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later that they had taken them for the cannibals, which
* See Henry Harrisse, Christophe Colombe, ii., p. 72. Letter of Simone Verde to Nicoli.
tender chesnuts. These they call ages. Another root which they eat they call yucca, and of this they make bread. They eat the ages either roasted or boiled, or made into bread. They cut the yucca, which is very juicy, into pieces, mashing and kneading it and then baking it in the form of cakes. It is a singular thing that they consider the juice of the yucca to be more poisonous than that of the aconite, and upon drinking it, death immediately follows. On the other hand, bread made from this paste is very appetising and wholesome: all the Spaniards have tried it. The islanders also easily make bread with a kind of millet, similar to that which exists plenteously amongst the Milanese and Andalusians. This millet is a little more than a palm in length, ending in a point, and is about the thickness of the upper part of a man's arm. The grains are about the form and size of peas. While they are growing, they are white, but become black when ripe. When ground they are whiter than snow. This kind of grain is called maiz. The islanders set some value on gold and wear it in the form of fine leaves, fixed in the lobes of their ears and their nostrils. As soon as our compatriots were certain that they had no commercial relations with other peoples and no other coasts than those of their own islands, they asked them by signs whence they procured the gold. As nearly as could be conjectured, the natives obtain gold from the sands of the rivers which flow down from the high mountains. This process was not a difficult one. Before beating it into leaves, they form it into ingots; but none was found in that part of the island where the Spaniards had landed. It was shortly afterwards discovered, for when the Spaniards left that locality and landed at another point to obtain fresh water and to fish, they discovered a river of which the stones contained flakes of gold. With the exception of three kinds of rabbits, no quadruped is found in these islands. There are serpents, but they are not dangerous. Wild geese, turtle-doves, ducks of a larger size than ours, with plumage as white as that of a swan, and red heads, exist. The Spaniards brought back with them some forty parrots, some green, others yellow, and some having vermilion collars like the parrakeets of India, as described by Pliny; and all of them have the most brilliant plumage. Their wings are green or yellow, but mixed with bluish or purple feathers, presenting a variety which enchants the eye. I have wished, most illustrious Prince, to give you these details about the parrots; and although the opinion of Columbus' seems to be contradictory to the theories of the ancients concerning the size of the globe and its circumnavigation, the birds and many other objects brought thence seem to indicate that these islands do belong, be it by proximity or by their products, to India; particularly when one recalls what Aristotle, at the end of his treatise De Caelo et Mundo, and Seneca, and other learned cosmographers have always affirmed, that India was only separated from the west coast of Spain by a very small expanse of sea. Mastic, aloes, cotton, and similar products flourish in abundance. Silky kinds of cotton grow upon trees as in China; also rough-coated berries of different colours more pungent to the taste than Caucasian pepper; and twigs cut from the trees, which in their form resemble cinnamon, but in taste, odour, and the outer bark, resemble ginger. Happy at having discovered this unknown land, and to have found indications of a hitherto unknown continent, Columbus resolved to take advantage of favouring winds and the approach of spring to return to Europe; but he 1eft thirty-eight of his companions under the protection of the king of whom I have spoken, in order that they might, during his absence, acquaint themselves with the country and its condition. After signing a treaty of friendship with this king who was called by his enemies Guaccanarillo," Columbus took all precautions for ensuring the health, the life, and the safety of the men whom he left behind. The king, touched with pity for these voluntary exiles, shed abundant tears, and promised to render them every assistance in his power. After mutual embraces, Columbus gave the order to depart for Spain. He took with him six islanders,” thanks to whom all the words of their language have been written down with Latin characters. Thus they call the heavens tueri, a house boa, gold caumi, a virtuous man taino, nothing magami. They pronounce all these names just as distinctly as we do Latin. You are now acquainted with such details concerning this first voyage as it has seemed expedient to me to record. The King and Queen, who, above everything and even in their sleep, thought about the propagation of the Christian faith, hoping that these numerous and gentle peoples might be easily converted to our religion, experienced the liveliest emotions upon hearing these news. Columbus was received upon his return with the great honour he merited for what he had accomplished.” They bade him sit in their presence, which for the Spanish sovereigns is regarded as a proof of the greatest friendship and the highest mark of gratitude. They commanded that henceforward Columbus should be called “Praefectus Marinus,” or, in the Spanish tongue, Amiral. His brother Bartholomew, likewise very proficient in the art of navigation, was honoured by them with the title of Prefect of the Island of Hispaniola, which is in the vulgar * Otherwise Guacanagari. • One of these Indians died at sea on the voyage, and three others landed very ill at Palos; the remaining six were presented to Ferdinand and Isabella at Barcelona, and were afterwards baptised.
* Columbus died in the belief that the countries he had discovered formed part of the Indies. They were thus described officially by the Spanish sovereigns. vol. 1.-5
3 The historian Oviedo, who was present, describes the reception of Columbus at Barcelona. Hist. Nat. de las Indias, tom. ii., p. 7.
tongue called Adelantado." To make my meaning clear I shall henceforth employ these usual words of Admiral and Adelantado as well as the terms which are now commonly used in navigation. But let us return to our narrative. It was thought, as Columbus had moreover declared in the beginning, that in these islands would be found riches such as all struggle to obtain. There were two motives which determined the royal pair to plan a second expedition, for which they ordered seventeen ships to be equipped; three of these were vessels with covered decks, twelve were of the kind called caravels by the Spaniards, which had none, and two were larger caravels, of which the height of the masts made it possible to adapt decks. The equipment of this fleet was confided to Juan de Fonseca, Dean of Seville, a man of illustrious birth, of genius and initiative.” In obedience to his orders more than twelve hundred foot-soldiers, amongst whom were all sorts of labourers and numerous artisans, were commanded to embark. Some noblemen were found amongst the company. The Admiral took on board mares, sheep, cows and the corresponding males for the propagation of their species; nor did he forget vegetables, grain, barley, and similar seeds, not only for provisions but also for sowing; vines and young plants such as were wanting in that country were carefully taken. In fact the Spaniards have not found any tree in that island which was known to them except pines and palms; and even the palms were extraordinarily high, very hard, slender, and straight, owing, no doubt, to the fertility of the soil. Even the fruits they produce in abundance were unknown.
* This statement is premature; Bartholomew's appointment was made considerably later.
* The evil that has been attributed to Juan Fonseca, Bishop of Burgos, may exceed his dues, but the praise here and elsewhere given him by Peter Martyr is excessive and all but unique. That he cordially hated Columbus and after him Cortes, Las Casas and most of the men of action in the New World, is undeniable.