Immagini della pagina

complices were likewise arrested, and the prisoners were sent to the fortress of San Domingo.

When Adrian de Moxica heard that his cousin Guevara was arrested, and that too by his former confederate Roldan, he was highly exasperated. He hastened to the old haunt of rebellion at Bonao, and claimed the co-operation of Pedro Reguelme, the newly appointed alcalde. It was readily yielded. They went round among their late fellow rebels, who were settled in the vega, and soon mustered a daring body of reckless men, ready with horse and weapon for any desperate enterprise. Moxica, in his fury, meditated not merely the rescue of his cousin, but the death of Roldan and the admiral.

Columbus was at Fort Conception, with an inconsiderable force, when he heard of this dangerous plot, concerted in his very neighbourhood. He saw that his safety depended upon prompt and vigorous measures. Taking with him but six or seven trusty servants, and three esquires, all well armed, he came suddenly upon the conspirators in the night, seized Moxica and several of his principal confederates, and bore them off to Fort Conception. Resolving to set an example that should strike terror into the factious, he ordered that Moxica should be hanged on the top of the fortress. The latter en

treated to be allowed a confessor. A priest was sent for. The miserable culprit, who had been so daring in rebellion, lost all courage at the near approach of death. He delayed, and hesitated in his confession, as if hoping by whiling away time to give a chance for rescue. Instead of confessing his

own sins, he began to accuse others, until Columbus, losing all patience, in his mingled indignation and scorn, ordered the dastard wretch to be flung from the battlements.

This sudden act of severity was promptly followed up. Pedro Reguelme was taken with several of his compeers, in his ruffian den at Bonao, and conveyed to the fortress of San Domingo. The conspirators fled for the most part to Xaragua, where they were pursued by the Adelantado, seconded by Roldan, and hunted out of all their old retreats. Thus in a little while the power of faction was completely subdued.

Columbus considered this happy event as brought about by the especial intervention of Heaven, and gives in proof of it an instance of one of those visionary fancies by which he seems to have been visited at times, when his mind was distempered by illness or anxiety. In the preceding winter, during the height of his cares and troubles, he had sunk into a state of despondency. In one of his gloomy moods he heard, he says, a voice which thus addressed him : "Oh man of little faith! fear no

thing; be not cast down. I will provide for thee. The seven years of the term of gold are not expired *. In that, and in all other things, I will take care of thee." On that very day, he adds, he received intelligence of the discovery of a number of gold mines. The imaginary promise of divine aid appeared to him still to be performing. The troubles and dangers which had surrounded him

* Alluding to his vow, that within seven years he would furnish an army for a crusade, from his share of the gold to be found in the new world.

were breaking away, and order was coming out of confusion. He now looked forward to the prosecution of his grand enterprises, the exploring the coast of Paria, and the establishment of a pearl fishery in its waters. How illusive were his hopes! at this very moment those events were maturing that were to overwhelm him with distress, strip him of his honours, and render him comparatively a wreck for the remainder of his days.


Intrigues against Columbus in the Spanish Court-Appointment of Bobadilla as Commissioner-His Arrival at San Domingo.


WHILE Columbus had been involved in a series of difficulties in the factious island of Hispaniola, his enemies had been but too successful in undermining his reputation in the court of Spain. Every vessel that returned from the new world came freighted with complaints, representing the character and conduct of Columbus and his brothers in the most odious point of view, and reiterating the illiberal but mischievous insinuation that they were foreigners, who had nothing but their own interest and gratification in view. It was even alleged that Columbus intended to cast off all allegiance to Spain, and either to make himself sovereign of the countries he had discovered, or to yield them into the hands of some other power; a slander which, however extravagant, was calculated to startle the jealous mind of Ferdinand. The bishop Fonseca, and other enemies of Columbus who were about the court, having continual access to the sovereigns, were enabled to place every thing urged against him in the strongest point of view, while they destroyed the force of his vindications. They had a plausible logic by which to

convict him of either bad management or bad faith. There was an incessant drain upon the mothercountry for the support of the colony. Was this compatible, they asked, with the extravagant pictures he had drawn of the wealth of the island, and its golden mountains, in which he had pretended to find the Ophir of ancient days, the source of the riches of king Solomon? They inferred that he had either deceived the sovereigns by exaggerations, or grossly wronged them by malpractices, or that he was totally incapable of the duties of government.

For the purpose of irritating the pride of the king, every repining man who returned from the colony was encouraged to put in claims for arrears of pay withheld by Columbus, or losses sustained in his service. A gang of the disorderly ruffians who had been shipped off to free the island from their seditions found their way to the court at Granada. They followed the king when he rode out, filling the air with complaints, and clamouring for their pay. About fifty of them assembled one day in the main court of the Alhambra, under the royal apartments, holding up bunches of grapes, as the meagre diet to which they were reduced by their poverty, and by the cruel deceits of Columbus. Seeing the two sons of the admiral pass by, who were pages to the queen, they followed them with imprecations. "There go," cried they, "the whelps of him who discovered the land of vanity and delusion, the grave of Spanish hidalgos!"

The incessant repetition of falsehood will gradually wear its way into the most candid mind. Isabella herself began to entertain doubts respecting the conduct of Columbus. If he and his brothers

« IndietroContinua »