Spanish Voyages of Discovery

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

sent to San Domingo, freighted with slaves and gold, an earnest of the riches to be found at San Sebastian. Bernardino de Talavera immediately conceived the project of giving his creditors the slip and escaping to this new settlement. He understood that Ojeda was in need of recruits, and felt assured that, from his own reckless conduct in money-matters, he would sympathize with any one harassed by debt. He drew into his schemes a number of desperate debtors like himself, nor was he scrupulous about filling his ranks with recruits whose legal embarrassments arose from more criminal causes. Never did a more vagabond crew engage in a project of colonization.

How to provide themselves with a vessel was now the question. They had neither money nor credit; but then they had cunning and courage, and were troubled by no scruples of conscience; thus qualified, a knave will often succeed better for a time than an honest man; it is in the long run that he fails, as will be illustrated in the case of Talavera and his hopeful associates. While casting about for means to escape to San Sebastian they heard of a vessel belonging to certain Genoese, which was at Cape Tiburon, at the western extremity of the island, taking in a cargo of bacon and casava bread for San Domingo. Nothing could have happened more opportunely: here was a ship amply stored with provisions, and ready to their hand; they had nothing to do but seize it and embark.

The gang, accordingly, seventy in number, made their way separately and secretly to Cape Tiburon, where, assembling at an appointed time and place, they boarded the vessel, overpowered the crew, weighed anchor, and set sail. They were heedless, hap-hazard mariners, and knew little of the management of a vessel; the historian Charlevoix thinks, therefore, that it was a special providence that guided them to San Sebastian. Whether or not the good father is right in his opinion, it is certain that the arrival of the ship rescued the garrison from the very brink of destruction.*

Talavera and his gang, though they had come lightly by their prize, were not disposed to part with it as frankly, but demanded to be paid down in gold for the provisions furnished to the starving colonists. Ojeda agreed to their terms, and taking the supplies into his possession, dealt them out sparingly to his companions. Several of his hungry followers were

____________________
*
Hist. S. Domingo, lib. iv.

-60-

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