JEAN DE BÉTHENCOURT, 1339-1425, II

The return of Jean de Béthencourt—Gadifer's jealousy—Béthencourt visits his archipelago—Gadifer goes to conquer Gran Canaria—Disagreement of the two commanders—Their return to Spain—Gadifer blamed by the King—Return of Béthencourt—The natives of Fortaventura are baptized—Béthencourt revisits Caux—Returns to Lancerota—Lands on the African coast—Conquest of Gran Canaria, Ferro, and Palma Islands—Maciot appointed Governor of the archipelago—Béthencourt obtains the Pope's consent to the Canary Islands being made an Episcopal See—His return to his country and his death.

The envoy had not reached Cadiz when Béthencourt landed at the fort on Lancerota. Gadifer gave him a hearty welcome, and so did the Canary islanders who had been baptized. A few days afterwards, King Guardafia came and threw himself on their mercy. He was baptized on the 20th of February, 1404, with all his followers. Béthencourt's chaplains drew up a very simple form of instruction for their use, embracing the principal elements of Christianity, the creation, Adam and Eve's fall, the history of Noah, the lives of the patriarchs, the life of our Saviour and His crucifixion by the Jews, finishing with an exhortation to believe the ten commandments, the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, Easter, confession, and some other points.

Béthencourt was an ambitious man. Not content with having explored, and so to speak, gained possession of the Canary Islands, he desired to conquer the African countries bordering on the ocean. This was his secret wish in returning to Lancerota, and meanwhile, he had full occupation in establishing his authority in these islands, of which he was only the nominal sovereign. He gave himself wholly to the task, and first visited the islands which Gadifer had explored.

But before he set out, a conversation took place between Gadifer and himself, which we must not omit to notice. Gadifer began boasting of all he had done, and asked for the gift of Fortaventura, Teneriffe, and Gomera Islands, as a recompense.

"My friend," replied Béthencourt, "the islands that you ask me to give you are not yet conquered, but I do not intend you to be at any loss for your trouble, nor that you should be unrequited; but let us accomplish our project, and meanwhile remain the friends we have always been."

"That is all very well," replied Gadifer, "but there is one point on which I do not feel at all satisfied, and that is that you have done homage to the King of Castille for these islands, and so you call yourself absolute master over them."

"With regard to that," said Béthencourt, "I certainly have done homage for them, and so I am their rightful master, but if you will only patiently wait the end of our affair, I will give you what I feel sure will quite content you."

"I shall not remain here," replied Gadifer, "I am going back to France, and have no wish to be here any longer."

Upon this they separated, but Gadifer gradually cooled down and agreed to accompany Béthencourt in his exploration of the islands.

They set out for Fortaventura well armed and with plenty of provisions. They remained there three months, and began by seizing a number of the natives, and sending them to Lancerota. This was such a usual mode of proceeding at that time that we are less surprised at it than we should be at the present day. The whole island was explored and a fort named Richeroque built on the slope of a high mountain; traces of it may still be found in a hamlet there.

Just at this time, and when he had scarcely had time to forget his grievances and ill-humour, Gadifer accepted the command of a small band of men who were to conquer Gran Canaria.

He set out on the 25th July, 1404, but this expedition was not fated to meet with any good results, winds and waves were against it. At last they reached the port of Telde, but as it was nearly dark and a strong wind blowing they dared not land, and they went on to the little town of Aginmez, where they remained eleven days at anchor; the natives, encouraged by their king, laid an ambush for Gadifer and his followers; there was a skirmish, blood was shed, and the Castilians, feeling themselves outnumbered, went to Telde for two days, and thence to Lancerota.

Gadifer was much disappointed at his want of success, and began to be discontented with everything around him. Above all, his jealousy of Béthencourt increased daily, and he gave way to violent recriminations, saying openly that the chief had not done everything himself, and that things would not have been in so advanced a stage as they were if others had not aided him. This reached Béthencourt's ears; he was much incensed, and reproached Gadifer. High words followed, Gadifer insisted upon leaving the country, and as Béthencourt had just made arrangements for returning to Spain, he proposed to Gadifer to accompany him, that their cause of disagreement might be inquired into. This proposal being accepted, they set sail, but each in his own ship. When they reached Seville, Gadifer laid his complaints before the king, but as the king gave judgment against him, fully approving of Béthencourt's conduct, he left Spain, and returning to France, never revisited the Canary Islands which he had so fondly hoped to conquer for himself.