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Before sailing, he took measures to provide against any misfortune that might happen to himself in so distant and perilous an expedition. He caused copies to be made and authenticated, of all the royal letters patent of his dignities and privileges; of his letter to the nurse of Prince Juan, containing a vindication of his conduct; and of two letters assigning to the bank of St. George, at Genoa, a tenth of his revenues, to be employed in diminishing the duties on provisions in his native city. These two sets of documents he sent by different hands to his friend, Doctor Nicolo Odorigo, who had been Genoese ambassador to the court of Spain, requesting him to deposit them in some safe place at Genoa, and to apprize his son Diego of the same.
He wrote also to Pope Alexander VII. mentioning his vow to furnish an army for a crusade, but informing him of his being prevented from fulfilling it by being divested of his government. He promised his holiness, however, on his return from his present voyage, to repair immediately to Rome, and render him an account of all his expeditions.
Columbus sails on his fourth Voyage-Events at the Islands of Hispaniola—His Search after an imaginary Strait.
AGE was rapidly making its advances upon Columbus, when he undertook his fourth voyage of discovery. He was now about sixty-six years old. His constitution, originally vigorous in the extreme, had been impaired by hardships and exposures in every clime, and by the mental sufferings he had undergone. His intellectual powers alone retained their wonted energy, prompting him, at a period of life when most men seek repose, to sally forth, with youthful ardour, on the most toilsome and adventurous of enterprises. In this arduous voyage he was accompanied by his brother Don Bartholomew, who commanded one of the vessels, and by his son Fernando, then in his fourteenth year.
Columbus sailed from Cadiz on the 9th of May, 1502. His squadron consisted of four caravals, the largest of but seventy tons burthen, the smallest of fifty; the crews amounted in all to one hundred and fifty men. With this little armament, and these slender barks, he undertook the search after a strait, which, if found, must conduct him into the most remote seas, and lead to a complete circum
navigation of the globe. After touching at the Canaries, he had a prosperous voyage to the Caribbee islands, arriving on the 15th of June at Mantinino, at present called Martinique. He had originally intended to steer to Jamaica, and from thence for the continent in search of the supposed strait; but one of his vessels proving a dull sailer, he bore away for Hispaniola, to exchange it for one of the fleet which had recently taken out Ovando. This was contrary to his orders, which had expressly forbade him to touch at Hispaniola, until his return homewards, lest his presence should cause some agitation in the island; he trusted, however, the circumstances of the case would plead his excuse.
Columbus arrived off the harbour of San Do
mingo at an unpropitious moment. The place was filled with the most virulent of his enemies, many of whom were in a high state of exasperation from recent proceedings which had taken place against them. The fleet which had brought out Ovando lay in the harbour ready to put to sea, and was to take out Roldan, and many of his late adherents, some of whom were under arrest, and to be tried in Spain. Bobadilla was to embark in the principal ship, on board of which he had put an immense amount of gold, the revenue collected for the government during his administration, and which he confidently expected would atone for all his faults. Among the presents he intended for the sovereigns was one mass of virgin gold, which is famous in the old Spanish chronicles. It was said to weigh three thousand six hundred castillanos. Large quantities of gold had also been shipped in the fleet by the followers of Roldan, and other adventurers; the
wealth gained by the sufferings of the unhappy natives.
It was on the 29th of June that Columbus arrived at the mouth of the river, and sent an officer on shore to explain to the governor the purpose of his visit; he requested permission, moreover, to shelter his squadron in the river, as he apprehended an approaching storm. His request was refused by Ovando, who probably had orders from the sovereigns to that effect, and perhaps was further swayed by prudent considerations. Columbus then sent a second message, entreating that the sailing of the fleet might be delayed, as there were indubitable signs of an approaching tempest. This request was as fruitless as the preceding; the weather, to an inexperienced eye, was fair and tranquil, and the warning of the admiral was treated with ridicule, as the prediction of a false prophet.
Columbus retired from the river, indignant at being denied relief, and refused shelter in the very island which he had discovered. His crew murmured loudly at being excluded from a port of their own nation, where even strangers, under similar circumstances, would be admitted, and they repined at having embarked with a commander who was liable to such treatment. Columbus, feeling confident that a storm was at hand, kept his feeble squadron close to shore, and sought for shelter in some wild bay or river of the island.
In the mean time, the fleet of Bobadilla set sail from San Domingo, and stood out confidently to Within two days the predictions of Columbus were verified. One of those tremendous storms which sometimes sweep those latitudes, gradually
gathered up and began to blow. The little squadron of Columbus remained for a time tolerably well sheltered by the land, but the tempest increasing, and the night coming on with unusual darkness, the ships lost sight of each other, and were separated. The admiral still kept close to the shore, and sustained no damage. The three other vessels ran out for sea room, and for several days were driven about at the mercy of wind and wave, fearful each moment of shipwreck, and giving up each other as lost. The Adelantado, who commanded the worst vessel of the squadron, ran the most imminent hazard, and nothing but his consummate seamanship enabled him to keep her afloat; he lost his long boat, and all the other vessels sustained more or less injury. At length, after various vicissitudes, they all arrived safe at Port Hermoso, to the west of San Domingo.
A different fate befel the other armament. The ship on board of which were Bobadilla, Roldan, and a number of the most inveterate enemies of Columbus, was swallowed up with all its crew, and with the celebrated mass of gold, and the principal part of the ill-gotten treasure gained by the miseries of the Indians. Many of the other ships were entirely lost, some returned to San Domingo in shattered condition, and only one was enabled to continue her voyage to Spain. That one, it is said, was the weakest of the fleet, and had on board of it four thousand pieces of gold, the property of the admiral, remitted to Spain by his agent Carvajal. Both Fernando Columbus and the venerable historian Las Casas looked upon this event as one of those awful judgments which seem at times to deal forth temporal retribution. They notice the cir