Open main menu

Page:EB1911 - Volume 06.djvu/767

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
745
COLUMBUS, CHRISTOPHER

ashore to Ovando, asking for a new ship and for permission to enter the harbour to weather a hurricane which he saw was coming on. But his requests were refused, and he coasted the island, casting anchor under lee of the land. Here he weathered the storm, which drove the other caravels out to sea, and annihilated the homeward-bound fleet, the richest that had till then been sent from Hispaniola. Roldan and Bobadilla perished with others of the admiral’s enemies; and Fernando Columbus, who accompanied his father on this voyage, wrote long afterwards, “I am satisfied it was the hand of God, for had they arrived in Spain they had never been punished as their crimes deserved, but rather been favoured and preferred.”

After recruiting his flotilla at Azua, Columbus put in at Jaquimo and refitted his four vessels; and on the 14th of July 1502 he steered for Jamaica. For several days the ships wandered painfully among the keys and shoals he had named the Garden of the Queen, and only an opportune easterly wind prevented the crews from open mutiny. The first land sighted (July 30th) was the islet of Guanaja, about 40 m. east of the coast of Honduras. Here he got news from an old Indian of a rich and vast country lying to the eastward, which he at once concluded must be the long-sought-for empire of the grand khan. Steering along the coast of Honduras, great hardships were endured, but nothing approaching his ideal was discovered. On the 12th of September Cape Gracias-a-Dios was rounded. The men had become clamorous and insubordinate; not until the 5th of December, however, would he tack about and retrace his course. It now became his intention to plant a colony on the river Veragua, which was afterwards to give his descendants a title of nobility; but he had hardly put about when he was caught in a storm, which lasted eight days, wrenched and strained his crazy, worm-eaten ships severely, and finally, on Epiphany Sunday 1503, blew him into an embouchure which he named Belem or Bethlehem. Gold was very plentiful in this place, and here he determined to found his settlement. By the end of March 1503 a number of huts had been run up, and in these the adelantado (Bartholomew Columbus), with 80 men, was to remain, while Christopher returned to Spain for men and supplies. Quarrels, however, arose with the natives; the cacique was made prisoner, but escaped again; and before Columbus could leave the coast he had to abandon a caravel, to take the settlers on board, and to relinquish the enterprise of colonization. Steering eastwards, he left a second caravel at Puerto Bello; he thence bore northwards for Cuba, where he obtained supplies from the natives. From Cuba he bore up for Jamaica, and there, in the harbour of San Gloria, now St Ann’s Bay, he ran his ships aground in a small inlet still called Don Christopher’s Cove (June 23rd, 1503).

The expedition was received with great kindness by the natives, and here Columbus remained upwards of a year, awaiting the return of his lieutenant Diego Mendez, whom he had despatched to Ovando for assistance. During his critical sojourn here, the admiral suffered much from disease and from the lawlessness of his followers, whose misconduct had alienated the natives, and provoked them to withhold their accustomed supplies, until he dexterously worked upon their superstitions by prognosticating an eclipse. Two vessels having at last arrived for his relief, Columbus left Jamaica on the 28th of June 1504, and, after calling at Hispaniola, set sail for Spain on the 12th of September. After a tempestuous voyage he landed once more at San Lucar on the 7th of November 1504.

As he was too ill to go to court, his son Diego was sent thither in his place, to look after his interests and transact his business. Letter after letter followed the young man from Seville—one by the hands of Amerigo Vespucci. A licence to ride on mule-back was granted him on the 23rd of February 1505; and in the following May he was removed to the court at Segovia, and thence again to Valladolid. On the landing of Philip and Juana at Coruña (25th of April 1506), although “much oppressed with the gout and troubled to see himself put by his rights,” he is known to have sent off the adelantado to pay them his duty and to assure them that he was yet able to do them extraordinary service. The last documentary note of him is contained in a final codicil to the will of 1498, made at Valladolid on the 19th of May 1506. By this the old will is confirmed; the mayorazgo is bequeathed to his son Diego and his heirs male, failing these to Fernando, his second son, and failing these to the heirs male of Bartholomew; only in case of the extinction of the male line, direct or collateral, is it to descend to the females of the family; and those into whose hands it may fall are never to diminish it, but always to increase and ennoble it by all means possible. The head of the house is to sign himself “The Admiral.” A tenth of the annual income is to be set aside yearly for distribution among the poor relations of the house. A chapel is founded and endowed for the saying of masses. Beatriz Enriquez is left to the care of the young admiral. Among other legacies is one of “half a mark of silver to a Jew who used to live at the gate of the Jewry, in Lisbon.” The codicil was written and signed with the admiral’s own hand. Next day (20th of May 1506) he died.

After the funeral ceremonies at Valladolid, Columbus’s remains were transferred to the Carthusian monastery of Santa Maria de las Cuevas, Seville, where the bones of his son Diego, the second admiral, were also laid. Exhumed in 1542, the bodies of both father and son were taken over sea to Hispaniola and interred in the cathedral of San Domingo. In 1795–1796, on the cession of that island to the French, the relics were re-exhumed and transferred to the cathedral of Havana, whence, after the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the loss of Cuba, they were finally removed to Seville cathedral, where they remain. The present heir and representative of Columbus belongs to the Larreategui family, descendants of the discoverer through the female line, and retains the titles of admiral and duke of Veragua.

Britannica Columbus Cipher.jpg
Columbus Cipher.

The interpretation of the seven-lettered cipher, accepting the smaller letters of the second line as the final ones of the words, seems to be Salve Christus, Maria, Yosephus. The name Christopher (Christoferens) appears in the last line.

In person Columbus was tall and shapely. The only authentic portrait of him is that which once belonged to Paulus Jovius, and is still in the possession of the de Orchi family (related to Jovius by female descent) at Como. It shows us a venerable man with clean-shaven face, thin grey hair, high forehead, sad thoughtful eyes. It bears the inscription Columbus Lygur. novi orbis repertor.

Authorities.—Fernando Columbus, Historie del Signor Don Fernando Colombo . . . e vera relatione della vita . . . dell’ Ammiraglio D. Christoforo Colombo (the Spanish original of this, written before 1539, is lost; only the Italian version remains, first published at Venice in 1571; a good edition appeared in London in 1867); Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, written 1527–1561, but first printed at Madrid in 1875, after remaining in manuscript more than three centuries; Andres Bernandez, Historia de los Reyes Catolicos (contemporary with Fernando Columbus’s Historie, but first printed at Granada in 1856; best edition, Seville, 1870); Gonzalo Fernandez Oviedo y Valdes, Historia general de las Indias (Seville, 1535; best edition, Madrid, 1851–1855); Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, Opus Epistolarum, first published in 1530, and De Orbe Novo (Decades), printed in 1511 and 1530; Francisco Lopez de Gomara, Historia general de las Indias (Saragossa, 1552–1553, and Antwerp, 1554); Antonio de Herrera, Historia general de las Indias occidentales (publication first completed in 1615, but best edition perhaps that of 1730, Madrid); Juan Bautista Muñoz, Historia del Nuevo Mundo (Madrid, 1793); Martin Fernandez Navarrete, Coleccion de los Viages y descubrimientos que hicieron por mar los Españoles (Madrid, 1825–1837); Washington Irving, History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (London, 1827–1828); Alex. von Humboldt, Examen critique (Paris, 1836–1839); R. H. Major, Select Letters of