched letters to his brother, to inform him of his safe return, and to give him further instructions in respect to the government of the colony. He then immediately repaired to Burgos, at that time the ordinary residence of the court. The sovereigns were absent; but they both soon returned, not only to give him a favorable reception, but to load him with thanks and kindness. The accusations of his enemies were passed by in silence, either as entirely unfounded, or as of no weight, when compared with the great services and unquestionable fidelity of Columbus. The Admiral was encouraged by this unexpected reception. He requested the immediate equipment of six ships, three of which were to be freighted with provisions and necessary utensils and implements for the colony at Isabella, and the rest to remain under his own direction. This demand appeared very reasonable, but the sovereigns suggested that it was immediately important to found a solid establishment, on which succeeding colonies might be modelled. The propriety of this was obvious. It was arranged that the sovereigns, at their own charge, should transport a large number of sailors, soldiers, laborers, mechanics and artists to Hispaniola. To these, surgeons, physicians, and priests were added. The Almiral also obtained permission to carry a number

« ZurückWeiter »