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Days of the Discoverers Part 12

Balboa had a tall tree cut down and made into a cross, which was planted on the exact spot where he had stood when he first looked upon the sea.

A mound of stones was piled up for an additional monument, and the names of the sovereigns were carved on neighboring trees. Then Balboa, leading his men down the southern slope of the mountain, sent out three scouting parties under Francisco Pizarro, Juan de Escaray and Alonso Martin to discover the best route to the shore. Martin's party were first to reach it, after two days' journey, and found there two large canoes. Martin stepped into one of them, calling his companions to witness that he was the first European who had ever embarked upon those waters; Blas de Etienza, who followed, was the second. They reported their success to Balboa, and with twenty-six men the commander set out for the sea-coast.

The Indian chief Chiapes, whom Balboa had fought and then made his ally, accompanied the party with some of his followers. On Michaelmas they reached the shore of a great bay, which in honor of the day was christened Bay de San Miguel. The tide was out, leaving a beach half a league wide covered with mud, and the Spaniards sat down to rest and wait. When it turned, it came in so fast that some who had dropped asleep found it lapping the bank at their feet, before they were fairly roused.

Balboa stood up, and taking a banner which displayed the arms of Castile and Leon, and the figure of the Madonna and Child, he drew his sword and marched into the sea. In a formal speech he again took possession, in the names of the sovereigns, of the seas and lands and coasts and ports, the islands of the south, and all kingdoms and provinces thereunto appertaining. These rights he declared himself ready to maintain "until the day of judgment."

While another document was receiving the signatures of the members of the expedition, Saavedra, who was standing near the margin of the bay, took up a little water in his hand and tasted it. It was salt.

In the excitement of actually reaching the coast of so broad and beautiful a sea, no one had happened to think of finding out whether the water was fresh or salt. This discovery made it certain that they had found, not a great inland lake, but the ocean itself.

Pizarro scowled; he wished that he had not missed this last chance of fame. Since he had discovered nothing it was not likely that his name should be mentioned in Balboa's report to the King, at all. But Balboa, high in expectation of the change which this fortunate adventure would make in his career, went on triumphantly exploring the neighboring country, gaining here and there considerable quantities of gold and pearls. Saavedra, who had inherited an estate in Spain just before the expedition started, and expected on his return to Darien to go home to look after it, watched Pizarro with growing distrust and anxiety.

"I think you are ready to accuse him of witchcraft," said Balboa lightly when Saavedra hinted at his suspicions. "You have not given me one positive proof that the man is anything but a rather sulky, unhappy brute who has had ill luck."

"He is ill-bred, I tell you," said Saavedra stubbornly. "He is making up to the Indians, and that is not like him. We shall have trouble there yet."

Balboa laughed and went to his hut, there to fling himself into a hammock and take a much-needed nap. Saavedra, coming back in the twilight, spied an Indian creeping through the forest toward a window in the rear of the hut. He was about to challenge the man when there was a yelp from the bushes, and Cacafuego leaped upon the prowler and bore him to earth, tearing savagely at his throat and receiving half a dozen wounds from the arrows the Indian carried in his hand and in his belt.

He had been trained by Pizarro to fly at an Indian, and made no distinctions. Within an hour or two the poison in the arrow-points began to take effect, and the dog died. Whether he had been prowling about in search of food--for Pizarro kept him hungry with a view to making his temper more touchy--or was looking for his old enemy Leoncico, no one would ever know. Balboa looked grave and said nothing.

"The dog is dead--that is all that is absolutely certain," said Saavedra grimly. "I wish it had been his master."

NOTE

It is recorded that when Pizarro met Balboa with the order for his arrest Balboa thus addressed him: "It is not thus, Pizarro, that you were wont to greet me!" Pizarro's jealousy and ill-will are evident in the recorded facts, though he does not appear to have been actually guilty of treachery to his general.

COLD O' THE MOON

Alone with all the stars that rule mankind Ruy Faleiro sought to read the fate Of his close friend--now by the King's rebuke Sent stumbling out of Portugal to seek His fortune on the sea-roads of the world.

But when Faleiro read the horoscope It seemed to point to glory--and a grave Beyond the sunset.

When Magalhaens heard The prophecy, he smiled, and steadfastly Held on his way to that young Emperor, The blond shy stripling with the Austrian face, And in due time was Admiral of the Fleet To sail the seas that lay beyond the world.

Mid-August was it when the fleet set forth, December, when in that Brazilian bay, Santa Lucia, they dropped anchor,--then Set up a little altar on the beach And knelt at Mass in that gray solitude.

Carvagio the pilot knew the place, And said the folk were kindly,--brown, straight-haired, Wore feather mantles, used no poisoned flints, And only ate man's flesh on holidays.

Whereat a little daunted, not with fear, The mariners met them running to the shore, Bought swine of them, and plantains, cassava, And for one playing card, the king of clubs, The wild men gave six fowls! There were brown roots Formed like the turnip, chestnut-like in taste And called patata in ship-Spanish--cane Wherefrom is made the sugar and the wine Of Hispaniola, and the pineapple That was like nectar to their sea-parched throats.

And thus they feasted and were satisfied.

Like an enchanted Eden seemed the land, For birds on dazzling many-colored wings Made the trees blossom--parrots red, green, blue, Humming-birds like live jewels in the air, Strange ducks with spoon-shaped bills,--and overhead Like some fantastic frieze of living gold, The little yellow monkeys leaped and swung Chattering of Setebos in their unknown tongue.

The old men lived beyond their sevenscore years-- Or so the people said. They made canots Of logs that they carved out with heated stones.

They slept in hamacs, woven cotton swings.

Their chiefs were called cacichas--you may find All this put down in the thrice precious book Written by Pigafetta of Vicenza For a queen's pleasure when the voyage was done.

Then from that shore they sailed, and southward bent, And as the long days lengthened, till the nights Were but star-circled midnight intervals, They wondered of what race and by what seas They should find kings at the antipodes.

Where a great river flowed into the sea They found sea-lions,--on another isle Strange geese, milk-white and sable, with no wings, Who swam instead of flying, and they called The place the Isle of Penguins.

Then they found A desolate harbor called San Juliano, Where the fierce flame of mutiny broke forth, Spaniard on Portuguese turned treacherously Till in the red midwinter sunrise towered The place of execution, and an end Was made of the two traitors. Outward flashed the sail And left the sea-birds there to tell the tale.

Beyond there lay a bleak and misty shore, And in the fog a wild gigantic form White-haired, a savage, called a greeting to them.

Friendly the huge men were, and took these men, Bearded and strange, for kinfolk of their god, Setebos, from his home beyond the moon, And from their great shoes filled with straw for warmth Magalhaens named them men of Patagonia.

Westward they steered, and buffeted by winds, They found a narrow channel, where the fleet Halted for council. One returned to Spain Laden with falsehood and with mutiny.

On sailed the others valiantly, their hearts Remembering their Admiral's haughty words Flung at his craven captain, "I will see This great voyage to the end, though we should eat The leather from the yards!" And thus they reached The end of that strait path of Destiny, And saw beyond the shining Western Sea.

Northward the Admiral followed that long coast Past Masafuera--then began his flight Across the great uncharted shining sea.

And surely there was never stranger voyage.

The winds were gentle toward him, and no more The dreadful laughter of the tempest shrilled, Or down upon them pounced the hurricane.

Therefore Magalhaens, giving thanks to God, Named it Pacific, and the lonely sea.

Still bore him westward where his heart would be.

Alone with all the stars of Christendom He set his course,--if he had known his fate Would he have stayed his hand? Before the end Fate the old witch, who often loves to turn A man's words on him, kept the ships becalmed Even to thirst and famine; when instead They fed on leather, gnawed wood, and ate mice As did the Patagonian giants, when They begged such vermin for a savage feast.

Then Fate, her jest outworn, blew them to shore On the green islands called the Isles of Thieves, And brought them to more islands--and still more, A kingdom of bright lands in sunny seas.

Here did the Admiral land, and raise the Cross Above that heathen realm,--and here went down In battle for strange allies in strange lands.

So ended his adventure. Yet not so, For the Victoria, faithful to his hand That laid her charge upon her, southward sailed Around the Cape and westward to Seville.

El Cano brought her in, and her strange tale Told to the Emperor. "And the Admiral said,"

He ended, "that indeed these heathen lands God meant should all be Christian, for He set A cross of stars above the southern sea, A passion-flower upon the southern shore, To be a sign to great adventurers.

These be two marvels,--and upon the way We gained a kingdom, but we lost a day!"

IX

WAMPUM TOWN

"Elephants' teeth?"

"A fair lot, but I am sick of the Guinea coast. The Lisbon slavers get more of black ivory than we do of the white."

The good Jean Parmentier, who asked the question, and the youth called Jean Florin, who answered it, were looking at a stanch weather-beaten little cargo-ship anchored in the harbor of Dieppe. She had been to the Gold Coast, where wild African chiefs conjured elephants' tusks out of the mysterious back country and traded them for beads, trinkets and gay cloth. In Dieppe this ivory was carved by deft artistic fingers into crucifixes, rosaries, little caskets, and other exquisite bibelots.

African ivory was finer, whiter and firmer than that of India, and when thus used was almost as valuable as gold.

But within the last ten years the slave trade had grown more profitable than anything else. A Portuguese captain would kidnap or purchase a few score negroes, take them, chained and packed together like convicts, to Lisbon or Seville and sell them for fat gold moidores and doubloons. The Spanish conquistadores had not been ten years in the West Indies before they found that Indian slavery did not work. The wild people, under the terrible discipline of the mines and sugar plantations, died or killed themselves. Planters of Hispaniola declared one negro slave worth a dozen Indians.

"I do not wonder that the cacique Hatuey told the priest that he would burn forever rather than go to a heaven where Spaniards lived," said Jean Florin. "To roast a man is no way to change his religion."

"Some of our folk in Rochelle are of that way of thinking," agreed Captain Parmentier dryly. "What say you to a western voyage?"

"Not Brazil? Cabral claims that for Portugal."

"No; the northern seas--the Baccalaos. Of course codfish are not ivory, and it is rough service, but Aubert and some of the others think that there may be a way to India. Sebastian Cabot tried for it and found only icebergs, but Aubert says there is a gulf or strait somewhere south of Cabot's course, that leads westward and has never been explored."

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