Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/22

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4: INTRODUCTION. SO close a covering as to protect whatever it contained against the effects of I'ain and the waves ; under this awning were the women and children, and all the goods and merchandise. The canoe was under the direction of twenty-five men. * * * The Admiral gave thanks to God for having afforded him sam- ples of the commodities of those countries without exposing his men to toil or danger. He ordered such things to be taken as seemed themostvaluable, amongst which were cotton coverlets and tunics without sleeves, curiously worked and dyed of va- rious coloui-s ; coverings for the loins of similar material ; large mantles, in which the female Indians wrapped themselves like the Moorish women of Gi'anada ; long wooden swords with channels on each side of the blade, edged with sharp flints that cut the naked body as well as steel ; copper hatchets for cutting wood, similar in form to the stone hatchets of other Indians ; bells of the same metal, and crucibles in which to melt it. For provisions they had such roots and grains as the natives of Hispaniola eat ; a sort of wine made of maize, resembling English beer ; great quantities of almonds, of the kind used by the people of New Spain for money," &c.* The Spaniards were also struck with the personal modesty of these Indians, in which they greatly excelled the natives of the islands. The Admiral restored their canoe, and gave them some European articles in exchange for those he had taken. He then allowed them all to depart except one old man, who seemed to possess greater authority than the rest, and to be the most intelligent person amongst them ; from him Columbus endeavored to ob- tain some information about the country, and finding that he understood the language spoken by the natives along the coast of Honduras as far as the Cape Gracias 4 Dios, he made use of him in his endeavors to hold intercourse and trafiic

  • The roots referred to were probably the mandioc, from which the cassava

bread is made, and the yam or igname. A beverage composed of maize, water and sugar, is still common amongst the native Mexicans, under the name of atole. The fruit described under the name of "almonds," was the cacao bean, which closely resembles the almond in size and shape, and was used by the Mexi- cans for money, as well as for making chocolate.