Christopher Columbus and the New World HTML version

The Eclipse Of The Moon
We must now return to the little settlement on the coast of Jamaica—those two wornout
caravels, lashed together with ropes and bridged by an erection of wood and thatch, in
which the forlorn little company was established. In all communities of men so situated
there are alternate periods of action and reaction, and after the excitement incidental to
the departure of Mendez, and the return of Bartholomew with the news that he had got
safely away, there followed a time of reaction, in which the Spaniards looked dismally
out across the empty sea and wondered when, if ever, their salvation would come.
Columbus himself was now a confirmed invalid, and could hardly ever leave his bed
under the thatch; and in his own condition of pain and depression his influence on the rest
of the crew must inevitably have been less inspiriting than it had formerly been. The men
themselves, moreover, began to grow sickly, chiefly on account of the soft vegetable
food, to which they were not accustomed, and partly because of their cramped quarters
and the moist, unhealthy climate, which was the very opposite of what they needed after
their long period of suffering and hardship at sea.
As the days and weeks passed, with no occupation save the daily business of collecting
food that gradually became more and more nauseous to them, and of straining their eyes
across the empty blue of the sea in an anxious search for the returning canoes of Fieschi,
the spirits of the castaways sank lower and lower. Inevitably their discontent became
articulate and broke out into murmurings. The usual remedy for this state of affairs is to
keep the men employed at some hard work; but there was no work for them to do, and the
spirit of dissatisfaction had ample opportunity to spread. As usual it soon took the form of
hostility to the Admiral. They seem to have borne him no love or gratitude for his
masterly guiding of them through so many dangers; and now when he lay ill and in
suffering his treacherous followers must needs fasten upon him the responsibility for their
condition. After a month or two had passed, and it became certain that Fieschi was not
coming back, the castaways could only suppose that he and Mendez had either been
captured by natives or had perished at sea, and that their fellow-countrymen must still be
without news of the Admiral's predicament. They began to say also that the Admiral was
banished from Spain; that there was no desire or intention on the part of the Sovereigns to
send an expedition to his relief; even if they had known of his condition; and that in any
case they must long ago have given him up for lost.
When the pot boils the scum rises to the surface, and the first result of these disloyal
murmurings and agitations was to bring into prominence the two brothers, Francisco and
Diego de Porras, who, it will be remembered, owed their presence with the expedition
entirely to the Admiral's good nature in complying with the request of their brother-in-
law Morales, who had apparently wished to find some distant occupation for them. They
had been given honourable posts as officers, in which they had not proved competent; but
the Admiral had always treated them with kindness and courtesy, regarding them more as
guests than as servants. Who or what these Porras brothers were, where they came from,