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along the southern shore, between Trinidad and the main land, which he beheld on the south, stretching to the distance of more than twenty leagues. It was that low tract of coast intersected by the numerous branches of the Orinoco; but the admiral, supposing it to be an island, gave it the name of La Isla Santa; little imagining that he now, for the first time, beheld that continent, that Terra Firma, which had been the object of his earnest search.
He was for several days coasting the island of Trinidad, and exploring the great gulf of Paria, which lies behind it, fancying himself among islands, and that he must find a passage to the open ocean by keeping to the bottom of the gulf. During this time, he was nearly swept from his anchors and thrown on shore by a sudden rush and swell of the sea, near Point Arenal, between Trinidad and the main land, caused, as is supposed, by the swelling of one of the rivers which flow into the gulf. He landed on the inside of the long promontory of Paria, which he mistook for an island, and had various interviews with the natives, from whom he procured great quantities of pearls, many of a fine size and quality.
There were several phenomena that surprised and perplexed Columbus in the course of his voyage along this coast, and which gave rise to speculations, some ingenious and others fanciful. He was astonished at the vast body of fresh water continually flowing into the Gulf of Paria, so as apparently to sweeten the whole surrounding sea, and at the constant current which set through it, which he supposed to be produced by some great river. He
remarked, with wondering, also the difference between the climate, vegetation, and people of these coasts, and those of the same parallel in Africa. There the heat was insupportable, and the land parched and steril; the inhabitants were black, with crisped wool, ill shapen, and of dull and brutal natures. Here, on the contrary, although the sun was in Leo, he found the noontide heat moderate, the mornings and evenings fresh and cool, the country green and fruitful, covered with beautiful forests, and watered by innumerable streams and fountains; the people fairer than even those in the lands he had discovered further north, with long hair, well-proportioned and graceful forms, lively minds, and courageous spirits. In respect to the vast body of fresh water, he made one of his simple and great conclusions. Such a mighty stream could not be produced by an island; it must be the outpouring of a continent. He now supposed that the various tracts of land which he had beheld about the gulf were connected together, and continued to an immense distance to the south, far beyond the equator, into that hemisphere hitherto unknown to civilized man. As to the mild temperature of the climate, the fresh verdure of the country, and the comparative fairness of the inhabitants, in a parallel so near to the equator, he attributed it to the superior elevation of this part of the globe; for, from a variety of circumstances, ingeniously but erroneously reasoned upon, he inferred, that philosophers had been mistaken in the form of the earth, which, instead of being a perfect sphere, he now concluded to be shaped like a pear, one part more elevated than the rest, rising into the purer regions of
the air, above the heats, and frosts, and storms of the lower parts of the earth. He imagined this apex to be situated about the equinoctial line, in the interior of this vast continent, which he considered the extremity of the east; that on this summit, as it were, of the earth, was situated the terrestrial paradise; and that the vast stream of fresh water, which poured into the gulf of Paria, issued from the fountain of the tree of life, in the midst of the garden of Eden. Extravagant as this speculation may seem at the present day, it was grounded on the writings of the most sage and learned men of those times, among whom the situation of the terrestrial paradise had long been a subject of discussion and controversy, and by several of whom it was supposed to be on a vast mountain, in the remote parts of the east.
The mind of Columbus was so possessed by these theories, and he was so encouraged by the quantities of pearls which he had met with, for the first time, in the new world, that he would gladly have followed up his discovery, not doubting but that the country would increase in the value of its productions as he approached the equator. The seastores of his ships, however, were almost exhausted, and the various supplies with which they were freighted for the colony were in danger of spoiling. He was suffering also extremely in his health. Besides the gout, which had rendered him a cripple for the greater part of the voyage, he was afflicted by a complaint in his eyes, caused by fatigue and overwatching, which almost deprived him of sight. He determined, therefore, to hasten to Hispaniola, intending to repose there from his fatigues, and re
cruit his health, while he should send his brother, the Adelantado, to complete this important dis
On the 14th of August, therefore, he left the gulf, by a narrow strait between the promontory of Paria and the island of Trinidad. This strait is beset with small islands, and the current which sets through the gulf is so compressed between them as to cause a turbulent sea, with great foaming and roaring, as if rushing over rocks and shoals. The admiral conceived himself in imminent danger of shipwreck, when passing through this strait, and gave it the name of La Boca del Drago, or the Mouth of the Dragon. After reconnoitring the coast to the westward, as far as the islands of Cubaga and Margarita, and convincing himself of its being a continent, he bore away for Hispaniola, for the river Ozema, where he expected to find a new settlement, which he had instructed his brother to form in the neighbourhood of the mines. He was borne far to the westward by the currents, but at length reached his desired haven, where he arrived, haggard, emaciated, and almost blind, and was received with open arms by the Adelantado. The brothers were strongly attached to each other : Don Bartholomew had a great deference for the brilliant genius, the enlarged mind, and the commanding reputation of his brother; while the latter placed great reliance, in times of difficulty, on the worldly knowledge, the indefatigable activity, and the lion-hearted courage of the Adelantado. They had both, during their long separation, experienced the need of each other's sympathy and support.
Administration of the Adelantado.
COLUMBUS had anticipated a temporary repose from his toils on arriving at Hispaniola; but a new scene of trouble and anxiety opened upon him, which was destined to affect all his future fortunes. To explain this, it is necessary to state the occurrences of the island during his long detention in Spain.
When he sailed for Europe in March, 1496, his brother, Don Bartholomew, immediately proceeded to execute his instructions with respect to the gold mines of Hayna. He built a fortress in the neighbourhood, which he named St. Christoval, and another fortress not far off, on the eastern bank of the Ozema, in the vicinity of the village inhabited by the female cacique who had first given intelligence of the mines to Miguel Diaz. This fortress was called San Domingo, and was the origin of the city which still bears that name.
Having garrisoned these fortresses and made arrangements for working the mines, the indefatigable Adelantado set out to visit the dominions of Behechio, which had not as yet been reduced to obedience. This cacique, as has been mentioned, reigned over Xaragua, a province comprising almost the whole of the west end of the island, including Cape Tiburon. It was one of the most populous and fertile districts.