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Christopher Columbus, Complete by Filson Young

Part 7 out of 8

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May 1st, when he had come as far east as the Gulf of Darien, Columbus
felt obliged to bear away to the north, although as it turned out he had
not nearly made enough easting. He stood on this course, for nine days,
the west-going current setting him down all the time; and the first land
that he made, on May 10th, was the group of islands off the western end
of Cuba which he had called the Queen's Gardens.

He anchored for six days here, as the crews were completely exhausted;
the ships' stores were reduced to biscuits, oil, and vinegar; the vessels
leaked like sieves, and the pumps had to be kept going continually. And
no sooner had they anchored than a hurricane came on, and brought up a
sea so heavy that the Admiral was convinced that his ships could not live
within it. We have got so accustomed to reading of storms and tempests
that it seems useless to try and drive home the horror and terror of
them; but here were these two rotten ships alone at the end of the world,
far beyond the help of man, the great seas roaring up under them in the
black night, parting their worn cables, snatching away their anchors from
them, and finally driving them one upon the other to grind and strain and
prey upon each other, as though the external conspiracy of the elements
against them both were not sufficient! One writes or reads the words,
but what does it mean to us? and can we by any conceivable effort of
imagination realise what it meant to this group of human beings who lived
through that night so many hundred years ago--men like ourselves with
hearts to sink and faint, capable of fear and hunger, capable of misery,
pain, and endurance? Bruised and battered, wet by the terrifying surges,
and entirely uncomforted by food or drink, they did somehow endure these
miseries; and were to endure worse too before they were done with it.

Their six days' sojourn amid the Queen's Gardens, then, was not a great
success; and as soon as they were able they set sail again, standing
eastward when the wind permitted them. But wind and current were against
them and all through the month of May and the early part of June they
struggled along the south coast of Cuba, their ships as full of holes as
a honeycomb, pumps going incessantly, and in addition the worn-out seamen
doing heroic labour at baling with buckets and kettles. Lee helm! Down
go the buckets and kettles and out run the wretched scarecrows of seamen
to the weary business of tacking ship, letting go, brailing up, hauling
in, and making fast for the thousandth time; and then back to the pumps
and kettles again. No human being could endure this for an indefinite
time; and though their diet of worms represented by the rotten biscuit
was varied with cassava bread supplied by friendly natives, the Admiral
could not make his way eastward further than Cape Cruz. Round that cape
his leaking, strained vessels could not be made to look against the wind
and the tide. Could hardly indeed be made to float or swim upon the
water at all; and the Admiral had now to consider, not whether he could
sail on a particular point of the compass, but whether he could by any
means avoid another course which the fates now proposed to him--namely, a
perpendicular course to the bottom of the sea. It was a race between the
water and the ships, and the only thing the Admiral could think of was to
turn southward across to Jamaica, which he did on June 23rd, putting into
Puerto Bueno, now called Dry Harbour. But there was no food there, and
as his ships were settling deeper and deeper in the water he had to make
sail again and drive eastwards as far as Puerto Santa Gloria, now called
Don Christopher's Cove. He was just in time. The ships were run ashore
side by side on a sandy beach, the pumps were abandoned, and in one tide
the ships were full of water. The remaining anchor cables were used to
lash the two ships together so that they would not move; although there
was little fear of that, seeing the weight of water that was in them.
Everything that could be saved was brought up on deck, and a kind of
cabin or platform which could be fortified was rigged on the highest part
of the ships. And so no doubt for some days, although their food was
almost finished, the wretched and exhausted voyagers could stretch their
cramped limbs, and rest in the warm sun, and listen, from their safe
haven on the firm sands, to the hated voice of the sea.

Thanks to careful regulations made by the Admiral, governing the
intercourse between the Spaniards and the natives ashore, friendly
relations were soon established, and the crews were supplied with cassava
bread and fruit in abundance. Two officials superintended every purchase
of provisions to avoid the possibility of any dispute, for in the event
of even a momentary hostility the thatched-roof structures on the ships
could easily have been set on fire, and the position of the Spaniards,
without shelter amid a hostile population, would have been a desperate
one. This disaster, however, was avoided; but the Admiral soon began to
be anxious about the supply of provisions from the immediate
neighbourhood, which after the first few days began to be irregular.
There were a large number of Spaniards to be fed, the natives never kept
any great store of provisions for themselves, and the Spaniards were
entirely at their mercy for, provisions from day to day. Diego Mendez,
always ready for active and practical service, now offered to take three
men and make a journey through the island to arrange for the purchase of
provisions from different villages, so that the men on the ships would
not be dependent upon any one source. This offer was gratefully
accepted; and Mendez, with his lieutenants well supplied with toys and
trinkets, started eastward along the north coast of Jamaica. He made no
mistakes; he was quick and clever at ingratiating himself with the
caciques, and he succeeded in arranging with three separate potentates to
send regular supplies of provisions to the men on the ships. At each
place where he made this arrangement he detached one of his assistants
and sent him back with the first load of provisions, so that the regular
line of carriage might be the more quickly established; and when they had
all gone he borrowed a couple of natives and pushed on by himself until
he reached the eastern end of the island. He made friends here with a
powerful cacique named Amerro, from whom he bought a large canoe, and
paid for it with some of the clothing off his back. With the canoe were
furnished six Indians to row it, and Mendez made a triumphant journey
back by sea, touching at the places where his depots had been established
and seeing that his commissariat arrangements were working properly. He
was warmly received on his return to the ships, and the result of his
efforts was soon visible in the daily supplies of food that now regularly

Thus was one difficulty overcome; but it was not likely that either
Columbus himself or any of his people would be content to remain for ever
on the beach of Jamaica. It was necessary to establish communication
with Espanola, and thence with Spain; but how to do it in the absence of
ships or even boats? Columbus, pondering much upon this matter, one day
calls Diego Mendez aside; walks him off, most likely, under the great
rustling trees beyond the beach, and there tells him his difficulty.
"My son," says he, "you and I understand the difficulties and dangers of
our position here better than any one else. We are few; the Indians are
many; we know how fickle and easily irritated they are, and how a
fire-brand thrown into our thatched cabins would set the whole thing
ablaze. It is quite true that you have very cleverly established a
provision supply, but it is dependent entirely upon the good nature of
the natives and it might cease to-morrow. Here is my plan: you have a
good canoe; why should some one not go over to Espanola in it and send
back a ship for us?"

Diego Mendez, knowing very well what is meant, looks down upon the
ground. His spoken opinion is that such a journey is not merely
difficult but impossible journey in a frail native canoe across one
hundred and fifty miles of open and rough sea; although his private
opinion is other than that. No, he cannot imagine such a thing being
done; cannot think who would be able to do it.

Long silence from the Admiral; eloquent silence, accompanied by looks no
less eloquent.

"Admiral," says Mendez again, "you know very well that I have risked my
life for you and the people before and would do it again. But there are
others who have at least as good a right to this great honour and peril
as I have; let me beg of you, therefore, to summon all the company
together, make this proposal to them, and see if any one will undertake
it. If not, I will once more risk my life."

The proposal being duly made to the assembled crews, every one, as
cunning Mendez had thought, declares it impossible; every one hangs back.
Upon which Diego Mendez with a fine gesture comes forward and volunteers;
makes his little dramatic effect and has his little ovation. Thoroughly
Spanish this, significant of that mixture of vanity and bravery, of
swagger and fearlessness, which is characteristic of the best in Spain.
It was a desperately brave thing to venture upon, this voyage from
Jamaica to Espanola in a native canoe and across a sea visited by
dreadful hurricanes; and the volunteer was entitled to his little piece
of heroic drama.

While Mendez was making his preparations, putting a false keel on the
canoe and fixing weather boards along its gunwales to prevent its
shipping seas, fitting a mast and sail and giving it a coat of tar, the
Admiral retired into his cabin and busied himself with his pen. He wrote
one letter to Ovando briefly describing his circumstances and requesting
that a ship should be sent for his relief; and another to the Sovereigns,
in which a long rambling account was given of the events of the voyage,
and much other matter besides, dismally eloquent of his floundering in
the quag. Much in it--about Solomon and Josephus, of the Abbot Joachim,
of Saint Jerome and the Great Khan; more about the Holy Sepulchre and the
intentions of the Almighty in that matter; with some serious practical
concern for the rich land of Veragua which he had discovered, lest it
should share the fate of his other discoveries and be eaten up by idle
adventurers. "Veragua," he says, "is not a little son which may be given
to a stepmother to nurse. Of Espanola and Paria and all the other lands
I never think without the tears falling from my eyes; I believe that the
example of these ought to serve for the others." And then this passage:

"The good and sound purpose which I always had to serve your
Majesties, and the dishonour and unmerited ingratitude, will not
suffer the soul to be silent although I wished it, therefore I ask
pardon of your Majesties. I have been so lost and undone; until now
I have wept for others that your Majesties might have compassion on
them; and now may the heavens weep for me and the earth weep for me
in temporal affairs; I have not a farthing to make as an offering in
spiritual affairs. I have remained here on the Indian islands in
the manner I have before said in great pain and infirmity, expecting
every day death, surrounded by innumerable savages full of cruelty
and by our enemies, and so far from the sacraments of the Holy
Mother Church that I believe the soul will be forgotten when it
leaves the body. Let them weep for me who have charity, truth and
justice. I did not undertake this voyage of navigation to gain
honour or material things, that is certain, because the hope already
was entirely lost; but I did come to serve your Majesties with
honest intention and with good charitable zeal, and I do not lie."

Poor old heart, older than its years, thus wailing out its sorrows to
ears none too sympathetic; sad old voice, uplifted from the bright shores
of that lonely island in the midst of strange seas! It will not come
clear to the head alone; the echoes of this cry must reverberate in the
heart if they are to reach and animate the understanding.

At this time also the Admiral wrote to his friend Gaspar Gorricio. For
the benefit of those who may be interested I give the letter in English.


"If my voyage should be as conducive to my personal health and the
repose of my house as it seems likely to be conducive to the
aggrandisement of the royal Crown of the King and Queen, my Lords,
I might hope to live more than a hundred years. I have not time to
write more at length. I hope that the bearer of this letter may be
a person of my house who will tell you verbally more than can be
told in a thousand papers, and also Don Diego will supply
information. I beg as a favour of the Father Prior and all the
members of your religious house, that they remember me in all their

"Done on the island of Jamaica, July 7, 1503.
"I am at the command of your Reverence.


Diego Mendez found some one among the Spaniards to accompany him, but his
name is not recorded. The six Indians were taken to row the canoe. They
had to make their way at first against the strong currents along the
northern coast of Jamaica, so as to reach its eastern extremity before
striking across to Espanola. At one point they met a flotilla of Indian
canoes, which chased them and captured them, but they escaped. When they
arrived at the end of the easterly point of Jamaica, now known as Morant
Point, they had to wait two or three days for calm weather and a
favourable wind to waft them across to Espanola, and while thus waiting
they were suddenly surrounded and captured by a tribe of hostile natives,
who carried them off some nine or ten miles into the island, and
signified their intention of killing them.

But they began to quarrel among themselves as to how they should divide
the spoils which they had captured with the canoe, and decided that the
only way of settling the dispute was by some elaborate trial of hazard
which they used. While they were busy with their trial Diego Mendez
managed to escape, got back to the canoe, and worked his way back in it
alone to the harbour where the Spaniards were encamped. The other
Spaniard who was with him probably perished, for there is no record of
what became of him--an obscure life lost in a brave enterprise.

One would have thought that Mendez now had enough of canoe voyages, but
he had no sooner got back than he offered to set out again, only
stipulating that an armed force should march along the coast by land to
secure his safety until he could stand across to Espanola. Bartholomew
Columbus immediately put himself at the head of a large and well-armed
party for this purpose, and Bartolomeo Fieschi, the Genoese captain of
one of the lost caravels, volunteered to accompany Mendez in a second
canoe. Each canoe was now manned by six Spanish volunteers and ten
Indians to row; Fieschi, as soon as they had reached the coast of
Espanola, was to bring the good news to the Admiral; while Mendez must go
on to San Domingo, procure a ship, and himself proceed to Spain with the
Admiral's letters. The canoes were provisioned with water, cassava
bread, and fish; and they departed on this enterprise some time in August

Their passage along the coast was protected by Bartholomew Columbus, who
marched along with them on the shore. They waited a few days at the end
of the island for favourable weather, and finally said farewell to the
good Adelantado, who we may be sure stood watching them until they were
well out of sight.

There was not a cloud in the sky when the canoes stood out to sea; the
water was calm, and reflected the blistering heat of the sun. It was not
a pleasant situation for people in an open boat; and Mendez and Fieschi
were kept busy, as Irving says, "animating the Indians who navigated
their canoes, and who frequently paused at their labour." The poor
Indians, evidently much in need of such animation, would often jump into
the water to escape the intolerable heat, and after a short immersion
there would return to their task. Things were better when the sun went
down, and the cool night came on; half the Indians then slept and half
rowed, while half of the Spaniards also slept and the other half, I
suppose, "animated." Irving also says that the animating half "kept
guard with their weapons in hand, ready to defend themselves in the case
of any perfidy on the part of their savage companions"; such perfidy
being far enough from the thoughts of the savage companions, we may
imagine, whose energies were entirely occupied with the oars.

The next day was the same: savage companions rowing, Spaniards animating;
Spaniards and savage companions alike drinking water copiously without
regard for the smallness of their store. The second night was very hot,
and the savage companions finished the water, with the result that on the
third day the thirst became a torment, and at mid-day the poor companions
struck work. Artful Mendez, however, had concealed two small kegs of
water in his canoe, the contents of which he now administered in small
doses, so that the poor Indians were enabled to take to their oars again,
though with vigour much abated. Presumably the Spaniards had put up
their weapons by this time, for the only perfidy shown on the part of the
savage companions was that one of them died in the following night and
had to be thrown overboard, while others lay panting on the bottom of the
canoes; and the Spaniards had to take their turn at the oars, although
they were if anything in a worse case than the Indians.

Late in the night, however, the moon rose, and Mendez had the joy of
seeing its lower disc cut by a jagged line which proved to be the little
islet or rock of Navassa, which lies off the westerly end of Espanola.
New hope now animated the sufferers, and they pushed on until they were
able to land on this rock, which proved to be without any vegetation
whatsoever, but on the surface of which there were found some precious
pools of rain-water. Mendez was able to restrain the frantic appetites
of his fellow-countrymen, but the savage companions were less wise, and
drank their fill; so that some of them died in torment on the spot, and
others became seriously ill. The Spaniards were able to make a fire of
driftwood, and boil some shell-fish, which they found on shore, and they
wisely spent the heat of the day crouching in the shade of the rocks, and
put off their departure until the evening. It was then a comparatively
easy journey for them to cross the dozen miles that separated them from
Espanola, and they landed the next day in a pleasant harbour near Cape
Tiburon. Fieschi, true to his promise, was then ready to start back for
Jamaica with news of the safe accomplishment of the voyage; but the
remnant of the crews, Spaniards and savage companions alike, had had
enough of it, and no threats or persuasions would induce them to embark
again. Mendez, therefore, left his friends to enjoy some little repose
before continuing their journey to San Domingo, and, taking six natives
of Espanola to row his canoe; set off along the coast towards the
capital. He had not gone half-way when he learned that Ovando was not
there, but was in Xaragua, so he left his canoe and struck northward
through the forest until he arrived at the Governor's camp.

Ovando welcomed Mendez cordially, praised him for his plucky voyage, and
expressed the greatest concern at the plight of the Admiral; but he was
very busy at the moment, and was on the point of transacting a piece of
business that furnished a dismal proof of the deterioration which had
taken place in him. Anacaona--the lady with the daughter whom we
remember--was now ruling over the province of Xaragua, her brother having
died; and as perhaps her native subjects had been giving a little trouble
to the Governor, he had come to exert his authority. The narrow official
mind, brought into contact with native life, never develops in the
direction of humanity; and Ovando had now for some time made the great
discovery that it was less trouble to kill people than to try to rule
over them wisely. There had evidently always been a streak of Spanish
cruelty in him, which had been much developed by his residence in
Espanola; and to cruelty and narrow officialdom he now added treachery of
a very monstrous and horrible kind.

He announced his intention of paying a state visit to Anacaona, who
thereupon summoned all her tributary chiefs to a kind of levee held in
his honour. In the midst of the levee, at a given signal, Ovando's
soldiers rushed in, seized the caciques, fastened them to the wooden
pillars of the house, and set the whole thing on fire; the caciques being
thus miserably roasted alive. While this was going on the atrocious work
was completed by the soldiers massacring every native they could see
--children, women, and old men included--and Anacaona herself was taken
and hanged.

All these things Diego Mendez had to witness; and when they were over,
Ovando still had excuses for not hurrying to the relief of the Admiral.
He had embarked on a campaign of extermination against the natives, and
he followed up his atrocities at Xaragua by an expedition to the eastern
end of Espanola, where very much the same kind of business was
transacted. Weeks and months passed in this bloody cruelty, and there
was always an excuse for putting off Mendez. Now it was because of the
operations which he dignified by the name of wars, and now because he had
no ship suitable for sending to Jamaica; but the truth was that Ovando,
the springs of whose humanity had been entirely dried up during his
disastrous reign in Espanola, did not want Columbus to see with his own
eyes the terrible state of the island, and was callous enough to leave
him either to perish or to find his own way back to the world. It was
only when news came that a fleet of caravels was expected from Spain that
Ovando could no longer prevent Mendez from going to San Domingo and,
purchasing one of them.

Ovando had indeed lost all but the outer semblance of a man; the soul or
animating part of him had entirely gone to corruption. He had no
interest in rescuing the Admiral; he had, on the contrary, great interest
in leaving him unrescued; but curiosity as to his fate, and fear as to
his actions in case he should return to Espanola, induced the Governor to
make some effort towards spying cut his condition. He had a number of
trained rascals under his command--among them Diego de Escobar, one of
Roldan's bright brigade; and Ovando had no sooner seen Mendez depart on
his journey to San Domingo than he sent this Escobar to embark in a small
caravel on a visit to Jamaica in order to see if the Admiral was still
alive. The caravel had to be small, so that there could be no chance of
bringing off the 130 men who had been left to perish there; and various
astute instructions were given to Escobar in order to prevent his arrival
being of any comfort or assistance to the shipwrecked ones. And so
Escobar sailed; and so, in the month of March 1504, eight months after
the vanishing of Mendez below the eastern horizon, the miserable company
encamped on the two decaying ships on the sands at Puerto Santa Gloria
descried with joyful excitement the sails of a Spanish caravel standing
in to the shore.



We must now return to the little settlement on the coast of Jamaica
--those two wornout caravels, lashed together with ropes and bridged by an
erection of wood and thatch, in which the forlorn little company was
established. In all communities of men so situated there are alternate
periods of action and reaction, and after the excitement incidental to
the departure of Mendez, and the return of Bartholomew with the news that
he had got safely away, there followed a time of reaction, in which the
Spaniards looked dismally out across the empty sea and wondered when, if
ever, their salvation would come. Columbus himself was now a confirmed
invalid, and could hardly ever leave his bed under the thatch; and in his
own condition of pain and depression his influence on the rest of the
crew must inevitably have been less inspiriting than it had formerly
been. The men themselves, moreover, began to grow sickly, chiefly on
account of the soft vegetable food, to which they were not accustomed,
and partly because of their cramped quarters and the moist, unhealthy
climate, which was the very opposite of what they needed after their long
period of suffering and hardship at sea.

As the days and weeks passed, with no occupation save the daily business
of collecting food that gradually became more and more nauseous to them,
and of straining their eyes across the empty blue of the sea in an
anxious search for the returning canoes of Fieschi, the spirits of the
castaways sank lower and lower. Inevitably their discontent became
articulate and broke out into murmurings. The usual remedy for this
state of affairs is to keep the men employed at some hard work; but there
was no work for them to do, and the spirit of dissatisfaction had ample
opportunity to spread. As usual it soon took the form of hostility to
the Admiral. They seem to have borne him no love or gratitude for his
masterly guiding of them through so many dangers; and now when he lay ill
and in suffering his treacherous followers must needs fasten upon him the
responsibility for their condition. After a month or two had passed, and
it became certain that Fieschi was not coming back, the castaways could
only suppose that he and Mendez had either been captured by natives or
had perished at sea, and that their fellow-countrymen must still be
without news of the Admiral's predicament. They began to say also that
the Admiral was banished from Spain; that there was no desire or
intention on the part of the Sovereigns to send an expedition to his
relief; even if they had known of his condition; and that in any case
they must long ago have given him up for lost.

When the pot boils the scum rises to the surface, and the first result of
these disloyal murmurings and agitations was to bring into prominence the
two brothers, Francisco and Diego de Porras, who, it will be remembered,
owed their presence with the expedition entirely to the Admiral's good
nature in complying with the request of their brother-in-law Morales, who
had apparently wished to find some distant occupation for them. They had
been given honourable posts as officers, in which they had not proved
competent; but the Admiral had always treated them with kindness and
courtesy, regarding them more as guests than as servants. Who or what
these Porras brothers were, where they came from, who were their father
and mother, or what was their training, I do not know; it is enough for
us to know that the result of it all had been the production of a couple
of very mean scoundrels, who now found an opportunity to exercise their

When they discovered the nature of the murmuring and discontent among the
crew they immediately set them to work it up into open mutiny. They
represented that, as Mendez had undoubtedly perished, there was no hope
of relief from Espanola; that the Admiral did not even expect such
relief, knowing that the island was forbidden ground to him. They
insinuated that he was as well content to remain in Jamaica as anywhere
else, since he had to undergo a period of banishment until his friends at
Court could procure his forgiveness. They were all, said the Porras
brothers, being made tools for the Admiral's convenience; as he did not
wish to leave Jamaica himself, he was keeping them all there, to perish
as likely as not, and in the meantime to form a bodyguard, and establish
a service for himself. The Porras brothers suggested that, under these
circumstances, it would be as well to take a fleet of native canoes from
the Indians and make their own way to Espanola; the Admiral would never
undertake the voyage himself, being too helpless from the gout; but it
would be absurd if the whole company were to be allowed to perish because
of the infirmities of one man. They reminded the murmurers that they
would not be the first people who had rebelled with success against the
despotic rule of Columbus, and that the conduct of the Sovereigns on a
former occasion afforded them some promise that those who rebelled again
would receive something quite different from punishment.

Christmas passed, the old year went out in this strange, unhomelike
place, and the new year came in. The Admiral, as we have seen, was now
almost entirely crippled and confined to his bed; and he was lying alone
in his cabin on the second day of the year when Francisco de Porras
abruptly entered. Something very odd and flurried about Porras; he jerks
and stammers, and suddenly breaks out into a flood of agitated speech, in
which the Admiral distinguishes a stream of bitter reproach and
impertinence. The thing forms itself into nothing more or less than a
hurried, gabbling complaint; the people are dissatisfied at being kept
here week after week with no hope of relief; they accuse the Admiral of
neglecting their interests; and so on. Columbus, raising himself in his
bed, tries to pacify Porras; gives him reasons why it is impossible for
them to depart in canoes; makes every endeavour, in short, to bring this
miserable fellow back to his duties. He is watching Porras's eye all the
time; sees that he is too excited to be pacified by reason, and suspects
that he has considerable support behind him; and suggests that the crew
had better all be assembled and a consultation held as to the best course
to pursue.

It is no good to reason with mutineers; and the Admiral has no sooner
made this suggestion than he sees that it was a mistake. Porras scoffs
at it; action, not consultation, is what he demands; in short he presents
an ultimatum to the Admiral--either to embark with the whole company at
once, or stay behind in Jamaica at his own pleasure. And then, turning
his back on Columbus and raising his voice, he calls out, "I am for
Castile; those who choose may follow me!"

The shout was a signal, and immediately from every part of the vessel
resounded the voices of the Spaniards, crying out that they would follow
Porras. In the midst of the confusion Columbus hobbled out of his bed
and staggered on to the deck; Bartholomew seized his weapons and prepared
for action; but the whole of the crew was not mutinous, and there was a
large enough loyal remnant to make it unwise for the chicken-hearted
mutineers to do more for the moment than shout: Some of them, it is true,
were heard threatening the life of the Admiral, but he was hurried back
to his bed by a few of the faithful ones, and others of them rushed up to
the fierce Bartholomew, and with great difficulty persuaded him to drop
his lance and retire to Christopher's cabin with him while they dealt
with the offenders. They begged Columbus to let the scoundrels go if
they wished to, as the condition of those who remained would be improved
rather than hurt by their absence, and they would be a good riddance.
They then went back to the deck and told Porras and his followers that
the sooner they went the better, and that nobody would interfere with
their going as long as they offered no one any violence.

The Admiral had some time before purchased some good canoes from the
natives, and the mutineers seized ten of these and loaded them with
native provisions. Every effort was made to add to the number of the
disloyal ones; and when they saw their friends making ready to depart
several of these did actually join. There were forty-eight who finally
embarked with the brothers Porras; and there would have been more, but
that so many of them were sick and unable to face the exposure of the
voyage. As it was, those who remained witnessed with no very cheerful
emotions the departure of their companions, and even in some cases fell
to tears and lamentations. The poor old Admiral struggled out of his bed
again, went round among the sick and the loyal, cheering them and
comforting them, and promising to use every effort of the power left to
him to secure an adequate reward for their loyalty when he should return
to Spain.

We need only follow the career of Porras and his deserters for the
present far enough to see them safely off the premises and out of the way
of the Admiral and our narrative. They coasted along the shore of
Jamaica to the eastward as Mendez had done, landing whenever they had a
mind to, and robbing and outraging the natives; and they took a
particularly mean and dirty revenge on the Admiral by committing all
their robbings and outragings as though under his authority, assuring the
offended Indians that what they did they did by his command and that what
they took he would pay for; so that as they went along they sowed seeds
of grievance and hostility against the Admiral. They told the natives,
moreover, that Columbus was an enemy of all Indians, and that they would
be very well advised to kill him and get him out of the way.

They had not managed very well with the navigation of the canoes; and
while they were waiting for fine weather at the eastern end of the island
they collected a number of natives to act as oarsmen. When they thought
the weather suitable they put to sea in the direction of Espanola. They
were only about fifteen miles from the shore, however, when the wind
began to head them and to send up something of a sea; not rough, but
enough to make the crank and overloaded canoes roll heavily, for they had
not been prepared, as those of Mendez were, with false keels and
weather-boards. The Spaniards got frightened and turned back to
Jamaica; but the sea became rougher, the canoes rolled more and more,
they often shipped a quantity of water, and the situation began to look
serious. All their belongings except arms and provisions were thrown
overboard; but still, as the wind rose and the sea with it, it became
obvious that unless the canoes were further lightened they would not
reach the shore in safety. Under these circumstances the Spaniards
forced the natives to leap into the water, where they swam about like
rats as well as they could, and then came back to the canoes in order to
hold on and rest themselves. When they did this the Spaniards slashed at
them with their swords or cut off their hands, so that one by one they
fell back and, still swimming about feebly as well as they could with
their bleeding hands or stumps of arms, the miserable wretches perished
and sank at last.

By this dreadful expedient the Spaniards managed to reach Jamaica again,
and when they landed they immediately fell to quarrelling as to what they
should do next. Some were for trying to make the island of Cuba, the
wind being favourable for that direction; others were for returning and
making their submission to the Admiral; others for going back and seizing
the remainder of his arms and stores; others for staying where they were
for the present, and making another attempt to reach Espanola when the
weather should be more favourable. This last plan, being the counsel of
present inaction, was adopted by the majority of the rabble; so they
settled themselves at a neighbouring Indian village, behaving in: the
manner with which we are familiar. A little later, when the weather was
calm, they made another attempt at the voyage, but were driven back in
the same way; and being by this time sick of canoe voyages, they
abandoned the attempt, and began to wander back westward through the
island, maltreating the natives as before, and sowing seeds of bitter
rancour and hostility against the Admiral; in whose neighbourhood we
shall unfortunately hear of them again.

In the meantime their departure had somewhat relieved the condition of
affairs on board the hulks. There were more provisions and there was
more peace; the Admiral, rising above his own infirmities to the
necessities of the occasion, moved unweariedly among the sick, cheering
them and nursing them back into health and good humour, so that gradually
the condition of the little colony was brought into better order and
health than it had enjoyed since its establishment.

But now unfortunately the evil harvest sown by the Porras gang in their
journey to the east of the island began to ripen. The supplies of
provisions, which had hitherto been regularly brought by the natives,
began to appear with less punctuality, and to fall off both in quantity
and quality. The trinkets with which they were purchased had now been
distributed in such quantities that they began to lose their novelty and
value; sometimes the natives demanded a much higher price for the
provisions they brought, and (having by this time acquired the art of
bargaining) would take their stores away again if they did not get the
price they asked.

But even of this device they soon grew weary; from being irregular, the
supplies of provisions from some quarters ceased altogether, and the
possibilities of famine began to stare the unhappy castaways in the face.
It must be remembered that they were in a very weak physical condition,
and that among the so-called loyal remnant there were very few who were
not invalids; and they were unable to get out into the island and forage
for themselves. If the able-bodied handful were to sally forth in search
of provisions, the hulks would be left defenceless and at the mercy of
the natives, of whose growing hostility the Admiral had by this time
discovered abundant evidence. Thus little by little the food supply
diminished until there was practically nothing left, and the miserable
company of invalids were confronted with the alternative of either dying
of starvation or desperately attempting a canoe voyage.

It was from this critical situation that the spirit and resource of
Columbus once more furnished a way of escape, and in these circumstances
that he invented and worked a device that has since become famous--the
great Eclipse Trick. Among his small library in the cabin of the ship
was the book containing the astronomical tables of Regiomontanus; and
from his study of this work he was aware that an eclipse of the moon was
due on a certain date near at hand. He sent his Indian interpreter to
visit the neighbouring caciques, summoning them to a great conference to
be held on the evening of the eclipse, as the Admiral had matters of
great importance to reveal to them. They duly arrived on the evening
appointed; not the caciques alone, but large numbers of the native
population, well prepared for whatever might take place. Columbus then
addressed them through his interpreter, informing him that he was under
the protection of a God who dwelt in the skies and who rewarded all who
assisted him and punished all his enemies. He made an effective use of
the adventures of Mendez and Porras, pointing out that Mendez, who took
his voyage by the Admiral's orders, had got away in safety, but that
Porras and his followers, who had departed in disobedience and mutiny,
had been prevented by the heavenly power from achieving their object. He
told them that his God was angry with them for their hostility and for
their neglect to supply him with provisions; and that in token of his
anger he was going to send them a dreadful punishment, as a sign of which
they would presently see the moon change colour and lose its light, and
the earth become dark.

This address was spun out as long as possible; but even so it was
followed by an interval in which, we may be sure, Columbus anxiously eyed
the serene orb of night, and doubtless prayed that Regiomontanus might
not have made a mistake in his calculations. Some of the Indians were
alarmed, some of them contemptuous; but it was pretty clearly realised on
both sides that matters between them had come to a head; and probably if
Regiomontanus, who had worked out these tables of figures and
calculations so many years ago in his German home, had done his work
carelessly or made a mistake, Columbus and his followers would have been
massacred on the spot. But Regiomontanus, God bless him! had made no
mistake. Sure enough, and punctually to the appointed time, the dark
shadow began to steal over the moon's disc; its light gradually faded,
and a ghostly darkness crept over the face of the world. Columbus,
having seen that all was right with the celestial machinery, had retired
to his cabin; and presently he found himself besieged there in the dark
night by crowds of natives frantically bringing what provisions they had
and protesting their intention of continuing to bring them for the rest
of their lives. If only the Admiral would ask his God to forgive them,
there was no limit to the amount of provisions that he might have! The
Admiral, piously thankful, and perhaps beginning to enjoy the situation a
little, kept himself shut up in his cabin as though communing with the
implacable deity, while the darkness deepened over the land and the shore
resounded with the howling and sobbing of the terrified natives. He kept
a look-out on the sky; and when he saw that the eclipse was about to pass
away, he came out and informed the natives that God had decided to pardon
them on condition of their remaining faithful in the matter of
provisions, and that as a sign of His mercy He would restore the light.
The beautiful miracle went on through its changing phases; and, watching
in the darkness, the terrified natives saw the silver edge of the moon
appearing again, the curtain that had obscured it gradually rolling away,
and land and sea lying visible to them and once more steeped in the
serene light which they worshipped. It is likely that Christopher slept
more soundly that night than he had slept for many nights before.



There was no further difficulty about provisions, which were punctually
brought by the natives on the old terms; but the familiar, spirit of
sedition began to work again among the unhappy Spaniards, and once more a
mutiny, led this time by the apothecary Bernardo, took form--the
intention being to seize the remaining canoes and attempt to reach
Espanola. This was the point at which matters had arrived, in March
1504, when as the twilight was falling one evening a cry was raised that
there was a ship in sight; and presently a small caravel was seen
standing in towards the shore. All ideas of mutiny were forgotten, and
the crew assembled in joyful anticipation to await, as they thought, the
coming of their deliverers. The caravel came on with the evening breeze;
but while it was yet a long way off the shore it was seen to be lying to;
a boat was lowered and rowed towards the harbour.

As the boat drew near Columbus could recognise in it Diego de Escobar,
whom he remembered having condemned to death for his share in the
rebellion of Roldan. He was not the man whom Columbus would have most
wished to see at that moment. The boat came alongside the hulks, and a
barrel of wine and a side of bacon, the sea-compliment customary on such
occasions, was handed up. Greatly to the Admiral's surprise, however,
Escobar did not come on board, but pushed his boat off and began to speak
to Columbus from a little distance. He told him that Ovando was greatly
distressed at the Admiral's misfortunes; that he had been much occupied
by wars in Espanola, and had not been able to send a message to him
before; that he greatly regretted he had no ship at present large enough
to bring off the Admiral and his people, but that he would send one as
soon as he had it. In the meantime the Admiral was to be assured that
all his affairs in Espanola were being attended to faithfully, and that
Escobar was instructed to bring back at once any letters which the
Admiral might wish to write.

The coolness and unexpectedness of this message completely took away
the breath of the unhappy Spaniards, who doubtless stood looking in
bewilderment from Escobar to Columbus, unable to believe that the caravel
had not been sent for their relief. Columbus, however, with a
self-restraint which cannot be too highly praised, realised that Escobar
meant what he said, and that by protesting against his action or trying
to interfere with it he would only be putting himself in the wrong. He
therefore retired immediately to his cabin and wrote a letter to Ovando,
in which he drew a vivid picture of the distress of his people, reported
the rebellion of the Porras brothers, and reminded Ovando that he relied
upon the fulfilment of his promise to send relief. The letter was
handed over to Escobar, who rowed back with it to his caravel and
immediately sailed away with it into the night.

Before he could retire to commune with his own thoughts or to talk with
his faithful brother, Columbus had the painful duty of speaking to his
people, whose puzzled and disappointed faces must have cost him some
extra pangs. He told them that he was quite satisfied with the message
from Ovando, that it was a sign of kindness on his part thus to send them
news in advance that relief was coming, that their situation was now
known in San Domingo, and that vessels would soon be here to take them
away. He added that he himself was so sure of these things that he had
refused to go back with Escobar, but had preferred to remain with them
and share their lot until relief should come. This had the desired
effect of cheering the Spaniards; but it was far from representing the
real sentiments of Columbus on the subject. The fact that Escobar had
been chosen to convey this strange empty message of sympathy seemed to
him suspicious, and with his profound distrust of Ovando Columbus began
to wonder whether some further scheme might not be on foot to damage him
in the eyes of the Sovereigns. He was convinced that Ovando had meant to
let him starve on the island, and that the real purpose of Escobar's
visit had been to find out what condition the Admiral was in, so that
Ovando might know how to act. It is very hard to get at the truth of
what these two men thought of each other. They were both suspicious,
each was playing for his own hand, and Ovando was only a little more
unscrupulous than Columbus; but there can be no doubt that whatever his
motives may have been Ovando acted with abominable treachery and cruelty
in leaving the Admiral unrelieved for nearly nine months.

Columbus now tried to make use of the visit of Escobar to restore to
allegiance the band of rebels that were wandering about in the
neighbourhood under the leadership of the Porras brothers. Why he should
have wished to bring them back to the ships is not clear, for by all
accounts he was very well rid of them; but probably his pride as a
commander was hurt by the thought that half of his company had defied his
authority and were in a state of mutiny. At any rate he sent out an
ambassador to Porras, offering to receive the mutineers back without any
punishment, and to give them a free passage to Espanola in the vessels
which were shortly expected, if they would return to their allegiance
with him.

The folly of this overture was made manifest by the treatment which it
received. It was bad enough to make advances to the Porras brothers, but
it was still worse to have those advances repulsed, and that is what
happened. The Porras brothers, being themselves incapable of any
single-mindedness, affected not to believe in the sincerity of the
Admiral's offer; they feared that he was laying some kind of trap for
them; moreover, they were doing very well in their lawless way, and
living very comfortably on the natives; so they told Columbus's
ambassadors that his offer was declined. At the same time they
undertook to conduct themselves in an amicable and orderly manner on
condition that, when the vessels arrived, one of them should be
apportioned to the exclusive use of the mutineers; and that in the
meantime the Admiral should share with them his store of provisions
and trinkets, as theirs were exhausted.

This was the impertinent decision of the Porras brothers; but it did not
quite commend itself to their followers, who were fearful of the possible
results if they should persist in their mutinous conduct. They were very
much afraid of being left behind in the island, and in any case, having
attempted and failed in the main object of their mutiny, they saw no
reason why they should refuse a free pardon. But the Porras brothers
lied busily. They said that the Admiral was merely laying a trap in
order to get them into his power, and that he would send them home to
Spain in chains; and they even went so far as to assure their
fellow-rebels that the story of a caravel having arrived was not really
true; but that Columbus, who was an adept in the arts of necromancy, had
really made his people believe that they had seen a caravel in the dusk;
and that if one had really arrived it would not have gone away so
suddenly, nor would the Admiral and his brother and son have failed to
take their passage in it.

To consolidate the effect of these remarkable statements on the still
wavering mutineers, the Porras brothers decided to commit them to an open
act of violence which would successfully alienate them from the Admiral.
They formed them, therefore, into an armed expedition, with the idea of
seizing the stores remaining on the wreck and taking the Admiral
personally. Columbus fortunately got news of this, as he nearly always
did when there was treachery in the wind; and he sent Bartholomew to try
to persuade them once more to return to their duty--a vain and foolish
mission, the vanity and folly of which were fully apparent to
Bartholomew. He duly set out upon it; but instead of mild words he took
with him fifty armed men--the whole available able-bodied force, in
fact--and drew near to the position occupied by the rebels.

The exhortation of the Porras brothers had meanwhile produced its effect,
and it was decided that six of the strongest men among the mutineers
should make for Bartholomew himself and try to capture or kill him. The
fierce Adelantado, finding himself surrounded by six assailants, who
seemed to be directing their whole effort against his life, swung his
sword in a berserk rage and slashed about him, to such good purpose that
four or five of his assailants soon lay round him killed or wounded. At
this point Francisco de Porras rushed in and cleft the shield held by
Bartholomew, severely wounding the hand that held it; but the sword.
stuck in the shield, and while Porras was endeavouring to draw it out
Bartholomew and some others closed upon him, and after a sharp struggle
took him prisoner. The battle, which was a short one, had been meanwhile
raging fiercely among the rest of the forces; but when the mutineers saw
their leader taken prisoner, and many of their number lying dead or
wounded, they scattered and fled, but not before Bartholomew's force had
taken several prisoners. It was then found that, although the rebels had
suffered heavily, none of Bartholomew's men were killed, and only one
other besides himself was wounded. The next day the mutineers all came
in to surrender, submitting an abject oath of allegiance; and Columbus,
always strangely magnanimous to rebels and insurgents, pardoned them all
with the exception of Francisco de Porras, who, one is glad to know, was
confined in irons to be sent to Spain for trial.

This submission, which was due to the prompt action of Bartholomew rather
than to the somewhat feeble diplomacy of the Admiral, took place on March
20th, and proved somewhat embarrassing to Columbus. He could put no
faith in the oaths and protestations of the mutineers; and he was very
doubtful about the wisdom of establishing them once more on the wrecks
with the hitherto orderly remnant. He therefore divided them up into
several bands, and placing each under the command of an officer whom he
could trust, he supplied them with trinkets and despatched them to
different parts of the island, for the purpose of collecting provisions
and carrying on barter with the natives. By this means the last month or
two of this most trying and exciting sojourn on the island of Jamaica
were passed in some measure of peace; and towards the end of June it was
brought to an end by the arrival of two caravels. One of them was the
ship purchased by Diego Mendez out of the three which had arrived from
Spain; and the other had been despatched by Ovando in deference, it is
said, to public feeling in San Domingo, which had been so influenced by
Mendez's account of the Admiral's heroic adventures that Ovando dared not
neglect him any longer. Moreover, if it had ever been his hope that the
Admiral would perish on the island of Jamaica, that hope was now doomed
to frustration, and, as he was to be rescued in spite of all, Ovando no
doubt thought that he might as well, for the sake of appearances, have a
hand in the rescue.

The two caravels, laden with what was worth saving from the two abandoned
hulks, and carrying what was left of the Admiral's company, sailed from
Jamaica on June 28, 1504. Columbus's joy, as we may imagine, was deep
and heartfelt. He said afterwards to Mendez that it was the happiest day
of his life, for that he had never hoped to leave the place alive.

The mission of Mendez, then, had been successful, although he had had to
wait for eight months to fulfil it. He himself, in accordance with
Columbus's instructions, had gone to Spain in another caravel of the
fleet out of which he had purchased the relieving ship; and as he passes
out of our narrative we may now take our farewell of him. Among the many
men employed in the Admiral's service no figure stands out so brightly as
that of Diego Mendez; and his record, almost alone of those whose service
of the Admiral earned them office and distinction, is unblotted by any
stain of crime or treachery. He was as brave as a lion and as faithful
as a dog, and throughout his life remained true to his ideal of service
to the Admiral and his descendants. He was rewarded by King Ferdinand
for his distinguished services, and allowed to bear a canoe on his
coat-of-arms; he was with the Admiral at his death-bed at Valladolid,
and when he himself came to die thirty years afterwards in the same
place he made a will in which he incorporated a brief record of the
events of the adventurous voyage in which he had borne the principal
part, and also enshrined his devotion to the name and family of
Columbus. His demands for himself were very modest, although there is
reason to fear that they were never properly fulfilled. He was
curiously anxious to be remembered chiefly by his plucky canoe voyage;
and in giving directions for his tomb, and ordering that a stone should
be placed over his remains, he wrote: "In the centre of the said stone
let a canoe be carved, which is a piece of wood hollowed out in which
the Indians navigate, because in such a boat I navigated three hundred
leagues, and let some letters be placed above it saying: Canoa." The
epitaph that he chose for himself was in the following sense:

Here lies the Honourable Gentleman


He greatly served the royal crown of Spain in
the discovery and conquest of the Indies with
the Admiral Don Christopher Columbus of
glorious memory who discovered them, and
afterwards by himself, with his own ships,
at his own expense.
He died, etc.
He begs from charity a PATERNOSTER
and an AVE MARIA.

Surely he deserves them, if ever an honourable gentleman did.



Although the journey from Jamaica to Espanola had been accomplished in
four days by Mendez in his canoe, the caravels conveying the party
rescued from Puerto Santa Gloria were seven weary weeks on this short
voyage; a strong north-west wind combining with the west-going current to
make their progress to the north-west impossible for weeks at a time. It
was not until the 13th of August 1503 that they anchored in the harbour
of San Domingo, and Columbus once more set foot, after an absence of more
than two years, on the territory from the governorship of which he had
been deposed.

He was well enough received by Ovando, who came down in state to meet
him, lodged him in his own house, and saw that he was treated with the
distinction suitable to his high station. The Spanish colony, moreover,
seemed to have made something of a hero of Columbus during his long
absence, and they received him with enthusiasm. But his satisfaction in
being in San Domingo ended with that. He was constantly made to feel
that it was Ovando and not he who was the ruler there;--and Ovando
emphasised the difference between them by numerous acts of highhanded
authority, some of them of a kind calculated to be extremely mortifying
to the Admiral. Among these things he insisted upon releasing Porras,
whom Columbus had confined in chains; and he talked of punishing those
faithful followers of Columbus who had taken part in the battle between
Bartholomew and the rebels, because in this fight some of the followers
of Porras had been killed. Acts like these produced weary bickerings and
arguments between Ovando and Columbus, unprofitable to them, unprofitable
to us. The Admiral seems now to have relapsed into a condition in which
he cared only for two things, his honours and his emoluments. Over every
authoritative act of Ovando's there was a weary squabble between him and
the Admiral, Ovando claiming his right of jurisdiction over the whole
territory of the New World, including Jamaica, and Columbus insisting
that by his commission and letters of authority he had been placed in
sole charge of the members of his own expedition.

And then, as regards his emoluments, the Admiral considered himself (and
not without justice) to have been treated most unfairly. By the
extravagant terms of his original agreement he was, as we know, entitled
to a share of all rents and dues, as well as of the gold collected; but
it had been no one's business to collect these for him, and every one's
business to neglect them. No one had cared; no one had kept any accounts
of what was due to the Admiral; he could not find out what had been paid
and what had not been paid. He accused Ovando of having impeded his
agent Carvajal in his duty of collecting the Admiral's revenues, and of
disobeying the express orders of Queen Isabella in that matter; and so
on-a state of affairs the most wearisome, sordid, and unprofitable in
which any man could be involved.

And if Columbus turned his eyes from the office in San Domingo inland to
that Paradise which he had entered twelve years before, what change and
ruin, dreary, horrible and complete, did he not discover! The birds
still sang, and the nights were still like May in Cordova; but upon that
happy harmony the sound of piteous cries and shrieks had long since
broken, and along and black December night of misery had spread its pall
over the island. Wherever he went, Columbus found the same evidence of
ruin and desolation. Where once innumerable handsome natives had
thronged the forests and the villages, there were now silence and smoking
ruin, and the few natives that he met were emaciated, terrified, dying.
Did he reflect, I wonder, that some part of the responsibility of all
this horror rested on him? That many a system of island government, the
machinery of which was now fed by a steady stream of human lives, had
been set going by him in ignorance, or greed of quick commercial returns?
It is probable that he did not; for he now permanently regarded himself
as a much-injured man, and was far too much occupied with his own wrongs
to realise that they were as nothing compared with the monstrous stream
of wrong and suffering that he had unwittingly sent flowing into the

In the island under Ovando's rule Columbus saw the logical results of his
own original principles of government, which had recognised the right of
the Christians to possess the persons and labours of the heathen natives.
Las Casas, who was living in Espanola as a young priest at this time, and
was destined by long residence there and in the West Indies to qualify
himself as their first historian, saw what Columbus saw, and saw also the
even worse things that happened in after years in Cuba and Jamaica; and
it is to him that we owe our knowledge of the condition of island affairs
at this time. The colonists whom Ovando had brought out had come very
much in the spirit that in our own day characterised the rush to the
north-western goldfields of America. They brought only the slightest
equipment, and were no sooner landed at San Domingo than they set out
into the island like so many picnic parties, being more careful to carry
vessels in which to bring back the gold they were to find than proper
provisions and equipment to support them in the labour of finding it.
The roads, says Las Casas, swarmed like ant-hills with these adventurers
rushing forth to the mines, which were about twenty-five miles distant
from San Domingo; they were in the highest spirits, and they made it a
kind of race as to who should get there first. They thought they had
nothing to do but to pick up shining lumps of gold; and when they found
that they had to dig and delve in the hard earth, and to dig
systematically and continuously, with a great deal of digging for very
little gold, their spirits fell. They were not used to dig; and it
happened that most of them began in an unprofitable spot, where they
digged for eight days without finding any gold. Their provisions were
soon exhausted; and in a week they were back again in San Domingo, tired,
famished, and bitterly disappointed. They had no genius for steady
labour; most of them were virtually without means; and although they
lived in San Domingo, on what they had as long as possible, they were
soon starving there, and selling the clothes off their backs to procure
food. Some of them took situations with the other settlers, more fell
victims to the climate of the island and their own imprudences and
distresses; and a thousand of them had died within two years.

Ovando had revived the enthusiasm for mining by two enactments. He
reduced the share of discovered gold payable to the Crown, and he
developed Columbus's system of forced labour to such an extent that the
mines were entirely worked by it. To each Spaniard, whether mining or
farming, so many natives were allotted. It was not called slavery; the
natives were supposed to be paid a minute sum, and their employers were
also expected to teach them the Christian religion. That was the plan.
The way in which it worked was that, a body of native men being allotted
to a Spanish settler for a period, say, of six or eight months--for the
enactment was precise in putting a period to the term of slavery--the
natives would be marched off, probably many days' journey from their
homes and families, and set to work under a Spanish foreman. The work,
as we have already seen, was infinitely harder than that to which they
were accustomed; and most serious of all, it was done under conditions
that took all the heart out of the labour. A man will toil in his own
garden or in tilling his own land with interest and happiness, not
counting the hours which he spends there; knowing in fact that his work
is worth doing, because he is doing it for a good reason. But put the
same man to work in a gang merely for the aggrandisement of some other
over-man; and the heart and cheerfulness will soon die out of him.

It was so with these children of the sun. They were put to work ten
times harder than any they had ever done before, and they were put to it
under the lash. The light diet of their habit had been sufficient to
support them in their former existence of happy idleness and dalliance,
and they had not wanted anything more than their cassava bread and a
little fish and fruit; now, however, they were put to work at a pressure
which made a very different kind of feeding necessary to them, and this
they did not get. Now and then a handful of pork would be divided among
a dozen of them, but they were literally starved, and were accustomed to
scramble like dogs for the bones that were thrown from the tables of the
Spaniards, which bones they ground up and mixed with their, bread so that
no portion of them might be lost. They died in numbers under these hard
conditions, and, compared with their lives, their deaths must often have
been happy. When the time came for them to go home they were generally
utterly worn out and crippled, and had to face a long journey of many
days with no food to support them but what they could get on the journey;
and the roads were strewn with the dead bodies of those who fell by the

And far worse things happened to them than labour and exhaustion. It
became the custom among the Spaniards to regard the lives of the natives
as of far less value than those of the dogs that were sometimes set upon
them in sport. A Spaniard riding along would make a wager with his
fellow that he would cut the head off a native with one stroke of his
sword; and many attempts would be laughingly made, and many living bodies
hideously mutilated and destroyed, before the feat would be accomplished.
Another sport was one similar to pigsticking as it is practised in India,
except that instead of pigs native women and children were stuck with the
lances. There was no kind of mutilation and monstrous cruelty that was
not practised. If there be any powers of hell, they stalked at large
through the forests and valleys of Espanola. Lust and bloody cruelty, of
a kind not merely indescribable but unrealisable by sane men and women,
drenched the once happy island with anguish and terror. And in payment
for it the Spaniards undertook to teach the heathen the Christian

The five chiefs who had ruled with justice and wisdom over the island of
Espanola in the early days of Columbus were all dead, wiped out by the
wave of wild death and cruelty that had swept over the island. The
gentle Guacanagari, when he saw the desolation that was beginning to
overwhelm human existence, had fled into the mountains, hiding his face
in shame from the sons of men, and had miserably died there. Caonabo,
Lord of the House of Gold, fiercest and bravest of them all, who first
realised that the Spaniards were enemies to the native peace, after
languishing in prison in the house of Columbus at Isabella for some time,
had died in captivity during the voyage to Spain. Anacaona his wife, the
Bloom of the Gold, that brave and beautiful woman, whose admiration of
the Spaniards had by their bloody cruelties been turned into detestation,
had been shamefully betrayed and ignominiously hanged. Behechio, her
brother, the only cacique who did not sue for peace after the first
conquest of the island by Christopher and Bartholomew Columbus, was dead
long ago of wounds and sorrow. Guarionex, the Lord of the Vega Real, who
had once been friendly enough, who had danced to the Spanish pipe and
learned the Paternoster and Ave Maria, and whose progress in conversion
to Christianity the seduction of his wives by those who were converting
him had interrupted, after wandering in the mountains of Ciguay had been
imprisoned in chains, and drowned in the hurricane of June 30, 1502.

The fifth chief, Cotabanama, Lord of the province of Higua, made the last
stand against Ovando in defence of the native right to existence, and was
only defeated after severe battles and dreadful slaughters. His
territory was among the mountains, and his last insurrection was caused,
as so many others had been, by the intolerable conduct of the Spaniards
towards the wives and daughters of the Indians. Collecting all his
warriors, Cotabanama attacked the Spanish posts in his neighbourhood.
At every engagement his troops were defeated and dispersed, but only to
collect again, fight again with even greater fury, be defeated and
dispersed again, and rally again against the Spaniards. They literally
fought to the death. After every battle the Spaniards made a massacre of
all the natives they could find, old men, children, and pregnant women
being alike put to the sword or burned in their houses. When their
companions fell beside them, instead of being frightened they became more
furious; and when they were wounded they would pluck the arrows out of
their bodies and hurl them back at the Spaniards, falling dead in the
very act. After one such severe defeat and massacre the natives
scattered for many months, hiding among the mountains and trying to
collect and succour their decimated families; but the Spaniards, who with
their dogs grew skilful at tracking the Indians and found it pleasant
sport, came upon them in the places of refuge where little groups of them
were sheltering their women and children, and there slowly and cruelly
slaughtered them, often with the addition of tortures and torments in
order to induce them to reveal the whereabouts of other bands. When it
was possible the Spaniards sometimes hanged thirteen of them in a row in
commemoration of their Blessed Saviour and the Twelve Apostles; and while
they were hanging, and before they had quite died, they would hack at
them with their swords in order to test the edge of the steel. At the
last stand, when the fierceness and bitterness of the contest rose to a
height on both sides, Cotabanama was captured and a plan made to broil
him slowly to death; but for some reason this plan was not carried out,
and the brave chief was taken to San Domingo and publicly hanged like a

After that there was never any more resistance; it was simply a case of
extermination, which the Spaniards easily accomplished by cutting of the
heads of women as they passed by, and impaling infants and little
children on their lances as they rode through the villages. Thus, in the
twelve years since the discovery of Columbus, between half a million and
a million natives, perished; and as the Spanish colonisation spread
afterwards from island to island, and the banner of civilisation and
Christianity was borne farther abroad throughout the Indies, the same
hideous process was continued. In Cuba, in Jamaica, throughout the
Antilles, the cross and the sword, the whip-lash and the Gospel advanced
together; wherever the Host was consecrated, hideous cries of agony and
suffering broke forth; until happily, in the fulness of time, the dire
business was complete, and the whole of the people who had inhabited this
garden of the world were exterminated and their blood and race wiped from
the face of the earth . . . . Unless, indeed, blood and race and hatred
be imperishable things; unless the faithful Earth that bred and reared
the race still keeps in her soil, and in the waving branches of the trees
and the green grasses, the sacred essences of its blood and hatred;
unless in the full cycle of Time, when that suffering flesh and blood
shall have gone through all the changes of substance and condition, from
corruption and dust through flowers and grasses and trees and animals
back into the living body of mankind again, it shall one day rise up
terribly to avenge that horror of the past. Unless Earth and Time
remember, O Children of the Sun! for men have forgotten, and on the soil
of your Paradise the African negro, learned in the vices of Europe,
erects his monstrous effigy of civilisation and his grotesque mockery of
freedom; unless it be through his brutish body, into which the blood and
hatred with which the soil of Espanola was soaked have now passed, that
they shall dreadfully strike at the world again.



On September 12, 1504., Christopher Columbus did many things for the last
time. He who had so often occupied himself in ports and harbours with
the fitting out of ships and preparations for a voyage now completed at
San Domingo the simple preparations for the last voyage he was to take.
The ship he had come in from Jamaica had been refitted and placed under
the command of Bartholomew, and he had bought another small caravel in
which he and his son were to sail. For the last time he superintended
those details of fitting out and provisioning which were now so familiar
to him; for the last time he walked in the streets of San Domingo and
mingled with the direful activities of his colony; he looked his last
upon the place where the vital scenes of his life had been set, for the
last time weighed anchor, and took his last farewell of the seas and
islands of his discovery. A little steadfast looking, a little straining
of the eyes, a little heart-aching no doubt, and Espanola has sunk down
into the sea behind the white wake of the ships; and with its fading away
the span of active life allotted to this man shuts down, and his powerful
opportunities for good or evil are withdrawn.

There was something great and heroic about the Admiral's last voyage.
Wind and sea rose up as though to make a last bitter attack upon the man
who had disclosed their mysteries and betrayed their secrets. He had
hardly cleared the island before the first gale came down upon him and
dismasted his ship, so that he was obliged to transfer himself and his
son to Bartholomew's caravel and send the disabled vessel back to
Espanola. The shouting sea, as though encouraged by this triumph, hurled
tempest after tempest upon the one lonely small ship that was staggering
on its way to Spain; and the duel between this great seaman and the vast
elemental power that he had so often outwitted began in earnest. One
little ship, one enfeebled man to be destroyed by the power of the sea:
that was the problem, and there were thousands of miles of sea-room, and
two months of time to solve it in! Tempest after tempest rose and drove
unceasingly against the ship. A mast was sprung and had to be cut away;
another, and the woodwork from the forecastles and high stern works had
to be stripped and lashed round the crazy mainmast to preserve it from
wholesale destruction. Another gale, and the mast had to be shortened,
for even reinforced as it was it would not bear the strain; and so
crippled, so buffeted, this very small ship leapt and staggered on her
way across the Atlantic, keeping her bowsprit pointed to that region of
the foamy emptiness where Spain was.

The Admiral lay crippled in his cabin listening to the rush and bubble of
the water, feeling the blows and recoils of the unending battle,
hearkening anxiously to the straining of the timbers and the vessel's
agonised complainings under the pounding of the seas. We do not know
what his thoughts were; but we may guess that they looked backward rather
than forward, and that often they must have been prayers that the present
misery would come somehow or other to an end. Up on deck brother
Bartholomew, who has developed some grievous complaint of the jaws and
teeth--complaint not known to us more particularly, but dreadful enough
from that description--does his duty also, with that heroic manfulness
that has marked his whole career; and somewhere in the ship young
Ferdinand is sheltering from the sprays and breaking seas, finding his
world of adventure grown somewhat gloomy and sordid of late, and feeling
that he has now had his fill of the sea . . . . Shut your eyes and
let the illusions of time and place fade from you; be with them for a
moment on this last voyage; hear that eternal foaming and crashing of
great waves, the shrieking of wind in cordage, the cracking and slatting
of the sails, the mad lashing of loose ropes; the painful swinging, and
climbing up and diving down, and sinking and staggering and helpless
strivings of the small ship in the waste of water. The sea is as empty
as chaos, nothing for days and weeks but that infinite tumbling surface
and heaven of grey storm-clouds; a world of salt surges encircled by
horizons of dim foam. Time and place are nothing; the agony and pain of
such moments are eternal.

But the two brothers, grim and gigantic in their sea power, subtle as the
wind itself in their sea wit, win the battle. Over the thousands of
miles of angry surges they urge that small ship towards calm and safety;
until one day the sea begins to abate a little, and through the spray and
tumult of waters the dim loom of land is seen. The sea falls back
disappointed and finally conquered by Christopher Columbus, whose ship,
battered, crippled, and strained, comes back out of the wilderness of
waters and glides quietly into the smooth harbour of San Lucar, November
7, 1504. There were no guns or bells to greet the Admiral; his only
salute was in the thunder of the conquered seas; and he was carried
ashore to San Lucar, and thence to Seville, a sick and broken man.



Columbus, for whom rest and quiet were the first essentials, remained in
Seville from November 1504 to May 1505, when he joined the Court at
Segovia and afterwards at Salamanca and Valladolid, where he remained
till his death in May 1506. During this last period, when all other
activities were practically impossible to him, he fell into a state of
letter-writing--for the most part long, wearisome complainings and
explainings in which he poured out a copious flood of tears and self-pity
for the loss of his gold.

It has generally been claimed that Columbus was in bitter penury and want
of money, but a close examination of the letters and other documents
relating to this time show that in his last days he was not poor in any
true sense of the word. He was probably a hundred times richer than any
of his ancestors had ever been; he had, money to give and money to spend;
the banks honoured his drafts; his credit was apparently indisputable.
But compared with the fabulous wealth to which he would by this time have
been entitled if his original agreement with the Crown of Spain had been
faithfully carried out he was no doubt poor. There is no evidence that
he lacked any comfort or alleviation that money could buy; indeed he
never had any great craving for the things that money can buy--only for
money itself. There must have been many rich people in Spain who would
gladly have entertained him in luxury and dignity; but he was not the
kind of man to set much store by such things except in so far as they
were a decoration and advertisement of his position as a great man. He
had set himself to the single task of securing what he called his rights;
and in these days of sunset he seems to have been illumined by some
glimmer of the early glory of his first inspiration. He wanted the
payment of his dues now, not so much for his own enrichment, but as a
sign to the world that his great position as Admiral and Viceroy was
recognised, so that his dignities and estates might be established and
consolidated in a form which he would be able to transmit to his remote

Since he wrote so copiously and so constantly in these last days, the
best picture of his mood and condition is afforded in his letters to his
son Diego; letters which, in spite of their infinitely wearisome
recapitulation and querulous complaint, should be carefully read by those
who wish to keep in touch with the Admiral to the end.

Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to DON DIEGO, his Son,
November 21, 1504.

"VERY DEAR SON,--I received your letter by the courier. You did
well in remaining yonder to remedy our affairs somewhat and to
employ yourself now in our business. Ever since I came to Castile,
the Lord Bishop of Palencia has shown me favour and has desired that
I should be honoured. Now he must be entreated that it may please
him to occupy himself in remedying my many grievances and in
ordering that the agreement and letters of concession which their
Highnesses gave me be fulfilled, and that I be indemnified for so
many damages. And he may be certain that if their Highnesses do
this, their estate and greatness will be multiplied to them in an
incredible degree. And it must not appear to him that forty
thousand pesos in gold is more than a representation of it; because
they might have had a much greater quantity if Satan had not
hindered it by impeding my design; for, when I was taken away from
the Indies, I was prepared to give them a sum of gold incomparable
to forty thousand pesos. I make oath, and this may be for thee
alone, that the damage to me in the matter of the concessions their
Highnesses have made to me, amounts to ten millions each year, and
never can be made good. You see what will be, or is, the injury to
their Highnesses in what belongs to them, and they do not perceive
it. I write at their disposal and will strive to start yonder. My
arrival and the rest is in the hands of our Lord. His mercy is
infinite. What is done and is to be done, St. Augustine says is
already done before the creation of the world. I write also to
these other Lords named in the letter of Diego Mendez. Commend me
to their mercy and tell them of my going as I have said above. For
certainly I feel great fear, as the cold is so inimical to this, my
infirmity, that I may have to remain on the road.

"I was very much pleased to hear the contents of your letter and
what the King our Lord said, for which you kissed his royal hands.
It is certain that I have served their Highnesses with as much
diligence and love as though it had been to gain Paradise, and more,
and if I have been at fault in anything it has been because it was
impossible or because my knowledge and strength were not sufficient.
God, our Lord, in such a case, does not require more from persons
than the will.

"At the request of the Treasurer Morales, I left two brothers in the
Indies, who are called Porras. The one was captain and the other
auditor. Both were without capacity for these positions: and I was
confident that they could fill them, because of love for the person
who sent them to me. They both became more vain than they had been.
I forgave them many incivilities, more than I would do with a
relation, and their offences were such that they merited another
punishment than a verbal reprimand. Finally they reached such a
point that even had I desired, I could not have avoided doing what I
did. The records of the case will prove whether I lie or not. They
rebelled on the island of Jamaica, at which I was as much astonished
as I would be if the sun's rays should cast darkness. I was at the
point of death, and they martyrised me with extreme cruelty during
five months and without cause. Finally I took them all prisoners,
and immediately set them free, except the captain, whom I was
bringing as a prisoner to their Highnesses. A petition which they
made to me under oath, and which I send you with this letter, will
inform you at length in regard to this matter, although the records
of the case explain it fully. These records and the Notary are
coming on another vessel, which I am expecting from day to day. The
Governor in Santo Domingo took this prisoner.--His courtesy
constrained him to do this. I had a chapter in my instructions in
which their Highnesses ordered all to obey me, and that I should
exercise civil and criminal justice over all those who were with me:
but this was of no avail with the Governor, who said that it was not
understood as applying in his territory. He sent the prisoner to
these Lords who have charge of the Indies without inquiry or record
or writing. They did not receive him, and both brothers go free.
It is not wonderful to me that our Lord punishes. They went there
with shameless faces. Such wickedness or such cruel treason were
never heard of. I wrote to their Highnesses about this matter in
the other letter, and said that it was not right for them to consent
to this offence. I also wrote to the Lord Treasurer that I begged
him as a favour not to pass sentence on the testimony given by these
men until he heard me. Now it will be well for you to remind him of
it anew. I do, not know how they dare to go before him with such an
undertaking. I have written to him about it again and have sent him
the copy of the oath, the same as I send to you and likewise to
Doctor Angulo and the Licentiate Zapata. I commend myself to the
mercy of all, with the information that my departure yonder will
take place in a short time.

"I would be glad to receive a letter from their Highnesses and to
know what they order. You must procure such a letter if you see the
means of so doing. I also commend myself to the Lord Bishop and to
Juan Lopez, with the reminder of illness and of the reward for my

"You must read the letters which go with this one in order to act in
conformity with what they say. Acknowledge the receipt of his
letter to Diego Mendez. I do not write him as he will learn
everything from you, and also because my illness prevents it.

"It would be well for Carbajal and Jeronimo--[Jeronimo de Aguero, a
landowner in Espanola and a friend of Columbus]--to be at the-Court
at this time, and talk of our affairs with these Lords and with the

"Done in Seville, November 21.

"Your father who loves you more than himself.


"I wrote again to their Highnesses entreating them to order that
these people who went with me should be paid, because they are poor
and it is three years since they left their homes. The news which
they bring is more than extraordinary. They have endured infinite
dangers and hardships. I did not wish to rob the country, so as not
to cause scandal, because reason advises its being populated, and
then gold will be obtained freely without scandal. Speak of this to
the Secretary and to the Lord Bishop and to Juan Lopez and to
whomever you think it advisable to do so."

The Bishop of Palencia referred to in this letter is probably Bishop
Fonseca--probably, because it is known that he did become Bishop of
Palencia, although there is a difference of opinion among historians as
to whether the date of his translation to that see was before or after
this letter. No matter, except that one is glad to think that an old
enemy--for Fonseca and Columbus had bitter disagreements over the fitting
out of various expeditions--had shown himself friendly at last.

Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to DON DIEGO, November 28,

"VERY DEAR SON,--I received your letters of the 15th of this month.
It is eight days since I wrote you and sent the letter by a courier.
I enclosed unsealed letters to many other persons, in order that you
might see them, and having read them, seal and deliver them.
Although this illness of mine troubles me greatly, I am preparing
for my departure in every way. I would very much like to receive
the reply from their Highnesses and wish you might procure it: and
also I wish that their Highnesses would provide for the payment of
these poor people, who have passed through incredible hardships and
have brought them such great news that infinite thanks should be
given to God, our Lord, and they should rejoice greatly over it.
If I [lie ?] the 'Paralipomenon'--[ The Book of Chronicles]--and
the Book of Kings and the Antiquities of Josephus, with very many
others, will tell what they know of this. I hope in our Lord to
depart this coming week, but you must not write less often on that
account. I have not heard from Carbajal and Jeronimo. If they are
there, commend me to them. The time is such that both Carbajals
ought to be at Court, if illness does not prevent them. My regards
to Diego Mendez.

"I believe that his truth and efforts will be worth as much as the
lies of the Porras brothers. The bearer of this letter is Martin de
Gamboa. I am sending by him a letter to Juan Lopez and a letter of
credit. Read the letter to Lopez and then give it to him. If you
write me, send the letters to Luis de Soria that he may send them
wherever I am, because if I go in a litter, I believe it will be by
La Plata.--[The old Roman road from Merida to Salamanca.]--May our
Lord have you in His holy keeping. Your uncle has been very sick
and is now, from trouble with his jaws and his teeth.

"Done in Seville, November 28.

"Your father who loves you more than himself.


Bartholomew Columbus and Ferdinand were remaining with Christopher at
Seville; Bartholomew probably very nearly as ill as the Admiral, although
we do not hear so many complaints about it. At any rate Diego, being ay
Court, was the great mainstay of his father; and you can see the sick man
sitting there alone with his grievances, and looking to the next
generation for help in getting them redressed. Diego, it is to be
feared, did not receive these letters with so much patience and attention
as he might have shown, nor did he write back to his invalid father with
the fulness and regularity which the old man craved. It is a fault
common to sons. Those who are sons will know that it does not
necessarily imply lack of affection on Diego's part; those who are
fathers will realise how much Christopher longed for verbal assurance of
interest and affection, even though he did not doubt their reality. News
of the serious illness of Queen Isabella had evidently reached Columbus,
and was the chief topic of public interest.

Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to DON DIEGO, his Son,
December 1, 1504.

"VERY DEAR SON,--Since I received your letter of November 15 I have
heard nothing from you. I wish that you would write me more
frequently. I would like to receive a letter from you each hour.
Reason must tell you that now I have no other repose. Many couriers
come each day, and the news is of such a nature and so abundant that
on hearing it all my hair stands on end; it is so contrary to what
my soul desires. May it please the Holy Trinity to give health to
the Queen, our Lady, that she may settle what has already been
placed under discussion. I wrote you by another courier Thursday,
eight days ago. The courier must already be on his way back here.
I told you in that letter that my departure was certain, but that
the hope of my arrival there, according to experience, was very
uncertain, because my sickness is so bad, and the cold is so well
suited to aggravate it, that I could not well avoid remaining in
some inn on the road. The litter and everything were ready. The
weather became so violent that it appeared impossible to every one
to start when it was getting so bad, and that it was better for so
well-known a person as myself to take care of myself and try to
regain my health rather than place myself in danger. I told you in
those letters what I now say, that you decided well in remaining
there (at such a time), and that it was right to commence occupying
yourself with our affairs; and reason strongly urges this. It
appears to me that a good copy should be made of the chapter of that
letter which their Highnesses wrote me where they say they will
fulfil their promises to me and will place you in possession of
everything: and that this copy should be given to them with another
writing telling of my sickness, and that it is now impossible for me
to go and kiss their Royal feet and hands, and that the Indies are
being lost, and are on fire in a thousand places, and that I have
received nothing, and am receiving nothing, from the revenues
derived from them, and that no one dares to accept or demand
anything there for me, and I am living upon borrowed funds. I spent
the money which I got there in bringing those people who went with
me back to their homes, for it would be a great burden upon my
conscience to have left them there and to have abandoned them. This
must be made known to the Lord Bishop of Palencia, in whose favour
I have so much confidence, and also to the Lord Chamberlain.
I believed that Carbajal and Jeronimo would be there at such a time.
Our Lord is there, and He will order everything as He knows it to be
best for us.

"Carbajal reached here yesterday. I wished to send him immediately
with this same order, but he excused himself profusely, saying that
his wife was at the point of death. I shall see that he goes,
because he knows a great deal about these affairs. I will also
endeavour to have your brother and your uncle go to kiss the hands
of Their Highnesses, and give them an account of the voyage if my
letters are not sufficient. Take good care of your brother. He has
a good disposition, and is no longer a boy. Ten brothers would not
be too many for you. I never found better friends to right or to
left than my brothers. We must strive to obtain the government of
the Indies and then the adjustment of the revenues. I gave you a
memorandum which told you what part of them belongs to me. What
they gave to Carbajal was nothing and has turned to nothing.
Whoever desires to do so takes merchandise there, and so the eighth
is nothing, because, without contributing the eighth, I could send
to trade there without rendering account or going in company with
any one. I said a great many times in the past that the
contribution of the eighth would come to nothing. The eighth and
the rest belongs to me by reason of the concession which their
Highnesses made to me, as set forth in the book of my Privileges,
and also the third and the tenth. Of the tenth I received nothing,
except the tenth of what their Highnesses receive; and it must be
the tenth of all the gold and other things which are found and
obtained, in whatever manner it may be, within this Admiralship, and
the tenth of all the merchandise which goes and comes from there,
after the expenses are deducted. I have already said that in the
Book of Privileges the reason for this and for the rest which is
before the Tribunal of the Indies here in Seville, is clearly set

"We must strive to obtain a reply to my letter from their
Highnesses, and to have them order that these people be paid. I
wrote in regard to this subject four days ago, and sent the letter
by Martin de Gamboa, and you must have seen the letter of Juan Lopez
with your own.

"It is said here that it has been ordered that three or four Bishops
of the Indies shall be sent or created, and that this matter is
referred to the Lord Bishop of Palencia. After having commended me
to his Worship, tell him that I believe it will best serve their
Highnesses for me to talk with him before this matter is settled.

"Commend me to Diego Mendez, and show him this letter. My illness
permits me to write only at night, because in the daytime my hands
are deprived of strength. I believe that a son of Francisco Pinelo
will carry this letter. Entertain him well, because he does
everything for me that he can, with much love and a cheerful
goodwill. The caravel which broke her mast in starting from Santo
Domingo has arrived in the Algarves. She brings the records of the
case of the Porras brothers. Such ugly things and such grievous
cruelty as appear in this matter never were seen. If their
Highnesses do not punish it, I do not know who will dare to go out
in their service with people.

"To-day is Monday. I will endeavour to have your uncle and brother
start to-morrow. Remember to write me very often, and tell Diego
Mendez to write at length. Each day messengers go from here yonder.
May our Lord have you in His Holy keeping.

"Done in Seville, December 1.

"Your father who loves you as himself.


The gout from which the Admiral suffered made riding impossible to him,
and he had arranged to have himself carried to Court on a litter when he
was able to move. There is a grim and dismal significance in the
particular litter that had been chosen: it was no other than the funeral
bier which belonged to the Cathedral of Seville and had been built for
Cardinal Mendoza. A minute of the Cathedral Chapter records the granting
to Columbus of the use of this strange conveyance; but one is glad to
think that he ultimately made his journey in a less grim though more
humble method. But what are we to think of the taste of a man who would
rather travel in a bier, so long as it had been associated with the
splendid obsequies of a cardinal, than in the ordinary litter of
every-day use? It is but the old passion for state and splendour thus
dismally breaking out again.

He speaks of living on borrowed funds and of having devoted all his
resources to the payment of his crew; but that may be taken as an
exaggeration. He may have borrowed, but the man who can borrow easily
from banks cannot be regarded as a poor man. One is nevertheless
grateful for these references, since they commemorate the Admiral's
unfailing loyalty to those who shared his hardships, and his unwearied
efforts to see that they received what was due to them. Pleasant also
are the evidences of warm family affection in those simple words of
brotherly love, and the affecting advice to Diego that he should love his
brother Ferdinand as Christopher loved Bartholomew. It is a pleasant
oasis in this dreary, sordid wailing after thirds and tenths and eighths.
Good Diego Mendez, that honourable gentleman, was evidently also at Court
at this time, honestly striving, we may be sure, to say a good word for
the Admiral.

Some time after this letter was written, and before the writing of the
next, news reached Seville of the death of Queen Isabella. For ten years
her kind heart had been wrung by many sorrows. Her mother had died in
1496; the next year her only son and heir to the crown had followed; and
within yet another year had died her favourite daughter, the Queen of
Portugal. Her other children were all scattered with the exception of
Juana, whose semi-imbecile condition caused her parents an anxiety
greater even than that caused by death. As Isabella's life thus closed
sombrely in, she applied herself more closely and more narrowly to such
pious consolations as were available. News from Flanders of the
scandalous scenes between Philip and Juana in the summer of 1504 brought
on an illness from which she really never recovered, a kind of feverish
distress of mind and body in which her only alleviation was the
transaction of such business as was possible for her in the direction of
humanity and enlightenment. She still received men of intellect and
renown, especially travellers. But she knew that her end was near, and
as early as October she had made her will, in which her wishes as to the
succession and government of Castile were clearly laid down. There was
no mention of Columbus in this will, which afterwards greatly mortified
him; but it is possible that the poor Queen had by this time, even
against her wish, come to share the opinions of her advisers that the
rule of Columbus in the West Indies had not brought the most humane and
happy results possible to the people there.

During October and November her life thus beat itself away in a
succession of duties faithfully performed, tasks duly finished,
preparations for the great change duly made. She died, as she would have
wished to die, surrounded by friends who loved and admired her, and
fortified by the last rites of the Church for her journey into the
unknown. Date, November 26, 1504, in the fifty-fourth year of her age.

Columbus had evidently received the news from a public source, and felt
mortified that Diego should not have written him a special letter.

Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to DON DIEGO, his Son,
December 3, 1504.

"VERY DEAR SON,--I wrote you at length day before yesterday and sent
it by Francisco Pinelo, and with this letter I send you a very full
memorandum. I am very much astonished not to receive a letter from
you or from any one else, and this astonishment is shared by all who
know me. Every one here has letters, and I, who have more reason to
expect them, have none. Great care should be taken about this
matter. The memorandum of which I have spoken above says enough,
and on this account I do not speak more at length here. Your
brother and your uncle and Carbajal are going yonder. You will
learn from them what is not said here. May our Lord have you in His
Holy keeping.

"Done in Seville, December 3.

"Your father who loves you more than himself.


Document of COLUMBUS addressed to his Son, DIEGO, and intended to
accompany the preceding letter.

"A memorandum for you, my very dear son, Don Diego, of what occurs
to me at the present time which must be done:--The principal thing
is, affectionately and with great devotion to commend the soul of
the Queen, our Lady, to God. Her life was always Catholic and Holy
and ready for all the things of His holy service, and for this
reason it must be believed that she is in His holy glory and beyond
the desires of this rough and wearisome world. Then the next thing
is to be watchful and exert one's self in the service of the King,
our Lord, and to strive to keep him from being troubled. His
Highness is the head of Christendom. See the proverb which says
that when the head aches, all the members ache. So that all good
Christians should entreat that he may have long life and health: and
those of us who are obliged to serve him more than others must join
in this supplication with great earnestness and diligence. This
reason prompts me now with my severe illness to write you what I am
writing here, that his Highness may dispose matters for his service:
and for the better fulfilment I am sending your brother there, who,
although he is a child in days, is not a child in understanding; and
I am sending your uncle and Carbajal, so that if this, my writing,
is not sufficient, they, together with yourself, can furnish verbal
evidence. In my opinion there is nothing so necessary for the
service of his Highness as the disposition and remedying of the
affair of the Indies.

"His Highness must now have there more than 40,000 or 50,000 gold
pieces. I learned when I was there that the Governor had no desire
to send it to him. It is believed among the other people as well
that there will be 150,000 pesos more, and the mines are very rich
and productive. Most of the people there are common and ignorant,
and care very little for the circumstances. The Governor is very
much hated by all of them, and it is to be feared that they may at
some time rebel. If this should occur, which God forbid, the remedy
for the matter would then be difficult: and so it would be if
injustice were used toward them, either here or in other places,
with the great fame of the gold. My opinion is that his Highness
should investigate this affair quickly and by means of a person who
is interested and who can go there with 150 or 200 people well
equipped, and remain there until it is well settled and without
suspicion, which cannot be done in less than three months: and that
an endeavour be made to raise two or three forces there. The gold
there is exposed to great risk, as there are very few people to
protect it. I say that there is a proverb here which says that the
presence of the owner makes the horse fat. Here and wherever I may
be, I shall serve their Highnesses with joy, until my soul leaves
this body.

"Above I said that his Highness is the head of the Christians, and
that it is necessary for him to occupy himself in preserving them
and their lands. For this reason people say that he cannot thus
provide a good government for all these Indies, and that they are
being lost and do not yield a profit, neither are they being handled
in a reasonable manner. In my opinion it would serve him to intrust
this matter to some one who is distressed over the bad treatment of
his subjects.

"I wrote a very long letter to his Highness as soon as I arrived
here, fully stating the evils which require a prompt and efficient
remedy at once. I have received no reply, nor have I seen any
provision made in the matter. Some vessels are detained in San
Lucar by the weather. I have told these gentlemen of the Board of
Trade that they must order them held until the King, our Lord, makes
provision in the matter, either by some person with other people,
or by writing. This is very necessary and I know what I say. It is
necessary that the authorities should order all the ports searched
diligently, to see that no one goes yonder to the Indies without
licence. I have already said that there is a great deal of gold
collected in straw houses without any means of defence, and there
are many disorderly people in the country, and that the Governor is
hated, and that little punishment is inflicted and has been
inflicted upon those who have committed crimes and have come out
with their treasonable conduct approved.

"If his Highness decides to make some provision, it must be done at
once, so that these vessels may not be injured.

"I have heard that three Bishops are to be elected and sent to
Espanola. If it pleases his Highness to hear me before concluding
this matter, I will tell in what manner God our Lord may be well
served and his Highness served and satisfied.

"I have given lengthy consideration to the provision for Espanola:"

Yes, the Queen is in His Holy Glory, and beyond the desires of this rough
and wearisome world; but we are not; we are still in a world where fifty
thousand gold pieces can be of use to us, and where a word spoken in
season, even in such a season of darkness, may have its effect with the
King. A strange time to talk to the King about gold; and perhaps Diego
was wiser and kinder than his father thought in not immediately taking
this strange document to King Ferdinand.

Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to DON DIEGO, his Son,
December 13, 1504

"VERY DEAR SON,--It is now eight days since your uncle and your
brother and Carbajal left here together, to kiss the royal hands of
his Highness, and to give an account of the voyage, and also to aid
you in the negotiation of whatever may prove to be necessary there.

"Don Ferdinand took from here 150 ducats to be expended at his
discretion. He will have to spend some of it, but he will give you
what he has remaining. He also carries a letter of credit for these
merchants. You will see that it is very necessary to be careful in
dealing with them, because I had trouble there with the Governor, as
every one told me that I had there 11,000 or 12,000 castellanos, and
I had only 4000. He wished to charge me with things for which I am
not indebted, and I, confiding in the promise of their Highnesses,
who ordered everything restored to me, decided to leave these
charges in the hope of calling him to account for them. If any one
has money there, they do not dare ask for it, on account of his
haughtiness. I very well know that after my departure he must have
received more than 5000 castellanos. If it were possible for you to
obtain from his Highness an authoritative letter to the Governor,
ordering him to send the money without delay and a full account of
what belongs to me, by the person I might send there with my power
of attorney, it would be well; because he will not give it in any
other manner, neither to my friend Diaz or Velasquez, and they dare
not even speak of it to him. Carbajal will very well know how this
must be done. Let him see this letter. The 150 ducats which Luis
de Soria sent you when I came are paid according to his desire.

"I wrote you at length and sent the letter by Don Ferdinand, also a
memorandum. Now that I have thought over the matter further, I say
that, since at the time of my departure their Highnesses said over
their signature and verbally, that they would give me all that
belongs to me, according to my privileges--that the claim for the
third or the tenth and eighth mentioned in the memorandum must be
relinquished, and instead the chapter of their letter must be shown
where they write what I have said, and all that belongs to me must
be required, as you have it in writing in the Book of Privileges, in
which is also set forth the reason for my receiving the third,
eighth, and tenth; as there is always an opportunity to reduce the
sum desired by a person, although his Highness says in his letter
that he wishes to give me all that belongs to me. Carbajal will
understand me very well if he sees this letter, and every one else
as well, as it is very clear. I also wrote to his Highness and
finally reminded him that he must provide at once for this affair of
the Indies, that the people there may not be disturbed, and also
reminding him of the promise stated above. You ought to see the

"With this letter I send you another letter of credit for the said
merchants. I have already explained to you the reasons why expenses
should be moderated. Show your uncle due respect, and treat your
brother as an elder brother should treat a younger. You have no
other brother, and praised be our Lord, he is such a one as you need
very much. He has proved and proves to be very intelligent. Honour
Carbajal and Jeronimo and Diego Mendez. Commend me to them all. I
do not write them as there is nothing to write and this messenger is
in haste. It is frequently rumoured here that the Queen, whom God
has, has left an order that I be restored to the possession of the
Indies. On arrival, the notary of the fleet will send you the
records and the original of the case of the Porras brothers. I have
received no news from your uncle and brother since they left. The
water has been so high here that the river entered the city.

"If Agostin Italian and Francisco de Grimaldo do not wish to give
you the money you need, look for others there who are willing to
give it to you. On the arrival here of your signature I will at
once pay them all that you have received: for at present there is
not a person here by whom I can send you money.

"Done to-day, Friday, December 13, 1504

"Your father who loves you more than himself.


Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to his Son, DON DIEGO,
December 21, 1504.

"VERY DEAR SON, The Lord Adelantado and your brother and Carbajal
left here sixteen days ago to go to the Court. They have not
written me since. Don Ferdinand carried 150 ducats. He must spend
what is necessary, and he carries a letter, that the merchants may
furnish you with money. I have sent you another letter since, with
the endorsement of Francisco de Ribarol, by Zamora, the courier, and
told you that if you had made provision for yourself by means of my
letter, not to use that of Francisco de Ribarol. I say the same now
in regard to another letter which I send you with this one, for
Francisco Doria, which letter I send you for greater security that
you may not fail to be provided with money. I have already told you
how necessary it is to be careful in the expenditure of the money,
until their Highnesses give us law and justice. I also told you
that I had spent 1200 castellanos in bringing these people to
Castile, of which his Highness owes me the greater part, and I wrote
him in regard to it asking him to order the account settled.

"If possible I should like to receive letters here each day. I
complain of Diego Mendez and of Jeronimo, as they do not write me:
and then of the others who do not write when they arrive there. We
must strive to learn whether the Queen, whom God has in His keeping,
said anything about me in her will, and we must hurry the Lord
Bishop of Palencia, who caused the possession of the Indies by their
Highnesses and my remaining in Castile, for I was already on my way
to leave it. And the Lord Chamberlain of his Highness must also be
hurried. If by chance the affair comes to discussion, you must
strive to have them see the writing which is in the Book of
Privileges, which shows the reason why the third, eighth, and tenth
are owing me, as I told you in another letter.

"I have written to the Holy Father in regard to my voyage, as he
complained of me because I did not write him. I send you a copy of
the letter. I would like to have the King, our Lord, or the Lord
Bishop of Palencia see it before I send the letter, in order to
avoid false representations.

"Camacho has told a thousand falsehoods about me. To my regret I
ordered him arrested. He is in the church. He says that after the
Holidays are past, he will go there if he is able. If I owe him, he
must show by what reason; for I make oath that I do not know it, nor
is it true.

"If without importunity a licence can be procured for me to go on
mule-back, I will try to leave for the Court after January, and I
will even go without this licence. But haste must be made that the
loss of the Indies, which is now imminent, may not take place. May
our Lord have you in His keeping.

"Done to-day, December 21.

"Your father who loves you more than himself.


"This tenth which they give me is not the tenth which was promised
me. The Privileges tell what it is, and there is also due me the
tenth of the profit derived from merchandise and from all other
things, of which I have received nothing. Carbajal understands me
well. Also remind Carbajal to obtain a letter from his Highness for
the Governor, directing him to send his accounts and the money I
have there, at once. And it would be well that a Repostero of his
Highness should go there to receive this money, as there must be a
large amount due me. I will strive to have these gentlemen of the
Board of Trade send also to say to the Governor that he must send my
share together with the gold belonging to their Highnesses. But the
remedy for the other matter must not be neglected there on this
account. I say that 7000 or 8000 pesos must have passed to my
credit there, which sum has been received since I left, besides the
other money which was not given to me.

"To my very dear son Don Diego at the Court."

All this struggling for the due payment of eighths and tenths makes
wearisome reading, and we need not follow the Admiral into his
distinctions between one kind of tenth and another. There is something
to be said on his side, it must be remembered; the man had not received
what was due to him; and although he was not in actual poverty, his only
property in this world consisted of these very thirds and eighths and
tenths. But if we are inclined to think poorly of the Admiral for his
dismal pertinacity, what are we to think of the people who took advantage
of their high position to ignore consistently the just claims made upon

There is no end to the Admiral's letter-writing at this time.
Fortunately for us his letter to the Pope has been lost, or else we
should have to insert it here; and we have had quite enough of his
theological stupors. As for the Queen's will, there was no mention of
the Admiral in it; and her only reference to the Indies showed that she
had begun to realise some of the disasters following his rule there, for
the provisions that are concerned with the New World refer exclusively to
the treatment of the natives, to whose succour, long after they were past
succour, the hand of Isabella was stretched out from the grave. The
licence to travel on mule-back which the Admiral asked for was made
necessary by a law which had been passed forbidding the use of mules for
this purpose throughout Spain. There had been a scarcity of horses for
mounting the royal cavalry, and it was thought that the breeding of
horses had been neglected on account of the greater cheapness and utility
of mules. It was to encourage the use and breeding of horses that an
interdict was laid on the use of mules, and only the very highest persons
in the land were allowed to employ them.

Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to his Son, DON DIEGO,
December 29, 1504.

"VERY DEAR SON,--I wrote you at length and sent it by Don Ferdinand,
who left to go yonder twenty-three days ago to-day, with the Lord
Adelantado and Carbajal, from whom I have since heard nothing.
Sixteen days ago to-day I wrote you and sent it by Zamora, the
courier, and I sent you a letter of credit for these merchants
endorsed by Francisco de Ribarol, telling them to give you the money
you might ask for. And then, about eight days ago, I sent you by
another courier a letter endorsed by Francisco Soria, and these
letters are directed to Pantaleon and Agostin Italian, that they may
give it to you. And with these letters goes a copy of a letter
which I wrote to the Holy Father in regard to the affairs of the
Indies, that he might not complain of me any more. I sent this copy
for his Highness to see, or the Lord Bishop of Palencia, so as to
avoid false representations. The payment of the people who went
with me has been delayed. I have provided for them here what I have
been able. They are poor and obliged to go in order to earn a
living. They decided to go yonder. They have been told here that
they will be dealt with as favourably as possible, and this is
right, although among them there are some who merit punishment more
than favours. This is said of the rebels. I gave these people a
letter for the Lord Bishop of Palencia. Read it, and if it is
necessary for them to go and petition his Highness, urge your uncle
and brother and Carbajal to read it also, so that you can all help
them as much as possible. It is right and a work of mercy, for no
one ever earned money with so many dangers and hardships and no one
has ever rendered such great service as these people. It is said
that Camacho and Master Bernal wish to go there--two creatures for
whom God works few miracles: but if they go, it will be to do harm
rather than good. They can do little because the truth always
prevails, as it did in Espanola, from which wicked people by means
of falsehoods have prevented any profit being received up to the
present time. It is said that this Master Bernal was the beginning
of the treason. He was taken and accused of many misdemeanours,
for each one of which he deserved to be quartered. At the request
of your uncle and of others he was pardoned, on condition that if he

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