The Life of Christopher Columbus by Edward Everett Hale
Chapter XII. Fourth Voyage.
THE INSTRUCTIONS GIVEN FOR THE VOYAGE--HE IS TO GO TO THE MAINLAND OF THE INDIES--A SHORT PASSAGE--OVANDO FORBIDS THE ENTRANCE OF COLUMBUS INTO HARBOR--BOBADILLA'S SQUADRON AND ITS FATE--COLUMBUS SAILS WESTWARD--DISCOVERS HONDURAS, AND COASTS ALONG ITS SHORES--THE SEARCH FOR GOLD--COLONY ATTEMPTED AND ABANDONED--THE VESSELS BECOME UNSEAWORTHY--REFUGE AT JAMAICA--MUTINY LED BY THE BROTHERS PORRAS--MESSAGES TO SAN DOMINGO--THE ECLIPSE--ARRIVAL OF RELIEF--COLUMBUS RETURNS TO SAN DOMINGO, AND TO SPAIN.
It seems a pity now that, after his third voyage, Columbus did not remain in Spain and enjoy, as an old man could, the honors which he had earned and the respect which now waited upon him. Had this been so, the world would have been spared the mortification which attends the thought that the old man to whom it owes so much suffered almost everything in one last effort, failed in that effort, and died with the mortification of failure. But it is to be remembered that Columbus was not a man to cultivate the love of leisure. He had no love of leisure to cultivate. His life had been an active one. He had attempted the solution of a certain problem which he had not solved, and every day of leisure, even every occasion of effort and every word of flattery, must have quickened in him new wishes to take the prize which seemed so near, and to achieve the possibility which had thus far eluded him.
From time to time, therefore, he had addressed new memorials to the sovereigns proposing a new expedition; and at last, by an instruction which is dated on the fourteenth of March, in the year 1502, a fourth voyage was set on foot at the charge of the king and queen,--an instruction not to stop at Hispaniola, but, for the saving of time, to pass by that island. This is a graceful way of intimating to him that he is not to mix himself up with the rights and wrongs of the new settlement.
The letter goes on to say, that the sovereigns have communicated with the King of Portugal, and that they have explained to him that Columbus is pressing his discoveries at the west. and will not interfere with those of the Portuguese in the east. He is instructed to regard the Portuguese explorers as his friends, and to make no quarrel with them. He is instructed to take with him his sons, Fernando and Diego. This is probably at his request.
The prime object of the instruction is still to strike the mainland of the Indies. All the instructions are, "You will make a direct voyage, if the weather does not prevent you, for discovering the islands and the mainland of the Indies in that part which belongs to us." He is to take possession of these islands and of this mainland, and to inform the sovereigns in regard to his discoveries, and the experience of former voyages has taught them that great care must be taken to avoid private speculation in "gold, silver, pearls, precious stones, spices and other things of different quality." For this purpose special instructions are given.
Of this voyage we have Columbus's own official account.
There were four vessels, three of which were rated as caravels. The fourth was very small. The chief vessel was commanded by Diego Tristan; the second, the Santiago, by Francisco de Porras; the third, the Viscaina (Biscayan), by Bartholomew de Fiesco; and the little Gallician by Pedro de Torreros. None of these vessels, as the reader will see, was ever to return to Spain. From de Porras and his brother, Columbus and the expedition were to receive disastrous blows.
It must be observed that he is once more in his proper position of a discoverer. He has no government or other charge of colonies entrusted to him. His brother Bartholomew and his youngest son Fernando, sail with him.
The little squadron sailed from the bay of Cadiz on the eleventh of May, 1502. They touched at Sicilla,--a little port on the coast of Morocco,--to relieve its people, a Portuguese garrison, who had been besieged by the Moors. But finding them out of danger, Columbus went at once to the Grand Canary island, and had a favorable passage.
From the Grand Canary to the island which he calls "the first island of the Indies," and which he named Martinino, his voyage was only seventeen days long. This island was either the St. Lucia or the Martinique of today. Hence he passed to Dominica, and thence crossed to San Domingo, to make repairs, as he said. For, as has been said, he had been especially ordered not to interfere in the affairs of the settlement.
He did not disobey his orders. He says distinctly that he intended to pass along the southern shore of San Domingo, and thence take a departure for the continent. But he says, that his principal vessel sailed very ill--could not carry much canvas, and delayed the rest of the squadron. This weakness must have increased after the voyage across the ocean. For this reason he hoped to exchange it for another ship at San Domingo.
But he did not enter the harbor. He sent a letter to Ovando, now the governor, and asked his permission. He added, to the request he made, a statement that a tempest was at hand which he did not like to meet in the offing. Ovando, however, refused any permission to enter. He was, in fact, just dispatching a fleet to Spain, with Bobadilla, Columbus's old enemy, whom Ovando had replaced in his turn.
Columbus, in an eager wish to be of use, by a returning messenger begged Ovando to delay this fleet till the gale had passed. But the seamen ridiculed him and his gale, and begged Ovando to send the fleet home.
He did so. Bobadilla and his fleet put to sea. In ten days a West India hurricane struck them. The ship on which Columbus's enemies, Bobadilla and Roldan, sailed, was sunk with them and the gold accumulated for years. Of the whole fleet, only one vessel, called the weakest of all, reached Spain. This ship carried four thousand pieces of gold, which were the property of the Admiral. Columbus's own little squadron, meanwhile--thanks probably to the seamanship of himself and his brother--weathered the storm, and he found refuge in the harbor which he had himself named "the beautiful," El Hermoso, in the western part of San Domingo.
Another storm delayed him at a port which he called Port Brasil. The word Brasil was the name which the Spaniards gave to the red log-wood, so valuable in dyeing, and various places received that name, where this wood was found. The name is derived from "Brasas,"--coals,--in allusion, probably, to the bright red color of the dye.
Sailing from this place, on Saturday, the sixteenth of June, they made sight of the island of Jamaica, but he pressed on without making any examination of the country, for four days sailing west and south-west. He then changed his course, and sailed for two days to the northwest and again two days to the north.
On Sunday, the twenty fourth of July, they saw land. This was the key now known as Cuyago, and they were at last close upon the mainland. After exploring this island they sailed again on Wednesday, the twenty-seventh, southwest and quarter southwest about ninety miles, and again they saw land, which is supposed to be the island of Guanaja or Bonacca, near the coast of Honduras.
The Indians on this island had some gold and some pearls. They had seen whites before. Columbus calls them men of good stature. Sailing from this island, he struck the mainland near Truxillo, about ten leagues from the island of Guanaja. He soon found the harbor, which we still know as the harbor of Truxillo, and from this point Columbus began a careful investigation of the coast.
He observed, what all navigators have since observed, the lack of harbors. He passed along as far as the river now known as the Tinto, where he took possession in the name of the sovereigns, calling this river the River of Possession. He found the natives savage, and the country of little account for his purposes. Still passing southward, he passed what we call the Mosquito Coast, to which he found the natives gave the name of Cariay.
These people were well disposed and willing to treat with them. They had some cotton, they had some gold. They wore very little clothing, and they painted their bodies, as most of the natives of the islands had done. He saw what he thought to be pigs and large mountain cats.
Still passing southward, running into such bays or other harbors as they found, he entered the "Admiral's Bay," in a country which had the name of Cerabaro, or Zerabora. Here an Indian brought a plate of gold and some other pieces of gold, and Columbus was, encouraged in his hopes of finding more.
The natives told him that if he would keep on he would find another bay which they called Arburarno, which is supposed to be the Laguna Chiriqui. They said the people, of that country, lived in the mountains. Here Columbus noticed the fact,--one which has given to philologists one of their central difficulties for four hundred years since,--that as he passed from one point to another of the American shores, the Indians did not understand each other's language. "Every ten or twenty leagues they did not understand each other." In entering the river Veragua, the Indians appeared armed with lances and arrows, some of them having gold also. Here, also, the people did not live upon the shore, but two or three leagues back in the interior, and they only came to the sea by their canoes upon the rivers.
The next province was then called Cobraba, but Columbus made no landing for want of a proper harbor. All his courses since he struck the continent had been in a southeasterly direction. That an expedition for westward discovery should be sailing eastward, seemed in itself a contradiction. What irritated the crews still more was, that the wind seemed always against them.
From the second to the ninth of November, 1502, the little fleet lay at anchor in the spacious harbor, which he called Puerto Bello, "the beautiful harbor." It is still known by that name. A considerable Spanish city grew up there, which became well known to the world in the last century by the attack upon it by the English in the years 1739 and 1742.
The formation of the coast compelled them to pass eastward as they went on. But the currents of the Gulf flow in the opposite direction. Here there were steady winds from the east and the northeast. The ships were pierced by the teredo, which eats through thick timbers, and is so destructive that the seamen of later times have learned to sheath the hulls of their vessels with copper.
The seamen thought that they were under the malign influence of some adverse spell. And after a month Columbus gave way to their remonstrances, and abandoned his search for a channel to India. He was the more ready to do this because he was satisfied that the land by which he lay was connected with the coast which other Spaniards had already discovered. He therefore sailed westward again, retracing his course to explore the gold mines of Veragua.
But the winds could change as quickly as his purposes, and now for nearly a fortnight they had to fight a tropical tempest. At one moment they met with a water-spout, which seemed to advance to them directly. The sailors, despairing of human help, shouted passages from St. John, and to their efficacy ascribed their escape. It was not until the seventeenth that they found themselves safely in harbor. He gave to the whole coast the name of "the coast of contrasts," to preserve the memory of his disappointments.
The natives proved friendly, as he had found them before; but they told him that he would find no more gold upon the coast; that the mines were in the country of the Veragua. It was, on the tenth day of January that, after some delay, Columbus entered again the river of that name.
The people told him where he should find the mines, and were all ready to send guides with his own people to point them out. He gave to this river, the name of the River of Belen, and to the port in which he anchored he gave the name of Santa Maria de Belen, or Bethlehem.
His men discovered the mines, so called, at a distance of eight leagues from the port. The country between was difficult, being mountainous and crossed by many streams. They were obliged to pass the river of Veragua thirty-nine times. The Indians themselves were dexterous in taking out gold. Columbus added to their number seventy-five men.
In one day's work, they obtained "two or three castellianos" without much difficulty. A castelliano was a gold coin of the time, and the meaning of the text is probably that each man obtained this amount. It was one of the "placers," such as have since proved so productive in different parts of the world.
Columbus satisfied himself that there was a much larger population inland. He learned from the Indians that the cacique, as he always calls the chief of these tribes, was a most important monarch in that region. His houses were larger than others, built handsomely of wood, covered with palm leaves.
The product of all the gold collected thus far is stated precisely in the official register. There were two hundred and twenty pieces of gold, large and small. Altogether they weighed seventy-two ounces, seven-eighths of an ounce and one grain. Besides these were twelve pieces, great and small, of an inferior grade of gold, which weighed fourteen ounces, three-eighths of an ounce, and six tomienes, a tomiene weighing one-third part of our drachm. In round numbers then, we will say that the result in gold of this cruising would be now worth $1,500.
Columbus collected gold in this way, to make his expedition popular at home, and he had, indeed, mortgaged the voyage, so to speak, by pledging the pecuniary results, as a fund to bear the expense of a new crusade. But, for himself, the prime desire was always discovery.
Eventually the Spaniards spent two months in that region, pressing their explorations in search of gold. And so promising did the tokens seem to him, that he determined to leave his brother, to secure the country and work the mines, while he should return to Spain, with the gold he had collected, and obtain reinforcements and supplies. But all these fond hopes. were disappointed.
The natives, under a leader named Quibian, rallied in large numbers, probably intending to drive the colonists away. It was only by the boldest measures that their plans were met. When Columbus supposed that he had suppressed their enterprise, he took leave of his brother, as he had intended, leaving him but one of the four vessels.
Fortunately, as it proved, the wind did not serve. He sent back a boat to communicate with the settlement, but it fell into the hands of the savages. Doubtful as to the issue, a seaman, named Ledesma, volunteered to swim through the surf, and communicate with the settlement. The brave fellow succeeded. By passing through the surf again, he brought back the news that the little colony was closely besieged by the savages.
It seemed clear that the settlement must be abandoned, that Columbus's brother and his people must be taken back to Spain. This course was adopted. With infinite difficulty, the guns and stores which had been left with the colony were embarked on the vessels of the Admiral. The caravel which had been left for the colony could not be taken from the river. She was completely dismantled, and was left as the only memorial of this unfortunate colony.
At Puerto Bello he was obliged to leave another vessel, for she had been riddled by the teredo. The two which he had were in wretched condition. "They were as full of holes as a honey-comb." On the southern coast of Cuba, Columbus was obliged to supply them with cassava bread. The leaks increased. The ships' pumps were insufficient, and the men bailed out the water with buckets and kettles. On the twentieth of June, they were thankful to put into a harbor, called Puerto Bueno, on the coast of Jamaica, where, as it proved, they eventually left their worthless vessels, and where they were in exile from the world of civilization for twelve months.
Nothing in history is more pathetic than the memory that such a waste of a year, in the closing life of such a man as Columbus, should have been permitted by the jealousy, the cruelty, or the selfish ambition of inferior men.
He was not far from the colony at San Domingo. As the reader will see, he was able to send a message to his countrymen there. But those countrymen left him to take his chances against a strong tribe of savages. Indeed, they would not have been sorry to know that he was dead.
At first, however, he and his men welcomed the refuge of the harbor. It was the port which he had called Santa Gloria, on his first visit there. He was at once surrounded by Indians, ready to barter with them and bring them provisions. The poor Spaniards were hungry enough to be glad of this relief.
Mendez, a spirited sailor, had the oversight of this trade, and in one negotiation, at some distance from the vessels, he bought a good canoe of a friendly chief. For this he gave a brass basin, one of his two shirts, and a short jacket. On this canoe turned their after fortunes. Columbus refitted her, put on a false keel, furnished her with a mast and sail.
With six Indians, whom the chief had lent him, Diego Mendez, accompanied by only one Spanish companion, set sail in this little craft for San Domingo. Columbus sent by them a letter to the sovereigns, which gives the account of the voyage which the reader has been following.
When Mendez was a hundred miles advanced on his journey, he met a band of hostile savages. They had affected friendship until they had the adventurers in their power, when they seized them all. But while the savages were quarreling about the spoils, Mendez succeeded in escaping to his canoe, and returned alone to his master after fifteen days.
It was determined that the voyage should be renewed. But this time, another canoe was sent with that under the command of Mendez. He sailed again, storing his boats with cassava bread and calabashes of water. Bartholomew Columbus, with his armed band, marched along the coast, as the two canoes sailed along the shore.
Waiting then for a clear day, Mendez struck northward, on the passage, which was long for such frail craft, to San Domingo. It was eight months before Columbus heard of them. Of those eight months, the history is of dismal waiting, mutiny and civil war. It is pathetic, indeed, that a little body of men, who had been, once and again, saved from death in the most remarkable way, could not live on a fertile island, in a beautiful climate, without quarrelling with each other.
Two officers of Columbus, Porras and his brother, led the sedition. They told the rest of the crew that the Admiral's hope of relief from Mendez was a mere delusion. They said that he was an exile from Spain, and that he did not dare return to Hispaniola. In such ways they sought to rouse his people against him and his brother. As for Columbus, he was sick on board his vessel, while the two brothers Porras were working against him among his men.
On the second of January, 1504, Francesco de Porras broke into the cabin. He complained bitterly that they were kept to die in that desolate place, and accused the Admiral as if it were his fault. He told Columbus, that they had determined to go back to Spain; and then, lifting his voice, he shouted, "I am for Castile; who will follow me?" The mutinous crew instantly replied that they would do so. Voices were heard which threatened Columbus's life.
His brother, the Adelantado, persuaded Columbus to retire from the crowd and himself assumed the whole weight of the assault. The loyal part of the crew, however, persuaded him to put down his weapon, and on the other hand, entreated Porras and his companions to depart. It was clear enough that they had the power, and they tried to carry out their plans.
They embarked in ten canoes, and thus the Admiral was abandoned by forty-eight of his men. They followed, to the eastward, the route which Mendez had taken. In their lawless way they robbed the Indians of their provisions and of anything else that they needed. As Mendez had done, they waited at the eastern extremity of Jamaica for calm weather. They knew they could not manage the canoes, and they had several Indians to help them.
When the sea was smooth they started; but they had hardly gone four leagues from the land, when the waves began to rise under a contrary wind. Immediately they turned for shore, the canoes were overfreighted, and as the sea rose, frequently shipped water.
The frightened Spaniards threw overboard everything they could spare, retaining their arms only, and a part of their provisions. They even compelled the Indians to leap into the sea to lighten the boats, but, though they were skillful swimmers, they could not pretend to make land by swimming. They kept to the canoes, therefore, and would occasionally seize them to recover breath. The cruel Spaniards cut off their hands and stabbed them with their swords. Thus eighteen of their Indian comrades died, and they had none left, but such as were of most help in managing the canoes. Once on land, they doubted whether to make another effort or to return to Columbus.
Eventually they waited a month, for another opportunity to go to Hispaniola; but this failed as before, and losing all patience, they returned westward, to the commander whom they had insulted, living on the island "by fair means or foul," according as they found the natives friendly or unfriendly.
Columbus, meanwhile, with his half the crew, was waiting. He had established as good order as he could between his men and the natives, but he was obliged to keep a strict watch over such European food as he still had, knowing how necessary it was for the sick men in his number. On the other hand, the Indians, wholly unused to regular work, found it difficult to supply the food which so many men demanded.
The supplies fell off from day to day; the natives no longer pressed down to the harbor; the trinkets, with which food had been bought, had lost their charm; the Spaniards began to fear that they should starve on the shore of an island which, when Columbus discovered it, appeared to be the abode of plenty. It was at this juncture, when the natives were becoming more and more unfriendly, that Columbus justified himself by the tyrant's plea of necessity, and made use of his astronomical science, to obtain a supernatural power over his unfriendly allies.
He sent his interpreter to summon the principal caciques to a conference. For this conference he appointed a day when he knew that a total eclipse of the moon would take place. The chiefs met as they were requested. He told them that he and his followers worshipped a God who lived in the heavens; that that God favored such as did well, but punished all who displeased him.
He asked them to remember how this God had protected Mendez and his companions in their voyage, because they went obedient to the orders which had been given them by their chief. He asked them to remember that the same God had punished Porras and his companions with all sorts of affliction, because they were rebels. He said that now this great God was angry with the Indians, because they refused to furnish food to his faithful worshippers; that he proposed to chastise them with famine and pestilence.
He said that, lest they should disbelieve the warning which he gave, a sign would be given, in the heavens that night, of the anger of the great God. They would see that the moon would change its color and would lose its light. They might take this as a token of the punishment which awaited them.
The Indians had not that confidence in Columbus which they once had. Some derided what he said, some were alarmed, all waited with anxiety and curiosity. When the night came they saw a dark shadow begin to steal over the moon. As the eclipse went forward, their fears increased. At last the mysterious darkness covered the face of the sky and of the world, when they knew that they had a right to expect the glory of the full moon.
There were then no bounds to their terror. They, seized on all the provisions that they had, they rushed to the ships, they threw themselves at the feet of Columbus and begged him to intercede with his God, to withhold the calamity which he had threatened. Columbus would not receive them; he shut himself up in his cabin and remained there while the eclipse increased, hearing from within, as the narrator says, the howls and prayers of the savages.
It was not until he knew the eclipse was about to diminish, that he condescended to come forth, and told them that he had interceded with God, who would pardon them if they would fulfil their promises. In token of pardon, the darkness would be withdrawn from the moon.
The Indians saw the fulfilment of the promise, as they had seen the fulfilment of the threat. The moon reappeared in its brilliancy. They thanked the Admiral eagerly for his intercession, and repaired to their homes. From this time forward, having proved that he knew on earth what was passing in the heavens, they propitiated him with their gifts. The supplies came in regularly, and from this time there was no longer any want of provisions.
But no tales of eclipses would keep the Spaniards quiet. Another conspiracy was formed, as the eight remaining months of exile passed by, among the survivors. They meant to seize the remaining canoes, and with them make their way to Hispaniola. But, at the very point of the outbreak of the new mutiny, a sail was seen standing toward the harbor.
The Spaniards could see that the vessel was small. She kept the offing, but sent a boat on shore. As the boat drew near, those who waited so eagerly recognized Escobar, who had been condemned to death, in Isabella, when Columbus was in administration, and was pardoned by his successor Bobadilla. To see this man approaching for their relief was not hopeful, though he were called a Christian, and was a countryman of their own.
Escobar drew up to the ships, on which the Spaniards still lived, and gave them a letter from Ovando, the new governor of Hispaniola, with some bacon and a barrel of wine, which were sent as presents to the Admiral. He told Columbus, in a private interview, that the governor had sent him to express his concern at his misfortune, and his regret that he had not a vessel of sufficient size to bring off all the people, but that he would send one as soon as possible. He assured him that his concerns in Hispaniola were attended to faithfully in his absence; he asked him to write to the governor in reply, as he wished to return at once.
This was but scant comfort for men who had been eight months waiting to be relieved. But Escobar was master of the position. Columbus wrote a reply at once to Ovando, pointed out that the difficulties of his situation had been increased by the rebellion of the brothers Porras. He, however, expressed his reliance on his promise, and said he would remain patiently on his ships until relief came. Escobar took the letter, returned to his vessel, and she made sail at once, leaving the starving Spaniards in dismay, to the same fate which hung over them before.
Columbus tried to reassure them. He professed himself satisfied with the communications from Ovando, and told them that vessels large enough for them would soon arrive. He said that they could see that he believed this, because he had not himself taken passage with Escobar, preferring to share their lot with them. He had sent back the little vessel at once, so that no time might be lost in sending the necessary ships.
With these assurances he cheered their hearts. In truth, however, he was very indignant at Ovando's cool behavior. That he should have left them for months in danger and uncertainty, with a mere tantalizing message and a scanty present of food--all this naturally made the great leader indignant. He believed that Ovando hoped that he might perish on the island.
He supposed that Ovando thought that this would be favorable for his own political prospects, and he believed that Escobar was sent merely as a spy. This same impression is given by Las Casas, the historian, who was then at San Domingo. He says that Escobar was chosen simply because of his enmity to Columbus, and that he was ordered not to land, nor to hold conversation with any of the crew, nor to receive letters from any except the Admiral.
After Escobar's departure, Columbus sent an embassy on shore to communicate with the rebel party, who were living on the island. He offered to them free pardon, kind treatment, and a passage with him in the ships which he expected from Ovando, and, as a token of good will, he sent them a part of the bacon which Escobar had brought them.
Francesco de Porras met these ambassadors, and replied that they had no wish to return to the ships, but preferred living at large. They offered to engage that they would be peaceable, if the Admiral would promise them solemnly, that, in case two vessels arrived, they should have one to depart in; that if only one vessel arrived they should have half of it, and that the Admiral would now share with them the stores and articles of traffic, which he had left in the ship. But these demands Columbus refused to accept.
Porras had spoken for the rebels, but they were not so well satisfied with the answer. The incident gave occasion for what was almost an outbreak among them. Porras attempted to hold them in hand, by assuring them that there had been no real arrival of Escobar. He told them that there had been no vessel in port; that what had been seen was a mere phantasm conjured up by Columbus, who was deeply versed in necromancy.
He reminded them that the vessel arrived just in the edge of the evening; that it communicated with Columbus only, and then disappeared in the night. Had it been a real vessel would he not have embarked, with his brother and his son? Was it not clear that it was only a phantom, which appeared for a moment and then vanished?
Not satisfied, however, with his control over his men, he marched them to a point near the ships, hoping to plunder the stores and to take the Admiral prisoner. Columbus, however, had notice of the approach of this marauding party, and his brother and fifty followers, of whose loyalty he was sure, armed themselves and marched to meet them. The Adelantado again sent ambassadors, the same whom he had sent before with the offer of pardon, but Porras and his companions would not permit them to approach.
They determined to offer battle to the fifty loyal men, thinking to attack and kill the Adelantado himself. They rushed upon him and his party, but at the first shock four or five of them were killed.
The Adelantado, with his own hand, killed Sanchez, one of the most powerful men among the rebels. Porras attacked him in turn, and with his sword cut his buckler and wounded his hand. The sword, however, was wedged in the shield, and before Porras could withdraw it, the Adelantado closed upon him and made him prisoner. When the rebels saw this result of the conflict, they fled in confusion.
The Indians, meanwhile, amazed at this conflict among men who had descended from heaven, gazed with wonder at the battle. When it was over, they approached the field, and looked with amazement on the dead bodies of the beings whom they had thought immortal. It is said, however, that at the mere sound of a groan from one of the wounded they fled in dismay.
The Adelantado returned in triumph to the ships. He brought with him his prisoners. Only two of his party had been wounded, himself and his steward. The next day the remaining fugitives sent in a petition to the Admiral, confessing their misdeeds and asking for pardon.
He saw that their union was broken; he granted their prayer, on the single condition that Francesco de Porras should remain a prisoner. He did not receive them on board the ships, but put them under the command of a loyal officer, to whom he gave a sufficient number of articles for trade, to purchase food of the natives.
This battle, for it was such, was the last critical incident in the long exile of the Spaniards, for, after a year of hope and fear, two vessels were seen standing into the harbor. One of them was a ship equipped, at Columbus's own expense, by the faithful Mendez; the other had been fitted out afterwards by Ovando, but had sailed in company with the first vessel of relief.
It would seem that the little public of Isabella had been made indignant by Ovando's neglect, and that he had been compelled, by public opinion to send another vessel as a companion to that sent by Mendez. Mendez himself, having seen the ships depart, went to Spain in the interest of the Admiral.
With the arrival at Puerto Bueno, in Jamaica, of the two relief vessels, Columbus's chief sufferings and anxiety were over. The responsibility, at least, was in other hands. But the passage to San Domingo consumed six tedious weeks. When he arrived, however, it was to meet one of his triumphs. He could hardly have expected it.
But his sufferings, and the sense of wrong that he had suffered, had, in truth, awakened the regard of the people of the colony. Ovando took him as a guest to his house. The people received him with distinction.
He found little to gratify him, however. Ovando, had ruled the poor natives with a rod of iron, and they were wretched. Columbus's own affairs had been neglected, and he could gain no relief from the governor. He spent only a month on the island, trying, as best he could, to bring some order into the administration of his own property; and then, on the twelfth of September, 1504, sailed for Spain.
Scarcely had the ship left harbor when she was dismasted in a squall. He was obliged to cross to another ship, under command of his brother, the Adelantado. She also was unfortunate. Her mainmast was sprung in a storm, and she could not go on until the mast was shortened.
In another gale the foremast was sprung, and it was only on the seventh of November that the shattered and storm-pursued vessel arrived at San Lucar. Columbus himself had been suffering, through the voyage, from gout and his other maladies. The voyage was, indeed, a harsh experience for a sick man, almost seventy years old.
He went at once to Seville, to find such rest as he might, for body and mind.