Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

these dangers, they escaped from a tremendous water-spout, which passed very near them, but luckily without injury. On reaching Veragua, the Admiral's brother went up the river Belem, in the boats, to find the King. Discovering a great many signs of gold, Columbus determined to leave a colony here. Eighty men were chosen to remain, and houses were built for them covered with palm leaves. One of the ships was to be left behind, with a quantity of wine and biscuit

, with nets and fishing tackle. When everything was ready for his departure, the Admiral found that the river had dried so much that there was not water enough to float the ships into the sea, and while detained here on this account, it was discovered that Quibio, the Cacique of Veragua, had laid a plan to destroy the Spaniards, and burn their settlement. They determined, therefore, to take him and his chief men prisoners. A party of seventy: six men, under the command of the Admiral's brother, were dispatched on this expedition. Arriving in the neighborhood of the house where Quibio resided, they advanced, two by two, as silently as possible, and obtained possession of the Cacique's person, together with a good deal of his wealth, and a number of his wives and children.

The prisoners were committed to Juan Sanchez, the chief pilot of the squadron, a strong and trustworthy man, who undertook to carry them safely to the ships. He was told to take special care that the Cacique did not escape ; and answered, that he would give them leave to pluck out his beard, if he did not keep him from getting away. They had come within half a league of the mouth of the river, when Quibio complained that his hands suffered from the cords with which they were bound. Juan Sanchez then loosed him from the seat of the boat, to which he was tied, and held the rope in his own hand, and a little while after, Quibio threw himself into the water, and sunk to the bottom. Night was coming on, and the Spaniards could neither hear nor see what afterwards became of him. The lieutenant, on the next day, returned to the ships with his prisoners and plunder.

The river having now been swollen by the rains, Columbus was able to set sail with three of his ships for Spain. When Quibio saw that the vessels had left the coast, he immediately surrounded, with his warriors, the little colony that had remained behind. The lieutenant was a man not to be easily discouraged ; he went out against the Indians with a very small number of followers, and with the assistance of a dog, put them all to flight. It so happened that, at the very time of this attack, a boat had been sent from the ships to procure water. For this purpose the captain of it was going some distance up the river, and, though warned of the danger, would not desist from his undertaking. The river was very deep, and sheltered on both sides by overhanging trees and thick bushes, which grew down to the very edge of the water. When the boat had gone about a league from the colony, the Indians rushed out from the thickets on each side, in their canoes, blowing horns, and making the most hideous noises.

The canoes could be easily managed by one man, and all the rest of the crews were busy in sending their arrows and javelins. In such a shower of darts the Spaniards were obliged to drop the oars, and protect themselves with their targets. But there were such a multitude of In. dians surrounding them from every quarter, that the seven or eight men in the boat were soon pierced with a thousand wounds. Only one of them escaped, who threw himself, unobserved, into the water, and swam to shore. Pursuing his way through the thickest of the wood, he reached the colony in safety.

The Spaniards were much terrified at the intelligence, and still more affected, when the bodies of their companions came floating down the river, covered with wounds, and followed by the birds of prey. They determined not to remain in the country, and immediately removed from the thickets, where their houses were built, to the open plain. Here they constructed a kind of bulwark with casks and chests, and planted cannon about them at convenient distances. The sea beat so heavily, that it was impossible to have any communication with the ships. Columbus was alarmed at the long absence of the boat, but was unable to send another in search of it. He remained ten days in this condition, during which time the captive Indians escaped, by bursting the hatches at night, and leaping into the water. At length one of the sailors proposed to the Admiral that he should be carried in the boat to a certain distance from shore, and that he would swim the rest of the way, and discover what had

become of their companions. This man was Pedro Ledesma, a native of Seville. Being borne to within about a musket shot of land, he plunged into the swelling and foaming waves, and succeeded in reaching the shore. He here learned what had happened—the loss of his comrades, and the determination of the colonists not to remain. With this information, Ledesma swam back to the boat that was waiting for him. As soon as the waters became more quiet, those who had been left on shore lashed a couple of Indian cances together, loaded them with their effects, and, leaving behind them only the worm-eaten hulk of the ship, made for the little fleet of the Admiral.

The three ships then set sail, and held on their course to Porto Bello, where they were obliged to leave one of the vessels, because it was so worm-eaten and leaky. Continuing their voyage, they passed the Tortugas, and reached the cluster of islands which had been called the Queen's Garden. While at anchor in this place, about ten leagues from Cuba, with very little to eat, and their vessels exceedingly leaky, a great storm arose, and the two remaining ships were driven with such violence against each other, that it was with difficulty they escaped, even with great injury. Sailing hence, with much toil and danger, they reached an Indian village on the coast of Cuba, where they procured some water and provisions, and departed for Jamaica. They were obliged to keep continually working at three pumps in each of the vessels. With all this, however, they could not prevent the water from gaining upon them with great rapidity; and when they put into the harbor of Puerto Bueno, it almost came up to the decks. Leaving this port, they run their vessels ashore as far as possible, in the harbor of Santa Gloria, ond built sheds upon the decks for the men to lie in.

They were thus situated about a bow-shot from the land. It happened

sea.

that the Indians of the island were peaceable and well disposed, and came off from all quarters, in their canoes, to traffic. They brought to the ships some little creatures like rabbits, and cakes of bread, which they called zabi, which they were glad to exchange for hawks' bells and glass beads. Sometimes the Spaniards gave a cacique a looking-glass, or a red cap, and perhaps a pair of scissors. It was now necessary to devise means to leave the island. They had no tools to build a new ship with, and it was in vain to stay in hopes that some vessel from Spain would fail in with them. The Admiral thought the best course would be to send word to Hispaniola, and request that a ship might be sent to them with ammunition and provisions. Two canoes were, accordingly, selected for this purpose, and committed to Diego Mendez and Bartholomew Fiesco, with six Spaniards and ten Indians to manage them. They went along the coast of Jamaica, to the eastern extremity, where it was thirty leagues distant from Hispaniola, and put out to

Shortly after the canoes had departed, the men on shore began to grow discontented, and a violent sickness broke out among them. They became turbulent and seditious. The leaders of the sedition were two natives of Seville, brothers, by the name of Porras. One of them openly insulted the Admiral on the deck of his ship, and, turning his back on him, exclaimed, “ I am for Spain, with all that will follow me.” About forty of the most mutinous joined with him, and, seizing soine canoes which the Admiral had purchased, departed for the eastern extremity of the island. These conspirators treated the natives very cruelly upon the way, committing various outrages, and compelling them to row their ca. noes for Hispaniola. The sea soon grew rough, and they threw every thing they could spare overboard, in order to lighten their slender barks. At last they threw over even the helpless natives who had been forced into their service, and left them to perish in the waves. With much dif. ficulty the canoes reached the shore. They again ventured out once or twice, after an interval of several weeks, and were again driven back by the winds. From the many excesses committed by these men, and the increasing scarcity of provisions, the Indians at length began to neglect even those who had remained with the Admiral, and whom they had hitherto supplied with sufficient quantities of food. Columbus was desirous to awe the natives into a compliance with his requests. He knew that on a certain night there was to be an eclipse of the moon. On the day before this event, he invited all the caciques and chief men of the place to an assembly. He here told them through an interpreter, that the Spaniaxis believed in a God, who dwelt in Heaven, rewarding the good and punishing the evil; that this deity had been offended with the wicked who rebelled, and had raised up the winds and tempests against them; that he was angry with the Indians for their negligence in not furnishing food for the white men, and that he would that night give them a sign of his indignation in the skies. The Indians listened, and departed, some in terror, some in scorn. But when the eclipse began, as the moon was rising, they were all struck with fear and confusion. They came running with cries and lamentations from every quarter, bringing provisions, and praying the Admiral to intercede for them. Columbus shut himself up while the eclipse lasted, and when he saw it begin to go off. he came out of his cabin, and warned them to use the Christians

[graphic]

weli in future, and bring them all they should require of them. From that time supplies of provisions were always abundant.

Eight months passed after the departure of Mendez and Fiesco, before any notice was received of their arrival. Other desertions were on the point of taking place, when, towards dusk, one evening, a cara vel was espied in the distance. It proved to have been sent from Hispaniola, under the command of Diego de Escobar. He had orders not to go on shore, nor to permit his crew to have any communication with the followers of the Admiral. Escobar went in his boat to deliver to Columbus a letter from the Governor, and a present of a cask of wine, and a couple of hams; then, returning to his caravel, he sailed away that very evening. The Admiral was very much surprised at this singular conduct, and the people thought the Governor intended to leave them there without assistance. But Columbus soothed them with such explanations as he could invent; told them that Mendez had arrived safely at Hispaniola, and gave promises of speedy relief. He now turned his attention towards arranging affairs with the rebels. Messengers were sent to them, whom they insulted and dismissed; and it was at last necessary to come to open battle with them. For this purpose fifty men, well armed, were selected from those who continued faithful to Columbus, and put under the command of the Adelantado. Having arrived at a small hill

, about a bow-shot from the camp of the rebels, two messengers were sent before, to request a peaceable conference with their leaders. They refused to listen to them, but fell, with swords and spears, upon the party of the Adelantado, thinking to rout them immediately. The rebels, however, were finally dispersed with some slaughter. On the next day, all who had escaped joined in an humble petition to the Admiral, repenting of their past conduct, and declaring themselves ready to return to

their duty. Columbus granted their request, upon condition that their captain should remain a prisoner, as a hostage for their good behavior. They were accordingly quartered about the island, in such places as were most convenient, till the arrival of a ship from Hispaniola.

Some days now passed, when Diego Mendez arrived with a vessel which he had purchased and fitted out at St. Domingo, on the Admiral's credit. They immediately embarked on board of it, and, sailing with contrary winds, reached St. Domingo on the 13th of August, 1504. The Governor received the Admiral with the greatest respect and ceremony, but his kindness was only forced and treacherous. He set Porras free from his chains, and attempted to punish those who were concerned in his arrest. Columbus remained here till his ship was refitted and another hired, and in these vessels they pursued their voyage to Spain.

Setting sail on the 12th of September, the mast of one of the ships was carried by the board, when they were about two leagues from shore. This ship returned to the harbor, and the Admiral pursued his voyage in the other. The weather proved very stormy, and the remaining ship was much shattered before she arrived at St. Lucar. At this port Columbus received the sad intelligence of the death of his noble patron, Isabella. He then repaired to Seville.

But he was doomed to submit to the evils of that ingratitude, which is not the growth of republics only, but often finds a genial soil under the sha low of a throne. The discoverer of a world, and the natural master of the empire he had found, Columbus was obliged, in his old age, to submit to the caprices and insults of a narrow-minded monarch, to whose insignificance his own magnanimity was a continual reproach. Deluded with promises, foiled with disappointments, exhausted with the toil and nardship of momentous and ill requited enterprise, mortified by undeserved neglect, disgusted by the baseness and meanness of a servile court, and an ungrateful King, oppressed with infirmity, and cares, and wretchedness, Columbus died at Valladolid, on the 20th of May, 1506. His death was worthy of his character and his fame; marked by no violent emotion, calm, composed, and happy; blessed by the memory of what he had done for mankind, and cheered by the hopes of a holy faith. A fit end to the great drama of his life !*

*“Columbus could never forget the ignominy of his chains. He preserved the fetters, hung them up in his apartment, and ordered them to be buried in his gtave. In compliance with his request, his body was removed from Seville to the island of St. Domingo, and deposited, with his chains, in a brass coffin, on the right of the high altar of the Cathedral of St. Domingo. There his bones remained, until the Spanish part of the island was ceded to France, in 1795. In consequence of this cession, the descendants of Columbus requested that his remains might be removed to Cuba. On the 19th of January, 1796, the brass coffin which contained the ashes of this great man, together with a chain which served as a memorial of his sovereign's weakness, was carried down to the harbor in procession, under fire of the forts, and put on board a brig of war, to be removed to Havana. The brig arrived safely in the harbor of Havana, and the remains of the discoverer of America were buried with all the pomp and ceremony that could be bestowed upon them.”

« ZurückWeiter »