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   Chapter 19 THE FOURTH VOYAGE.

Christopher Columbus and How He Received and Imparted the Spirit of Discovery By Justin Winsor Characters: 88921

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


1502. March. Columbus commanded to sail.

May 9-11. Sailed.

Their Majesties, in March, 1502, were evidently disturbed at Columbus's delays in sailing, since such detentions brought to them nothing but the Admiral's continued importunities. They now instructed him to sail without the least delay. Nevertheless, Columbus, who had given out, as Trivigiano reports, that he expected his discoveries on this voyage to be more surprising and helpful than any yet made, his purpose being, in fact, to circumnavigate the globe, did not sail from Cadiz till May 9 or 11, 1502,-the accounts vary. He had four caravels, from fifty to seventy tons each, and they carried in all not over one hundred and fifty men.

His instructions.

Apparently not forgetting the Admiral's convenient reservation respecting the pearls in his third voyage, their Majesties in their instructions particularly enjoined upon him that all gold and other precious commodities which he might find should be committed at once to the keeping of Fran?ois de Porras, who was sent with him to the end that the sovereigns might have trustworthy evidence in his accounts of the amount received. Equally mindful of earlier defections, their further instructions also forbade the taking of any slaves.

The physical and mental condition of Columbus.

Years had begun to rest heavily on the frame of Columbus. His constitution had been strained by long exposures, and his spirits had little elasticity left. Hope, to be sure, had not altogether departed from his ardent nature; but it was a hope that had experienced many reverses, and its pinions were clipped. There was still in him no lack of mental vitality; but his reason had lost equipoise, and his discernment was clouded with illusory visions.

There was the utmost desire at this time on the part of their Majesties that no rupture should break the friendly relations which were sustained with the Portuguese court, and it had been arranged that, in case Columbus should fall in with any Portuguese fleet, there should be the most civil interchange of courtesies. The Spanish monarchs had also given orders, since word had come of the Moors besieging a Portuguese post on the African coast, that Columbus should first go thither and afford the garrison relief.

Columbus stops on the African coast.

1502. May. At the Canaries.

It was found, on reaching that African harbor on the 15th, that the Moors had departed. So, with no longer delay than to exchange civilities, he lifted anchor on the same day and put to sea. It was while he was at the Canaries, May 20-25, taking in wood and water, that Columbus wrote to his devoted Gorricio a letter, which Navarrete preserves. "Now my voyage will be made in the name of the Holy Trinity," he says, "and I hope for success."

1502. June 15. Reaches Martinico.

There is little to note on the voyage, which had been a prosperous one, and on June 15 he reached Martinino (Martinico). He himself professes to have been but twenty days between Cadiz and Martinino, but the statement seems to have been confused, with his usual inaccuracy. He thence pushed leisurely along over much the same track which he had pursued on his second voyage, till he steered finally for Santo Domingo.

Determines to go to Espa?ola.

It will be recollected that the royal orders issued to him before leaving Spain were so far at variance with Columbus's wishes that he was denied the satisfaction of touching at Espa?ola. There can be little question as to the wisdom of an injunction which the Admiral now determined to disregard. His excuse was that his principal caravel was a poor sailer, and he thought he could commit no mistake in insuring greater success for his voyage by exchanging at that port this vessel for a better one. He forgot his own treatment of Ojeda when he drove that adventurer from the island, where, to provision a vessel whose crew was starving, Ojeda dared to trench on his government. When we view this pretense for thrusting himself upon an unwilling community in the light of his unusually quick and prosperous voyage and his failure to make any mention of his vessel's defects when he wrote from the Canaries, we can hardly avoid the conclusion that his determination to call at Espa?ola was suddenly taken. His whole conduct in the matter looks like an obstinate purpose to carry his own point against the royal commands, just as he had tried to carry it against the injunctions respecting the making of slaves. We must remember this when we come to consider the later neglect on the part of the King. We must remember, also, the considerate language with which the sovereigns had conveyed this injunction: "It is not fit that you should lose so much time; it is much fitter that you should go another way; though if it appears necessary, and God is willing, you may stay there a little while on your return."

Roselly de Lorgues, with his customary disingenuousness, merely says that Columbus came to Santo Domingo, to deliver letters with which he was charged, and to exchange one of his caravels.

1502. June 29. Columbus arrives off Santo Domingo.

Columbus forbidden to enter the harbor.

It was the 29th of June when the little fleet of Columbus arrived off the port. He sent in one of his commanders to ask permission to shelter his ships, and the privilege of negotiating for another caravel, since, as he says, "one of his ships had become unseaworthy and could no longer carry sail." His request came to Ovando, who was now in command. This governor had left Spain in February, only a month before Columbus received his final instructions, and there can be little doubt that he had learned from Fonseca that those instructions would enjoin Columbus not to complicate in any way Ovando's assumption of command by approaching his capital. Las Casas seems to imply this. However it may be, Ovando was amply qualified by his own instructions to do what he thought the circumstances required. Columbus represented that a storm was coming on, or rather the Historie tells us that he did. It is to be remarked that Columbus himself makes no such statement. At all events, word was sent back to Columbus by his boat that he could not enter the harbor. Irving calls this an "ungracious refusal," and it turned out that later events have opportunely afforded the apologists for the Admiral the occasion to point a moral to his advantage, particularly since Columbus, if we may believe the doubtful story, confident of his prognostications, had again sent word that the fleet lying in the harbor, ready to sail, would go out at great peril in view of an impending storm. It seems to be quite uncertain if at the time his crew had any knowledge of his reasons for nearing Espa?ola, or of his being denied admittance to the port. At least Porras, from the way he describes the events, leaves one to make such an inference.

Ovando's fleet.

Bobadilla, Roldan, and others on the fleet.

Columbus's factor had placed his gold on one of the ships.

This fleet in the harbor was that which had brought Ovando, and was now laden for the return. There was on board of it, as Columbus might have learned from his messengers, the man of all men whom he most hated, Bobadilla, who had gracefully yielded the power to Ovando two months before, and of whom Las Casas, who was then fresh in his inquisitive seeking after knowledge respecting the Indies and on the spot, could not find that any one spoke ill. On the same ship was Columbus's old rebellious and tergiversating companion, Roldan, whose conduct had been in these two months examined, and who was now to be sent to Spain for further investigations. There was also embarked, but in chains, the unfortunate cacique of the Vega, Guarionex, to be made a show of in Seville. The lading of the ships was the most wonderful for wealth that had ever been sent from the island. There was the gold which Bobadilla had collected, including a remarkable nugget which an Indian woman had picked up in a brook, and a large quantity which Roldan and his friends were taking on their own account, as the profit of their separate enterprises. Carvajal, whom Columbus had sent out with Ovando as his factor, to look after his pecuniary interests under the provisions which the royal commands had made, had also placed in one of the caravels four thousand pieces of the same precious metal, the result of the settlement of Ovando with Bobadilla, and the accretions of the Admiral's share of the Crown's profits.

Ovando's fleet puts to sea and is wrecked;

Undismayed by the warnings of Columbus, this fleet at once put to sea, the Admiral's little caravels having meanwhile crept under the shore at a distance to find such shelter as they could. The larger fleet stood homeward, and was scarcely off the easterly end of Espa?ola when a furious hurricane burst upon it. The ship which carried Bobadilla, Roldan, and Guarionex succumbed and went down.

but ship with Columbus's gold is saved.

Others foundered later. Some of the vessels managed to return to Santo Domingo in a shattered condition. A single caravel, it is usually stated, survived the shock, so that it alone could proceed on the voyage; and if the testimony is to be believed, this was the weakest of them all, but she carried the gold of Columbus. Among the caravels which put back to Santo Domingo for repairs was one on which Bastidas was going to Spain for trial. This one arrived at Cadiz in September, 1502.

Columbus's ships weather the gale.

The ships of Columbus had weathered the gale. That of the Admiral, by keeping close in to land, had fared best. The others, seeking sea-room, had suffered more. They lost sight of each other, however, during the height of the gale; but when it was over, they met together at Port Hermoso, at the westerly end of the island. The gale is a picture over which the glow of a retributive justice, under the favoring dispensation of chance, is so easily thrown by sympathetic writers that the effusions of the sentimentalists have got to stand at last for historic verity. De Lorgues does not lose the opportunity to make the most of it.

1502. July 14. Columbus sails away.

July 30. At Guanaja.

Meets a strange canoe.

Columbus, having lingered about the island to repair his ships and refresh his crews, and also to avoid a second storm, did not finally get away till July 14, when he steered directly for Terra Firma. The currents perplexed him, and, as there was little wind, he was swept west further than he expected. He first touched at some islands near Jamaica. Thence he proceeded west a quarter southwest, for four days, without seeing land, as Porras tells us, when, bewildered, he turned to the northwest, and then north. But finding himself (July 24) in the archipelago near Cuba, which on his second voyage he had called The Gardens, he soon after getting a fair wind (July 27) stood southwest, and on July 30 made a small island, off the northern coast of Honduras, called Guanaja by the natives, and Isla de Pinos by himself. He was now in sight of the mountains of the mainland. The natives struck him as of a physical type different from all others whom he had seen. A large canoe, eight feet beam, and of great length, though made of a single log, approached with still stranger people in it.

On the Honduras coast.

They had apparently come from a region further north; and under a canopy in the waist of the canoe sat a cacique with his dependents. The boat was propelled by five and twenty men with paddles. It carried various articles to convince Columbus that he had found a people more advanced in arts than those of the regions earlier discovered. They had with them copper implements, including hatchets, bells, and the like. He saw something like a crucible in which metal had been melted. Their wooden swords were jagged with sharp flints, their clothes were carefully made, their utensils were polished and handy. Columbus traded off some trinkets for such specimens as he wanted. If he now had gone in the direction from which this marvelous canoe had come, he might have thus early opened the wondrous world of Yucatan and Mexico, and closed his career with more marvels yet. His beatific visions, which he supposed were leading him under the will of the Deity, led him, however, south. The delusive strait was there. He found an old man among the Indians, whom he kept as a guide, since the savage could draw a sort of chart of the coast. He dismissed the rest with presents, after he had wrested from them what he wanted. Approaching the mainland, near the present Cape of Honduras, the Adelantado landed on Sunday, August 14, and mass was celebrated in a grove near the beach. Again, on the 17th, Bartholomew landed some distance eastward of the first spot, and here, by a river (Rio de la Posesion, now Rio Tinto), he planted the Castilian banner and formally took possession of the country. The Indians were friendly, and there was an interchange of provisions and trinkets. The natives were tattooed, and they had other customs, such as the wearing of cotton jackets, and the distending of their ears by rings, which were new to the Spaniards.

Seeking a strait.

Columbus oppressed with the gout.


Tracking the coast still eastward, Columbus struggled against the current, apparently without reasoning that he might be thus sailing away from the strait, so engrossed was he with the thought that such a channel must be looked for farther south. His visions had not helped him to comprehend the sweep of waters that would disprove his mock oaths of the Cuban coast. So he wore ship constantly against the tempest and current, and crawled with bewildered expectation along the shore. All this tacking tore his sails, racked his caravels, and wore out his seamen. The men were in despair, and confessed one another. Some made vows of penance, if their lives were preserved. Columbus was himself wrenched with the gout, and from a sort of pavilion, which covered his couch on the quarter deck, he kept a good eye on all they encountered. "The distress of my son," he says, "grieved me to the soul, and the more when I considered his tender age; for he was but thirteen years old, and he enduring so much toil for so long a time." "My brother," he adds further, "was in the ship that was in the worst condition and the most exposed to danger; and my grief on this account was the greater that I brought him with me against his will."

1502. September. Cape Gracios à Dios.

Loses a boat's crew.

1502. September 25. The Garden.

It was no easy work to make the seventy leagues from Cape Honduras to Cape Gracios à Dios, and the bestowal of this name denoted his thankfulness to God, when, after forty days of this strenuous endeavor, his caravels were at last able to round the cape, on September 12 (or 14). A seaboard stretching away to the south lay open before him,-now known as the Mosquito Coast. The current which sets west so persistently here splits and sends a branch down this coast. So with a "fair wind and tide," as he says, they followed its varied scenery of crag and lowland for more than sixty leagues, till they discovered a great flow of water coming out of a river. It seemed to offer an opportunity to replenish their casks and get some store of wood. On the 16th of September, they anchored, and sent their boats to explore. A meeting of the tide and the river's flow raised later a tumultuous sea at the bar, just as the boats were coming out. The men were unable to surmount the difficulty, and one of the boats was lost, with all on board. Columbus recorded their misfortune in the name which he gave to the river, El Rio del Desastre. Still coasting onward, on September 25 they came to an alluring roadstead between an island and the main, where there was everything to enchant that verdure and fragrance could produce. He named the spot The Garden (La Huerta). Here, at anchor, they had enough to occupy them for a day or two in restoring the damage of the tempest, and in drying their stores, which had been drenched by the unceasing downpour of the clouds. The natives watched them from the shore, and made a show of their weapons. The Spaniards remaining inactive, the savages grew more confident of the pacific intent of their visitors, and soon began swimming off to the caravels. Columbus tried the effect of largesses, refusing to barter, and made gifts of the Spanish baubles. Such gratuities, however, created distrust, and every trinket was returned.

Character of the natives.

Two young girls had been sent on board as hostages, while the Spaniards were on shore getting water; but even they were stripped of their Spanish finery when restored to their friends, and every bit of it was returned to the givers. There seem to be discordant statements by Columbus and in the Historie respecting these young women, and Columbus gives them a worse character than his chronicler. When the Adelantado went ashore with a notary, and this official displayed his paper and inkhorn, it seemed to strike the wondering natives as a spell. They fled, and returned with something like a censer, from which they scattered the smoke as if to disperse all baleful spirits.

These unaccustomed traits of the natives worked on the superstitions of the Spaniards. They began to fancy they had got within an atmosphere of sorceries, and Columbus, thinking of the two Indian maiden hostages, was certain there was a spell of witchcraft about them, and he never quite freed his mind of this necromantic ghost.

The old Indian whom Columbus had taken for a guide when first he touched the coast, having been set ashore at Cape Gracios à Dios, enriched with presents, Columbus now seized seven of this new tribe, and selecting two of the most intelligent as other guides, he let the rest go. The seizure was greatly resented by the tribe, and they sent emissaries to negotiate for the release of the captives, but to no effect.

1502. October. Cariari.

Gold sought at Veragua.

Departing on October 5 from the region which the natives called Cariari, and where the fame of Columbus is still preserved in the Bahia del Almirante, the explorers soon found the coast trending once more towards the east. They were tracking what is now known as the shore of Costa Rica. They soon entered the large and island-studded Caribaro Bay. Here the Spaniards were delighted to find the natives wearing plates of gold as ornaments. They tried to traffic for them, but the Indians were loath to part with their treasures. The natives intimated that there was much more of this metal farther on at a place called Veragua. So the ships sailed on, October 17, and reached that coast. The Spaniards came to a river; but the natives sent defiance to them in the blasts of their conch-shells, while they shook at them their lances. Entering the tide, they splashed the water towards their enemies, in token of contempt. Columbus's Indian guides soon pacified them, and a round of barter followed, by which seventeen of their gold disks were secured for three hawks' bells. The intercourse ended, however, in a little hostile bout, during which the Spanish crossbows and lombards soon brought the savages to obedience.



At the isthmus.

Still the caravels went on. The same scene of startled natives, in defiant attitude, soon soothed by the trinkets was repeated everywhere. In one place the Spaniards found what they had never seen before, a wall laid of stone and lime, and Columbus began to think of the civilized East again. Coast peoples are always barbarous, as he says; but it is the inland people who are rich. As he passed along this coast of Veragua, as the name has got to be written, though his notary at the time caught the Indian pronunciation as Cobraba, his interpreters pointed out its villages, and the chief one of all; and when they had passed on a little farther they told him he was sailing beyond the gold country. Columbus was not sure but they were trying to induce him to open communication again with the shore, to offer chances for their escape. The seeker of the strait could not stop for gold. His vision led him on to that marvelous land of Ciguare, of which these successive native tribes told him, situated ten days inland, and where the people reveled in gold, sailed in ships, and conducted commerce in spices and other precious commodities. The women there were decked, so they said, with corals and pearls. "I should be content," he says, "if a tithe of this which I hear is true." He even fancied, from all he could understand of their signs and language, that these Ciguare people were as terrible in war as the Spaniards, and rode on beasts. "They also say that the sea surrounds Ciguare, and that ten days' journey from thence is the river Ganges." Humboldt seems to think that in all this Columbus got a conception of that great western ocean which was lying so much nearer to him than he supposed. It may be doubted if it was quite so clear to Columbus as Humboldt thinks; but there is good reason to believe that Columbus imagined this wonderful region of Ciguare was half-way to the Ganges. If, as his canonizers fondly suppose, he had not mistaken in his visions an isthmus for a strait, he might have been prompted to cross the slender barrier which now separated him from his goal.

1502. November 2.

Porto Bello.

Nombre de Dios.

On the 2d of November, the ships again anchored in a spacious harbor, so beautiful in its groves and fruits, and with such deep water close to the shore, that Columbus gave it the name of Puerto Bello (Porto Bello),-an appellation which has never left it. It rained for seven days while they lay here, doing nothing but trading a little with the natives for provisions. The Indians offered no gold, and hardly any was seen. Starting once more, the Spaniards came in sight of the cape known since as Nombre de Dios, but they were thwarted for a while in their attempts to pass it. They soon found a harbor, where they stayed till November 23; then going on again, they secured anchorage in a basin so small that the caravels were placed almost beside the shore. Columbus was kept here by the weather for nine days. The basking alligators reminded him of the crocodiles of the Nile. The natives were uncommonly gentle and gracious, and provisions were plenty. The ease with which the seamen could steal ashore at night began to be demoralizing, leading to indignities at the native houses. The savage temper was at last aroused, and the Spanish revelries were brought to an end by an attack on the ships. It ceased, as usual, after a few discharges of the ships' guns.

Bastidas's exploration of this coast.

Columbus had not yet found any deflection of that current which sweeps in this region towards the Gulf of Mexico. He had struggled against its powerful flow in every stage of his progress along the coast. Whether this had brought him to believe that his vision of a strait was delusive does not appear. Whether he really knew that he had actually joined his own explorations, going east, to those which Bastidas had made from the west is equally unknown, though it is possible he may have got an intimation of celestial and winged monsters from the natives. If he comprehended it, he saw that there could be no strait, this way at least. Bastidas, as we have seen, was on board Bobadilla's fleet when Columbus lay off Santo Domingo. There is a chance that Columbus's messenger who went ashore may have seen him and his charts, and may have communicated some notes of the maps to the Admiral. Some of the companions of Bastidas on his voyage had reached Spain before Columbus sailed, and there may have been some knowledge imparted in that way. If Columbus knew the truth, he did not disclose it.

Porras, possibly at a later day, seems to have been better informed, or at least he imparts more in his narrative than Columbus does. He says he saw in the people of these parts many of the traits of those of the pearl coast at Paria, and that the maps, which they possessed, showed that it was to this point that the explorations of Ojeda and Bastidas had been pushed.

Columbus turns back.

1502. December 5.

A gale.

There were other things that might readily have made him turn back, as well as this despair of finding a strait. His crew were dissatisfied with leaving the gold of Veragua. His ships were badly bored by the worms, and they had become, from this cause and by reason of the heavy weather which had so mercilessly followed them, more and more unseaworthy. So on December 5, 1502, when he passed out of the little harbor of El Retrete, he began a backward course. Pretty soon the wind, which had all along faced him from the east, blew strongly from the west, checking him as much going backward as it had in his onward course. It seemed as if the elements were turned against him. The gale was making sport of him, as it veered in all directions. It was indeed a Coast of Contrasts (La Costa de los Contrastes), as Columbus called it. The lightning streaked the skies continually. The thunder was appalling. For nine days the little ships, strained at every seam, leaking at every point where the tropical sea worm had pierced them, writhed in a struggle of death. At one time a gigantic waterspout formed within sight. The sea surged around its base. The clouds stooped to give it force. It came staggering and lunging towards the fragile barks. The crews exorcised the watery spirit by repeating the Gospel of St. John the Evangelist, and the crazy column passed on the other side of them.

Added to their peril through it all were the horrors of an impending famine. Their biscuit were revolting because of the worms. They caught sharks for food.

1502. December 17.

Bethlehem River.

1503. January 24.

Bartholomew seeks the mines.

At last, on December 17, the fleet reunited,-for they had, during the gales, lost sight of each other,-and entered a harbor, where they found the native cabins built in the tree tops, to be out of the way of griffins, or some other beasts. After further buffeting of the tempests, they finally made a harbor on the coast of Veragua, in a river which Columbus named Santa Maria de Belen (Bethlehem), it being Epiphany Day; and here at last they anchored two of the caravels on January 9, and the other two on the 10th (1503). Columbus had been nearly a month in passing thirty leagues of coast. The Indians were at first quieted in the usual way, and some gold was obtained by barter. The Spaniards had not been here long, however, when they found themselves (January 24, 1503) in as much danger by the sudden swelling of the river as they had been at sea. It was evidently occasioned by continued falls of rain in distant mountains, which they could see. The caravels were knocked about like cockboats. The Admiral's ship snapped a mast. "It rained without ceasing," says the Admiral, recording his miseries, "until the 14th of February;" and during the continuance of the storm the Adelantado was sent on a boat expedition to ascend the Veragua River, three miles along the coast, where he was to search for mines. The party proceeded on February 6 as far as they could in the boats, and then, leaving part of the men for a guard, and taking guides, which the Quibian-that being the name, as he says, which they gave to the lord of the country-had provided, they reached a country where the soil to their eyes seemed full of particles of gold. Columbus says that he afterwards learned that it was a device of the crafty Quibian to conduct them to the mines of a rival chief, while his own were richer and nearer, all of which, nevertheless, did not escape the keen Spanish scent for gold. Bartholomew made other excursions along the coast; but nowhere did it seem to him that gold was as plenty as at Veragua.

Mines of Aurea.

Columbus now reverted to his old fancies. He remembered that Josephus has described the getting of gold for the Temple of Jerusalem from the Golden Chersonesus, and was not this the very spot? "Josephus thinks that this gold of the Chronicles and the Book of Kings was found in the Aurea," he says. "If it were so, I contend that these mines of the Aurea are identical with those of Veragua. David in his will left 3,000 quintals of Indian gold to Solomon, to assist in building the Temple, and according to Josephus it came from these lands." He had seen, as he says, more promise of gold here in two days than in Espa?ola in four years. It was very easy now to dwarf his Ophir at Hayna! Those other riches were left to those who had wronged him. The pearls of the Paria coast might be the game of the common adventurer. Here was the princely domain of the divinely led discoverer, who was rewarded at last!

Columbus seeks to make a settlement.

A plan was soon made of founding a settlement to hold the region and gain information, while Columbus returned to Spain for supplies. Eighty men were to stay. They began to build houses. They divided the stock of provisions and munitions, and transferred that intended for the colony to one of the caravels, which was to be left with them. Particular pains were taken to propitiate the natives by presents, and the Quibian was regaled with delicacies and gifts. When this was done, it was found that a dry season had come on, and there was not water enough on the bar to float the returning caravels.

Diego Mendez's exploits.

The Quibian taken,

but escapes.

Meanwhile the Quibian had formed a league to exterminate the intruders. Columbus sent a brave fellow, Diego Mendez, to see what he could learn. He found a force of savages advancing to the attack; but this single Spaniard disconcerted them, and they put off the plan. Again, with but a single companion, one Rodrigo de Escobar, Mendez boldly went into the Quibian's village, and came back alive to tell the Admiral of all the preparations for war which he had seen, or which were inferred at least. The news excited the quick spirits of the Adelantado, and, following a plan of Mendez, he at once started (March 30) with an armed force. He came with such celerity to the cacique's village that the savages were not prepared for their intrusion, and by a rapid artifice he surrounded the lodge of the Quibian, and captured him with fifty of his followers. The Adelantado sent him, bound hand and foot, and under escort, down the river, in charge of Juan Sanchez, who rather resented any intimation of the Adelantado to be careful of his prisoner. As the boat neared the mouth of the river, her commander yielded to the Quibian's importunities to loosen his bonds, when the chief, watching his opportunity, slipped overboard and dove to the bottom. The night was dark, and he was not seen when he came to the surface, and was not pursued. The other prisoners were delivered to the Admiral. The Adelantado meanwhile had sacked the cacique's cabin, and brought away its golden treasures.

1503. April 6.

The settlement attacked.

Columbus, confident that the Quibian had been drowned, and that the chastisement which had been given his tribe was a wholesome lesson, began again to arrange for his departure. As the river had risen a little, he succeeded in getting his lightened caravels over the bar, and anchored them outside, where their lading was again put on board. To offer some last injunctions and to get water, Columbus, on April 6, sent a boat, in command of Diego Tristan, to the Adelantado, who was to be left in command. When the boat got in, Tristan found the settlement in great peril. The Quibian, who had reached the shore in safety after his adventure, had quickly organized an attacking party, and had fallen upon the settlement. The savages were fast getting their revenge, for the unequal contest had lasted nearly three hours, when the Adelantado and Mendez, rallying a small force, rushed so impetuously upon them that, with the aid of a fierce bloodhound, the native host was scattered in a trice. Only one Spaniard had been killed and eight wounded, including the Adelantado; but the rout of the Indians was complete.

Tristan murdered.

It was while these scenes were going on that Tristan arrived in his boat opposite the settlement. He dallied till the affair was ended, and then proceeded up the river to get some water. Those on shore warned him of the danger of ambuscade; but he persisted. When he had got well beyond the support of the settlement, his boat was beset with a shower of javelins from the overhanging banks on both sides, while a cloud of canoes attacked him front and rear. But a single Spaniard escaped by diving, and brought the tale of disaster to his countrymen.

The condition of the settlement was now alarming. The Indians, encouraged by their success in overcoming the boat, once more gathered to attack the little group of "encroaching Spaniards," as Columbus could but call them. The houses which sheltered them were so near the thick forest that the savages approached them on all sides under shelter. The woods rang with their yells and with the blasts of their conch-shells. The Spaniards got, in their panic, beyond the control of the Adelantado. They prepared to take the caravel and leave the river; but it was found she would not float over the bar. They then sought to send a boat to the Admiral, lying outside, to prevent his sailing without them; but the current and tide commingling made such a commotion on the bar that no boat could live in the sea. The bodies of Tristan and his men came floating down stream, with carrion crows perched upon them at their ghastly feast. It seemed as if nature visited them with premonitions. At last the Adelantado brought a sufficient number of men into such a steady mood that they finally constructed out of whatever they could get some sort of a breastwork near the shore, where the ground was open. Here they could use their matchlocks and have a clear sweep about them. They placed behind this bulwark two small falconets, and prepared to defend themselves. They were in this condition for four days. Their provisions, however, began to run short, and every Spaniard who dared to forage was sure to be cut off. Their ammunition, too, was not abundant.

* * *

Columbus at anchor outside the bar.

Meanwhile Columbus was in a similar state of anxiety. "The Admiral was suffering from a severe fever," he says, "and worn with fatigue." His ships were lying at anchor outside the bar, with the risk of being obliged to put to sea at any moment, to work off a lee shore. Tristan's prolonged absence harassed him. Another incident was not less ominous. The companions of the Quibian were confined on board in the forecastle; and it was the intention to take them to Spain as hostages, as it was felt they would be, for the colony left behind. Those in charge of them had become careless about securing the hatchway, and one night they failed to chain it, trusting probably to the watchfulness of certain sailors who slept upon the hatch. The savages, finding a footing upon some ballast which they piled up beneath, suddenly threw off the cover, casting the sleeping sailors violently aside, and before the guard could be called the greater part of the prisoners had jumped into the sea and escaped. Such as were secured were thrust back, but the next morning it was found that they all had strangled themselves.

Ledesma's exploit.

After such manifestations of ferocious determination, Columbus began to be further alarmed for the safety of his brother's companions and of Tristan's. For days a tossing surf had made an impassable barrier between him and the shore. He had but one boat, and he did not dare to risk it in an attempt to land. Finally, his Sevillian pilot, Pedro Ledesma, offered to brave the dangers by swimming, if the boat would take him close to the surf. The trial was made; the man committed himself to the surf, and by his strength and skill so surmounted wave after wave that he at length reached stiller water, and was seen to mount the shore. In due time he was again seen on the beach, and plunging in once more, was equally successful in passing the raging waters, and was picked up by the boat. He had a sad tale to tell the Admiral. It was a story of insubordination, a powerless Adelantado, and a frantic eagerness to escape somehow. Ledesma said that the men were preparing canoes to come off to the ships, since their caravel was unable to pass the bar.

Resolve to abandon the region.

There was long consideration in these hours of disheartenment; but the end of it was a decision to rescue the colony and abandon the coast. The winds never ceased to be high, and Columbus's ships, in their weakened condition, were only kept afloat by care and vigilance. The loss of the boat's crew threw greater burdens and strains upon those who were left. It was impossible while the surf lasted to send in his only boat, and quite as impossible for the fragile canoes of his colony to brave the dangers of the bar in coming out. There was nothing for Columbus to do but to hold to his anchor as long as he could, and wait.

Columbus in delirium hears a voice.

Our pity for the man is sometimes likely to unfit us to judge his own record. Let us try to believe what he says of himself, and watch him in his delirium. "Groaning with exhaustion," he says, "I fell asleep in the highest part of the ship, and heard a compassionate voice address me." It bade him be of good cheer, and take courage in the service of God! What the God of all had done for Moses and David would be done for him! As we read the long report of this divine utterance, as Columbus is careful to record it, we learn that the Creator was aware of his servant's name resounding marvelously throughout the earth. We find, however, that the divine belief curiously reflected the confidence of Columbus that it was India, and not America, that had been revealed. "Remember David," said the Voice, "how he was a shepherd, and was made a king. Remember Abraham, how he was a hundred when he begat Isaac, and that there is youth still for the aged." Columbus adds that when the Voice chided him he wept for his errors, and that he heard it all as in a trance.

The obvious interpretation of all this is either that by the record Columbus intended a fable to impress the sovereigns, for whom he was writing, or that he was so moved to hallucinations that he believed what he wrote. The hero worship of Irving decides the question easily. "Such an idea," says Irving, referring to the argument of deceit, and forgetting the Admiral's partiality for such practices, "is inconsistent with the character of Columbus. In recalling a dream, one is unconsciously apt to give it a little coherency." Irving's plea is that it was a mere dream, which was mistaken by Columbus, in his feverish excitement, for a revelation. "The artless manner," adds that biographer, "in which he mingles the rhapsodies and dreams of his imagination with simple facts and sound practical observations, pouring them forth with a kind of Scriptural solemnity and poetry of language, is one of the most striking illustrations of a character richly compounded of extraordinary and apparently contradictory elements." We may perhaps ask, Was Irving's hero a deceiver, or was he mad? The chances seem to be that the whole vision was simply the product of one of those fits of aberration which in these later years were no strangers to Columbus's existence. His mind was not infrequently, amid disappointments and distractions, in no fit condition to ward off hallucination.

Humboldt speaks of Columbus's letter describing this vision as showing the disordered mind of a proud soul weighed down with dead hopes. He has no fear that the strange mixture of force and weakness, of pride and touching humility, which accompanies these secret contortions will ever impress the world with other feelings than those of commiseration.

It is a hard thing for any one, seeking to do justice to the agonies of such spirits, to measure them in the calmness of better days. "Let those who are accustomed to slander and aspersion ask, while they sit in security at home, Why dost thou not do so and so under such circumstances?" says Columbus himself. It is far easier to let one's self loose into the vortex and be tossed with sympathy. But if four centuries have done anything for us, they ought to have cleared the air of its mirages. What is pitiable may not be noble.

The colony embark.

The Voice was, of course, associated in Columbus's mind with the good weather which followed. During this a raft was made of two canoes lashed together beneath a platform, and, using this for ferrying, all the stores were floated off safely to the ships, so that in the end nothing was left behind but the decaying and stranded caravel. This labor was done under the direction of Diego Mendez, whom the Admiral rewarded by kissing him on the cheek, and by giving him command of Tristan's caravel, which was the Admiral's flagship.

1503. April, Columbus sails away.

It is a strange commentary on the career and fame of Columbus that the name of this disastrous coast should represent him to this day in the title of his descendant, the Duke of Veragua. Never a man turned the prow of his ship from scenes which he would sooner forget, with more sorrow and relief, than Columbus, in the latter days of April, 1503, with his enfeebled crews and his crazy hulks, stood away, as he thought, for Espa?ola. And yet three months later, and almost in the same breath with which he had rehearsed these miseries, with that obliviousness which so often caught his errant mind, he wrote to his sovereigns that "there is not in the world a country, whose inhabitants are more timid; added to which there is a good harbor, a beautiful river, and the whole place is capable of being easily put into a state of defense. Your people that may come here, if they should wish to become masters of the products of other lands, will have to take them by force, or retire empty-handed. In this country they will simply have to trust their persons in the hands of a savage." The man was mad.

It was easterly that Columbus steered when his ships swung round to their destined course. It was not without fear and even indignation that his crews saw what they thought a purpose to sail directly for Spain in the sorry plight of the ships. Mendez, indeed, who commanded the Admiral's own ship, says "they thought to reach Spain." The Admiral, however, seems to have had two purposes. He intended to run eastward far enough to allow for the currents, when he should finally head for Santo Domingo. He intended also to disguise as much as he could the route back, for fear that others would avail themselves of his crew's knowledge to rediscover these golden coasts. He remembered how the companions of his Paria voyage had led other expeditions to that region of pearls. He is said also to have taken from his crew all their memoranda of the voyage, so that there would be no such aid available to guide others. "None of them can explain whither I went, nor whence I came," he says. "They do not know the way to return thither."

At Puerto Bello.

At the Gulf of Darien.

1503. May 10.

May 30. On the Cuban coast.

1503. June 23. Reaches Jamaica.

By the time he reached Puerto Bello, one of his caravels had become so weakened by the boring worms that he had to abandon her and crowd his men into the two remaining vessels. His crews became clamorous when he reached the Gulf of Darien, where he thought it prudent to abandon his easterly course and steer to the north. It was now May 1. He hugged the wind to overcome the currents, but when he sighted some islands to the westward of Espa?ola, on the 10th, it was evident that the currents had been bearing him westerly all the while. They were still drifting him westerly, when he found himself, on May 30, among the islands on the Cuban coast which he had called The Gardens. "I had reached," he says in his old delusion, "the province of Mago, which is contiguous to that of Cathay." Her

e the ships anchored to give the men refreshment. The labor of keeping the vessels free from water had been excessive, and in a secure roadstead it could now be carried on with some respite of toil, if the weather would only hold good. This was not to be, however. A gale ensued in which they lost their anchors. The two caravels, moreover, sustained serious damage by collision. All the anchors of the Admiral's ship had gone but one, and though that held, the cable nearly wore asunder. After six days of this stormy weather, he dared at last to crawl along the coast. Fortunately, he got some native provisions at one place, which enabled him to feed his famished men. The currents and adverse winds, however, proved too much for the power of his ships to work to windward. They were all the while in danger of foundering. "With three pumps and the use of pots and kettles," he says, "we could scarcely clear the water that came into the ship, there being no remedy but this for the mischief done by the ship worm." He reluctantly, therefore, bore away for Jamaica, where, on June 23, he put into Puerto Buono (Dry Harbor).

1503. July, August. His ships stranded

Finding neither water nor food here, he went on the next day to Port San Gloria, known in later days as Don Christopher's Cove. Here he found it necessary, a little later (July 23 and August 12), to run his sinking ships, one after the other, aground, but he managed to place them side by side, so that they could be lashed together. They soon filled with the tide. Cabins were built on the forecastles and sterns to live in, and bulwarks of defense were reared as best they could be along the vessels' waists. Columbus now took the strictest precautions to prevent his men wandering ashore, for it was of the utmost importance that no indignity should be offered the natives while they were in such hazardous and almost defenseless straits.

It became at once a serious question how to feed his men. Whatever scant provisions remained on board the stranded caravels were spoiled. His immediate savage neighbors supplied them with cassava bread and other food for a while, but they had no reserved stores to draw upon, and these sources were soon exhausted.

Mendez seeks food for the company.

Diego Mendez now offered, with three men, carrying goods to barter, to make a circuit of the island, so that he could reach different caciques, with whom he could bargain for the preparation and carriage of food to the Spaniards. As he concluded his successive impromptu agreements with cacique after cacique, he sent a man back loaded with what he could carry, to acquaint the Admiral, and let him prepare for a further exchange of trinkets. Finally, Mendez, left without a companion, still went on, getting some Indian porters to help him from place to place. In this way he reached the eastern end of the island, where he ingratiated himself with a powerful cacique, and was soon on excellent terms with him. From this chieftain he got a canoe with natives to paddle, and loading it with provisions, he skirted westerly along the coast, until he reached the Spaniards' harbor. His mission bade fair to have accomplished its purpose, and provisions came in plentifully for a while under the arrangements which he had made.

Mendez prepares to go to Espa?ola.

Columbus's next thought was to get word, if possible, to Ovando, at Espa?ola, so that the governor could send a vessel to rescue them. Columbus proposed to Mendez that he should attempt the passage with the canoe in which he had returned from his expedition. Mendez pictured the risks of going forty leagues in these treacherous seas in a frail canoe, and intimated that the Admiral had better make trial of the courage of the whole company first. He said that if no one else offered to go he would shame them by his courage, as he had more than once done before. So the company were assembled, and Columbus made public the proposition. Every one hung back from the hazards, and Mendez won his new triumph, as he had supposed he would. He then set to work fitting the canoe for the voyage. He put a keel to her. He built up her sides so that she could better ward off the seas, and rigged a mast and sail. She was soon loaded with the necessary provisions for himself, one other Spaniard, and the six Indians who were to ply the paddles.

* * *

1503. July 7. Letter of Columbus to the sovereigns.

The Admiral, while the preparations were making, drew up a letter to his sovereigns, which it was intended that Mendez, after arranging with Ovando for the rescue, should bear himself to Spain by the first opportunity. At least it is the reasonable assumption of Humboldt that this is the letter which has come down to us dated July 7, 1503.

Lettera rarissima.

It is not known that this epistle was printed at the time, though manuscript copies seem to have circulated. An Italian version of it was, however, printed at Venice a year before Columbus died. The original Spanish text was not known to scholars till Navarrete, having discovered in the king's library at Madrid an early transcript of it, printed it in the first volume of his Coleccion. It is the document usually referred to, from the title of Morelli's reprint (1810) of the Italian text, as the Lettera rarissima di Cristoforo Colombo. This letter is even more than his treatise on the prophets a sorrowful index of his wandering reason. In parts it is the merest jumble of hurrying thoughts, with no plan or steady purpose in view. It is in places well calculated to arouse the deepest pity. It was, of course, avowedly written at a venture, inasmuch as the chance of its reaching the hands of his sovereigns was a very small one. "I send this letter," he says, "by means of and by the hands of Indians; it will be a miracle if it reaches its destination."

He not only goes back over the adventures of the present expedition, in a recital which has been not infrequently quoted in previous pages, but he reverts gloomily to the more distant past. He lingers on the discouragements of his first years in Spain. "Every one to whom the enterprise was mentioned," he says of those days, "treated it as ridiculous, but now there is not a man, down to the very tailors, who does not beg to be allowed to become a discoverer." He remembers the neglect which followed upon the first flush of indignation when he returned to Spain in chains. "The twenty years' service through which I have passed with so much toil and danger have profited me nothing, and at this very day I do not possess a roof in Spain that I can call my own. If I wish to eat or sleep I have nowhere to go but to a low tavern, and most times lack wherewith to pay the bill. Another anxiety wrings my very heartstrings, when I think of my son Diego, whom I have left an orphan in Spain, stripped of the house and property which is due to him on my account, although I had looked upon it as a certainty that your Majesties, as just and grateful princes, would restore it to him in all respects with increase."

"I was twenty-eight years old," he says again, "when I came into your Highnesses' services, and now I have not a hair upon me that is not gray, my body is infirm, and all that was left to me, as well as to my brother, has been taken away and sold, even to the frock that I wore, to my great dishonor."

And then, referring to his present condition, he adds: "Solitary in my trouble, sick, and in daily expectation of death, I am surrounded by millions of hostile savages, full of cruelty. Weep for me, whoever has charity, truth, and justice!"

He next works over in his mind the old geographical problems. He recalls his calculation of an eclipse in 1494, when he supposed, in his error, that he had "sailed twenty-four degrees westward in nine hours." He recalls the stories that he had heard on the Veragua coast, and thinks that he had known it all before from books. Marinus had come near the truth, he gives out, and the Portuguese have proved that the Indies in Ethiopia is, as Marinus had said, four and twenty degrees from the equinoctial line. "The world is but small," he sums up; "out of seven divisions of it, the dry part occupies six, and the seventh is entirely covered by water. I say that the world is not so large as vulgar opinion makes it, and that one degree from the equinoctial line measures fifty-six miles and two thirds, and this may be proved to a nicety."

Columbus on gold.

And then, in his thoughts, he turns back to his quest for gold, just as he had done in action at Darien, when in despair he gave up the search for a strait. It was gold, to his mind, that could draw souls from purgatory. He exclaims: "Gold is the most precious of all commodities. Gold constitutes treasure, and he who possesses it has all he needs in this world, as also the means of rescuing souls from purgatory, and restoring them to the enjoyment of paradise."

Then his hopes swell with the vision of that wealth which he thought he had found, and would yet return to. He alone had the clues to it, which he had concealed from others. "I can safely assert that to my mind my people returning to Spain are the bearers of the best news that ever was carried to Spain.... I had certainly foreseen how things would be. I think more of this opening for commerce than of all that has been done in the Indies. This is not a child to be left to the care of a stepmother."

These were some of the thoughts, in large part tumultuous, incoherent, dispirited, harrowing, weakening, and sad, penned within sound of the noise of Mendez's preparations, and disclosing an exultant and bewildered being, singularly compounded.

This script was committed to Mendez, beside one addressed to Ovando, and another to his friend in Spain, Father Gorricio, to whom he imparts some of the same frantic expectations. "If my voyage will turn out as favorable to my health," he says, "and to the tranquillity of my house, as it is likely to be for the glory of my royal masters, I shall live long."

* * *

Mendez starts.

Mendez started bravely. He worked along the coast of the island towards its eastern end; not without peril, however, both from the sea and from the Indians. Finally, his party fell captives to a startled cacique; but while the savages were disputing over a division of the spoils, Mendez succeeded in slipping back to the canoe, and, putting off alone, paddled it back to the stranded ships.

Mendez starts again.

Another trial was made at once, with larger preparation. A second canoe was added to the expedition, and the charge of this was given to Bartholomew Fiesco, a Genoese, who had commanded one of the caravels. The daring adventurers started again with an armed party under the Adelantado following them along the shore.

The land and boat forces reached the end of the island without molestation, and then, bidding each other farewell, the canoes headed boldly away from land, and were soon lost to the sight of the Adelantado in the deepening twilight. The land party returned to the Admiral without adventure. There was little now for the poor company to do but to await the return of Fiesco, who had been directed to come back at once and satisfy the Admiral that Mendez had safely accomplished his mission.

The revolt of Porras.

Many days passed, and straining eyes were directed along the shore to catch a glimpse of Fiesco's canoe; but it came not. There was not much left to allay fear or stifle disheartenment. The cramped quarters of the tenements on the hulks, the bad food which the men were forced to depend upon, and the vain watchings soon produced murmurs of discontent, which it needed but the captious spirit of a leader to convert into the turmoil of revolt. Such a gatherer of sedition soon appeared. There were in the company two brothers, Francisco de Porras, who had commanded one of the vessels, and Diego de Porras, who had, as we have seen, been joined to the expedition to check off the Admiral's accounts of treasures acquired. The very espionage of his office was an offense to the Admiral. It was through the caballing of these two men that the alien spirits of the colony found in one of them at last a determined actor. It is not easy to discover how far the accusations against the Admiral, which these men now began to dwell upon, were generally believed. It served the leaders' purposes to have it appear that Columbus was in reality banished from Spain, and had no intention of returning thither till Mendez and Fiesco had succeeded in making favor for him at Court; and that it was upon such a mission that these lieutenants had been sent. It was therefore necessary, if those who were thus cruelly confined in Jamaica wished to escape a lingering death, to put on a bold front, and demand to be led away to Espa?ola in such canoes as could be got of the Indians.

1504. January 2. Demands of Porras.

The flotilla of Porras sails.

It was on the 2d of January, 1504, that, with a crowd of sympathizers watching within easy call, Francisco de Porras suddenly presented himself in the cabin of the weary and bedridden Admiral. An altercation ensued, in which the Admiral, propped in his couch, endeavored to assuage the bursting violence of his accuser, and to bring him to a sense of the patient duty which the conditions demanded. It was one of the times when desperate straits seemed to restore the manhood of Columbus. It was, however, of little use. The crisis was not one that, in the present temper of the mutineers, could be avoided. Porras, finding that the Admiral could not be swayed, called out in a loud voice, "I am for Castile! Those who will may come with me!" This signal was expected, and a shout rang in the air among those who were awaiting it. It aroused Columbus from his couch, and he staggered into sight; but his presence caused no cessation of the tumult. Some of his loyal companions, fearing violence, took him back to his bed. The Adelantado braced himself with his lance for an encounter, and was pacified only by the persuasions of the Admiral's friends. They loyally said, "Let the mutineers go. We will remain." The angry faction seized ten canoes, which the Admiral had secured from the Indians, and putting in them what they could get, they embarked for their perilous voyage. Some others who had not joined in their plot being allured by the flattering hope of release, there were forty-eight in all, and the little flotilla, amid the mingled execrations and murmurs of despair among the weak and the downcast who stayed behind, paddled out of that fateful harbor.

The greater part of all who were vigorous had now gone. There were a few strong souls, with some vitality left in them, among the small company which remained to the Admiral; but the most of them were sorry objects, with dejected minds and bodies more or less prostrate from disease and privation. The conviction soon settled upon this deserted community that nothing could save them but a brotherly and confident determination to help one another, and to arouse to the utmost whatever of cheer and good will was latent in their spirits. They could hardly have met an attack of the natives, and they knew it. This made them more considerate in their treatment of their neighbors, and the supply of provisions which they could get from those who visited the ship was plentiful for a while. But the habits of the savages were not to accumulate much beyond present needs, and when the baubles which the Spaniards could distribute began to lose their strange attractiveness, the incentive was gone to induce exertion, and supplies were brought in less and less frequently. It was soon found that hawks' bells had diminished in value. It took several to appease the native cupidity where one had formerly done it.

Porras's men still on the island.

There was another difficulty. There were failures on the part of the more distant villages to send in their customary contributions, and it soon came to be known that Porras and his crew, instead of having left the island, were wandering about, exacting provisions and committing indignities against the inhabitants wherever they went.

* * *

His voyage a failure.

It seems that the ten canoes had followed the coast to the nearest point to Espa?ola, at the eastern end of the island, and here, waiting for a calm sea, and securing some Indians to paddle, the mutineers had finally pushed off for their voyage. The boats had scarcely gone four leagues from land, when the wind rose and the sea began to alarm them. So they turned back. The men were little used to the management of the canoes, and they soon found themselves in great peril. It seemed necessary to lighten the canoes, which were now taking in water to a dangerous extent. They threw over much of their provisions; but this was not enough. They then sacrificed one after another the natives. If these resisted, a swoop of the sword ended their miseries. Once in the water, the poor Indians began to seize the gunwales; but the sword chopped off their hands. So all but a few of them, who were absolutely necessary to manage the canoes, were thrown into the sea. Such were the perils through which the mutineers passed in reaching the land.

A long month was now passed waiting for another calm sea; but when they tempted it once more, it rose as before, and they again sought the land. All hope of success was now abandoned. From that time Porras and his band gave themselves up to a lawless, wandering life, during which they created new jealousies among the tribes. As we have seen, by their exactions they began at last to tap the distant sources of supplies for the Admiral and his loyal adherents.

1504. February 29. Eclipse of the moon.

Columbus now resorted to an expedient characteristic of the ingenious fertility of his mind. His astronomical tables enabled him to expect the approach of a lunar eclipse (February 29, 1504), and finding it close at hand he hastily summoned some of the neighboring caciques. He told them that the God of the Spaniards was displeased at their neglect to feed his people, and that He was about to manifest that displeasure by withdrawing the moon and leaving them to such baleful influences as they had provoked. When night fell and the shadow began to steal over the moon, a long howl of horror arose, and promises of supplies were made by the stricken caciques. They hurled themselves for protection at the feet of the Admiral. Columbus retired for an ostensible communion with this potent Spirit, and just as the hour came for the shadow to withdraw he appeared, and announced that their contrition had appeased the Deity, and a sign would be given of his content. Gradually the moon passed out of the shadow, and when in the clear heavens the luminary was again swimming unobstructed in her light, the work of astonishment had been done. After that, Columbus was never much in fear of famine.

* * *

The canoe voyage of Mendez.

At Navasa Island.

It is time now to see how much more successful Mendez and Fiesco had been than Porras and his crew. They had accomplished the voyage to Espa?ola, it is true, but under such perils and sufferings that Fiesco could not induce a crew sufficient to man the canoe to return with him to the Admiral. The passage had been made under the most violent conditions of tropical heat and unprotected endurance. Their supply of water had given out, and the tortures of thirst came on. They looked out for the little island of Navasa, which lay in their track, where they thought that in the crevices of the rocks they might find some water. They looked in vain. The day when they had hoped to see it passed, and night came on. One of the Indians died, and was dropped overboard. Others lay panting and exhausted in the bottom of the canoes. Mendez sat watching a glimmer of light in the eastern horizon that betokened the coming of the moon.

They see Espa?ola.

Mendez lands at Espa?ola.

Presently a faint glisten of the real orb grew into a segment. He could see the water line as the illumination increased. There was a black stretch of something jagging the lower edge of the segment. It was land! Navasa had been found. By morning they had reached the island. Water was discovered among the rocks; but some drank too freely, and paid the penalty of their lives. Mussels were picked up along the shore; they built a fire and boiled them. All day long they gazed longingly on the distant mountains of Espa?ola, which were in full sight. Refreshed by the day's rest, they embarked again at nightfall, and on the following day arrived at Cape Tiburon, the southwestern peninsula of Espa?ola, having been four days on the voyage from Jamaica. They landed among hospitable natives, and having waited two days to recuperate, Mendez took some savages in a canoe, and started to go along the coast to Santo Domingo, one hundred and thirty leagues distant. He had gone nearly two thirds of the distance when, communicating with the shore, he learned that Ovando was not in Santo Domingo, but at Xaragua. So Mendez abandoned his canoe, and started alone through the forests to seek the governor.

Ovando delays sending relief to Columbus.

Ovando received him cordially, but made excuses for not sending relief to Columbus at once. He was himself occupied with the wars which he was conducting against the natives. There was no ship in Santo Domingo of sufficient burden to be dispatched for such a rescue. So excuse after excuse, and promises of attention unfulfilled, kept Mendez in the camp of Ovando for seven months. The governor always had reasons for denying him permission to go to Santo Domingo, where Mendez had hopes of procuring a vessel. This procrastinating conduct has naturally given rise to the suspicion that Ovando was not over-anxious to deliver Columbus from his perils; and there can be little question that for the Admiral to have sunk into oblivion and leave no trace would have relieved both the governor and his royal master of some embarrassments.

At length Ovando consented to the departure of Mendez to Santo Domingo. There was a fleet of caravels expected there, and Mendez was anxious to see if he could not procure one of them on the Admiral's own account to undertake the voyage of rescue. His importunities became so pressing that Ovando at last consented to his starting for that port, seventy leagues distant.

Ovando sends Escobar to observe Columbus.

No sooner was Mendez gone than Ovando determined to ascertain the condition of the party at Jamaica without helping them, and so he dispatched a caravel to reconnoitre. He purposely sent a small craft, that there might be no excuse for attempting to bring off the company; and to prevent seizure of the vessel by Columbus, her commander was instructed to lie off the harbor, and only send in a boat, to communicate with no one but Columbus; and he was particularly enjoined to avoid being enticed on board the stranded caravels. The command of this little craft of espionage was given to one of Columbus's enemies, Diego de Escobar, who had been active as Roldan's lieutenant in his revolt.

When the vessel appeared off the harbor where Columbus was, eight months had passed since Mendez and Fiesco had departed. All hopes of hearing of them had been abandoned. A rumor had come in from the natives that a vessel, bottom upwards, had been seen near the island, drifting with the current. It is said to have been a story started by Porras that its effect might be distressing to Columbus's adherents. It seems to have had the effect to hasten further discontent in that stricken band, and a new revolt was almost ready to make itself known when Escobar's tiny caravel was descried standing in towards shore.

The vessel was seen to lie to, when a boat soon left her side. As it came within hailing, the figure of Escobar was recognized. Columbus knew that he had once condemned the man to death. Bobadilla had pardoned him. The boat bumped against the side of one of the stranded caravels; the crew brought it sidewise against the hulk, when a letter for the Admiral was handed up. Columbus's men made ready to receive a cask of wine and side of bacon, which Escobar's companions lifted on board. All at once a quick motion pushed the boat from the hulks, and Escobar stopped her when she had got out of reach. He now addressed Columbus, and gave him the assurances of Ovando's regret that he had no suitable vessel to send to him, but that he hoped before long to have such. He added that if Columbus desired to reply to Ovando's letter, he would wait a brief interval for him to prepare an answer.

The Admiral hastily made his reply in as courteous terms as possible, commending the purposes of Mendez and Fiesco to the governor's kind attention, and closed with saying that he reposed full confidence in Ovando's expressed intention to rescue his people, and that he would stay on the wrecks in patience till the ships came. Escobar received the letter, and returned to his caravel, which at once disappeared in the falling gloom of night.

Columbus was not without apprehension that Escobar had come simply to make sure that the Admiral and his company still survived, and Las Casas, who was then at Santo Domingo, seems to have been of the opinion that Ovando had at this time no purpose to do more. The selection of Escobar to carry a kindly message gave certainly a dubious ostentation to all expressions of friendly interest. The transaction may possibly admit of other interpretations. Ovando may reasonably have desired that Columbus and his faithful adherents should not abide long in Espa?ola, as in the absence of vessels returning to Spain the Admiral might be obliged to do. There were rumors that Columbus, indignant at the wrongs which he felt he had received at the hands of his sovereigns, had determined to hold his new discoveries for Genoa, and the Admiral had referred to such reports in his recent letter to the Spanish monarchs. Such reports easily put Ovando on his guard, and he may have desired time to get instructions from Spain. At all events, it was very palpable that Ovando was cautious and perhaps inhuman, and Columbus was to be left till Escobar's report should decide what action was best.

Columbus communicates with Porras.

Columbus endeavored to make use of the letter which Escobar had brought from Ovando to win Porras and his vagabonds back to loyalty and duty. He dispatched messengers to their camp to say that Ovando had notified him of his purpose to send a vessel to take them off the island. The Admiral was ready to promise forgiveness and forgetfulness, if the mutineers would come in and submit to the requirements of the orderly life of his people. He accompanied the message with a part of the bacon which Escobar had delivered as a present from the governor. The lure, however, was not effective. Porras met the ambassadors, and declined the proffers. He said his followers were quite content with the freedom of the island. The fact seemed to be that the mutineers were not quite sure of the Admiral's sincerity, and feared to put themselves in his power. They were ready to come in when the vessels came, if transportation would be allowed them so that their band should not be divided; and until then they would cause the Admiral's party no trouble, unless Columbus refused to share with them his stores and trinkets, which they must have, peacefully or forcibly, since they had lost all their supplies in the gales which had driven them back.

It was evident that Porras and his company were not reduced to such straits that they could be reasoned with, and the messengers returned.

Bartholomew and his men confront the Porras mutineers.

The author of the Historie, and others who follow his statements, represent that the body of the mutineers was far from being as arrogant as their leaders, was much more tractable in spirit, and was inclined to catch at the chance of rescue. The leaders labored with the men to keep them steady in their revolt. Porras and his abettors did what they could to picture the cruelties of the Admiral, and even accused him of necromancy in summoning the ghost of a caravel by which to make his people believe that Escobar had really been there. Then, to give some activity to their courage, the whole body of the mutineers was led towards the harbor on pretense of capturing stores. The Adelantado went out to meet them with fifty armed followers, the best he could collect from the wearied companions of the Admiral. Porras refused all offers of conference, and led his band to the attack. There was a plan laid among them that six of the stoutest should attack the Adelantado simultaneously, thinking that if their leader should be overpowered the rest would flee. The Adelantado's courage rose with the exigency, as it was wont to do. He swung his sword with vigor, and one after another the assailants fell. At last Porras struck him such a blow that the Adelantado's buckler was cleft and his hand wounded. The blow was too powerful for the giver of it. His sword remained wedged in the buckler, affording his enemy a chance to close, while an attempt was made to extricate the weapon. Others came to the loyal leader's assistance, and Porras was secured and bound.

Porras taken.

Sanchez killed.

Ledesma wounded.

This turned the current of the fight. The rebels, seeing their leader a prisoner, fled in confusion, leaving the field to the party of the Adelantado. The fight had been a fierce one. They found among the rebel dead Juan Sanchez, who had let slip the captured Quibian, and among the wounded Pedro Ledesma, who had braved the breakers at Veragua. Las Casas, who knew the latter at a later day, deriving some help from him in telling the story of these eventful months, speaks of the many and fearful wounds which he bore in evidence of his rebellion and courage, and of the sturdy activity of his assailants. We owe also to Ledesma and to some of his companions, who, with himself, were witnesses in the later lawsuit of Diego Colon with the Crown, certain details which the principal narrators fail to give us.

A charm had seemed throughout the conflict to protect the Admiral's friends. None were killed outright, and but one other beside their leader was wounded. This man, the Admiral's steward, subsequently died.

1504. March 20. The rebels propose to submit.

The victors returned to the ships with their prisoners; and in the midst of the gratulations which followed on the next day, March 20, 1504, the fugitives sent in an address to the Admiral, begging to be pardoned and received back to his care and fortunes. They acknowledged their errors in the most abject professions, and called upon Heaven to show no mercy, and upon man to know no sympathy, in dealing retribution, if they failed in their fidelity thereafter. The proposition of surrender was not without embarrassment. The Admiral was fearful of the trial of their constancy when they might gather about him with all the chances of further cabaling. He also knew that his provisions were fast running out. Accordingly, in accepting their surrender, he placed them under officers whom he could trust, and supplying them with articles of barter, he let them wander about the island under suitable discipline, hoping that they would find food where they could. He promised, however, to recall them when the expected ships arrived.

Ships come to rescue them.

It was not long they had to wait. One day two ships were seen standing in towards the harbor. One of them proved to be a caravel which Mendez had bought on the Admiral's account, out of a fleet of three, just then arrived from Spain, and had victualed for the occasion. Having seen it depart from Santo Domingo, Mendez, in the other ships of this opportune fleet, sailed directly for Spain, to carry out the further instructions of the Admiral.

The other of the approaching ships was in command of Diego de Salcedo, the Admiral's factor, and had been dispatched by Ovando. Las Casas tells us that the governor was really forced to this action by public sentiment, which had grown in consequence of the stories of the trials of Columbus which Mendez had told. It is said that even the priests did not hesitate to point a moral in their pulpits with the governor's dilatory sympathy.

1504. June 28. Columbus leaves Jamaica.

Finally, on June 28, everything was ready for departure, and Columbus turned away from the scene of so much trouble. "Columbus informed me afterwards, in Spain," says Mendez, recording the events, "that in no part of his life did he ever experience so joyful a day, for he had never hoped to have left that place alive." Four years later, under authority from the Admiral's son Diego, the town of Sevilla Nueva, later known as Sevilla d'Oro, was founded on the very spot.

Events at Espa?ola during the absence of Columbus.

Ovando's rule.

The Admiral now committed himself once more to the treacherous currents and adverse winds of these seas. We have seen that Mendez urged his canoe across the gap between Jamaica and the nearest point of Espa?ola in four days; but it took the ships of Columbus about seven weeks to reach the haven of Santo Domingo. There was much time during this long and vexatious voyage for Columbus to learn from Salcedo the direful history of the colony which had been wrested from him, and which even under the enlarged powers of Ovando had not been without manifold tribulations. We must rehearse rapidly the occurrences, as Columbus heard of them. He could have got but the scantiest inkling of what had happened during the earliest months of Ovando's rule, when he applied by messenger, in vain, for admission to the harbor, now more than two years ago. The historian of this period must depend mainly upon Las Casas, who had come out with Ovando, and we must sketch an outline of the tale, as Columbus heard it, from that writer's Historia. It was the old sad story of misguided aspirants for wealth in their first experiences with the hazards and toils of mining,-much labor, disappointed hopes, failing provisions, no gold, sickness, disgust, and a desponding return of the toilers from the scene of their infatuation. It took but eight days for the crowds from Ovando's fleet, who trudged off manfully to the mountains on their landing, to come trooping back, dispirited and diseased.

Columbus and slavery.

1503. December 20. Forced labor of the natives.

Columbus could hardly have listened to what was said of suffering among the natives during these two years of his absence without a vivid consciousness of the baleful system which he had introduced when he assigned crowds of the poor Indians to be put to inhuman tasks by Roldan's crew. The institution of this kind of distribution of labor had grown naturally, but it had become so appalling under Bobadilla that, when Ovando was sent out, he was instructed to put an end to it. It was not long before the governor had to confront the exasperated throngs coming back from the mines, dejected and empty-handed. It was apparent that nothing of the expected revenue to the Crown was likely to be produced from half the yield of metal when there was no yield at all. So, to induce greater industry, Ovando reduced the share of the Crown to a third, and next to a fifth, but without success. It was too apparent that the Spaniards would not persist in labors which brought them so little. At a period when Columbus was flattering himself that he was laying claim to far richer gold fields at Veragua, Ovando was devising a renewal of the Admiral's old slave-driving methods to make the mines of Hayna yield what they could. He sent messages to the sovereigns informing them that their kindness to the natives was really inconsiderate; that the poor creatures, released from labor, were giving themselves up to mischief; and that, to make good Christians of them, there was needed the appetizing effect of healthful work upon the native soul. The appeal and the frugal returns to the treasury were quite sufficient to gain the sovereigns to Ovando's views; and while bewailing any cruelty to the poor natives, and expressing hopes for their spiritual relief, their Majesties were not averse, as they said (December 20, 1503), to these Indians being made to labor as much as was needful to their health. This was sufficient. The fatal system of Columbus was revived with increased enormities. Six or eight months of unremitting labor, with insufficient food, were cruelly exacted of every native. They were torn from their families, carried to distant parts of the island, kept to their work by the lash, and, if they dared to escape, almost surely recaptured, to work out their period under the burden of chains. At last, when they were dismissed till their labor was again required, Las Casas tells us that the passage through the island of these miserable creatures could be traced by their fallen and decaying bodies. This was a story that, if Columbus possessed any of the tendernesses that glowed in the heart of Las Casas, could not have been a pleasant one for his contemplation.

Anacaona treacherously treated.

The Indians slaughtered.

There was another story to which Columbus may have listened. It is very likely that Salcedo may have got all the particulars from Diego Mendez, who was a witness of the foul deeds which had indeed occurred during those seven months when Ovando, then on an expedition in Xaragua, kept that messenger of Columbus waiting his pleasure. Anacaona, the sister of Behechio, had succeeded to that cacique in the rule of Xaragua. The licentious conduct and the capricious demands of the Spaniards settled in this region had increased the natural distrust and indignation of the Indians, and some signs of discontent which they manifested had been recounted to Ovando as indications of a revolt which it was necessary to nip in the bud. So the governor had marched into the country with three hundred foot and seventy horse. The chieftainess, Anacaona, came forth to meet him with much native parade, and gave all the honor which her savage ceremonials could signify to her distinguished guest. She lodged him as well as she could, and caused many games to be played for his divertisement. In return, Ovando prepared a tournament calculated to raise the expectation of his simple hosts, and horseman and foot came to the lists in full armor and adornment for the heralded show. On a signal from Ovando, the innocent parade was converted in an instant into a fanatical onslaught. The assembled caciques were hedged about with armed men, and all were burned in their cabins. The general populace were transfixed and trampled by the charging mounted spearmen, and only those who could elude the obstinate and headlong dashes of the cavalry escaped. Anacaona was seized and conveyed in chains to Santo Domingo, where, with the merest pretense of a trial for conspiracy, she was soon hanged.

Xaragua and Higuey over-run.

Esquibel's campaign.

And this was the pacification of Xaragua. That of Higuey, the most eastern of the provinces, and which had not yet acknowledged the sway of the Spaniards, followed, with the same resorts to cruelty. A cacique of this region had been slain by a fierce Spanish dog which had been set upon him. This impelled some of the natives living on the coast to seize a canoe having eight Spaniards in it, and to slaughter them; whereupon Juan de Esquibel was sent with four hundred men on a campaign against Cotabanama, the chief cacique of Higuey. The invaders met more heroism in the defenders of this country than they had been accustomed to, but the Spanish armor and weapons enabled Esquibel to raid through the land with almost constant success. The Indians at last sued for peace, and agreed to furnish a tribute of provisions. Esquibel built a small fortress, and putting some men in it, he returned to Santo Domingo; not, however, until he had received Cotabanama in his camp. The Spanish leader brought back to Ovando a story of the splendid physical power of this native chief, whose stature, proportions, and strength excited the admiration of the Spaniards.

New revolt in Higuey.

The peace was not of long duration. The reckless habits of the garrison had once more aroused the courage of the Indians, and some of the latest occurrences which Salcedo could tell of as having been reported at Santo Domingo just before his sailing for Jamaica were the events of a new revolt in Higuey.

1504. August 3. Columbus at Beata.

1504. August 15. At Santo Domingo.

Such were the stories which Columbus may have listened to during the tedious voyage which was now, on August 3, approaching an end. On that day his ships sailed under the lea of the little island of Beata, which lies midway of the southern coast of Espa?ola. Here he landed a messenger, and ordered him to convey a letter to Ovando, warning the governor of his approach. Salcedo had told Columbus that the governor was not without apprehension that his coming might raise some factious disturbances among the people, and in this letter the Admiral sought to disabuse Ovando's mind of such suspicions, and to express his own purpose to avoid every act of irritation which might possibly embarrass the administration of the island. The letter dispatched, Columbus again set sail, and on August 15 his ship entered the harbor of Santo Domingo. Ovando received him with every outward token of respect, and lodged him in his own house. Columbus, however, never believed that this officious kindness was other than a cloak to Ovando's dislike, if not hatred. There was no little popular sympathy for the misfortunes which Columbus had experienced, but his relations with the governor were not such as to lighten the anxieties of his sojourn. It is known that Cortes was at this time only recently arrived at Santo Domingo; but we can only conjecture what may have been his interest in Columbus's recitals.

Columbus and Ovando.

There soon arose questions of jurisdiction. Ovando ordered the release of Porras, and arranged for sending him to Spain for trial. The governor also attempted to interfere with the Admiral's control of his own crew, on the ground that his commission gave him command over all the regions of the new islands and the main. Columbus cited the instructions, which gave him power to rule and judge his own followers. Ovando did not push his claims to extremities, but the irritation never subsided; and Columbus seems to have lost no opportunity, if we may judge from his later letters, to pick up every scandalous story and tale of maladministration of which he could learn, and which could be charged against Ovando in later appeals to the sovereigns for a restitution of his own rights. The Admiral also inquired into his pecuniary interests in the island, and found, as he thought, that Ovando had obstructed his factor in the gathering of his share. Indeed, there may have been some truth in this; for Carvajal, Columbus's first factor, had complained of such acts to the sovereigns, which elicited an admonishment from them to Ovando.

1504. September 12. Columbus sails for Spain.

1504. November 7. Reaches San Lucar.

Such money as Columbus could now collect he used in refitting the ship which had brought him from Jamaica, and he put her under the order of the Adelantado. Securing also another caravel for his own conveyance, he embarked on her with his son, and on September 12 both ships started on their homeward voyage. They were scarcely at sea, when the ship which bore the Admiral lost her mast in a gale. He transferred himself and his immediate dependents to the other vessel, and sent the disabled caravel back to Santo Domingo. His solitary vessel now went forward, amid all the adversities that seemed to cling inevitably to this last of Columbus's expeditions. Tempest after tempest pursued him. The masts were sprung, and again sprung; and in a forlorn and disabled condition the little hapless bark finally entered the port of San Lucar on November 7, 1504. He had been absent from Spain for two years and a half.

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