JEAN DE BÉTHENCOURT, 1339-1425, I

It will be remembered that Berthin de Berneval had been left in command of the fort on Lancerota Island. Unfortunately he was Gadifer's bitter enemy, and no sooner had Béthencourt set out than he tried to poison the minds of Gadifer's men against him; he succeeded in inducing some, especially the Gascons, to revolt against the governor, who, quite innocent of Berneval's base designs, was spending his time hunting sea-wolves on the island of Lobos with Remonnet de Levéden and several others. Remonnet having been sent to Lancerota for provisions, found no Berneval there, he having deserted the island with his accomplices for a port on Graziosa, where a coxswain, deceived by his promises, had placed his vessel at his disposal. From Graziosa, the traitor Berneval returned to Lancerota, and put the finishing stroke to his villany by pretending to make an alliance with the king of the island. The king, thinking that no officer of Béthencourt's, in whom he had implicit confidence, could deceive him, came with twenty-four of his subjects to see Berneval, who seized them when asleep, had them bound, and then carried them off to Graziosa. The king managed to break his bonds, set three of his men free, and succeeded in escaping, but the remainder of his unfortunate companions were still prisoners, and Berneval gave them up to some Spanish thieves, who took them away to sell in a foreign land.

Berneval's evil deeds did not stop here. By his order the vessel that Gadifer had sent to the fort at Lancerota was seized; Remonnet tried resistance, but his numbers were too small, and his supplications were useless to prevent Berneval's men, and even Berneval himself, from destroying all the arms, furniture, and goods, which Béthencourt had placed in the fort at Lancerota. Insults were showered upon the governor, and Berneval cried, "I should like Gadifer de la Salle to know that if he were as young as I, I would kill him, but as he is not, I will spare him. If he is put above me I shall have him drowned, and then he can fish for sea-wolves."

Meanwhile, Gadifer and his ten companions were in danger of perishing on the island of Lobos for want of food and fresh water, but happily the two chaplains of the fort of Lancerota had gone to Graziosa, and met the coxswain, who had been the victim of Berneval's treason, and he sent one of his men named Ximenes with them back to Lancerota. There they found a small boat which they filled with provisions, and embarking with four men who were faithful to Gadifer, they succeeded in reaching Lobos, four leagues off, after a most dangerous passage.

Gadifer and his companions were suffering fearfully from hunger and thirst, when Ximenes arrived just in time to save them from perishing, and the governor learning Berneval's treachery embarked in the boat for Lancerota, as soon as he was a little restored to health. He was grieved at Berneval's conduct towards the poor islanders whom Béthencourt and he had sworn to protect. No! he never could have expected such wickedness in one who was looked upon as the most able of the whole band.

But what was Berneval doing meanwhile? After having betrayed his master, he did the same to the companions who had aided him in his evil deeds; he had twelve of them killed and then he set out for Spain to rejoin Béthencourt and make his own case good by representing all that had happened in his own way. It was to his interest to get rid of inconvenient witnesses, and therefore he abandoned his companions. These unfortunate men at first meditated imploring the pardon of the governor; they confessed all to the chaplains, but then, fearing the consequences of their deeds, they seized a boat and fled towards Morocco. The boat reached the coast of Barbary, where ten of the crew were drowned and the two others taken for slaves.

While all this was happening at Lancerota, Béthencourt arrived at Cadiz, where he took strong measures against his mutinous crew, and had the ringleaders imprisoned. Then he sent his vessel to Seville, where King Henry III. was at that time; but the ship sank in the Guadalquiver, a great loss to Gadifer, her owner.

Béthencourt having arrived at Seville, met a certain Francisque Calve who had lately come from the Canaries, and who offered to return thither with all the things needed by the governor, but Béthencourt could not agree to this proposal before he had seen the king.

Just at this time, Berneval arrived with some of his accomplices, and some islanders whom he intended to sell as slaves. He hoped to be able to deceive Béthencourt, but he had not reckoned upon a certain Courtille who was with him, who lost no time in denouncing the villany of Berneval, and on whose word the traitors were all imprisoned at Cadiz. Courtille also told of the treatment that the poor islanders had received; as Béthencourt could not leave Seville till he had had an audience with the king, he gave orders that they should receive every kindness, but while these preliminaries were being concluded, the vessel that contained them was taken to Aragon, and they were sold for slaves.