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wealth gained by the sufferings of the unhappy
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
cumstance, that while the enemies of the admiral were thus, as it were, before his eyes, swallowed up in the raging sea, the only ship enabled to pursue her voyage was the frail bark freighted with his property. Many of the superstitious seamen, who, from the sagacity displayed by Columbus, in judging of the signs of the elements, and his variety of scientific knowledge, looked upon him as endowed with supernatural powers, fancied he had conjured up this storm by magic spells, for the destruction of his enemies. The evils in this, as in most of the cases called temporal judgments, overwhelmed the innocent with the guilty. In the same ship with Bobadilla and Roldan, perished the captive Guarionex, the unfortunate cacique of the vega.
After repairing the damages sustained by his ships in the storm, Columbus steered for Terra Firma, but the weather falling perfectly calm, he was swept away to the north-west by the currents, until he arrived on the southern coast of Cuba. The wind springing up fair, he resumed his course, and standing to the south-west was enabled on the 30th of July to make the island of Guanaga, a few leagues distant from the coast of Honduras. While the Adelantado was on shore at this island, a canoe arrived of an immense size, on board of which sat a cacique with his wives and children, under an awning of palm leaves. The canoe was paddled by twenty-five Indians, and freighted with various merchandise, the rude manufactures and natural productions of the adjacent countries. There were hatchets and other utensils of copper, with a kind of crucible for the melting of that metal; various vessels neatly formed of clay, marble, and hard
wood; mantles of cotton, worked and dyed with various colours; and many other articles which indicated a superior degree of art and civilization than had hitherto been discovered in the new world.
The Indians, as far as they could be understood, informed the admiral that they had come from a country rich, cultivated, and industrious, situated to the west, and urged him to steer in that direction. Well would it have been for Columbus had he followed their advice. Within a day or two he would have arrived at Yucatan; the discovery of Mexico, and the other opulent countries of New Spain, would have necessarily followed; the Southern Ocean would have been disclosed to him, and a succession of splendid discoveries would have shed fresh glory on his declining age, instead of its sinking amidst gloom, neglect, and disappointment.
The admiral's whole mind, however, was at present intent upon discovering the supposed strait that was to lead him to the Indian Ocean. He stood, therefore, southwardly for some mountains which he descried not many leagues distant, and made Cape Honduras, and from thence proceeded eastwardly, beating against contrary winds, and struggling with the currents which sweep that coast. There was an almost incessant tempest, with heavy rain and awful thunder and lightning. His vessels were strained so that their seams opened; the sails and rigging were rent, and the provisions damaged by the rain and the leakage. The sailors were exhausted with fatigue, and harassed with terror. Several times they confessed their sins to each other, and prepared for death. During a great part of this time, Columbus suffered extremely from the
gout, and his complaint was aggravated by watchfulness and anxiety. His illness did not prevent his attending to his duties; he had a small cabin or round house constructed on the stern, from whence, even when confined to his bed, he could keep a look out, and regulate the sailing of the ships. Many times he was so ill that he thought his end approaching, and his anxious mind was distressed at the thoughts that his brother Don Bartholomew, and his son Fernando, were exposed to the same dangers and hardships. Often, too, his thoughts reverted to his son Diego, and the cares and misfortunes into which his death might plunge him. At length, after struggling for upwards of forty days to make a distance of about seventy leagues, he arrived, on the 14th of September, at a cape where the coast made a sudden bend, and turned directly south. Doubling this cape, he had immediately an easy wind, and swept off with flowing sail, in consequence of which he gave it the name of Gracias a Dios, or Thanks to God.
For three weeks he continued coasting what is at present called the Mosquito shore, in the course of which a boat with its crew was swallowed up by the sudden swelling of a river. He had occasional interviews with the natives, but a mutual distrust prevailed between them and the Spaniards. The Indians were frightened at seeing a notary of the fleet take out pen, ink, and paper, and proceed to write down the information they were communicating; they supposed he was working some magic spell, and to counteract it, they scattered a fragrant powder in the air, and burnt it so that the smoke should be borne towards the Spaniards. The super