CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, 1436-1506, V
"'O foolish man! why such unwillingness to believe in and to serve thy God, the God of the Universe? What did He more for Moses His servant, and for David? Since thy birth, has He not had for thee the most tender solicitude; and when he saw thee of an age in which His designs for thee could be matured, has He not made thy name resound gloriously through the world? Has He not bestowed upon thee the Indies, the richest part of the earth? Has He not set thee free to make an offering of them to Him according to thine own will? Who but He has lent thee the means of executing His designs? Bounds were placed at the entrance of the ocean; they were formed of chains which could not be broken through. To thee were given the keys. Thy power was recognized in distant lands, and thy glory was proclaimed by all Christians. Did God even show Himself more favourable to the people of Israel, when He rescued them from Egypt? Did He favour David more, when from a shepherd boy He made him king of Judah? Turn to Him, confessing thy fault, for His compassion is infinite. Thine old age will prove no obstacle in the great actions which await thee: He holds in His hands a heritage the most brilliant. Was not Abraham a hundred years old, and had not Sarah already passed the flower of her youth when Isaac was born? Thou seekest an uncertain help. Answer me: who has exposed thee so often to so many dangers? Is it God, or the world? God never withholds the blessings promised to His servants. It is not His manner after receiving a service to pretend that His intentions have not been carried out, and to give a new interpretation to His desires; it is not He who seeks to give to arbitrary acts a favourable colour. His words are to be taken literally; all that He promises He gives with usury. Thus does He ever. I have told thee all that the Creator has done for thee; at this very moment He is showing thee the prize and the reward of the perils and sufferings to which thou hast been exposed in the service of thy fellow-men.' And I listened to this voice, overcome though I were with suffering; but I could not muster strength to reply to these assured promises; I contented myself by deploring my fault with tears. The voice concluded with these words:—'Take confidence, hope on; the record of thy labours will, with justice, be engraved on marble.'"
Columbus, as soon as he recovered, was anxious to leave this coast. He had desired to found a colony here, but his crews were not sufficiently numerous to justify the risk of leaving a part of them on land. The four caravels were full of worm-holes, and one of them had to be left behind at Bethlehem. On Easter day the admiral put to sea, but scarcely had he gone ninety miles before a leak was discovered in one of the ships; it was necessary to steer for the coast with all speed, and happily Porto-Bello was reached in safety, where the ship was abandoned, her injuries being irreparable. The flotilla consisted now of but two caravels, without boats, almost without provisions, and with 7000 miles of ocean to traverse. It sailed along the coast, passed the port of El Retrete, discovered the group of islands called the Mulatas, and at length entered the Gulf of Darien. This was the farthest point east reached by Columbus.
On the 1st of May the admiral steered for Hispaniola; by the 10th he was in sight of the Cayman Islands, but he found it impossible to make head against the winds which drove him to the north-west nearly as far as Cuba. There, while in shallow water, he encountered a storm, during which anchors and sails were carried away, and the two ships came into collision during the night. The hurricane then drove them southwards, and the admiral at length reached Jamaica with his shattered vessels, casting anchor on the 23rd of June in the harbour of San-Gloria, now called the bay of Don Christopher. Columbus wished to have gone to Hispaniola, where he would have found the stores needful for revictualling the ships, resources which were absolutely wanting in Jamaica; but his two caravels, full of worm-holes, "like to bee-hives," could not without danger attempt the ninety miles' voyage; the question now arose, how to send a message to Ovando, the governor of Hispaniola.
|The Admiral is obliged to run the caravels aground.|
The caravels let in water in every direction, and the admiral was obliged to run them aground; he then tried to organize a life in common upon shore. The Indians at first gave him assistance, and furnished the crews with the provisions of which they were in need, but the miserable and much tried sailors showed resentment against the admiral; they were ready for revolt, while the unfortunate Columbus, exhausted by illness, was confined to a bed of pain. It was in these trying circumstances that two brave officers, Mendez and Fieschi, proposed to the admiral to attempt to cross from Jamaica to Hispaniola in Indian canoes. This was in reality a voyage of six hundred miles, for it was necessary to row along the coast as far as the port where the colony was established. But these courageous officers were ready to face every peril, when it was a question of saving their companions. Columbus, appreciating the boldness of a proposal, which under other circumstances he would himself have been the first to make, gave the required permission to Mendez and Fieschi, who set out, while he, without ships, almost without provisions, remained with his crew upon this uncultivated island.