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| CHAPTER VII.
Of a voyage made by the Author, along the coasts of Costa Rica, at his return towards Jamaica. What happened most remarkable in the said voyage. Some observations made by him al that time.
CAPTAIN MORGAN left us all in such a miserable condition, as might serve for a lively representation of what reward attends wickedness at the latter end of life. Whence we ought to have learned how to regulate and amend our actions for the future. However it was, our affairs being reduced to such a posture, every company that was left behind, whether English or French, were compelled to seek what means they could to help themselves. Thus most of them separated from each other, and several companies took several courses, at their return homewards. As for that party to which I belonged, we steered our voyage along the coast of Costa Rica, where we intended to purchase some provisions, and careen our vessel in some secure place or other. For the boat wherein we were, was now grown so foul as to be rendered totally unfit for sailing. In few days we arrived at a great port, called Boca del Toro, where are always to be found huge quantity of good and eatable tortoises. The circumference hereof is ten leagues, more or less, being surrounded with little islands, under which vessels may ride very secure from the violence of the winds.
The said islands are inhabited by Indians, who never could be subjugated by the Spaniards, and hence they give them the name of Indios bravos, or Wild Indians. They are divided, according to the variety of idioms of their language, into several customs and fashions of people, whence arise perpetual wars against one another. Towards the east side of this port are found some of them, who formerly did much trade with the Pirates, selling to them the flesh of divers animals which they hunt in their countries, as also all sorts of fruits that the land produces. The exchange of which commodities was iron instruments, that the Pirates brought with them, beads and other toys, whereof they made great account for wearing, more than of precious jewels, which they knew not nor esteemed in the least. This commerce afterwards failed, because the Pirates committed many barbarous inhumanities against them, killing many of their men on a certain occasion, and taking away their women. These abuses gave sufficient cause for a perpetual cessation of all friendship and commerce between them and the Pirates.
We went ashore, with design to seek provisions, our necessity being now almost extreme. But our fortune was so bad that we could find nothing else than a few eggs of crocodiles, wherewith we were forced to content ourselves for that present. Hereupon we left those quarters, and steered our course eastwards. Being upon this tack, we met with three boats more of our own companions, who had been left behind by Captain Morgan. These told us they had been able to find no relief for the extreme hunger they sustained; moreover, that Captain Morgan himself and all his people were already reduced to such misery, that he could afford them no more allowance than once a day, and that very short too.
We therefore hearing from these boats that little or no good was like to be done by sailing farther eastward, changed our course, and steered towards the west. Here we found an excessive quantity of tortoises, more than we needed for the victualling our boats, should we be never so long without any other flesh or fish. Having provided ourselves with this sort of victuals, the next thing we wanted was fresh water. There was enough to be had in the neighbouring islands, but we scarce dared to land on them, by reason of the enmity above mentioned between us Pirates and those Indians. Notwithstanding, necessity having no law, we were forced to do as we could, rather than as we desired to do. And hereupon we resolved to go all of us together to one of the said islands. Being landed, one party of our men went to range in the woods, while another filled the barrels with water. Scarce one whole hour was past, after our people were got ashore, when suddenly the Indians came upon us, and we heard one of our men cry: Arm! Arm! We presently took up our arms, and began to fire at them as hot as we could. This caused them to advance no farther, and in a short while put them to flight, sheltering themselves in the woods. We pursued them some part of the way, but not far, by reason we then esteemed rather to get in our water than any other advantages upon the enemy. Coming back, we found two Indians dead upon the shore, whereof the habiliments of one gave us to understand he was a person of quality amongst them. For he had about his body a girdle, or sash, very richly woven; and on his face he wore a beard of massive gold — I mean, a small planch of gold hung down at his lips by two strings (which penetrated two little holes, made there on purpose), that covered his beard, or served instead thereof. His arms were made of sticks of .palmetto-trees, being very curiously wrought, at one end whereof was a kind of hook, which seemed to be hardened with fire. We could willingly have had opportunity to speak with some of these Indians, to see if we could reconcile their minds to us, and by this means renew the former trade with them, and obtain provisions. But this was a thing impossible, through the wildness of their persons and savageness of their minds. Notwithstanding, this encounter hindered us not from filling our barrels with water, and carrying them aboard.
The night following we heard from the shore huge cries and shrieks among the Indians. These lamentations caused us to believe, because they were heard so far, they had called in much more people to aid them against us; as also, that they lamented the death of those two men who were killed the day before. These Indians never come upon the waters of the sea, neither have they ever given themselves to build canoes or any other sort of vessels for navigation — not so much as fisher-boats, of which art of fishery they are totally ignorant. At last, having nothing else to hope for in these parts, we resolved to depart thence for Jamaica, whither we designed to go. Being set forth, we met with contrary winds, which caused us to make use of our oars, and row as far as the river of Chagre. When we came near it, we perceived a ship that made towards us, and began to give us chase. Our apprehensions were that it was a ship from Cartagena, which might be sent to rebuild and retake possession of the castle of Chagre, now all the Pirates were departed thence. Hereupon we set all our sail and ran before the wind, to see if we could escape or refuge ourselves in any place. But the vessel, being much swifter and cleaner than ours, easily got the wind of us, and stopped our course. Then approaching near us, we discovered what they were, and knew them to be our former comrades, in the same expedition of Panama, who were but lately set out from Chagre. Their design was to go to Nombre de Dios, and thence to Cartagena, to seek some purchase or other, in or about that frequented port. But the wind at that present being contrary to their intention, they concluded to go in our company towards the same place where we were before, called Boca del Toro.
This accident and encounter retarded our journey, in the space of two days, more than we could regain in a whole fortnight. This was the occasion that obliged us to return to our former station, where we remained for a few days. Thence we directed our course for a place called Boca del Dragon, there to make provisions of flesh, especially of a certain animal which the Spaniards call manati,1 and the Dutch, sea-cows, because the head, nose and teeth of this beast are very like those of a cow. They are found commonly in such places, as under the depth of the waters are very full of grass, on which, it is thought, they pasture. These animals have no ears, and only in place of them are to be seen two little holes, scarce capable of receiving the little finger of a man. Near to the neck they have two wings, under which are seated two udders or breasts, much like the breasts of a woman. The skin is very close and united together, resembling the skin of a Barbary, or Guinea Dog. This skin upon the back is of the thickness of two fingers, which, being dried, is as hard as any whale-bone, and may serve to make walking-staffs with. The belly is in all-things like that of a cow, as far as the kidneys, or reins. Their manner of engendering, likewise, is the same with the usual manner of a land cow, the male of this kind being in similitude almost one and the same thing with a bull. Yet, notwithstanding, they conceive and breed but once. But the space of time that they go with calf, I could not as yet learn. These fishes have the sense of hearing extremely acute, in so much that in taking them the fishermen ought not to make the least noise, nor row, unless it be very slightly. For this reason they make use of certain instruments for rowing, which the Indians call pagayos, and the Spaniards name caneletas, with which although they row, yet it is performed without any noise that can fright the fish. While they are busied in this fishery, they do not speak to one another, but all is transacted by signs. He that darts them with the javelin, uses it after the same manner as when they kill tortoises. Howbeit, the point of the said javelin is somewhat different, having two hooks at the extremity, and these longer than that of the other fishery. Of these fishes, some are found to be of the length of twenty to twenty-four foot. Their flesh is very good to eat, being very like in colour that of a land cow, but in taste, that of pork. It contains much fat, or grease, which the Pirates melt and keep in earthen pots, to make use thereof instead of oil.
On a certain day, wherein we were not able to do any good at this sort of fishery, some of our men went into the woods to hunt, and others to catch other fish. Soon after we espied a canoe, wherein were two Indians. These no sooner had discovered our vessels than they rowed back with all the speed they could towards the land, being unwilling to trade or have anything to do with us Pirates. We followed them to the shore, but through their natural nimbleness, being much greater than ours, they retired into the woods before we could overtake them. Yea,what was more admirable, they drew on shore, and carried with them their canoe into the wood, as easily as if it were made of straw, although it weighed above two thousand pounds. This we knew by the canoe itself, which we found afterwards, and had much ado to get into the water again, although we were in all eleven persons to pull at it.
had at that time in our company a certain pilot. who had
been divers times in those quarters. This man, seeing this
action of the Indians, told us that, some few years
before, a squadron of Pirates happened to arrive at that
place. Being there, they went in canoes, to catch a
certain sort of little birds, which inhabits the
sea-coast, under the shade of very beautiful trees, which
here are to be seen. While they were busied at that work,
certain Indians who had climbed up into the trees to view
their actions, seeing now the canoes underneath, leaped
down into the sea, and with huge celerity seized some of
the canoes and Pirates that kept them, both which they
transported so nimbly into the remotest parts of the
woods, that the prisoners could not be relieved by their
companions. Hereupon the admiral of the said squadron
landed presently after with five hundred men, to seek and
rescue the men he had lost. But they saw such an excessive
number of Indians flock together to oppose them, as
obliged them to retreat with all possible diligence to
their ships, concluding among themselves that if such
forces as those could not perform anything towards the
recovery of their companions, they ought to stay no longer
time there. Having heard this history, we came away
thence, fearing some mischief might befall us, and
bringing with us the canoe aforementioned. In this we
found nothing else but a fishing-net, though not very
large, and four arrows, made of palm-tree, of the length
of seven foot each and of the figure, or shape, as
These arrows, we believed, to be their arms. The canoe we brought away was made of cedar, but very roughly hewn and polished, which caused us to think that those people have no instruments of iron.
We left that place, and arrived in twenty four hours at another called Rio de Zuera, where we found some few houses belonging to the city of Cartagena. These houses are inhabited by Spaniards, whom we resolved to visit, not being able to find any tortoises, nor yet any of their eggs. The inhabitants were all fled from the said houses, having left no victuals, nor provisions behind them, in so much that we were forced to content ourselves with a certain fruit, which there is called platano. Of these platanos we filled our boats, and continued our voyage, coasting along the shore. Our design was to find out some creek or bay, wherein to careen our vessel, which now was very leaky on all sides. Yea, in such a dangerous condition, that both night and day we were constrained to employ several men at the pump, to which purpose we made use of all our slaves. This voyage lasted a whole fortnight, all which time we lay under the continual frights of perishing every moment. At last we arrived at a certain port, called The Bay of Bleevelt, being so named from a Pirate who used to resort thither, with the same design that we did. Here one party of our men went into the woods to hunt, while another undertook to refit and careen our vessel.
Our companions who went abroad to hunt found hereabouts porcupines, of a huge and monstrous bigness. But their chief exercise was killing of monkeys, and certain birds called by the Spaniards faisanes, or pheasants. The toil and labour we had in this employment of shooting, seemed at least to me, to be sufficiently compensated with the pleasure of killing the said monkeys. For at these we usually made fifteen to sixteen shots before we could kill three or four of them, so nimbly would they escape our hands and aim, even after being desperately wounded. On the other side, it was delightful to see the female monkeys carry their little ones upon their backs, even just as negresses do their children. Likewise, if shooting at a parcel of them, any monkey happens to be wounded, the rest of the company will flock about him, and lay their hands upon the wound, to hinder the blood from issuing forth. Others will gather moss that grows upon the trees, and thrust it into the wound, and hereby stop the blood. At other times they will gather such or such herbs, and, chewing them in their mouth, apply them after the manner of a poultice, or cataplasm. All which things did cause in me great admiration, seeing such strange actions in those irrational creatures, which testified the fidelity and love they had for one another.
On the 9th day after our arrival at that place, our women-slaves being busied in their ordinary employments of washing dishes, sewing, drawing water out of wells, which we had made on the shore, and the like things, we heard great cries of one of them, who said she had seen a troop of Indians appear towards the woods, whereby she began immediately to cry out: Indians, Indians. We, hearing this rumour, ran presently to our arms, and their relief. But, coming to the wood, we found no person there, excepting two of our women-slaves killed upon the place, with the shot of arrows. In their bodies we saw so many arrows sticking as might seem they had been fixed there with particular care and leisure; for otherwise we knew that one of them alone was sufficient to bereave any human body of life. These arrows were all of a rare fashion and shape, their length being eight foot, and their thickness of a man's thumb. At one of the extremities hereof, was to be seen a hook made of wood, and tied to the body of the arrow with a string. At the other end was a certain case, or box, like the case of a pair of tweezers, in which we found certain little pebbles or stones. The colour thereof was red, and very shining, as if they had been locked up some considerable time. All which, we believed, were arms belonging to their captains and leaders.
A. A marcasite, which was tied to the extremity of the arrow.
B. A hook, tied to the same extremity.
C. The arrow.
D. The case, at the other end.
These arrows were all made without instruments of iron. For whatsoever the Indians make, they harden it first very artificially with fire, and afterwards polish it with flints.
As to the nature of these Indians, they are extremely robust of constitution, strong and nimble at their feet. We sought them carefully up and down the woods, but could not find the least trace of them, neither any of their canoes, nor floats, whereof they make use to go out to fish. Hereupon we retired to our vessels, where, having embarked all our goods, we put off from the shore, fearing lest finding us there they should return in any considerable number, and overpowering our forces tear us all in pieces.
1 The name manati was first applied to this animal by the early Spanish colonists in regard to the hand-like use of its fore limbs; a good description of it is to be found in Dampier's Letters. It is of the order Sirenia; there are two varieties — one (M. Latirostris) inhabits the West Indies and Florida, the other (M. australis) the coast of Brazil.