JEAN DE BÉTHENCOURT, 1339-1425, I

Béthencourt obtained the audience that he sought with the king of Castille, and after telling him the result of his expedition he said, "Sire, I come to ask your assistance and your leave to conquer the Canary Islands for the Catholic faith, and as you are king and lord of all the surrounding country, and the nearest Christian king to these islands, I beg you to receive the homage of your humble servant." The king was very gracious to him and gave him dominion over these islands, and beyond this, a fifth of all the merchandise that should be brought from them to Spain. He gave him 20,000 maravédis, about 600l., to buy all that he needed, and also the right to coin money in the Canary Islands. Most unfortunately these 20,000 maravédis were confided to the care of a dishonest man, who fled to France, carrying the money with him.

However, Henry III. gave Béthencourt a well-rigged vessel manned by eighty men, and stocked with provisions, arms, &c. He was most grateful for this fresh bounty, and sent Gadifer an account of all that had happened, and his extreme disappointment and disgust at Berneval's conduct, in whom he had so much confidence, announcing at the same time the speedy departure of the vessel given by the King of Castille.

Plan of Jerusalem
Plan of Jerusalem.

But meanwhile very serious troubles had arisen on Lancerota. King Guardafia was so hurt at Berneval's conduct that he had revolted, and some of Gadifer's companions had been killed by the islanders. Gadifer insisted upon these subjects being punished, when one of the king's relations named Ache, came to him proposing to dethrone the king, and put himself in his place. This Ache was a villain, who after having betrayed his king, proposed to betray the Normans, and to chase them from the country. Gadifer had no suspicion of his motives; wishing to avenge the death of his men, he accepted Ache's proposal, and a short time afterwards, on the vigil of St. Catherine's day, the king was seized, and conveyed to the fort in chains.

Some days afterwards, Ache, the new king of the island attacked Gadifer's companions, mortally wounding several of them, but the following night Guardafia having made his escape from the fort seized Ache, had him stoned to death, and his body burnt. The governor (Gadifer) was so grieved by these scenes of violence, which were renewed daily, that he resolved to kill all the men on the island, and save only the women and children, whom he hoped to have baptized. But just at this time, the vessel that Béthencourt had freighted for the governor arrived, and brought besides the eighty men, provisions, &c., a letter which told him among other things that Béthencourt had done homage to the King of Castille for the Canary Islands. The governor was not well pleased at this news, for he thought that he ought to have had his share in the islands; but he concealed his displeasure, and gave the new comers a hearty welcome.

The arms were at once disembarked, and then Gadifer went on board the vessel to explore the neighbouring islands. Remonnet and several others joined him in this expedition, and they took two of the islanders with them to serve as guides.

They arrived safely at Fortaventura island; a few days after landing on the island, Gadifer set out with thirty-five men to explore the country; but soon the greater part of his followers deserted him, only thirteen men, including two archers, remaining with him. But he did not give up his project; after wading through a large stream, he found himself in a lovely valley shaded by numberless palm-trees; here having rested and refreshed himself, he set out again and climbed a hill. At the summit he found about fifty natives, who surrounded the small party and threatened to murder them. Gadifer and his companions showed no signs of fear, and succeeded in putting their enemies to flight; by the evening they were able to regain their vessel, carrying away four of the native women as prisoners.

Gadifer found himself in a lovely valley
Gadifer found himself in a lovely valley.

The next day Gadifer left the island and went to the Gran Canaria island anchoring in a large harbour lying between Telde and Argonney. Five hundred of the natives confronted them, but apparently with no hostile intentions; they gave them some fish-hooks and old iron in exchange for some of the natural productions of the island, such as figs, and dragon's blood, a resinous substance taken from the dragon-tree, which has a very pleasant balsamic odour. The natives were very much on their guard with the strangers, for twenty years before this some of Captain Lopez' men had invaded the island; so they would not allow Gadifer to land.