« AnkstesnisTęsti »
By Emilio CASTELAR.
VI. THE HOMEWARD VOYAGE.
OLUMBUS determined to the bays of Haïti; and although scarce believ
leave some thirty-nine men ing the good news, Columbus had written him in Fort Nativity, in order friendly letters as though nothing amiss had that he might the better happened, being naturally apprehensive of a sail homeward with the rupture which might turn to open animosity rest. His friend Arana, a and defeat all his plans, especially as he himkinsman of Beatrice, was self was at the mercy of the commander of the
left in command of the im- Niña, the brother of his rival. These letters provised fort and its slender garrison. A royal had never reached Martin Alonso's hands. So, chamberlain was appointed to succeed the com- when they met Columbus made no reproaches mander in case of need, and a Segovian to re- and accepted as sufficient the puerile excuse place the chamberlain. A surgeon, a carpenter, that stress of winds and waves had divided a ship-calker, an armorer, a tailor, and a gun- them, when he well knew that Pinzon had ner were also left to ply their callings if re- yielded to the tempting tales of abundant gold quired. Columbus had brought with him so in those regions. The latter had indeed found abundant a stock of provisions that he was much gold, two thirds of which he had divided able to leave wine, biscuits, and supplies for a among his sailors, keeping the rest for himself. whole year. To these he added arms for their Imbued with the conviction that he had been defense, and seeds wherewith to cultivate the predestined from his cradle to this supernatufruitful soil. Having thus furnished all the ne- ral mission, Columbus attributed the conduct cessary stores, he supplied them also with wise of his lieutenant to the wily scheming of Sacounsel. First of all he enjoined submission tan for his destruction. But, being a good to their commander, since without a head all mystic and a Franciscan of the third degree, would be vain, while obedience would foster he deemed it expedient for his ends to balk good will and concord among them. He said the infernal plot by the most exemplary pathat, if obedient and in close fellowship with tience, and so remained silent, being assured one another, they would obtain the mastery of the untruth of Pinzon's story, and resolved over the Indian tribes and country, not by an to punish him for it when he should get him unnecessary show of force, but by the natural safely back to Spain. This meeting with Marascendancy of their virtues and intelligence. tin Alonso hastened the return, Columbus beCordiality in their relations with the natives, re. ing apprehensive lest some offered chance spect for the latter's customs, with purity of life, might add a graver wrong to Pinzon's deserwould justify the Indian's good estimate of the tion. The daily marvels of the voyage allured Spanish character, while submission to tempo- him in vain, siren-like fishes, turtles as big as rary exile would find its reward in benefits to bucklers, rivers with sands of gold, Eden-fields, come, and in the glory of being the first to rule sculptured promontories, placid harbors, and the new-found land. All this seemed plain sail- beauteous islands, hardy natives, abundant ing to Columbus because of the skill these men signs of gold like a ceaseless mirage enthrallhad shown in overcoming the difficulties of the ing his will with promises of wealth. In vain well-nigh fabulous enterprise. The cacique were stupendous tales told him of two islands deeply regretted the parting from his friend, hard by in those waters, one inhabited only by as did the little band of Spaniards from their men, and the other by women, who visited but far-sighted leader. Tearful were the leave-tak- once in each year; in vain the conflict of five ings, although the admiral fired joyful salutes sailors, who went ashore at Monte Cristo, with to banish forebodings and instil new hopes. the warlike natives, whose attempt to capture On January 4, 1493, Columbus set sail
, and them led to the first shedding of Indian blood on the 5th he hove to before a great rock that – Columbus was in haste to return to Spain towered like a mighty cathedral, to which he without further delay, and on the 17th of Jangave the name of Monte Cristo. January 6, uary, 1493, the shores of his new-found world he met Martin Alonso Pinzon. The Indians sank from his sight. had already reported having seen his bark in Good weather and a fresh breeze favored
Vol. XLIV.- 120.
this homeward course until the 11th of Febru- cloud; the waves raged beneath the hulls, meetary. On that day they fancied themselves near ing in awful shock, as though driven by consome land, for many birds were seen. They trary currents; upon the sails and rigging fell knew not for certain where they were. Some a deluge, as though the waters of the ocean said they must be off the Azores; others Ma- were above them as beneath; beetling moundeira; others that they were nearing the mouth tains seemed to rise from the eternal darkness of the Tagus and the lovely rock of Cintra. that yawned below like the shades of hell, and But, unfortunately, they were on the edge of jagged lightning-peaks glared above them as a fearful storm, that burst upon them on the the storm-clouds changed their form; while next day, February 12. It was in truth a new whirlwinds as conflicting as the currents of the and strange experience for them. Afloat since sea threatened to swallow them up. In vain their departure from Palos, the discoverers of they took in all canvas and lay under bare the New World had suffered no other mishap poles; death faced the terrified sailors. It bethan the loss of their flag-ship on the Haï- ing impossible for the Pinta to withstand the tian reefs owing to heedlessness and slumber, hurricane, she was soon driving before it. Lights through over-confidence, on a glassy sea and were shown from the Niña all night, but at in a gentle breeze; and even that had found daybreak the Pinta was not in sight. compensation in the noble friendship of Gua- Columbus gave himself up for lost. His discanagarí
, and in the opportunity to explore covery seemed about to sink forever in the the richest gold-country they had yet seen. silent depths, leaving naught but the superstiFrom the dawning of August 3, 1492, until tions of old to bar the ocean-wastes from all daybreak of February 12, 1493, it seemed as such mad ventures as his, upon which heathough every beneficent influence had sped ven's wrath was thus visited. His sons, to whom them on their way. The steadiness of the he was bearing the hereditary rank of admiwinds, which seemed to blow ever from the ral and a domain such as mortal had never same quarter, was fancied by the explorers to won, wrested by a miracle of genius from kings be an obstacle to their return to Spain. How and pontiffs by the son of a humble wooloften had the admiral likened the face of ocean carder, were to be left orphaned and in want. to the bosom of Guadalquivir, its fragrance to The benevolent monarchs and the mighty magorange-blossoms, and its skies to those of An- nates who had been his patrons would never dalusia, lacking only the nightingale's song to welcome him, as in dreams he had so often complete the voluptuous joys of Seville. If, on pictured, with open arms and hail him as a their homeward course, spurred by the eager conqueror. The acclaim of proud cities, the wish to tell the tale of their discoveries, they gratitude of kings, the gifts of fortune, unparwere thus smitten by a dreadful tempest, it alleled riches, power, and name for him and could only be, according to Columbus, be- his, were all to be swallowed up in the abyss. cause of the continued machinations of Satan Memories, too, came thronging of the dear comhimself, warring against the discovery of these panion whose love had enthralled him in Cor new lands and the conversion of their inhabi- dova, and brought him joy and forgetfulness tants to Christianity. The storm was the more amid the horrors of his darkest trials. Possessappalling, inasmuch as the caravels were leakying all a sailor's faith, Columbus implicitly and unballasted. Science then knew nothing trusted in the efficacy of vows, as suited also of the world revealed by the microscope, and his intimate beliefs and cast of mind. To apso those sailors could not know that tropical pease the divine wrath he offered a humble animalculæ were burrowing the timbers of their public penance and a pilgrimage-in his shirt, barks and weakening them day by day. Worm- and upon his knees — from his ships to the eaten and lacking ballast, the caravels sped sanctuary nearest the spot where he might like arrows amid the blasts and the seething land. The crew all asked to be admitted to billows. All poets vie in depicting the fury of share in the act of penance, even as they were the ocean tempest. Columbus very soberly' de- sharers of the awful chastisement. Beans were scribes the terrible tempests he himself had shaken in a cap, one for each man on board, passed through, unlike Vergil, who pictured, one of them being marked with a deep-cut with poetic heightenments, the storms he had cross, so that he who drew it should make a never experienced. The historian of to-day, penitential pilgrimage to Guadalupe. Columlacking personal knowledge of such a tempest bus drew the cross-marked bean. Lots were as broke upon Columbus, may yet appreciate cast for a pilgrim to go to Loretto, and it tell it by conning the pages of his journal. After to Pedro Villa, a sailor of Puerto Santa Maria. much lightning and high winds on the three They next drew for one to go to Santa Clara preceding nights, the gale increased on the of Moguer, and the lot again fell upon Columnight of the 14th. Suddenly there lowered upon bus, who, being thus burdened by the caprice those frail caravels a thick ashen and leaden of chance with two penances, felt greatly con
soled, deeming his choice a special grace of plies for the crew. The admiral showed them heaven. This duty to his Maker being per- great courtesy and told them how, in fulfilment formed, Columbus turned his attention to men; of a vow, half his crew would go the next mornand, in order that the memory of the discov. ing in solemn penance to the nearest hermitage. ery might not perish, he wrote it down amid They so went, but, to their keen surprise, were the storm, and, wrapping his scroll in a waxed assailed by the Portuguese, who, gathered on cloth, sealed it up a keg, which he cast over- foot and on horseback, invaded the sanctuary board, trusting that, by God's grace, his pre- during the mass, with threatening gestures and cious secret might float to shore, and somewhere ribald cries, and seized as enemies their allies fall into good hands.
and guests. An equal surprise was in store for On the 15th of February they sighted land, Columbus. While awaiting the return of the but what coast they knew not. However, see- pilgrims in order that he might himself pering land and landing were, under the circum- form the like duty, the Portuguese captain put stances, by no means the same thing. The sea out in a boat, and told how he had imprisoned still ran very high, and, as Las Casas says, the them all. Indignant at this incredible outrage, ships could only tack with the utmost difficulty. and after announcing his titles of admiral and On closer examination they supposed them- viceroy, and exhibiting the letters patent of his selves to be near one of the Azores. Columbus sovereigns calling upon all friends and allies to by this time was worn to a shadow by fasting, lend customary aid to him, Columbus wound loss of sleep, and exposure, sustaining life by up by threatening the offenders with the wrath the sheer force of fevered excitement, although of Castile, mighty to avenge wounded honor, well nigh exhausted by the wet and cold. From until not one stone should be left upon another. the 15th to the 18th they stood off and on Fearing lest his moorings should be cut by the without being able to run inshore; but on this rocky bottom, Columbus determined to quit the latter day they landed, and found that the isl- spot. He had no ballast, however, having and was called Santa María. Columbus nat- been obliged to make use instead of casks filled urally looked for a hearty welcome from its with sea water; nor even sailors enough, for all people. Saved as by a miracle from the dash- his ablest seamen were prisoners on shore. The ing billows, the land he saw seemed to him thick horizon and swollen sea, and the reducalmost supernatural. His newly discovered isl. tion of his able-bodied crew to three skilled ands, opening fresh fields for the islanders of sailors, were enough to dismay Columbus, and that region, assured him of triumph, and not to make him turn with longing eyes to the fair repulse. Indeed, the first demonstrations were islands he had quitted, as to an earthly paradise. friendly and joyful, and the islanders showed The sea rolled furiously inshore, and so tossed the greatest delight on hearing of the discov- the ships as to add bodily discomfort to menery and beholding the discoverer. But beneath tal anguish. Yet he gave thanks to God even their show of glad welcome lurked a base now, for had he been forced to encounter heavy treachery. Notwithstanding Castile had made cross-seas instead of broadside rollers, he would peace with Portugal, the Portuguese king could inevitably have foundered. The admiral went not resign himself to the thought that so great in search of better shelter at an island called an enterprise had slipped from his grasp. As, San Miguel, but could not find it. He dreaded on the setting out of the expedition, it had been to return to Santa María, yet, despite the inreported that he was resolved to prevent the juries there suffered, he put back, whereupon exploration, so now, on its return, the fruits of several men called to him from the craggy the resentment born of his own want of insight shore, and begged to be taken on board. Soon and judgment became apparent. But in all that a skiff put out, manned by five sailors, two the Lusitanian monarch did in this regard is priests, and a notary, who asked to see the noticeable a spirit of indecision that explains royal letters and commissions of which he had his failures, for great resolves demand not only spoken. Columbus refused, distrusting their infirmness of will, but fixity of purpose and clear- tentions; but not having evil means at comness of plan. Dom John could not rightfully mand, he resorted to good, and, exhibiting the ascribe to Columbus the burden of his own letters, demanded the restoration of the priserror; mute indeed was the conscience of such oners, which was at length accomplished, to the a man not to confess the true responsibility for great satisfaction of all concerned and to his the irreparable blunder, which in the sight of own keen relief. Once a prisoner of the Portuhistory rests only on the king himself. Columbus guese king, as Columbus averred he would have sent three men ashore, and they did not return, been, when could he have regained freedom ? being detained by the eagerness of the island- Unbounded, indeed, must have been his gratiers to hear their marvelous story; but two mes- tude to God for having thus happily escaped sengers from the captain of the island came to this fresh affliction. the caravel, bringing fowls and other fresh sup- Taking his men aboard, he turned prow toward Castile on Sunday, the 24th of February. ing examples of its primitive race. Dom Martin He encountered variable weather until the first de Noronha, a Portuguese hidalgo, brought days of March, when a violent tornado again him a letter from Dom John II., inviting him struck him, and brought him within two fin- to the court, where he was notably welcomed; gers' breadth of loss and ruin. He vowed the villagers of Sacamben, where he passed a more pilgrimages to various shrines of the night on his way to the king's seat, greeted Virgin, while to his God he offered the sacri- him with all sorts of festivities; the prior of fice of patient submission to the divine decrees. Crato, the foremost personage of the neighThe mountainous waves, whose fury no poetic borhood, entertained him as a guest in obeditrope can depict, overtook and dashed madly ence to Dom John's orders; the king seated upon the frail bark, tossing it aloft as though him at his own table with the greatest respect, to crush it, and again hurling it down into the and listened attentively to the narrative of his depths. He sighted land amid the thick pall discoveries; and even the queen, then tempoof inky clouds lit by the lightning-bolts, and rarily sojourning in the convent of San Antogave orders to shorten sail, since it was ex- nio, would not permit him to depart without ceedingly dangerous to be offshore in such a hearing from his own lips that epic of the sea, storm and darkness. The gale soon blew itself marvelous beyond any fancied and sung by out, and on one hand appeared the white dunes poets in their loftiest flights; and thus he who that hem the harbor-mouth of Lisbon, in front had quitted Portugal as a poor madman relay the broad emboguement of the Tagus girt turned thither to be reverently hailed as a with golden sands and white with the lacery of demigod. This contrast, more than all else, the surges, while near by was the picturesque wounded the heart of Dom John. Every new port of Cascaes, an intermingling of cabins and report of the discoverer stung him like an enskiffs, of fishing-nets and plows; and, greater venomed dart, and the conviction of his frusthan all, the lovely Rock of Cintra, damascened trated grandeur racked his brain. The thought with gardens, bright with flowers, and fragrant that all those pearl-seas and golden lands, with balsamic odors. Columbus would much those spice-islands fair and stainless as a newrather have hit upon lands where floated the found paradise, might have been his, and had banner of Castile, for he was inspired with been lost through his heeding not the man to slender confidence in a state whose authorities whom he now listened with envy, filled his had so rudely treated him in its outlying pos- bewildered mind with plans impossible of resessions, and whose king had sworn to charge alization, and schemes of recklessness and vioupon others acts for which a right conscience lence strove for the mastery in his halting will. could himself hold alone accountable. But he In the course of his conversation with the adcould not avoid anchoring in the Tagus. The miral, the rash thought possessed him that the crested waves still pursued him, and storms new islands might belong in reality to him, violent beyond the experience of man pre- the conqueror of Bojador and Guinea, in virtue vailed, so that in those days some five and of old treaties with Castile and of papal bulls. twenty ships of Flanders with many trusty sea- But Columbus readily met such arguments with men were swallowed up. On entering the the masterful skill of one in whom the divinamouth of the river, fearing an attack by the peo- tions of genius were joined to learning and reple of the shore, Columbus asked permission search. Some assert that in secret, and baffling to moor in front of Lisbon itself. There he the scrutiny of Columbus as far as he might found at anchor a powerful royal ship, of heavy Dom John brought from the caravel an Indian tonnage and armament, under command of native of the first-discovered island, and bade that skilful master Bartolomé Diaz, who came him show by means of stones and pebbles ser in his long-boat to the caravel, and bade him in due order the number and position of the follow whither he would take him. Columbus islands of that beauteous archipelago. When .
. resisted this command, as befitted his exalted he saw the great group of the Bahamas and rank and powers, merely exhibiting the letters the vast and fabulously fertile Cuba, with patent in virtue whereof he might enter at will Española large as Portugal, beyond reef-girt the ports of any state in alliance or amity with Salvador, Fernandina with its thrifty tribes, Castile. His high office being made known, and the poetic isles of Concepcion and Isaevery courtesy was shown him. The captain bella, all coral-rooted in the sea and rearing of the Lusitanian ship visited him, attended their crowns of palms heavenward, he was by musicians and in great pomp, paying him smitten with such despair that he turned much attention and sharing in his rejoicing; against the discoverer all the reproach that he the folk of Lisbon crowded to see and to ac- himself alone deserved. Deep, indeed, must his claim him for having dispelled so vast a mystery rage have been when his courtiers, ever on the by his daring, and for revealing to the world alert to pander to what they divined to be so strange a land by bringing back with him liv- the royal desire, plotted to assassinate Colum