The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII.
EXPEDITION OF ALONSO DE OJEDA TO EXPLORE THE INTERIOR OF
THE ISLAND—DISPATCH OF THE SHIPS TO SPAIN.

[ 1493.]

The ships having discharged their cargoes, it was necessary to send the greater part of them back to Spain. Here new anxieties pressed upon the mind of Columbus. He had hoped to find treasures of gold and precious merchandise accumulated by the men left behind on the first voyage; or at least the source of wealthy traffic ascertained, by which speedily to freight his vessels. The destruction, of the garrison had defeated all those hopes. He was aware of the extravagant expectations entertained by the sovereigns and the nation, What would be their disappointment when the returning ships brought nothing but a tale of disaster! Something must be done, before the vessels sailed, to keep up the fame of his discoveries, and justify his own magnificent representations.

As yet he knew nothing of the interior of the island. If it were really the island of Cipango, it must contain populous cities, existing probably in some more cultivated region, beyond the lofty mountains with which it was intersected. All the Indians concurred in mentioning Cibao as the tract of country whence they derived their gold. The very name of its cacique, Caonabo, signifying "The Lord of the Golden House," seemed to indicate the wealth of his dominions. The tracts where the mines were said to abound lay at a distance of but three or four days' journey, directly in the interior; Columbus determined, therefore, to send an expedition to explore it previous to the sailing of the ships. If the result should confirm his hopes, he would then be able to send home the fleet with confidence, bearing tidings of the discovery of the golden mountains of Cibao.*

The person he chose for this enterprise was Alonso de Ojeda, the same cavalier who has been already noted for his daring spirit and great bodily force and agility. Delighting in all service of a hazardous and adventurous nature, Ojeda was the

____________________
*
Herrera, Hist. Ind., dec. i. lib. ii. cap. 10.

-238-

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