THE CONQUEST OF INDIA, AND OF THE SPICE COUNTRIES, II
This numerous fleet, after having stopped at the Cape de Verd Islands and discovered Cape St. Augustine in Brazil, steered directly for the unexplored parts of the South Atlantic, and went so far south that the old chroniclers assert that several sailors being too lightly clad died from cold, while the others were scarcely able to work the ships. In 37° 8' south latitude, and 14° 21' west longitude, Da Cunha discovered three small uninhabited islands, of which the largest still bears his name. A storm prevented a landing there, and so completely dispersed the fleet that the admiral could not get his vessels together again before he arrived at Mozambique. In sailing along this African coast he explored the island of Madagascar or Sam-Lorenzo, which had just been discovered by Soarez, who was in command of eight vessels which Almeida was sending back to Europe; it was not thought advisable to make a settlement upon the island.
After having wintered at Mozambique, Da Cunha landed three ambassadors at Melinda, who were to reach Abyssinia by travelling overland, then he anchored at Brava, which Coutinho, one of his lieutenants had been unable to subjugate. The Portuguese now laid siege to this town, which resisted bravely but which yielded in the end, thanks to the courage of the enemy and the perfection of their arms. The population was massacred without mercy, and the town pillaged and burnt. Upon Magadoxo, another town on the African Coast, Cunha tried but in vain, to impose his authority. The strength of the town and the stubborn resolution shown by the numerous population as well as the approach of winter forced him to raise the siege. He then turned his arms against Socotra, at the entrance of the Gulf of Aden, where he carried the fortress. The whole of the garrison were put to the sword, the only man spared being an old blind soldier, who was discovered hidden in a well. When asked how he had been able to get down there, he answered,—"The blind only see the road which leads to liberty." At Socotra, the two Portuguese chiefs constructed the fort of Çoco, intended by Albuquerque to command the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, by the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, thus cutting one of the lines of communication with the Indies, which was the most used by the Venetians.
Here Da Cunha and Albuquerque separated, the former going to India to obtain a cargo of spices, the latter officially invested with the title of Capitam mõr, and bent on the realization of his vast schemes, setting out on the 10th of August, 1507, for Ormuz, having left his nephew Alfonzo da Noronha in charge of the new fortress. He took in succession, and as if to get his hand in for the work, Calayati, where were found immense stores, Curiaty and Mascati, which he gave up to pillage, fire, and destruction, in order to avenge a series of acts of treachery easily understood by those who know the duplicity of these eastern people. The success which he had just gained at Mascati, important as it was, did not content Albuquerque. He dreamed of other and grander projects, of which the execution was, however, much compromised by the jealousy of the captains under his orders, and notably of Joao da Nova, who contemplated abandoning his chief, and whom Albuquerque was obliged to place under arrest on board his own ship. After having suppressed these beginnings of disobedience and rebellion, the Capitam mõr reached Orfacati, which was taken after a vigorous resistance.
It is a curious fact that Albuquerque had long heard Ormuz spoken of, but that as yet he was ignorant of its position. He knew that this town served as an entrepôt for all the merchandise passing from Asia into Europe. Its riches and power, the number of its inhabitants and the beauty of its monuments were at that time celebrated throughout the East, so much so that there was a common saying, "If the world be a ring, Ormuz is the precious stone set in it." Albuquerque had resolved to take this town, not only because in itself it was a prize worth having, but also because it commanded the whole of the Persian Gulf, which was the second of the great commercial roads between the East and West. Without saying anything to the captains of his fleet, who, without doubt, would have rebelled at the idea of attacking so strong a town, and the capital of a powerful empire, Albuquerque gave orders to double Cape Mussendom, and the fleet soon entered the Strait of Ormuz, the door of the Persian Gulf, from whence was seen rising in all its magnificence a busy town built upon a rocky island, provided with formidable artillery, and protected by an army amounting to not less than from fifteen to twenty thousand men, while its harbour enclosed a fleet more numerous than could have been suspected at first sight. At this sight the captains made urgent representations upon the danger that Albuquerque would run in attacking so well-prepared a town, and made the most of the plea how very bad an influence a reverse would exercise. To this discourse Albuquerque answered, that indeed "it was a very great affair, but that it was too late to draw back, and that he had greater need of determination than of good advice."