THE CONQUEST OF INDIA, AND OF THE SPICE COUNTRIES, II
By degrees and with the course of years the knowledge of these rich countries had increased. Much information had been gathered together by all those who had ploughed these sunny seas in their gallant vessels, and it was now known what was the centre of production of those spices which people went so far to seek, and for whose acquisition they encountered so many perils. It was already several years since Almeida had founded the first Portuguese factories in Ceylon, the ancient Taprobane. The Islands of Sunda, and the Peninsula of Malacca, were now exciting the desires of King Emmanuel, who had already been surnamed "the fortunate." He resolved to send a fleet to explore them, for Albuquerque had enough to do in India to restrain the trembling Rajahs, and the Mussulmen—Moors as they were then called—who were always ready to shake off the yoke. This new expedition was under the command of Diego Lopez Sequeira, and according to the traditional policy of the Moors, was at first amicably received at Malacca; but when the suspicions of Lopez Sequeira had been lulled to sleep by reiterated protestations of alliance, the whole population suddenly rose against him, and he was forced to return on board, but not without leaving thirty of his companions in the hands of the Malays. These events had already happened some time when the news of the taking of Goa arrived at Malacca. The bendarra, or Minister of Justice, who exercised regal power in the name of his nephew who was still a child, fearing the vengeance which the Portuguese would doubtless exact for his treachery, resolved to pacify them. He went to visit his prisoners, excused himself to them by swearing that all had been done unknown to him and against his will, for he desired nothing so much as to see the Portuguese establish themselves in Malacca; also he was about to order the authors of the treason to be sought out and punished. The prisoners naturally gave no credence to these lying declarations, but profiting by the comparative liberty which was henceforth granted to them, they cleverly succeeded in conveying to Albuquerque some valuable information upon the position and strength of the town.
Albuquerque with much trouble collected a fleet of nineteen men of war, carrying fourteen hundred men, amongst whom there were only eight hundred Portuguese. This being the case, ought he to venture in obedience to the wish of King Emmanuel to steer for Aden, the key of the Red Sea, which it was important to master in preparation for opposing the passage of a new squadron, which the Sultan of Egypt was intending to send to India? Albuquerque hesitated, when a change in the trade-winds occurred which put an end to his irresolution. In fact, it was impossible to reach Aden in the teeth of the prevailing wind, while it was favourable for a descent upon Malacca. This town, at that time in its full splendour, did not contain less than 100,000 inhabitants. If many of the houses were built of wood, and roofed with the leaves of the palm-tree, yet they were equalled in number by the more important buildings, such as mosques and towers built of stone, which stretched out in a long panorama for the distance of three miles. The ships of India, China, and of the Malay kingdoms of the Sunda Islands, met in its harbour, where numerous vessels coming from the Malabar coast, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the coast of Africa traded in merchandise of all kinds and of every country.
When the Rajah of Malacca saw the Portuguese fleet arrive in his waters, he felt that it was necessary to appear to give satisfaction to the foreigners by sacrificing the minister who had excited their anger and caused their arrival. His ambassador therefore came to the viceroy to announce the death of the bendarra, and to find out what were the intentions of the Portuguese. Albuquerque answered by demanding the prisoners who had remained in the hands of the Rajah, but the latter, desirous of gaining time to allow for the expected change in the trade-wind,—a change which would force the Portuguese to regain the Malabar coast, or else would oblige them to remain at Malacca, where he hoped to be able to exterminate them,—invented a thousand pretexts for delay, and in the meantime according to the old narratives, he prepared a battery of 8000 cannon, and collected troops to the number of 20,000. At length Albuquerque lost his patience, and ordered some houses and several Gujerat vessels to be set on fire, a beginning of execution which speedily brought about the restoration of the prisoners; he then claimed 20,000 crusades as indemnity for the damage caused to the fleet of Lopez Sequeira, and finally he demanded to be allowed to build a fortress within the town itself, which should also serve as a counting-house for the merchants. This demand could not be complied with as Albuquerque well knew; but upon the refusal he resolved to seize the town, fixing upon St. James' day for the attack. The town was taken quarter by quarter, house by house, after a truly heroic struggle and a most vigorous defence, which lasted for nine whole days, notwithstanding the employment of extraordinary devices, such as elephants of war, poisoned sabres and arrows, barricades, and skilfully concealed troops. An enormous booty was divided amongst the soldiers, Albuquerque only reserving to himself six lions, of gold according to some accounts, of iron according to others, which he intended for the adornment of his tomb, to perpetuate the memory of his victory.