Spanish Voyages of Discovery

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

their conchs and drums. Armed detachments then coasted the shore in boats, landing occasionally, climbing the rocks and promontories, firing signal-guns, and sounding trumpets. It was all in vain; they heard nothing but the echoes of their own noises, or perhaps the wild whoop of an Indian from the bosom of the forest. At length, when they were about to give up the search in despair, they came to a great thicket of mangrove trees on the margin of the sea. These trees grow within the water, but their roots rise, and are intertwined, above the surface. In this entangled and almost impervious grove, they caught a glimpse of a man in Spanish attire. They entered, and, to their astonishment, found it to be Alonzo de Ojeda. He was lying on the matted roots of the mangroves, his buckler on his shoulder, and his sword in his hand; but so wasted with hunger and fatigue that he could not speak. They bore him to the firm land; made a fire on the shore to warm him, for he was chilled with the damp and cold of his hiding-place, and when he was a little revived they gave him food and wine. In this way he gradually recovered strength to tell his doleful story.*

He had succeeded in cutting his way through the host of savages, and attaining the woody skirts of the mountains; but when he found himself alone, and that all his brave men had been cut off, he was ready to yield up in despair. Bitterly did he reproach himself for having disregarded the advice of the veteran La Cosa, and deeply did he deplore the loss of that loyal follower, who had fallen a victim to his devotion. He scarce knew which way to bend his course, but continued on, in the darkness of the night and of the forest, until out of hearing of the yells of triumph uttered by the savages over the bodies of his men. When the day broke, he sought the rudest parts of the mountains, and hid himself until the night; then struggling forward among rocks, and precipices, and matted forests, he made his way to the sea-side, but was too much exhausted to reach the ships. Indeed it was wonderful that one

____________________
*
The picture here given is so much like romance, that the author quotes his authority at length: -- "Llegaron adonde havia, junto al agua do la mar, unos Manglares, que son arboles, que siempre nacen, i crecen i permanecen dentro del agua de la mar, con grandes raices, asidas, i enmarañadas unas con otras, i alli metido, i escondido hallaron à Alonzo de Ojeda, con su espada en la mano, i la rodela en las espaldas, i en ella sobre trecientas señales de flechazos. Estabo descaldo de hambre, que no podia hechar de si la habla; i si no fuera tan robusto, aunque chico de cuerpo, fuera muerto."

Las Casas. l. ii. c. 58. MS. Herrara, Hist. Ind. D. i. l. vii. c. xv.

-53-

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