CHAPTER II - A BIT OF HISTORY
When Columbus returned to Spain after
his first voyage, he left on the island of Hispaniola,
now called Haïti, a little colony of about forty men.
On his second voyage he sailed first
to this same place, arriving in November, late at
night. A salute was fired to let the settlers
know that their friends had returned, but no answer
came, and it was feared that something was wrong.
Sure enough, when the voyagers went ashore in the
morning they found eleven dead bodies and no living
men. The fort had been destroyed and the tools
and provisions were gone.
This was a sad welcome; all the sadder
because it need not have happened but for the evil
doings of the colonists. After the departure of
Columbus they had soon quarreled among themselves and
had treated the inoffensive natives so cruelly that,
unable to endure it, they had risen against the Spaniards
and killed them all.
Columbus at once went to work to build
another little town, not far from the first, and called
it Isabella. A church was erected, a number of
houses built, and the whole surrounded by a strong
wall. This being done, he placed his brother
Diego in charge, and started off with three ships
to make further explorations.
On this voyage he coasted along the
southern shore of Cuba, discovered Jamaica and a number
of smaller islands, and sailed all around Hispaniola.
But he was worn out with excitement and fatigue.
Discovering new countries is hard work, and it is
still harder to try to govern unruly and evil men.
He became very ill, and was brought back to Isabella
quite unconscious. When at length he came to himself
he found his brother Bartholomew beside him.
This was a great comfort, for the brothers were very
fond of each other, and Columbus needed all the help
he could get. He made Bartholomew governor of
Hispaniola, but no governor could do very much with
such a company of lawless adventurers as were these
Spaniards. Like a great many people of to-day,
they wanted to get rich quickly and without working.
They spent their time in fighting, roaming about the
country, abusing the Indians, and killing them and
one another. At length the natives, exasperated
beyond endurance, rose against them as before, and
many Spaniards lost their lives.
In the end, however, of course it
was the Indians that suffered the most. They
could not stand against the white men. Their bows
and arrows would not pierce the soldiers’ armor,
and they ran in terror from the sight of a horse,
an animal that they had never seen before. Twenty
great bloodhounds were let loose upon them also, which
tore them in pieces; and at length, in despair, they
submitted to their enslavers.
They were used as slaves by the white
men, being forced to cultivate the land for their
conquerors and to work in the gold mines. The
poor creatures, whose lives had been so simple as
to require no hard labor, died by the thousands, and
many were whipped to death or killed outright, so
that in a little while that beautiful island became
a place of great suffering, and the Spaniards were
feared and hated by those gentle natives, who at their
coming had been ready to welcome them as friends.
Many of the colonists grew dissatisfied
because they were not getting rich as fast as they
wished, and some returned to Spain with complaints
of Columbus. Finally Francisco Bobadilla was sent
out to look into matters. He treated the great
Admiral very unjustly and cruelly, sending him back
to Spain in chains; but in this action he far exceeded
his instructions. Ferdinand and Isabella, grieved
for the indignity that had been put upon the man who
had given them a new country, caused him to be released
at once, and recalled Bobadilla.
Nicholas de Ovando was now appointed
to rule Hispaniola, and it was with him that Las Casas
went out, as we shall see in the next chapter.