THE CONQUEST OF INDIA, AND OF THE SPICE COUNTRIES, II
|Cabral takes formal possession of Brazil.|
It was the 2nd of May when the fleet lost sight of Brazil. All on board, rejoicing over this happy commencement of the voyage, believed in the prospect of an easy and rapid success, when the appearance of a brilliant comet on eight consecutive days struck the ignorant and simple minds of the sailors with terror; they considered it must be a bad omen, and for this once events appeared to justify superstition. A fearful storm arose, waves mountains high broke over the ships, whilst the wind blew furiously and rain fell without ceasing. When the sun at length succeeded in piercing the thick curtain of clouds which almost entirely intercepted his rays, a horrible scene was disclosed. The water looked thick and black, large patches of a livid white colour flecked the foaming, crested waves, while during the night phosphorescent lights, streaking the immense plain of water, marked out the course of the ships with a train of fire. For two-and-twenty days, without truce or mercy, the Portuguese ships were battered by the furious elements. The terrified sailors were utterly prostrate; they vainly exhausted their prayers and vows, and obeyed the orders of their officers only from the force of habit; from the first day they had given up any hope of their lives being spared, and only awaited the moment when they should all be submerged. When light at length returned and the billows became calm, each crew, thinking themselves to be perhaps the sole survivors, looked eagerly over the sea in search of their companions. Three ships met together again with a joy which the sad reality soon abated. Eight vessels were missing; four had been engulfed by a gigantic water-spout during the last days of the storm. One of these had been commanded by Bartholomew Diaz, the discoverer of the Cape of Good Hope: he had been drowned by these murderous waves, the defenders, according to Camoens, of the empire of the east against the nations of the west, who had for so many centuries coveted her marvellous riches.
During this long series of storms the Cape had been doubled and the fleet was approaching the coast of Africa. On the 20th of July Mozambique was signalled. The Moors of this place showed a more agreeable disposition than they had done when Gama was there, and furnished the Portuguese with two pilots, who conducted them to Quiloa, an island famed for the trade in gold-dust which was carried on with Sofala. There Cabral found two of the missing ships, which had been driven to this island by the wind. A plot was on foot in Quiloa for a wholesale massacre of the Europeans, but this was frustrated by a prompt departure from the island, and the ships arrived at Melinda without any untoward incident. The stay of the fleet in this port was the occasion of fêtes and rejoicings without number, and soon, revictualled, repaired, and furnished with excellent pilots, the Portuguese vessels sailed for Calicut, where they arrived on the 13th of December, 1500.
|View of Quiloa.
From an old print.
This time, thanks to the power of their arms as well as to the richness of the presents offered to the Zamorin, the reception was different, and the versatile prince agreed to all the demands of Cabral: namely, a monopoly of the trade in aromatics and spicery, and the right of seizure upon all vessels which should infringe this privilege. For some time the Moors dissembled their resentment, but when they had succeeded in thoroughly exasperating the population against the foreigners, they rushed at a given signal into the factory which was under the direction of Ayrès Correa, and massacred fifty of the Portuguese, whom they surprised in it. Vengeance for this outrage was not slow; ten boats moored in the port were taken, pillaged, and burnt before the eyes of the Hindoos, who were powerless to render opposition; afterwards the town was bombarded, and was half-buried under its ruins.
When this affair was concluded, Cabral, continuing the exploration of the Malabar coast, arrived at Cochin, where the Rajah, a vassal of the Zamorin, hastened to conclude an alliance with the Portuguese, eagerly seizing this opportunity to declare himself independent. Although by this time his fleet was richly laden, Cabral made a visit to Cananore, where he entered into a treaty with the Rajah of the country; then, being impatient to return home, he set sail for Europe. While coasting along that shore of Africa, which is washed by the Indian Ocean, he discovered Sofala, a place which had escaped the observation of Gama. On the 13th of July, 1501, Cabral arrived at Lisbon, where he had the joy of finding the two remaining ships which he had imagined to be lost.
It is pleasant to believe that he received the welcome merited by the important results obtained in this memorable expedition. Although contemporary historians are silent upon the incidents of his life after his return, recent research has been rewarded by the discovery of his tomb at Santarem, and M. Ferdinand Denis has happily proved that, like Vasco da Gama, he received the title of Dom as a reward for his glorious deeds.