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aromatic leaves, and, lighting one end, put the other in their mouths, and exhaled the smoke. This was the first ever seen by white men of that remarkable American plant, called by the natives by a name like tobacco, which has since grown to be a favorite throughout the world, in palace and hovel alike.
Sailing onward along the Cuban coast, the imagination of Columbus was continually aroused by the magnificence, freshness, and verdant charm of the scenery, which he could not praise too highly. A warm love of nature is frequently displayed in the description of the country which he wrote out for Ferdinand and Isabella, of Spain. Of one place, named by him Puerto Santo, he said: “The amenity of this river, and the clearness of the water, through which the sand at the bottom may be seen ; the multitude of palm-trees of various forms, the highest and most beautiful that I have met with, and an infinity of other great and green trees; the birds in rich plumage, and the verdure of the fields, render this country, most Serene Princess, of such marvellous beauty, that it surpasses all others in graces and charm, as the day doth the night in lustre. For which reason I often say to my people, that, much as I endeavor to give a complete account of it to your Majesties, my tongue cannot express the whole truth or my tongue describe it; and I have been so overwhelmed at the sight of so much beauty that I have not known how to relate it.”
One more island he was yet to see in this marvellous series of discoveries,—the one called by the natives Bohio or Babeque, now known as Hayti, one of the most beautiful islands in the world in the splendor of its tropical vegetation. Columbus and his men could describe it only by comparison with the most beautiful provinces of the country from which they came, and in consequence he named the island Hispaniola, or “Little Spain.''
Here he found the people as innocent and simple in their habits as those of San Salvador, living in huts built of the palm-branches, wearing no clothing, for the air was always warm and balmy, and passing life in a holiday of indolence and enjoyment. To the Spaniards their life seemed like a pleasant dream, their country a veritable Lotus land, where it was “always afternoon.” They had no wants nor cares, and spent life in easy idleness and innocent sports. They had their fields, but the food plants grew bountifully with little labor. The rivers and sea yielded abundance of fish, and luscious tropical fruits grew profusely in their forests. Thus favored by nature, they spent much of the day in repose, while in the evenings they danced gayly in their fragrant groves with songs or the rude music of their drums. After the coming of the Spaniards the clear tinkle of the hawk's bells as they danced gave them the deepest delight, and for those musical toys they were ready to barter everything they possessed.
In Hispaniola gold seemed more plentiful than the Spaniards had yet seen, but they were still lured on to distant places, with the illusive hope that this precious metal might there be found in quantities. Yet Columbus felt forced to cease, for a time, the quest of the precious metal, and sail for home with the story of the new world he had found. One of his vessels had deserted him ; another had been wrecked: if he should lose the third he would be left without means of return and his great discovery might remain unknown.
Moved by this fear, on the 4th of January, 1493, he spread the sails of the one caravel left to him, and turned its prow towards Europe, to carry thither the news of the greatest maritime discovery the world had ever known. Thus ended in success and triumph the first voyage of Columbus to the “New World.”
ALONSO DE OJEDA AND THE
Of the three ships with which Columbus made his first voyage, the “ Pinta” deserted the others and went off on a voyage of discovery of its own, and the “Santa Maria,” the flag-ship of the admiral, ran ashore on the coast of Hispaniola and proved a hopeless wreck. Only the little“ Niña” (the “girl," as this word means in English) was left to carry the discoverer home. The “Santa Maria” was carefully taken to pieces, and from her timbers was constructed a small but strong fort, with a deep vault beneath and a ditch surrounding. Friendly Indians aided in this, and not a shred of the stranded vessel was left to the waves. As the “ Niña” was too small to carry all his crew back to Spain, Columbus decided to leave a garrison to hold this fort and search for gold until he should return. That the island held plenty of gold he felt sure. So Captain Ardua was left, with a garrison of forty men, and the “ Niña” spread her sails to the winds to carry to Spain the wonderful news of the great discovery.
La Navidad, or The Nativity, he named the fort, in remembrance of the day of the wreck, and when he came back in 1493 he hopefully expected to find its garrison awaiting him, with a rich treasure in the precious yellow metal. He reached the spot to
find the fort a ruin and the garrison a remembrance only. They had been attacked by the Indians and massacred during the absence of the admiral.
In fact, the mild, gentle, and friendly Indians whom Columbus had met with on his first voyage were not the only people of the islands. There were on some of the West Indies a warlike race called Caribs,-cannibals, the Spaniards said they were,—who gave the invaders no small trouble before they were overcome.
It was a band of these fierce Caribs that had attacked La Navidad and destroyed the fort and its garrison, impelled to this, likely enough, by some of the ruthless acts which the Spaniards were much too ready to commit. The leader of these warriors was a bold cacique named Caonabo, chief of a warlike mountain tribe. It is with this chieftain that we are at present concerned, as he was the hero, or victim rather, of the first romantic story known to us in Indian life.
In addition to the forts built by the Spaniards on the coast of Hispaniola, there was one built far in the interior, called Fort Santo Tomas. This stood in the mountainous region of Cibao, the reputed land of gold of the island. Its site lay within the territory of Caonabo, who ruled over a great district, his capital town or village being on the southern slope of the Cibao Mountains.
The first conflict between the Spaniards and the natives, after the massacre of the garrison of La Navidad, was in the district of the Vega, where a