« IndietroContinua »
witness his departure. Wherever he passed, every followed him with admiration, and every tongue eye extolled and blessed him. Before sunrise the whole fleet was under weigh; the weather was serene and propitious, and as the populace watched their parting sails, brightening in the morning beams, they looked forward to their joyful return, laden with the treasures of the new world.
Columbus touched at the Canary islands, where he took in wood and water, and procured live stock, plants, and seeds, to be propagated in Hispaniola. On the 13th of October he lost sight of the island of Ferro, and, favoured by the trade winds, was borne pleasantly along, shaping his course to the south-west, hoping to fall in with the islands of the Caribs, of which he had received such interesting accounts in his first voyage. At the dawn of day of the 2d of November, a lofty island was descried to the west, to which he gave the name of Dominica, from having discovered it on Sunday. As the ships moved gently onward, other islands rose to sight, one after another, covered with forests, and enlivened by flights of parrots and other tropical birds, while the whole air was sweetened by the fragrance of the breezes which passed over them. These were a part of that beautiful cluster of islands called the Antilles, which sweep almost in a semicircle from the eastern end of Porto Rico, to the coast of Paria on the southern continent, forming a kind of barrier between the main ocean and the Caribbean sea.
In one of those islands, to which they gave the name of Guadaloupe, the Spaniards first met with the delicious anana, or pine apple. They found
also, to their surprise, the sternpost of a European vessel, which caused much speculation, but which, most probably, was the fragment of some wreck, borne across the Atlantic by the constant current which accompanies the trade winds. What most struck their attention, however, and filled them with horror, was the sight of human limbs hanging in the houses, as if curing for provisions, and others broiling or roasting at the fire. Columbus now concluded that he had arrived at the islands of the cannibals, or Caribs, the objects of his search; and he was confirmed in this belief by several captives taken by his men. These Caribs were the most ferocious people of these seas; making roving expeditions in their canoes to the distance of one hundred and fifty leagues, invading the islands, ravaging the villages, making slaves of the youngest and handsomest females, and carrying off the men to be killed and eaten.
While at this island, a party of eight men, headed by Diego Marque, captain of one of the caravals, strayed into the woods, and did not return at night to the ships. The admiral was extremely uneasy at their absence, fearing some evil from the ferocious disposition of the islanders: on the following day, parties were sent in quest of them, each with a trumpeter, to sound calls and signals, and guns were fired from the ships, but all to no purpose. The parties returned in the evening, wearied by a fruitless search, with many dismal stories of the traces of cannibalism they had met with.
Alonzo de Ojeda, the daring young cavalier who has already been mentioned, then set off with forty men into the interior of the island, beating up the
forests, and making the mountains and valleys resound with trumpets and fire-arms, but with no better success. Their search was rendered excessively toilsome by the closeness and luxuriance of the forests, and by the windings and doublings of the streams, which were so frequent, that Ojeda declared he had waded through twenty-six rivers within the distance of six leagues. He gave the most enthusiastic accounts of the country. The forests, he said, were filled with aromatic trees and shrubs, which he had no doubt would be found to produce precious gums and spices.
Several days elapsed without tidings of the stragglers, and Columbus, giving them up for lost, was on the point of sailing, when they made their way back to the fleet, haggard and exhausted. For several days they had been bewildered in the mazes of a forest so dense as almost to exclude the day. Some of them had climbed trees in hopes of getting a sight of the stars by which to govern their course, but the height of the branches shut out all view of the heavens. They were almost reduced to despair, when they fortunately arrived at the sea shore, and keeping along it, came to where the fleet was at anchor.
After leaving Guadaloupe, Columbus touched at other of the Caribbean islands. At one of them, which he named Santa Cruz, a ship's boat, sent on shore for water, had an encounter with a canoe, in which were a few Indians, two of whom were females. The women fought as desperately as the men, and plied their bows with such vigour, that one of them sent an arrow through a Spanish buckler, and wounded the soldier who bore it. The
canoe being run down and overset, they continued to fight while in the water, gathering themselves occasionally on sunken rocks, and managing their weapons as dexterously as if they had been on firm ground. It was with the utmost difficulty they could be overpowered and taken. When brought on board the ships, the Spaniards could not but admire their untamed spirit and fierce demeanour. One of the females, from the reverence with which the rest treated her, appeared to be their queen : she was accompanied by her son, a young man strongly made, with a haughty and frowning brow, who had been wounded in the combat. One of the Indians had been transpierced by a lance, and died of the wound; and one of the Spaniards died a day or two afterwards, of a wound received from a poisoned arrow.
Pursuing his voyage, Columbus passed by a cluster of small islands, to which he gave the name of The Eleven Thousand Virgins, and arrived one evening in sight of a great island, covered with fine forests, and indented with havens. It was called by the natives Boriquen, but he named it San Juan Bautista; it is the same since known by the name of Porto Rico. After running for a whole day along its beautiful coast, and touching at a bay at the west end, he arrived, on the 22d of November, off the eastern extremity of Hayti, or Hispaniola. The greatest animation prevailed throughout the armada at the thoughts of soon arriving at the end of their voyage, while those who had accompanied Columbus in the preceding expedition looked forward to meeting with the comrades they had left behind, and to a renewal of pleasant scenes among the groves of
133 Hayti. Passing by the gulf of Las Fleches, where the skirmish had occurred with the natives, Columbus set on shore one of the young Indians who had been taken from the neighbourhood, and had accompanied him to Spain. He dismissed him finely apparelled and loaded with trinkets, anticipating favourable effects from the accounts he would be able to give to his countrymen of the power and munificence of the Spaniards, but he never heard any thing of him more. Only one Indian, of those who had been to Spain, remained in the fleet, a young Lucayan, native of the island of Guanahani, who had been baptized at Barcelona, and named after the admiral's brother, Diego Colon; he continued always faithful and devoted to the Spaniards.
Continuing along the coast, Columbus paused in the neighbourhood of Monte Christi, to fix upon a place for a settlement, in the neighbourhood of a stream said to abound in gold, to which, in his first voyage, he had given the name of Rio del Oro. Here, as the seamen were ranging the shore, they found the bodies of three men and a boy, one of whom had a rope of Spanish grass about his neck, and another, from having a beard, was evidently a European. The bodies were in a state of decay, but bore the marks of violence. This spectacle gave rise to many gloomy forebodings, and Columbus hastened forward to La Navidad, full of apprehensions that some disaster had befallen Diego de Arana and his companions.