Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

which flow into the gulf of Paria, and which were as yet unknown to Columbus.

Anxious to extricate himself from this dangerous neighborhood, he sent the boats on the following morning to sound the depths of water at the Boca del Sierpe, and to ascertain whether it was possible for ships to pass through to the northward. To his great joy they returned with a report that there were several fathoms of water, and currents and eddies setting both ways, either to enter or return. A favorable breeze prevailing, he immediately made sail, and passing through the formidable strait in safety, found himself in a tranquil expanse beyond.

He was now on the inner side of Trinidad. To his left spread the broad gulf since known by the name of Paria, which he supposed to be the open sea, but was surprised on tasting it to find the water fresh. He continued northward towards a mountain at the northwest point of the island, about fourteen leagues from Point Arenal. Here he beheld two lofty capes opposite each other, one on the island of Trinidad, the other to the west on the long promontory of Paria, which stretches from the mainland and forms the northern side of the gulf, but which Columbus mistook for an island, and named Isla de Gracia.

Between these capes there was another pass, which appeared even more dangerous than the Boca del Sierpe, being beset with rocks, among which the current forced its way with roaring turbulence. To this

pass Columbus

gave

the name of Boca del Dragon. Not choosing to encounter its apparent dangers, he turned northward on Sunday, the 5th of August, and steered along the inner side of the supposed island of Gracia, intending to keep on until he came to the end of it, and then to strike northward into the free and open ocean, and shape his course for Hispaniola.

It was a fair and beautiful coast, indented with fine harbors lying close to each other ; the country cultivated in many places, in others covered with fruit trees and stately forests, and watered by frequent streams. What greatly astonished Columbus was still to find the water fresh, and that it grew more and more so the farther he proceeded; it being that season of the year when the various rivers which empty themselves into this gulf are swollen by rains, and pour forth such quantities of fresh water as to conquer the saltness of the ocean. He was also surprised at the placidity of the sea, which appeared as tranquil and safe as one vast harbor, so that there was no need of seeking a port to anchor in.

As yet he had not been able to hold any communication with the people of this part of the New World. The shores which he had visited, though occasionally cultivated, were silent and deserted, and, excepting the fugitive party in the canoe at Point Arenal, he had seen nothing of the natives. After sailing several leagues along the coast he anchored on Monday, the 6th of August, at a place where there appeared signs of cultivation, and sent the boats on shore. They found recent traces of people, but not an individual was to be seen. The coast was hilly, covered with beautiful and fruitful groves, and abounding with monkeys. Continuing farther westward to where the country was more level, Columbus anchored in a river.

Immediately a canoe with three or four Indians came off to the caravel nearest to the shore, the captain of which, pretending a desire to accompany them to land, sprang into their canoe, overturned it, and with the assistance of his seamen, secured the Indians as they were swimming. When brought to the Admiral, he gave them beads, hawks’-bells, and sugar, and sent them highly gratified on shore, where many of their countrymen were assembled. This kind treatment had the usual effect. Such of the natives as had canoes came off to the ships with the fullest confidence. They were tall of stature, finely formed, and free and graceful in their movements. Their hair was long and straight ; some wore it cut short, but none of them braided it, as was the custom among the natives of Hispaniola. They were armed with bows, arrows, and targets ; the men wore cotton cloths about their heads and loins, beautifully wrought with various colors, so as at a distance to look like silk

; but the women were entirely naked. They brought bread, maize, and other eatables, with different kinds of beverages, some white, made from maize and resembling beer, and others green, of a vinous flavor, and expressed from various fruits. They appeared to judge of everything by the sense of smell, as others examine objects by the sight or touch. When they approached a boat they smelt of it and then of the people.

In like manner everything that was given them was tried. They set but little value upon beads, but were extravagantly delighted with hawks'-bells. Brass was also held in high estimation; they appeared to find something extremely grateful in the smell of it, and called it turey, signifying that it was from the skies. *

From these Indians Columbus understood * Herrera, Hist. Ind., decad. i., lib. iii., cap. II.

that the name of their country was Paria, and that farther to the west he would find it more populous. Taking several of them to serve as guides and mediators he proceeded eight leagues westward to a point which he called Aguja or the Needle. Here he arrived at three o'clock in the morning. When the day dawned he was delighted with the beauty of the country. It was cultivated in many places, highly populous, and adorned with magnificent vegetation; habitations were interspersed among groves laden with fruit and flowers ; grape-vines entwined themselves among the trees, and birds of brilliant plumage fluttered from branch to branch. The air was temperate and bland, and sweetened by the fragrance of flowers and blossoms, and numerous fountains and limpid streams kept up a universal verdure and freshness. Columbus was so much charmed with the beauty and amenity of this part of the coast that he gave it the name of The Gardens.

The natives came off in great numbers in canoes of superior construction to those hitherto seen, being very large and light, with a cabin in the centre for the accommodation of the owner and his family. They invited Columbus in the name of their king to come to land. Many of them had collars and burnished plates about their necks, of that inferior kind of gold

« AnteriorContinuar »