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Indian path, and descended into a vast plain, covered with noble forests, and studded with villages and hamlets. The inhabitants overwhelmed them with hospitality, and delayed them in their journey by their kindness. They had to ford many rivers also, so that they were six days in reaching the chain of mountains, which locked up, as it were, the golden region of Cibao. Here they saw ample signs of natural wealth. The sands of the mountain streams glittered with particles of gold; in some places they picked up large specimens of virgin ore, and stones streaked and richly impregnated with it. Ojeda himself found a mass of rude gold in one of the brooks weighing nine ounces.

The little band re

turned to the harbour, with enthusiastic accounts of the golden promise of these mountains. A young cavalier, named Gorvalan, who had been sent to explore a different tract of country, returned with similar reports. Encouraged by these good tidings, Columbus lost no time in despatching twelve of the ships, under the command of Antonio de Torres, retaining only five for the service of the colony. By these ships he sent home specimens of the gold found among the mountains of Cibao, and of all fruits and plants of unknown and valuab.e species, together with the Carib captives, to be instructed in the Spanish language and the christian faith, that they might serve as interpreters, and aid in the conversion of their countrymen. He wrote also a sanguine account of the two expeditions into the interior, and expressed a confident expectation, as soon as the health of himself and his people would permit, of procuring and making abundant shipments of gold, spices, and valuable drugs. He extolled the fertility


of the soil, evinced in the luxuriant growth of the sugar-cane, and of various European grains and vegetables; but entreated supplies of provisions for the immediate wants of the colony, as their stores were nearly exhausted, and they could not accustom themselves to the diet of the natives.

Among many sound and salutary suggestions in this letter, there was one of a pernicious tendency. In his anxiety to lighten the expenses of the colony, and procure revenue to the crown, he recommended that the natives of the Caribbean islands, being cannibals and ferocious invaders of their peaceful neighbours, should be captured and sold as slaves, or exchanged with merchants for live stock and other necessary supplies. He observed, that, by transmitting these infidels to Europe, where they would have the benefits of christian instruction, there would be so many souls snatched from perdition, and so many converts gained to the faith. Such is the strange sophistry by which upright men may deceive themselves, and think they are obeying the dictates of their conscience, when, in fact, they are. but listening to the incitements of their interest. It is but just to add, that the sovereigns did not accord with him in his ideas, but ordered that the Caribs should be treated like the rest of the islanders; a command which emanated from the merciful heart of Isabella, who ever showed herself the benign protectress of the Indians.

When the fleet arrived in Europe, though it brought no gold, yet the tidings from Columbus and his companions kept up the popular excitement. The sordid calculations of petty spirits were as yet overruled by the enthusiasm of generous minds.

There was something wonderfully grand in the idea of introducing new races of animals and plants, of building cities, extending colonies, and sowing the seeds of civilization and of enlightened empire in this beautiful but savage world. It struck the minds of learned and classical men with admiration, filling them with pleasant dreams and reveries, and seeming to realise the poetical pictures of the olden time; of Saturn, Ceres, and Triptolemus, travelling about the earth to spread new inventions among mankind, and of the colonising enterprises of the Phoenicians.

But while such sanguine anticipations were indulged in Europe, murmuring and sedition began to prevail among the colonists. Disappointed in their hopes of wealth, disgusted with the labours imposed upon them, and appalled by the prevalent maladies, they looked with horror upon the surrounding wilderness, and became impatient to return to Spain. Their discontents were increased by one Firmin Cado, a wrong-headed and captious man, who had come out as assayer and purifier of metals, but whose ignorance in his art equalled his obstinacy of opinion. He pertinaciously insisted that there was scarcely any gold in the island, and that all the specimens brought by the natives had been accumulated in the course of several generations, and been handed down from father to son in their families.

At length a conspiracy was formed, headed by Bernal Diaz de Pisa, the comptroller, to take advantage of the illness of Columbus, to seize upon the ships remaining in the harbour, and to return to Spain; where they thought it would be easy to justify their conduct, by accusing Columbus of gross

deceptions and exaggerations concerning the countries he had discovered. Fortunately Columbus received information in time, and arrested the ringleaders of the conspiracy. Bernal Diaz was confined on board of one of the ships, to be sent to Spain for trial; and several of the inferior mutineers were punished, but not with the severity their offence deserved. This was the first time Columbus exercised the right of punishing delinquents in his new government, and it immediately caused a great clamour against him. Already the disadvantage of being a foreigner was clearly manifested. He had no natural friends to rally round him; whereas the mutineers had connexions in Spain, friends in the colony, and met with sympathy in every discontented mind.


Expedition of Columbus into the Interior of Hispaniola. [1494.]

As the surest means of quieting the murmurs and rousing the spirits of his people, Columbus, as soon as his health permitted, made preparations for an expedition to the mountains of Cibao, to explore the country, and establish a post in the vicinity of the mines. Placing his brother Diego in command at Isabella, during his absence, and taking with him every person in health that could be spared from the settlement, and all the cavalry, he departed, on the 12th of March, at the head of four hundred men, armed with helmets and corslets, with arquebuses, lances, swords, and crossbows, and followed by labourers and miners, and a multitude of the neighbouring Indians. After traversing a plain, and fording two rivers, they encamped in the evening at the foot of a wild and rocky pass of the mountains.

The ascent of this defile presented formidable difficulties to the little army, which was encumbered with various munitions, and with mining implements. There was nothing but an Indian footpath winding among rocks and precipices, and the entangled vegetation of a tropical forest. A number of high-spirited young cavaliers, therefore, threw

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