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mense sum at that period, and would have been sufficient to sereen them from punishinent, and secure them a gracious reception at the Spanish court.
One of the ships that escaped had on board all the effects of Columbus, which had been recovered from the wreck of his fortune. Historians, universally attribute this event to an immediate interposition of divine Providence, in order to avenge the wrongs of an injured man, as well as to punish the oppressors of an innocent people. The ignorant and suprestitious formed an opinion, which the vulgar are apt to entertain with respect to persons acting in a sphere far above their comprehension ; they believed Columbus to possess superaatural powers, and that he had conjured up this dreadful storm by magical art, and incantations, in order to be revenged on his enemies.
The inhospitable reception which Columbus met with at Hispaniola hastened his departure for the continent. He set sail July 14th, 1502, and after a tedious and dangerous voyage, he discovered Guanara, an island not far from Honduras. There he had an interview with some of the inhabitants, who arrived in a large canoe. They appeared more civilized, and had acquired more knowledge in the arts than any he had hitherto conversed with. .
In return to the eager inquiries of the Spaniards concerning the places where they got the gold, of which their ornaments were made, they directed them to countries situated to the west, which they described as abounding in that precious metal, in such profusion as to be made use of in common domestic materials.
Instead of steering in search of a country so inviting, which would have conducied them along the coast of Yucatan, to the rich empire of Mexico, Columbus was so intent upon his favourite scheme of discovering that inlet to the Indian ocean, that he bore away to the east towards the gulf of Darien. :
In this navigation he discuvered all the coast of the continent, from cape Gracios a Dios, to a harbour which for its beauty and security, he named Puerto Bello. He searched in vain for the imaginary strait or inlet, through which he expected to make his way into an unknown sea : and though he went on shore several times, and advanced into the country, he did not penetrate so far as to cross the narrow isthmus which separates the gulf of Mexico from the great southern ocean.
He was, however, so delighted with the country, and conceived such an idea of its wealth, from the specimens of gold produced by the natives, that he resolved to leave a small colony upon the river Belem, in the province of Veragua, under the command of his brother, and to return himself to Spain, in order to procure what was requisite to render it a permanent establishment. But the ungovernable spirit of the people under his command, deprived Columbus of the glory of planting the first colony on the continent of America.
Their insolence and rapaciousness provoked the natives to take arms, and as they were a more hardy and warlike race of men than the inhabitants of the islands, they cut off a part of the Spaniards, and obliged the rest to abandon a station they were no longer able to maintain.
This was not the only misfortune that befel Columbus: it was followed by a succession of disasters. Furious hurricanes, with violent storms of thunder and lightning, threatened his leaky vessels with destruction; while his disconsolate crew, exhausted with fatigue, and destitute of provisions, were unwilling, or unable, to execute his commands. One of his ships was lost; he was obliged to abandon another totally unfit for service; and with the two which remained, he quitted that part of the continent, which, in his anguish, he named the coast of vexation, and bore away for Hispaniola.
New distresses awaited him in this voyage; he was driven back by a violent tempest from the coast of Cuba; his ships fell foul of each other, and were so much shattered by the shock, that with the utmost difficulty they reached Jamaica, where he was obliged to run them aground, to prevent them from sinking. The measure of his calamities seemed now to be full. He was cast on shore upon an island, at a considerable distance from the only settlement of the Spaniards in America. His ships were disabled beyond the possibility of repair. To convey an account of his situation to Hispaniola, seemed impracticable; and with. out this it was in vain to expect relief. His genius, ever fertile in resources, and most vigorous in those perilous extremities, when weak minds abandon themselves to despair, discovered the only expedient which afforded any prospect of deliverance. He had recourse to the hospitality of the natives, who, considering the Spaniards as superior beings, were eager, on all occasions, to administer to their wants; from them he obtained two of their canoes; in these, which were only fit for creeping along the coast, or crossing from one bay to another, Mendez, a Spaniard, and Fieschi, a Genoese, two gentiemen particularly attached to Columbus, gallantly offered to set out for Hispaniola: a voyage of above thirty leagues. This they accomplished in ten days, after encoun. tering incredible dangers, and such fatigue, that several of the Indians, who accompanied them, sunk under it and died.
The attention paid then by the governor of Hispaniola, was neither such as their courage merited, or the distress of Columbus and his associates required. · Ovando, from a mean jealousy of Columbus, was afraid of permitting him to set his foot on the island under his government.
This ungenerous passion absorbed every tender sentiment for the misfortunes of that great man; and his own fellow citizens were involved in the same calamity. Mendez and Fieschi, spent eight months in fruitless petitions, and seeking relief for their commander and associates.
During this period, the inind of Columbus was agitated by various passions. At first the speedy deliverance expected from the success of Mendez and Fieschi's voyage, cheered the spirits of the most desponding; after some time, they began to suspect that they had miscarried in the attempt. Ai length they all concluded, that Mendez and Fieschi had perished.
Hope, the last resource of the wretched, now forsook them, and made their situation appear more dismal. The only alternative that appeared, was to end their miserable days among naked savages, far from their native country and friends. The seamen, transported with rage, rose in open mutiny, threatened the life of Columbus, whom they reproached as the author of their calamities; seized ten canoes, which he had purchased of the Indians, and despising his remonstrances and entreaties, made off with them to a distant part of the island. At the same time, the natives murmured at the long residence of the Spaniards in their country.
Like their neighbours, in Hispaniola, they considered the supporting so many strangers to be an intolerable burden. They brought in provisions with reluctance, and with a sparing hand, and threatened to withdraw these supplies altogether. Such a resolution would have been fatal to the Spaniards. Their safety depended upon the good-will of the natives; and, unless they could revive the admiration and reverence with which these sim, ple people at first beheld them, destruction appeared unavoidable.
Though the disorderly proceedings of the mutineers had, in a great measure, effaced those favourable impressions, the ingenui. ty of Columbus suggested an artifice that completely answered their purpose; and not only restored, but encreased, the high opinion which the Indians had formerly conceived of thein.
By his skill in astronomy, he knew there would be a total eclipse of the moon. He assembled all the principal persons of the district around him, on the day before it happened; and after reproaching them for their fickleness, in withd, awing their affection and assistance from men, whom they lately had severed, he told them the Spaniards were servants to the great Spirit, who dwells in heaven, who made and governed the world, that he was offended at their refusing to support men who were the objects of his peculiar favour; was preparing to punish this crime with exemplary severity; and that very night the moon should withhold her light, and appear of a bloody hue, as a sign of Divine wrath, and an emblem of the vengeance ready to fall on them.
To this marvellous prediction some of them listened with care. Jess indifference, others with credulous astonishment. But when the moon began gradually to be darkened, and at length appeared of a red colour, all were struck with terror. They ran with consternation to their houses, and returning instantly to Columbus, loaded with provisions, threw them at his feet, conjuring him to intercede with the great Spirit to avert the destruction with which they were threatened. Columbus, seeming to be moved by their entreaties, promised to comply with their desire.
The eclipse went off, the moon recovered its splendour, and from that day the Spaniards were not only profusely furnished with provisions, but the Indians avoided every thing that could give them offence; and paid a superstitious aitention to them as long as they staid upon the island.
During these transactions, the mutineers, enraged at their dis appointments, marched to that part of the island where Columbus remained, threatening him with new dangers and insults. While they were advancing, an event more cruel and afflicting than any which he dreaded from them, bappened. The governor of Hispaniola, still under the influence of dark suspicions, sent a small bark to Jamaica, not to relieve Columbus, or deliver his distressed countrymen, but to spy out their condition.
Fearing the sympathy of those whom he sent would operate too powerfully in favour of their countrymen, he sent Escobar, an inveterate enemy of Columbus, who adhered to his instructions with malignant accuracy: cast anchor at some distance from the island, approached the shore in a small boat, took a view of the wretched state of the Spaniards, delivered a letter of empty compliment to the admiral, received his answer, and departed.
When the Spaniards first descried the vessel standing towards the island, every heart exulted, expecting the hour of their deJiverance had arrived; but when the vessel disappeared, they sunk into the deepest dejection, and all their hopes were lost. Columbus alone, though he felt this wanton insult, retained such composure as to be able to cheer his followers. He assured them that Mendez and Fieschi had reached Hispaniola in safety; and that they would speedily procure ships to carry them off'; and as Escobar's vessel could not carry them all, he had refused to go with her, because he was determined not to abandon his faithful companions in distress; soothed with the expectation of speedy deliverance, and delighted with his apparent generosity, in attending more to their preservation than his own, their spirits revived, and he regained their confidence.
The mutineers were now at hand. All his endeavours to re. elaim those desperadoes, had no effect, but to encrease their phrenzy. Their demands became more extravagant, and their intentions more violent and bloody. It became necessary to oppose them with open forcs.
Columbus, who had been long afflicted with the gout, could not take Yeld. His brother, the Adelantado, marched against them. dey quickly met. The mutineers rejected with scorn, all offers of accommodation, and rushed on boldly to the attack. They were repulsed at the first onset, and several of their most daring leaders were siain. The Adelantado, whose strength was equal to his courage, closed with their captain, wounded, disarmed him, and made him a prisoner. This disconcerted the rest, who fled with a dastardly fear, equal to their former insolence. Soon after, they submitted in a body to Columbus, and bound themselves in the most solemn oaths, to submit to his commands.
Hardly was tranquility established, when the ships appeared, whose arrival Columbus had promised. With transports of joy, the Spaniards quitted an island, in which the mean jealousy of Ovando had suffered them to languish above a year, exposed to misery in various forms.
When they arrived at St. Domingo, the fourteenth of August, 1504, the governor, with that mean artifice usually attending vulgar minds, that labours to atone for insolence, with servility now fawned on the man he had attempted to ruin. He received Columbus with the most studied respect, lodged him in his own house, and distinguished him with every mark of honour. But, amidst those overacted demonstrations of regard, he could not conceal the maiignity latent in his heart. He set at liberty the captain of the mutineers, whom Columbus had brought over in chains, to be tried for his crimes, and threatened those who had adhered to the admiral, with proceeding to judicial inquiry into their conduct.
Columbus submitted in silence to what he could not redress; but was impatient to quit a country under the jurisdiction of a man who had treated him with such inhumanity and injustice. His preparations were soon finished, and he set sail for Spain with two ships. Disasters still continued to accompany him; one of his vessels was so disabled, as to be forced back to St. Domingo; the other, shattered by violent storms, sailed seven hundred leagues with jury masts, and reached, with difficulty, the port of Lucar.
There he received an account of an event, the most dicouraging that could have happened. This was the death of his på. troness, queen Isabella, in whose justice, humanity, and tavour he confided, as his last resource. Not one was now left to redress his wrongs, or to reward him for his services and sufferings, but Ferdinand, who had so long opposed, and so often had injura ed him. To solicit a prioce, prejudiced against him, was irksome and hopeless. In this, however, was Columbus doomed to employ the close of his days,