The almirante had spent the days of expectation usefully, letting the Santa Maria get thrown to the floor and begin to feel the need to be gathered. The work of the caulkers was barely finished, and the caravel ready to sail, when the messengers returned to the coast, and reported to the supreme commander all that they had seen on their journey by land. It was that day on November 5th. And because the freshness of the nights made preveed near the winter, the almirante decided not to advance too far north, and not to stay longer in such poor districts.
On the other hand, before leaving the river from the Rio de los Mares, he commanded that some of the island of Cuba be taken, having in mind to lead some inhabitants of Castile to each island visited. So twelve natural persons were taken between men, women and children. The ships were already sailing, when he approached a wild pirogue, asking to be taken on board as well. Husband of one of the women taken by Spaniards, the father of two children who had been taken to the ship with his mother, the poor man did not see what he could do on the ground, far from his family. The almirante welcomed him festively, and commanded that he and his men be treated with all courtesy. So happy everyone, we left the mouth of the river, on the day of 12, moving to the east, looking for the island of Babeque.
It was a grave damage to him, that illusion of Babeque. If he had turned the prow to the west, and followed his usual path, he would have touched the coast of Florida; or also, continuing to skirt the island of Cuba, in the thunderclap of the southwest wind, he would meet the opposite banks of the Yucatan, doing so in his first voyage the discovery of Mexico, that is, the richest and most civilized contrada of the new world.
But by then, following the indications of the natural of Bohio, he went to look for Babeque, the untraceable Babeque. The ships had just taken offshore, which began to blow the north wind, and so fresh, to be advised to rest against the island of Cuba. The expedition then entered between some small islands, which stood near a large port, to which Cristoforo Colombo imposed the name of port of the Prince. He spent a few days visiting with his palischermi the graceful archipelago, to which he gave name to Garden of the King. They were those islands so close and close, that from one to the other it was not more than a quarter of league; and so deep were the canals, the banks so adorned with trees and herbs so green, that nothing could have been imagined more beautiful. All those islands were empty of inhabitants; yet we saw traces of many fishermen’s fires. Surely, the islands of Cuba went to those islands, to wait for fishing; which we then knew with certainty, together with other particularities, that matter little to our story, and that for the sake of brevity they are committing. The reader knows this.
On December 19, which was a Monday, the almirante sailed from the port of the Prince again, resuming his journey towards the fantastic Babeque. And he continued to look for her on the 21st, when Martino Alonzo Pinzon, annoyed to look for Babeque in the company of the admiral, set off on his own in search of a new island, which the natives on board the Pinta called Bohio, like the villages of the interior of Cuba. Evidently, with that name of Bohio they indicated the house, or a stock of houses; an inhabited place, in short.
Seeing the Pint moving away to the east, Christopher Columbus recalled it with signs of use. But the Pinta did not notice the calls, and went on for the rest of the day. After the night, the almirante had some sails tightened, and lanterns to hang on the mainmast, still thinking that the Pint, an excellent veil, would reach him; but in vain. The Pinta did not return; at the dawn of the day it had vanished completely.
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What did he want to say? We know that the stories of a savage, hinting at a very rich region, had dazzled the Pinzon. But without knowing it, the almirante thought straight about the other; he thought, for example, that Martin Alonzo was not the most obedient of men and impatiently endured the authority of the supreme commander. And he suspected, as a result, some bad design. Pinzon wanted, by claiming a separate command, to obtain separate benefits for himself; or he made an account of returning to Ispagna, to usurp the honor of the discoveries to the supreme commander.
The slowness of the Santa Maria did not allow us to pursue the Pinta. Christopher Columbus, who already had so many contrarieties had to endure and so many insults to swallow, he rejected his right disdain in the depths of his soul; and he continued to sail along the coast of Cuba. Instead, he needed to find a beautiful port, and to anchor himself, to supply water and wood. In that port, which he called Santa Caterina, he saw at the mouth of a river some stones that had golden exhibits; and the mountains all around were dressed in tall pine trees, which could be made trees for large ships.
But it was not time to linger. The late Santa Maria and the late Nina resumed the journey: they touched another port, which was called the Santo port, and from there they turned to the eastern tip of Cuba, which took the name of Alpha and Omega. Down there, as he ran along the edge, uncertain of the way to be taken, the almirante discovered a new land in scirocco: and this, by degrees, showed itself more clearly, raising its high mountains shaped like pyramids, on the horizon, and announcing an island of great extension.
The natives of Guanahani and of Cuba, who were on board the Santa Maria, when they saw that island in the distance, cried out: Bohio! When they saw that the almirante made the bow thrust at that time, they gave signs of great terror, and begged him to change course, assuring him that the inhabitants were fierce and cruel. On the contrary, it seemed to understand from the speeches of the interpetre that they were anthropophages and that they only had one eye in the middle of the forehead. Indeed, on that marvelous journey of the Genoese navigator, a bit of Odyssey did not hurt, and Polyphemus found his place there.
The wind had turned against; nor daring to sail in the night for those unknown seas, the almirante spent two whole days to arrive at the dreaded island of Bohio. But he could long admire it, amid the transparent atmosphere of the tropics. His mountains were taller and more rocky than he had seen in that island; on the other hand, the laughing hills rose from the dark green of thick woods; and the verdant grasslands that surrounded it, the signs of cultivation that offered the plains, the countless fires that were seen to shine in the night, the columns of smoke that rose in the sky during the day, gave evidence of a numerous and happy people. Bohio offered it, or to call it by his real name, Haiti, in the eyes of the admirer and his crew.
He had left the head of Alpha and Omega on the morning of the fifth of December. He did not touch the western tip of the new island in the evening of six. He came to a port, to which he gave the name of the saint of that day, St. Nicholas; a name that posterity has preserved to that spindler, spacious and deep, surrounded by tall trees, many of which were full of fruit.
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Towards the end of the port lay a vast plain, irrigated by a very clear water. In the port you could see five pirogues, big like Spanish sponges, of fifteen benches each. Surely they were villages nearby; but the natives, at the sight of foreign ships, had quickly fled to the bush.
Not being able to have practiced with those people, the almirante had to put back to the sail, following the coast towards the north, until he came to another port, which he called the Conception. Even in that port he put a small river in the mouth. The coast was full of fish, many of which even jumped in the palischermi. And because most of these fish resembled those of the coasts of Spain, and because it seemed to hear from the nearby woods the gurgling of the usual rosignuolo of Andalusia, and because the appearance of the mountains and hills also reminded the earth dond ‘ the navigators had set off, the island had the new name of Spagnuola, before its true name of Haiti was known.
The traces of a gross culture were near the port; but no inhabitants were seen, because everyone had fled when foreigners arrived. Four or five were seen in a clearing of the forest, which were spying on newcomers; they chased them, but it was not possible to reach them.
Wishing the almirante to enter in any way in connection with the island’s naturals, he sent six well-armed men in exploration. They found cultivated fields, traces of paths, eminences with leftovers of coal and ashes; but the fearful inhabitants had always kept away from them. It was not much, but it was enough to convince the almirante that the population of the island was quite numerous. Those fires he had seen shining the night before, and whose vestiges had been found, remembered what was known by tradition in Spain, of fires lit in the mountains by the Christian people, at the time of the invasion of the Arabs, to warn the inhabitants plan to escape as far as possible from the threatened shore.
It was December 12th, when Christopher Columbus solemnly planted a cross, on a hillock at the entrance of the port, to control that he had taken possession of it. Cosma and Damiano, who were walking in those surroundings, discovered a large number of natures on the border of a nearby spot. Given the voice to some companions, and soon followed by them, they ran on the trail of those people, who had given themselves, as you can imagine, to escape. Not impeded by drapes, nor by layers, the natural ones easily gained ground, and could not be reached. But fortune yielded to Damian, who was ahead of his companions, and was able to put his hand on a young woman, who remained last of the fugitive host.
We confess, out of love for truth, that Damiano at first did not think of the sex of his prey. He had grabbed it and held it tight. But at her screams, he recognized that he had a woman under his fingernails. And without leaving her, however, he held her a little less, trying instead to quell her, with that little wild tongue she had learned.
What little, however, was very little; one word.
-Taorib! -He said.-Taorib! –
The woman continued to struggle, but to no avail. Moreover, the companions of Damiano came to lend him a hand.
“In any case,” Cosma said to his friend, “would you have found Samana?”
“Well, something like that,” Damiano answered. “But the devil will take me if I fall back into his temptation.”
Even the woman was young and pretty. She was naked at all, which wished ill of the degree of civilization of the Spanish island. But it carried a golden tile suspended at the nostrils, and this made it hope that the precious metal was common on that island. A gold mine was well worth a state of civilization. So at least he reasoned then, and the narrator does not put his or her salt or pepper.
The beautiful conquest was carried in triumph at the foot of the cross. Here his fear was soon calmed by interpre- tations, and more by the benign aspect and by the very human gestures of the admiral; who soon ordered the beautiful bewildered to be covered with a blanket, gave her copper rings to put on her fingers, a necklace of glass beads and small rattles to be worn around her neck. Eva was promptly reassured. They had adorned her with beautiful presents; they sent her back free: they called her taorib.
-Taorib! yes, taorib! “Damiano repeated, as she moved away.
And she moved slowly away; or it was, as Damiano believed, because he did not mind that compliment, or because his grateful heart liked to show with the slowness of the return that was grateful for the good reception received.
-Accompagnatela, -said the almirante interpetri.-Perhaps you will find a way to talk to the men of the tribe.-
Three of the interpeters obeyed the command.
-Signore, -said Damiano, -will you accompany someone else of us?
– Do it, if you like. I did not think to assign it to you, imagining you tired of the race already made.-
Damiano looked at Cosma, inviting him.
“I would come,” said Cosma, moving, “but you will not let me see any other madness?
“Man of little faith,” said Damiano, “I told you I will not be in temptation. And I want to have you as a witness of my marvelous virtue. At this moment, then, I remember Scipione in Spain. ”
The woman, seeing herself followed by many, began to regret having gone too slow. But the interpreters were urged to curb his fears; and she showed herself pleased to return to her village so well escorted, with that queen cloak over her shoulders.
Damiano, on that expedition, kept the word he had given to his companion. He did not tender eyes to the beautiful wild; he was content to call her a hundred times taorib.
“Words,” he said to Cosma, “words that are said, and the wind carries them. It is always good to tell a woman that she is taorib, even if a golden tile suspended in the narrows drapes her face a little. She returns to her house, sees her friends, enters a hundred things with them, and always finds a way to remind them of that gentle knight who has told her so many beautiful things, perhaps telling him one more time.
-Ah, scoundrel of three cooked! -Claimed Cosma, laughing.-So you arrange yourself not to fall into temptation? preparing you the ground so that a whole female population falls in love with you? Do you want to conquer all the tender hearts of the new world?
-Yes, give me soy! -Yellow Damiano.-You are, Cosma taorib, what can you talk to me? you, that as soon as we will be at the village, will you earn me bravely on the oar? –
To the great satisfaction of Damian, who was fresh from illness and did not want to fall, it was not the case that his friend would renounce him, even involuntarily, to the oar. It happened in the evening, without having found the village again. Not wanting to venture into small numbers, and at night in those unknown places, they thought of returning to the coast. After all, the savage had seen companions on the nearby cliffs; he could go back with them to the village. She was greeted, obsessed, put her hands on everyone’s head, as a sign of reverence and faith, she heard herself called taorib once again, and half-smiling, half-weeping, she separated herself from her knights.
The almirante saw his men return late at night. And relying on the good effect that should have produced on the natural the story of the woman so readily postponed free and so honored by everyone, she thought of sending people into the interior of the island. The next morning he chose nine men, commanded that they arm themselves properly, and sent them on the way they had already played a part, to track down the village.
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Damiano, of course, was of the number; and Cosma could not help but accompany Damiano. A natural of Cuba was added to the group, to serve as interpetre.
The village was found, four and a half leagues from the coast, and on the banks of a large river. It contained a thousand huts; but all deserted, having fled the inhabitants at the first appearance of the Spaniards. On the other, they had not gone very far; several were seen buzzing among the trees, near the village, and as a lookout, to give notice of any news to their companions.
To them, on the advice of Cosma, who captained the group, only interpetre was left alone. Keeping them with gestures and with the friendly voice, he joined them, spoke, and succeeded in persuading them, talking for a long time about the goodness of the children of heaven, who traveled the world, making rich donations to everyone, and evil to no one.
A hundred were crowded to hear it; they grew to a thousand as he spoke; In two thousand they followed him to the village, surrounding the nine Spaniards, but respectfully, knowing them children of heaven, and imagining perhaps that those supernatural beings, descended from the homeland of lightning, could emit sparks at any moment and land them at ten.
Little by little, seeing them so good, that they allowed themselves to be admired, and gave them loving looks, they completely domesticated themselves. The eldest even came to lay their hands on the white men’s heads; which, as you know, was a sign of great honor, as a trusting friendship for foreigners, and a good omen for oneself. Then, scattered around the houses and fields, they returned to the square with fruits, roots and cassava bread. They still wanted them to visit their huts, bringing us the blessing of heaven, and begged them to remain their guests for a long time. Hearing from the interpetre that they loved the parrots, they brought many tamed. Not gold, alas, not gold, which the sons of heaven put before the parrots. Except for the tiles that some of them, especially the women, carried suspended to the nari, they had no other precious metal in their houses. But they let it be understood that the earth where the gold was gathered lay far beyond the east. Was it another part of the island? was another island a straight line, or a distant continent? The vocabulary was still poor, the syntax of the interpellery poorer; and that difficult point could not be clarified there, as the children of heaven would have wished.
The natives of that village were the most beautiful, for the regularity of features and proportion of members, whom the Christians had seen up to then in the uncovered islands. They also had the whitest skin of the others. They also appeared singularly happy, for the earth was almost without cultivation of most of their food; the rivers and shores of the sea gave fish in large numbers. All had common, the earth as well as water and the sun; their orchards, like their woods, were not seen surrounded by ditches, neither divided by stalks, nor protected by walls. They lived without laws, without judges, without ushers and without gendarmes, regarding as evil those who were pleased to do harm to others, nor having any other care than to watch the reproduction of the roots of jucca, whence they portrayed the bread. Polygamy was not unknown to them, as they assigned twenty women to the head of the tribe; but each of them seemed to be content with one. And they did not lack philosophical ideas, nor religious beliefs. They thought they were the immortal soul, and they thought that, after the death of the body, she went through woods and mountains, living eternally connected to her earthly homeland, in the bottom of the caves. These, therefore, had a cult, being regarded with superstitious veneration. And those voices that respond to ours in the solitary places, from the cavities of the caves, from the walls of the boulders, were, according to them, the souls of the dead. Bucolic life, poetic religion, as you see.
While the nine Spaniards were reasoning with the natives of the village (by the intercommunication of interpetre, it would hardly be said), they saw a large group of natives approaching, carrying a woman on their shoulders, as if in triumph.
“The queen!” Damiano said.
-Yes, catch fire, bombard! -Fu ready to beat Cosma.
-Eh, if it will be worthy of our tributes, why not? I thought about one, you know? The other time, my dear, you easily defeated me, having drunk too much of that goddamned liquor, and I stole that other poison in the smoke of the magic grass, or what else it was. But this time, for your rule, I will not drink that water, I will not put kohiba to my lips, and we’ll see it, my dear! –
Cosma listened and smiled, of his melancholy smile that did not cover the secrets of the soul, but allowed them to glimpse, and made him a singular character among the numerous family of poor sailors.
The group had approached, and the two friends recognized in the believed queen the young woman who had taken prisoner the day before and then returned half way to the village. Covered by the shoulders of her brightly colored coat, surrounded by the neck of the rattles and the glass beads that the almirante had given her, she was all smiling and happy on her improvised chariot. Her husband preceded the squad, and was very pleased to have an interpetre ready there, to make a long speech, in which she expressed her profound gratitude for the goodness that the sons of heaven had shown towards her wife.
A good word is never wasted. Damian had the reward of what he had said so often to the young savage; she had heard him call her by name. It was the name he had heard him call from friends, and he had not forgotten it.
-Damiano! -He said, -Damiano! –
And seemed pleased to remember it; happier to show him that he had felt it.
Ah! Praise the sky! “Damiano murmured.
-This, at least, does not change my sex. Good morning, taorib! “He said aloud, making a gracious greeting with his hand.
“She knows your name,” Cosma said in his ear. “Ask her at least.
“What’s the matter?” Damiano said.
– But what do I know? To remember it.
-We ask for his name: -ross Damiano.-Cusqueia! –
The natural of Cuba, which was so called, turned.
-How is that taorib called? Domandalo.-
The interpetre immediately satisfied Damiano’s desire; then he repeated the name the woman had told him:
“Honor to Caritaba!” Said Damiano.
And taking off a red band of wool that he wore in his belt, he handed it to her in the present. Caritaba thanked him, beating his palms and jumping.