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Amerigo Vespucci by  Frederick A. Ober
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VESPUCCI'S DEBATABLE VOYAGE

1497–1498

It has been said that the house of Berardi, with which Vespucci was connected as a partner, outfitted the large fleet for the second voyage of Columbus in 1493; but this is true only in the sense that it served the crown in the capacity of sub-contractor. The real head of Indian affairs was the archdeacon of Seville, Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca, who first rose to prominence at this time as general superintendent of all the New-World business, and for thirty years controlled the same. Invested by King Ferdinand with great, almost unlimited, power, he has the credit of having founded the royal India house, which was of such importance in the colonizing of new territory, and by the favor of which alone any voyage of discovery could be projected and carried to a successful conclusion.

Fonseca has been held up to obloquy by the admirable eulogist of Columbus, Mr. Irving, "as a warning example of those perfidious beings in office, who too often lie like worms at the root of honorable enterprise, blighting by their unseen influence the fruits of glorious action and disappointing the hopes of nations." This denunciation he incurred by thwarting the schemes of Columbus, in their minor details at first, afterwards becoming his open and determined enemy. The first instance in which the two great men fell out occurred when Fonseca opposed the pretensions of Columbus and attempted to check his extravagance in the matter of personal retinue. Among other requisitions which Columbus sent in, those for ten footmen and twenty menials for his domestic establishment were objected to by the superintendent as superfluous.

In connection with the treasurer, Francisco Pinelo, and the contador, Juan de Soria, Fonseca used his utmost efforts to raise the necessary funds for the expedition, to provide for the vast expenses of which, says Mr. Irving himself, "the royal revenue arising from two-thirds of the Church tithes was placed at the disposition of Pinelo; and other funds were drawn from a disgraceful source—from the jewels and other valuables, the sequestrated property of the unfortunate Jews, banished from the kingdom according to a bigoted edict of the previous year. As these sources were still inadequate, Pinelo was authorized to supply the deficiency by a loan. Requisitions were likewise made for provisions of all kinds, as well as for artillery, powder, muskets, lances, corselets, and crossbows. . . . The military stores which had accumulated during the war with the Moors of Granada furnished a great part of these supplies."

Having great difficulty, therefore, in meeting the really needful demands of the expedition, it was quite natural that Fonseca should desire to cut down those he deemed extravagant, and it must be admitted that among these he might rightfully class the requisitions of Columbus intended merely to support his newly acquired dignity as admiral and grandee. He was supported by the sovereigns, however, and Fonseca was rebuked for denying him anything he desired. He was reminded that the expedition was intended solely to extend the power and prestige of the crown, and that but for Columbus it would never have been assembled, hence he was to study his wishes and comply with his demands. This implied reproof cut the haughty prelate to the heart, and from these trivial differences, remarks Mr. Irving, "we must date the rise of that singular hostility which he ever afterwards manifested towards Columbus, which every year increased in rancor, and which he gratified in the most invidious manner by secretly multiplying impediments and vexations in his path."

But for the fact that this enmity existing between Fonseca and Columbus made possible the first voyage of Amerigo Vespucci, we should not feel called upon to more than mention the first named in connection with an expedition in which all three were so deeply interested. The fleet finally sailed away, pursued by the maledictions of Fonseca, and followed by the heart-felt longings of Vespucci. Some historians have stated that the Florentine sailed with Columbus on this second voyage; but there are no records to prove this assertion, and he himself never made the claim. We have every reason for believing that he continued in his employment as purveyor to the crown and contractor for the furnishing of fleets, with his residence sometimes at Seville and sometimes at Cadiz, as occasion demanded, the office of the India house being at the former city, and the port of customs and sailing at the latter. He was, undoubtedly, brought into more or less intimate contact with Fonseca, whose supervision of colonial affairs and control of expeditionary fleets demanded his constant attention for many years. He probably appreciated such a man as Vespucci, whose even temper and mastery of detail, combined with great sagacity and learning, were invaluable to the man who was building up a government beyond the ocean. They were nearly of the same age—Fonseca having been born in 1441—and at this time in the fulness of their natural powers.

Just what Vespucci was doing in the two years succeeding to the departure of Columbus is not definitely known; but in December, 1495, we find him actively engaged in settling the estate of Juan Berardi, who had died in that month and year. He was then, it appears, the most influential if not the sole member of the firm then resident in Spain, and after Berardi's death he undertook and carried out the contracts entered into by the senior partner with the government.

About three hundred years after the death of Vespucci, some ancient documents were discovered by a Spanish historian, in which it was shown that on January 12, 1496, the royal treasurer, Pinelo, had paid to Vespucci the sum of ten thousand maravedis on account. He advanced pay and furnished subsistence for the mariners of an expedition which sailed on February 3, 1496, and was wrecked two weeks later, with the loss of several lives. The fragmentary records also show, apparently, that in the year 1497 and the early part of 1498, Vespucci was "busily engaged at Seville and San Lucar, in the equipment of the fleet with which Columbus sailed on his third voyage"; and yet, according to a letter which he wrote a former friend in 1504, he was himself upon the ocean at that very time, seeking to rival Columbus in the discovery of a continent!

The exact truth may never be learned as to this reputed voyage of Vespucci, which he calls his "first," and which his enemies say was never made! It seems incredible that he should be the "sole authority" for this voyage, and that all contemporary history "is absolutely silent in regard to it"; yet, so far as we can ascertain, it is the truth. Leaving for future discussion, however, the proof and disproof of this voyage—merely pausing to remark that at the period mentioned a man holding his relations to Fonseca would have had no difficulty in obtaining permission to make such a voyage, even without the sanction of royal authority—we will now peruse the famous letter. It is addressed to "Piero Soderini, Perpetual Gonfaloniere of the Republic of Florence," and was written in 1504.

"MOST EXCELLENT SIR,—

The principal reason why I am induced to write is the request of the bearer, Benvenuto Benvenuti, the devoted servant of your Excellency and my particular friend. He happened to be here in this city of Lisbon, and requested that I would impart to your Excellency a description of the things seen by me in various climes, in the course of four voyages which I have made for the discovery of new lands, two by the authority and command of Don Ferdinand, King of Castile, in the great Western Ocean, and the other two by order of Dom Manuel, King of Portugal, towards the south. So I resolved to write, as requested, and set about the performance of my task, because I am certain that your Excellency counts me among the number of your most devoted servants, remembering that in the time of our youth, we were friends, going daily to study the rudiments of grammar, under the excellent instruction of the venerable brother of St. Mark, Friar Georgio Antonio Vespucci, my uncle, whose counsels would to God I had followed! for then, as Petrarch says, I should have been a different man from what I am.

" . . . Your Excellency will please to observe that I came into the kingdom of Spain for the purpose of engaging in mercantile affairs, and that I continued to be thus employed about four years [six or seven], during which I saw and experienced the fickle movements of fortune, and how she ordered the changes of these transitory and perishing worldly goods, at one time sustaining a man at the top of the wheel, and at another returning him to the lowest part thereof, and depriving him of her favors, which may truly be said to be lent. Thus having experienced the continual labor of one who would acquire her favors, subjecting myself to very many inconveniences and dangers, I concluded to abandon mercantile affairs and direct my attention to something more laudable and stable. For this purpose I prepared myself to visit various parts of the world, and see the wonderful things which might be found therein. Time and place were very opportunely offered me when I came to this conclusion.

"King Ferdinand of Castile had ordered four ships to go in search of new lands, and I was selected by his highness to go in that fleet, in order to assist in the discoveries. We sailed from the port of Cadiz on the 10th of May, A.D. 1497, and steering our course through the great Western Ocean, spent eighteen months in our expedition, discovering much land and a great number of islands, the largest part of which were inhabited. As these are not spoken of by the ancient writers, I presume they were ignorant of them. If I am not mistaken, I well remember to have read in one of their books, which I possessed, that this ocean was considered unpeopled. In this voyage I saw many astonishing things, as your Excellency will perceive by the following relation.

"We had sailed so rapidly that at the end of twenty-seven days we came in sight of land, which we judged to be a continent, being about a thousand leagues west of the Fortunate Islands, now called the Grand Canaries. Here we anchored our ships at a league and a half from the shore, and, having cast off our boats and filled them with men and arms, proceeded to land. Before we landed we were much cheered by the sight of many people rambling along the shore. We found that they were all in a state of nudity, and they appeared to be afraid of us, as I suppose from seeing us clothed and of a different stature from themselves. They retreated to a mountain, and, notwithstanding all the signs of peace and friendship we could make, we could not bring them to parley with us; so, as the night was coming on and the ships were anchored in an insecure place, we agreed to leave there and go in search of some port or bay where we could place our ships in safety.

"We sailed two days along the coast, and on the morning of the third day, as dawn appeared, we saw on shore a great number of men, with their wives and children, all laden with provisions. Before we reached the land many of them swam to meet us, the distance of a bow-shot into the sea (as they are most excellent swimmers), and they treated us with as much confidence as if we had had intercourse with them for a long time, which gratified us much. All that we know of their life and manners is that they go entirely naked, not having the slightest covering whatever; they are of middling stature and very well proportioned, and their flesh is a reddish color, like the skin of a lion; but I think if they had been accustomed to wear clothing they would have been as white as we are. They have no hair on the body, except very long hair on the head; but the women especially derive attractiveness from this. Their countenances are not handsome, as they have large faces, which might be compared with those of the Tartars. Both men and women are very agile, easy in their carriage, and swift in running or walking, so that the women think nothing of speeding a league or two, as we have many a time beheld.

"Their weapons are bows and arrows beautifully wrought, but unfurnished with iron or any other hard metal, in place of which they make use of the teeth of animals, or fish, or sometimes a slip of hard-wood, made harder at the point by fire. They are sure marksmen, who hit whatever they wish, and in some parts the women also use the bow with dexterity. They have other arms, such as lances and staves, with heads finely wrought. When they make war they take their wives with them—not to fight, but to carry provisions on their backs, a woman frequently carrying a burden in this manner for thirty or forty leagues, which the strongest man among them could not do, as we have witnessed many times.

"These people have no captains, neither do they march in order, but each one is his own master. The cause of their wars is not a love of conquest, or of enlarging their boundaries, neither are they incited to engage in them by inordinate covetousness [unlike the Spaniards], but from ancient enmity which has existed among them in times past; and having been asked why they made war, they could give us no other reason than that they did it to avenge the deaths of their ancestors. Neither have these people kings or lords, nor do they obey any one, but live in their own entire liberty; and the manner in which they are incited to go to war is this: when their enemies have killed or taken prisoners any of their people, the oldest relative rises and goes about proclaiming his wrongs aloud, and calling upon them to go with him to avenge the death of his relation. Thereupon they are moved with sympathy and make ready for the fight.

"They have no tribunals of justice, neither do they punish malefactors; and what is still more astonishing, neither father nor mother chastises the children when they do wrong; yet, astounding as it may seem, there is no strife between them; or, to say the least, we never saw any. They appear simple in speech, but in reality are very shrewd and cunning in any matter which interests them. They speak but little, and that little in a low tone of voice, using the same accentuation that we use, and forming the words with the palate, teeth, and lips; but they have a different mode of diction. There is a great diversity of language among them, inasmuch as every hundred leagues or so we found people who could not understand one another. Their mode of life is most barbarous; they do not eat at regular intervals; but it is a matter of indifference to them whether appetite comes at midnight or at mid-day, and they eat upon the ground at all hours, without napkin or table-cloth, having their food in earthen basins, which they manufacture, or in half-gourd shells or calabashes. They sleep in nets of cotton, very large and suspended in the air; and although this may seem a very bad way of sleeping, I can vouch for the fact that it is extremely pleasant, and one sleeps better thus than on a mattress. They are neat and clean in their persons, which is a natural consequence of their perpetual bathing; but some of their habits are unmentionable . . .

" . . . We are not aware that these people have any laws. Neither are they like Moors or Jews, but worse than Gentiles or Pagans, because we have never seen them offer any sacrifice, and they have no houses of prayer. From their voluptuous manner of life, I consider them as Epicureans. Their dwellings are in communities and their houses are in the form of huts, but strongly built of large tree-trunks and covered with palm leaves, secure from winds and storms. In some places they are of such great length that in a single house we saw six hundred people, and we found that the population of thirteen houses only amounted to four thousand. They change their location every seven or eight years, and on being asked why they did so they said it was on account of the intense heat of the sun upon the soil, which by that time became infected and corrupted, and caused pains in their bodies, which seemed to us reasonable.

"The riches of these people consist in birds' feathers of beautiful colors, of beads, which they fabricate from fish-bones or colored stones, with which they decorate their cheeks, lips, and ears, and of many other things which are held in little or no esteem by us. They carry on no commerce, neither buying nor selling, and, in short, live contentedly with what nature gives them. The riches which we esteem so highly in Europe and other parts—such as gold, jewels, pearls, and other wealth—they have no regard for at all. They are liberal in giving, never denying one anything, and, on the other hand, are just as free in asking . . . .

"In case of death they make use of various funeral obsequies. Some bury their dead with water and provisions placed at their heads, thinking they may have occasion to eat and drink, but they make no parade in the way of funeral ceremonies. In some places they have a most barbarous mode of interment, which is thus: When one is sick or infirm, and nearly at the point of death, his relatives carry him into a large forest, and there attaching one of their sleeping-hammocks to two trees, they place the sick person in it, and continue to swing him about for a whole day, and when night comes, after placing at his head water and provisions sufficient to sustain him for five or six days, they return to their village. If the sick person can help himself to eat and drink, and recovers sufficiently to be able to return to the village, his people receive him again with great ceremony; but few are they who escape this mode of treatment, as most of them die without being visited, and that is their only burial.

"They use in their diseases various kinds of medicines, so different from any in vogue with us that we are astonished that any escaped. I often saw, for instance, that when a person was sick with a fever, which was increasing upon him, they bathed him from head to foot with cold water, and making a great fire around him, they made him turn round in a circle for about an hour or two, until they fatigued him and left him to sleep. Many were cured in this way. They also observe a strict diet, eating nothing for three or four days. They practise blood-letting; not on the arm, unless in the arm-pit, but generally taking it from the thighs and haunches. Their blood or phlegm is much disordered on account of their food, which consists mainly of the roots of herbs, of fruit, and fish. They have no wheat or other grain, but instead make use of the root of a tree [shrub] from which they manufacture flour, which is very good and called huca [yucca]; the flour from another root is called kazabi, and from another igname.

"They eat little meat except human flesh, and you will notice that in this particular they are more savage than beasts, because all their enemies who are killed or taken prisoners, whether male or female, are devoured with so much fierceness that it seems disgusting to relate, much more to see it done, as I, with my own eyes, have many times witnessed this proof of their inhumanity. Indeed, they marvelled much to hear us say that we did not eat our enemies.

"And your Excellency may rest assured that their other barbarous customs are so numerous that it is impossible herein to describe them all. As in these voyages I have witnessed so many things at variance with our own customs, I prepared myself to write a collection, which I call The Four Voyages, in which I have related the major part of the things I saw as clearly as my feeble capacity would permit. This work is not yet published, though many advise me to publish it. In it everything will appear minutely, therefore I shall not enlarge any more in this letter, because in the course of it we shall see many things which are peculiar. Let this suffice for matters in general.

"In this commencement of discoveries we did not see anything of much profit in the country, owing as I think to our ignorance of the language, except some few indications of gold. We concluded to leave this place and go onward, and coasted along the shore, making many stops, and holding discourses with many people, until after some days we came into a harbor, where we fell into a very great danger, from which it pleased the Holy Spirit to deliver us. It happened in this manner: We landed in a port where we found a village built over the water, like Venice. There were about forty-four houses, shaped like bells, built upon very large piles, having entrances by means of draw-bridges, so that by laying the bridges from house to house the inhabitants could pass through the whole.

"When the people saw us they appeared to be afraid of us, and, to protect themselves, suddenly raised all their bridges and shut themselves up in their houses. While we were looking at them and wondering at this proceeding, we saw, coming in from the sea, about two and twenty canoes, which are the boats they make use of, and are carved out of a single tree. They came directly towards our boats, appearing to be astonished at our figures and dress, and keeping at a little distance from us. This being the case, we made signals of friendship to induce them to approach, endeavoring to reassure them by every token of kindness; but seeing that they did not come we went towards them. They would not wait for us, however, but fled to the land, making signs to us to wait, and giving us to understand that they would return. They fled to a mountain, but did not tarry long there, and when they returned brought with them sixteen of their young maidens, and entering into their canoes came near and put four of them into each boat, at which we were very much astonished, as your Excellency may well imagine. Then they mingled with their canoes among our boats, and we considered their coming to us in this manner to be a token of friendship. Taking this for granted, we saw a great crowd of people swimming towards us from the houses without any suspicion. At this juncture some old women showed themselves at the doorways of the huts, wailing and tearing their hair, as if in great distress. From this we began to be suspicious, and had recourse to our weapons, when suddenly the young girls, who were in our boats, threw themselves into the sea, and the canoes at the same time moved away, the people in them assailing us with their bows and arrows.

"Those who came swimming towards us brought each a lance, concealed as much as possible under the water, and their treachery being thus discovered, we began not only to defend ourselves, but to act severely on the defensive. We overturned many of the canoes with our boats, and making considerable slaughter among them they soon abandoned the canoes altogether and swam for the shore. Fifteen or twenty were killed, and many wounded, on their side, while on ours five were slightly wounded, all the rest escaping by divine Providence, and these five being quickly cured. We took prisoners two of their girls and three men, and on entering their huts found one sick man and two old women. Returning to our boats and thence to the ships, with the five prisoners, we put irons upon the feet of each, excepting the two young females; yet when night came the two girls and one of the men escaped, in the most artful manner in the world.

"The next day we concluded to depart from this port, and at length came to anchor at about eighty leagues distance, and found another tribe of people whose customs and language were very different from those we had last seen. We determined to land, seeing there a great multitude numbering about four thousand. They did not wait to receive us, but fled precipitately to the woods, abandoning all their things. We leaped ashore, and taking the path which led to the wood, found their tents within the space of a bow-shot, where they had made a great fire and two of them were cooking their food, roasting many animals of various kinds.

"We noticed that they were roasting a certain animal that looked like a serpent; it had no wings, and was so disgusting in appearance that we were astonished at its deformity. As we went through their huts or tents, we found many of these serpents alive. Their feet were tied, and they had a cord about their snouts so that they could not open their mouths, as dogs are sometimes muzzled so they may not bite. These animals had such a savage appearance that none of us durst turn one over, thinking they might be poisonous. They are about the size of a kid, about the length and a half of a man's arm, and have long, coarse feet armed with large nails. Their skin is hard, and they are of various colors. They have the snout and face of a serpent, and from the nose there runs a crest, passing over the middle of the back to the root of the tail. We finally concluded that they were serpents, and poisonous; yet, nevertheless, they were eaten by the natives.

" . . . Finally these people became very friendly, told us that this was not their place of dwelling, but that they had come there only to carry on their fishery. They importuned us so much to go to their village that, having taken counsel, twenty-three of us Christians concluded to go with them, well prepared, and with firm resolution to die manfully if such was to be our fate. Three leagues from the coast we arrived at a well-peopled village, where we were received with so many and such barbarous ceremonies that no pen is equal to the task of describing them. There was dancing and singing, weeping mingled with rejoicing, and great feasting. After having passed the night and half of the next day, an immense number of people visiting us from motives of curiosity, we determined to proceed still farther inland, having been desired to visit other villages. And it is impossible to tell how much honor they did us there. We visited so many villages that we spent nine days in the journey. On our return we were accompanied by a wonderful number of both sexes, quite to the sea-shore; and when any of us grew weary with walking, they carried us in their hammocks, much at our ease. Many of them were laden with the presents they made us, consisting of very rich plumage, many bows and arrows, and an infinite variety of parrots, beautiful and varied in colors. Others carried loads of provisions and animals. For a greater wonder, I will tell your Excellency that when we had to cross a river they carried us on their backs.

"Having arrived at the sea and entered the boats, which had come ashore for us, we are astonished at the crowd which endeavored to get into the boats to go to see our ships, for they were so overloaded that they were ofttimes on the point of sinking. We carried as many as we could on board, and so many more came by swimming that we were quite troubled at the multitude, although they were all naked and unarmed. They marvelled greatly at the size of our ships, our equipments, and implements. Here quite a laughable occurrence took place, at their expense. We concluded to try the effect of discharging some of our artillery, and when they heard the thunderous report the greater part of them jumped into the sea from fright, acting like frogs sitting on a bank, who plunge into the water on the approach of anything that alarms them. Those who remained on the ship were so timorous that we repented of having done this. However, we reassured them by telling them that these were our arms, with which we killed our enemies. After they had amused themselves on the ship all day, we told them that they must go, as we wished to depart in the night; so they took leave of us with many demonstrations of friendship, even affection, and went ashore.

"I saw more of the manners and customs of these people while in their country than I care to dwell on here. Your Excellency will notice that in each of my voyages I have noted the most extraordinary things which have occurred, and have compiled the whole into one volume, in the style of a geography, and entitled it The Four Voyages. In this work will be found a minute description of the things which I saw; but, as there is no copy of it yet published, owing to my being obliged to examine it carefully and make corrections, it becomes necessary for me to impart them to you herein.

"This country is full of inhabitants and contains a great many rivers. Very few of the animals are similar to ours, excepting the lions, panthers, stags, hogs, goats, and deer, and even these are a little different in form. They have neither horses, mules, nor asses; neither cows, dogs, nor any kind of domestic animals. Their other animals, however, are so very numerous that it is impossible to count them, and all of them so wild that they cannot be employed for serviceable uses. But what shall I say of the birds, which are so numerous and of so many species and varieties of plumage that it is astounding to behold them? The country is pleasant and fruitful, full of woods and forests which are always green, as they never lose their foliage. The fruits are numberless and totally different from ours. The land lies within the torrid zone, under the parallel which describes the Tropic of Cancer, where the pole is elevated twenty-three degrees above the horizon.

"A great many people came to see us and were astonished at our features and the whiteness of our skins. They asked us where we came from, and we gave them to understand that we came from heaven, with the view of visiting the world, and they believed us. In this country we established a baptismal font, and great numbers were baptized. They called us, in their language, Carabi, which means men of great wisdom. The natives call this province Lariab. We left the port and sailed along the coast, in sight of land, until we had run, calculating our advances and retrogressions, eight hundred and seventy leagues towards the northwest, making many stops by the way and having intercourse with many people. In some places we found traces of gold, but in small quantities, it being sufficient for us to have discovered the country and to know that there was gold in it.

"We had now been thirteen months on the voyage, and the ships and rigging were much worn, the men very weary. So by common consent we agreed to careen our ships on the beach in order to calk and pitch them anew, as they leaked badly, and then to return to Spain. When we took this resolution we were near one of the best harbors in the world, entering which we found a vast number of people, who received us most kindly. We made a breastwork on shore with our boats and casks, and placed our artillery so it would play over them; then, having unloaded and lightened our ships, we hauled them to land and repaired them wherever they needed it. The natives were of great assistance to us, continually providing food, so that in this port we consumed very little of our own. This served us a very good turn, for our provisions were poor and the stock so much reduced at this time that we feared it would hardly last us on our return to Spain.

"Having stayed here thirty-seven days, visiting their villages many times, where they paid us the highest honors, we wished to depart on our voyage. Before we set sail the natives complained to us that at certain times in the year there came from the sea into their territory a very cruel tribe, who, either by treachery or force, killed many of them and captured others, whom they ate, for they were man-eaters. They signified to us that this tribe were islanders, and lived at about one hundred leagues distance at sea. They narrated this to us with so much simplicity and feeling that we credited their story and promised to avenge their great injuries; whereat they were rejoiced, and many offered to go with us. We did not wish to take them for many reasons, and only carried seven, on the condition that they should come back in their own canoes, for we could not enter into obligations to return them to their own country. With this they were content, and then we parted from these gentle people, leaving them very well disposed towards us.

"Our ships having been repaired, we set sail on our return, taking a northeasterly course, and at the end of seven days fell in with some islands. There were a great many of them, some peopled, others uninhabited. We landed at one of them, where we saw many people, who called the island Iti. Having filled our boats with good men, and put three rounds of shot in each boat, we proceeded towards the land, where we saw about four hundred men and many women, all naked, like those we had seen before. They were of good stature and appeared to be very warlike men, being armed with bows and arrows and lances. The greater part of them carried staves of a square form, attached to their persons in such a manner that they were not prevented from drawing the bow. As we approached within bow-shot of the shore, they all leaped into the water and shot their arrows at us to prevent our landing. They were painted with various colors and plumed with feathers, and the interpreters with us said that when they were thus painted and plumed they showed a wish to fight. They persisted so much in their endeavors to deter us from landing that we were at last compelled to fire on them with our artillery. Hearing the thunder of our cannon and seeing some of their people fall dead, they all retreated to the shore. Having consulted together, forty of us resolved to leap ashore and, if they waited for us, to fight them. Proceeding thus, they attacked us and we fought about two hours, with little advantage, except that our bow-men and gunners killed some of their people and they wounded some of ours. This was because we could not get a chance to use lance or sword. We finally, by desperate exertion, were enabled to flash our swords, and as soon as they had a taste of our weapons they fled to the woods and mountains, leaving us masters of the field, with many of their people killed or wounded. This day we did not pursue them, because we were much fatigued, but returned to our ships, the seven men who had come with us being highly rejoiced.

"The next day we saw a great number of people coming through the country, still offering us signs of battle, sounding horns and shells, and all painted and plumed, which gave them a strange and ferocious appearance. Whereupon all in the ships held a grand council, and it was determined that, since these people were determined to be at enmity with us, we should go to meet them and do everything to engage their friendship; but in case they would not receive it, resolved to treat them as enemies and to make slaves of all we could capture. Having armed ourselves in the best manner possible, we immediately rowed ashore, where they did not resist our landing, from fear, as I think, of our bombardment. We disembarked in four squares, being fifty-seven men, each captain with his own men, and then engaged them in battle. After a protracted fight, having killed many, we put them to flight and pursued them to their village, taking about two hundred and fifty prisoners. We then burned the village and returned victorious to the ships with our prisoners, leaving many killed and wounded on their side, while on ours only one died and not more than twenty-two were wounded. The rest all escaped unhurt, for which God be thanked!

"We soon arranged for our departure, and the seven men, of whom five were wounded, took a canoe from the island and, with three male and four female prisoners that we gave them, returned to their own country, very merry and greatly astonished at our power. We also set sail for Spain, with two hundred and twenty-three prisoners, and arrived at the port of Cadiz on October 15, 1498, where we were well received and found a market for our slaves. This is what happened to me on this, my first voyage, that may be considered worth relating."


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