« IndietroContinua »
having wounded a companion in a quarrel, fled from the settlement, accompanied by five or six comrades, who had either been engaged in the affray, or were personally attached to him. Wandering about the island, they at length came to an Indian village, on the banks of the Ozema, where the city of San Domingo is at present situated: they were received with kindness by the natives, and resided for some time among them. The village was governed by a female cacique, who soon conceived a strong affection for the young Arragonian. A connexion was formed between them, and they lived for some time very happily together. At length the remembrance of his country and his friends began to haunt the mind of the Spaniard; he longed to return to the settlement, but dreaded the austere justice of the Adelantado. His Indian bride observing him frequently lost in gloomy thought, drew from him the cause of his melancholy. Fearful that he would abandon her, and knowing the influence of gold over the white men, she informed him of certain rich mines in the neighbourhood, and urged him to persuade his countrymen to abandon Isabella, and remove to that part of the island, to the fertile banks of the Ozema, promising that they should be hospitably received by her nation.
Diaz was rejoiced at this intelligence, and hastened with it to the settlement, flattering himself that it would make his peace with the Adelantado. He was not mistaken. No tidings could have come more opportunely, for, if true, they would furnish the admiral with the most effectual means of silencing the cavils of his enemies.
The Adelantado immediately set out in company
with Diaz and his Indian guides. He was conducted to the banks of a river called the Hayna, where he found gold in greater quantities and larger particles than even in the rich province of Cibao, and observed several excavations, where it appeared as if mines had been worked in ancient times. Columbus was overjoyed at the sight of these specimens, brought back by the Adelantado, and was surprised to hear of the excavations, as the Indians possessed no knowledge of mining, and merely picked up the gold from the surface of the soil, on the beds of the rivers The circumstance gave rise to one of his usual veins of visionary speculation. He had already surmised that Hispaniola might be the ancient Ophir; he now fancied he had discovered the identical mines from whence King Solomon had procured his great supplies of gold for the building of the temple of Jerusalem. He gave orders that a fortress should be immediately erected in the vicinity of the mines, and that they should be diligently worked; and he now looked forward with confidence to his return to Spain, the bearer of such golden tidings.
It may not be uninteresting to mention that Miguel Diaz remained faithful to his Indian bride, who was baptized by the name of Catalina. were regularly married, and had two children.
Return of Columbus to Spain-Preparations for a third
THE new caraval, the Santa Cruz, being finished, and the Niña repaired, Columbus gave the command of the island during his absence to his brother, Don Bartholomew, with the title of Adelantado. He then embarked on board of one of the caravals, and Aguado in the other. The vessels were crowded with two hundred and twenty-five passengers, the sick, the idle, the profligate and factious of the colony. Never did a more miserable and disappointed crew return from a land of promise.
There were thirty Indians also on board, and among them the once redoubtable Caonabo, together with one of his brothers, and a nephew. The admiral had promised to restore them to their country and their power, after having presented them to the sovereigns; trusting by kind treatment, and a display of the wonders of Spain, to conquer their hostility, and convert them into important instruments for the quiet subjugation of the island.
Being as yet but little experienced in the navigation of these seas, Columbus, instead of working up to the northward, so as to fall in with the tract of westerly winds, took an easterly course on leaving
the island. His voyage, in consequence, became a toilsome and tedious struggle against the trade winds and calms which prevail between the tropics. Though he sailed on the 10th of March, yet on the 6th of April he was still in the vicinity of the Caribbee islands, and had to touch at Guadaloupe to procure provisions. Here skirmishes occurred with the fierce natives, both male and female; for the women were perfect amazons, of large and powerful frame and great agility. Several of the latter were taken prisoners; they were naked, and wore their hair loose and flowing upon their shoulders, though some decorated their heads with tufts of feathers. Their weapons were bows and arrows. Among them was the wife of a cacique, a woman of a proud and resolute spirit. On the approach of the Spaniards she had fled with an agility that soon distanced all pursuers, excepting a native of the Canary islands, noted for swiftness of foot. would have escaped even from him, but perceiving that he was alone, and far from his companions, she suddenly turned upon him, seized him by the throat, and would have strangled him, had not the Spaniards arrived and taken her, entangled like a hawk with her prey.
When Columbus departed from the island, he dismissed all the prisoners with presents. The female cacique alone refused to go on shore. She had conceived a passion for Caonabo, having found out that he was a Carib, and she had been won by the story, gathered from the other Indians, of his great valour and his misfortunes. In the course of the voyage, however, the unfortunate Caonabo expired. He maintained his haughty nature to the last, for his
death is principally ascribed to the morbid melancholy of a proud but broken spirit. His fate furnishes on a narrow scale a picture of the fallacy of human greatness. When the Spaniards first arrived on the coast of Hayti, their imaginations were inflamed with rumours of a magnificent prince among the mountains, the lord of the golden house, the sovereign of the mines of Cibao; but a short time had elapsed, and he was a naked and moody prisoner on the deck of one of their caravals, with none but one of his own wild native heroines to sympathize in his misfortunes. All his importance vanished with his freedom; scarce any mention is made of him during his captivity; and with innate qualities of a high and heroic nature, he perished with the obscurity of one of the vulgar.
Columbus left Guadaloupe on the 20th of April, still working his way against the whole current of the trade winds. By the 20th of May but a portion of the voyage was performed, yet the provisions were so much exhausted that every one was put on an allowance of six ounces of bread, and a pint and a half of water. By the beginning of June there was an absolute famine on board of the ships, and some proposed that they should kill and eat their Indian prisoners, or throw them into the sea as so many useless mouths. Nothing but the absolute authority of Columbus prevented this last counsel from being adopted. He represented that the Indians were their fellow-beings, some of them Christians like themselves, and all entitled to similar treatment. He exhorted them to a little patience, assuring them that they would soon make land, as, according to his reckoning, they could not