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conduct of a man like Columbus in an extraordinary situation. His natural heat and impetuosity had been subdued by a life of trials; he had learned to bring his passions into subjection to his judgment; he had too true an estimate of his own dignity to enter into a contest with a shallow boaster like Aguado ; above all he had a profound respect for the authority of the sovereigns; for in his enthusiastic spirit, prone to deep feelings of reverence, his loyalty was inferior only to his religion. He received Aguado therefore with grave and punctilious courtesy; and retorted upon him his own ostentatious ceremonial, ordering that the letter of credence should be again proclaimed by sound of trumpet in presence of the populace. He listened to it with solemn deference, and assured Aguado of his readiness to acquiesce in whatever might be the pleasure of his sovereigns.
This unexpected moderation, while it astonished the beholders, foiled and disappointed Aguado. He had come prepared for a scene of altercation, and had hoped that Columbus in the heat and impatience of the moment would have said or done something that might be construed into disrespect for the authority of the sovereigns. He endeavored in fact, some months afterwards, to procure from the public notaries present a prejudicial statement of the interview ; but the deference of the Admiral for the royal letter of credence had been too marked to be disputed, and all the testimonials were highly in his favor. *
Aguado continued to intermeddle in public affairs, and the respect and forbearance with which he was uniformly treated by Columbus, and the mildness of the latter in all his measures to appease the discontents of the colony, were regarded as proofs of his loss of moral courage. He was looked upon as a declining man and Aguado hailed as the lord of the ascendant. Every dastard spirit who had any lurking ill-will, any real or imaginary cause of complaint, now hastened to give it utterance ; perceiving that in gratifying his malice he was promoting his interest, and that in vilifying the Admiral he was gaining the friendship of Aguado.
The poor Indians, too, harassed by the domination of the white men, rejoiced in the prospect of a change of rulers, vainly hoping that it might produce a mitigation of their sufferings. Many of the caciques who had promised allegiance to the Admiral after their defeat in the Vega now assembled at the house of Manicaotex, the brother of Caonabo, near the
Herrera, Hist. Ind., decad. i., lib. ii., cap. 18.
river Yaqui, where they joined in a formal complaint against Columbus, whom they considered the cause of all the evils which had sprung from the disobedience and the vices of his followers.
Aguado now considered the great object of his mission fulfilled. He had collected information sufficient as he thought to insure the ruin of the Admiral and his brothers, and he prepared to return to Spain. Columbus resolved to do the same. He felt that it was time to appear at court and dispel the cloud of calumny gathering against him.
He had active enemies of standing and influence, who were seeking every occasion to throw discredit upon himself and his enterprises; and, stranger and foreigner as he was, he had no active friends at court to oppose their machinations. He feared that they might eventually produce an effect upon the royal mind fatal to the progress of discovery ; he was anxious to return therefore and explain the real causes of the repeated disappointments with respect to profits anticipated from his enterprises. It is not one of the least singular traits in this history, that after having been so many years in persuading mankind that there was a new world to be discovered, he had almost equal trouble in proving to them the advantage of its discovery.
When the ships were ready to depart a terrible storm swept the island. It was one of those awful whirlwinds which occasionally rage within the tropics, and were called by the Indians “furicanes,” or “uricans," a name they still retain with trilling variation. About midday a furious wind sprang up from the east, driving before it dense volumes of cloud and vapor. Encountering another tempest of wind from the west, it appeared as if a violent conflict ensued. The clouds were rent by incessant flashes, or rather streams of lightning. At one time they were piled up high in the sky, at another they swept to the earth, filling the air with a baleful darkness more dismal than the obscurity of midnight. Wherever the whirlwind passed, whole tracts of forests were shivered and stripped of their leaves and branches; those of gigantic size which resisted the blast were torn up by the roots and hurled to a great distance. Groves were rent from the mountain precipices, with vast masses of earth and rock, tumbling into the valleys with terrific noise, and choking the course of rivers. The fearful sounds in the air and on the earth, the pealing thunder, the vivid lightning, the howling of the wind, the crash of falling trees and rocks, filled every one with affright, and many thought that the end of the world was at hand. Some fled to caverns for safety, for their frail houses were blown down, and the air was filled with the trunks and branches of trees, and even with fragments of rocks, carried along by the fury of the tempest. When the hurricane reached the harbor, it whirled the ships round as they lay at anchor, snapped their cables, and sank three of them with all who were on board. Others were driven about, dashed against each other, and tossed mere wrecks upon the shore by the swelling surges of the sea, which in some places rolled for three or four miles upon the land. The tempest lasted for three hours. When it passed away and the sun again appeared, the Indians regarded each other in mute astonishment and dismay. Never in their memory, nor in the traditions of their ancestors, had their island been visited by such a storm. They believed that the Deity had sent this fearful ruin to punish the cruelties and crimes of the white men; and declared that this people had moved the very air, the water, and the earth, to disturb their tranquil life, and to desolate their island.*