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The Author departs towards the Cape of Gracias el Dios. Of the Commerce which here the Pirates exercise with the Indians. His arrival at the Island De los Pines; and finally, his return to Jamaica.
THE fear we had, more than usual, of those Indians above mentioned, by reason of the death of our two women-slaves, of which we told you in the former chapter, occasioned us to depart as fast as we could from that place. We directed our course thence, towards the Cape of Gracias à Dios, where we had fixed our last hopes of finding provisions. For thither do usually resort many Pirates, who entertain a friendly correspondence and trade with the Indians of those parts. Being arrived at the said cape, we hugely rejoiced, and gave thanks to God Almighty, for having delivered us out of so many dangers, and brought us to this place of refuge, where we found people who showed us most cordial friendship, and provided us with all necessaries whatsoever.
The custom of this island is such that, when any Pirates arrive there, every one has the liberty to buy for nimself an Indian woman, at the price of a knife, or any old axe, wood-bill or hatchet. By this contract the woman is obliged to remain in the custody of the Pirate all the time he stayeth there. She serves him in the meanwhile, and brings him victuals of all sorts, that the country affords. The Pirate moreover has liberty to go when he pleases, either to hunt, or fish, or about any other divertisements of his pleasure; but withal is not to commit any hostility, or depredation upon the inhabitants, seeing the Indians bring him in all that he stands in need of, or that he desires.
Through the frequent converse and familiarity these Indians have with the Pirate they sometimes go to sea with them, and remain among them for whole years, without returning home. Whence it comes that many of them can speak English, and French, and some of the Pirates their Indian language. They are very dextrous at darting with the javelin, whereby they are very useful to the Pirates, towards the victualling their ships, by the fishery of tortoises, and manitas, a sort of fish so called by the Spaniards. For one of these Indians is alone sufficient to victual a vessel of an hundred persons. We had among our crew two Pirates who could speak very well the Indian language. By the help of these men, I was so curious as to enquire into their customs, lives and policy, whereof I shall give you here a brief account.
This island contains about thirty leagues in circumference, more or less. It is governed after the form of a little commonwealth, they having no king nor sovereign prince among them. Neither do they entertain any friendship or correspondence with other neighbouring islands, much less with the Spaniards. They are in all but a small nation, whose number does not exceed sixteen or seventeen hundred persons. They have among them some few negroes, who serve them in quality of slaves. These happened to arrive there, swimming, after shipwreck made upon that coast. For being bound for Terra Firma, in a ship that carried them to be sold in those parts, they killed the captain and mariners, with design to return to their country. But through their ignorance in marinery, they stranded their vessel hereabouts. Although, as I said before, they make but a small nation, yet they live divided, as it were, into two several provinces. Of these, the one sort employ themselves in cultivating the ground, and making several plantations. But the others are so lazy that they have not courage to build themselves huts, much less houses, to dwell in. They frequent chiefly the sea-coast, wandering disorderly up and down, without knowing, or caring so much as to cover their bodies from the rains, which are very frequent in those parts, unless it be with a few palm-leaves. These they put upon their heads, and keep their backs always turned to the wind that blows. They use no other clothes than an apron, tied to their middle; such aprons are made of the rinds of trees, which they strongly beat upon stones till they are softened. Of these same they make use for bedclothes, to cover themselves when they sleep. Some make to themselves bed-clothes of cotton, but these are but few in number. Their usual arms are nothing but azagayas, or spears, which they make fit for their use with points of iron or teeth of crocodiles.
They know, after some manner, that there is a God, yet they live without any religion or divine worship. Yea, as far as I can learn, they believe not in nor serve the devil, as many other nations of America do both believe, invoke and worship him. Hereby they are not so much tormented by him, as other nations are. Their ordinary food, for the greatest part, consists in several fruits; such as are called bananas, racoven, ananas, potatos, cassava; as also crabs, and some few fish of other sorts, which they kill in the sea with darts. As to their drink, they are something expert in making certain pleasant and delicate liquors. The commonest among them is called achioc. This is made of a certain seed of palm-tree, which they bruise, and afterwards steep or infuse in hot water, till it be settled at the bottom. This liquor being strained off has a very pleasant taste, and is very nourishing. Many other sorts of liquors they prepare, which I shall omit for brevity. Only I shall say something, in short, of that which is made of platanos. These they knead betwixt their hands with hot water, and afterwards put into great calabashes, which they fill up with cold water, and leave in repose for the space of eight days, during which time it ferments as well as the best sort of wine. This liquor they drink for pleasure, and as a great regale, in so much that when these Indians invite their friends or relations they cannot treat them better than to give them some of this pleasant drink.
They are very unskilful in dressing of victuals; and hence it is that they very seldom treat one another with banquets. For this purpose, when they go or send to any house, to invite others, they desire them to come and drink of their liquors. Before the invited persons come to their house, those that expect them comb their hair very well, and anoint their faces with oil of palm, mingled with a certain black tincture which renders them very hideous. The women, in like manner, daub their faces with another sort of stuff, which cause them to look as red as crimson. And such are the greatest civilities they use in their ornaments and attire. Afterwards, he that invites the other takes his arms, which are three or four azagayas, and goes out of his cottage the space of three or four hundred steps, to wait for and receive the persons that are to come to visit him. As soon as they draw near him, he falls down upon the ground, lying flat on his face, in which posture he remains without any motion, as if he were dead. Being thus prostrate before them, the invited friends take him up and set him upon his feet, and thus they go altogether to the hut. Here the persons who are invited use the same ceremony, falling down on the ground, as the inviter did before. But he lifts them up one by one, and, giving them his hand, conducts them into his cottage, where he causes them to sit. The women on these occasions perform few or no ceremonies.
Being thus brought into the house, they are presented every one with a calabash full of the liquor abovementioned, made of platanos, which is very thick, almost like water-gruel, or children's pap, wherein is contained four quarts, more or less, of the said liquor. These they are to drink off as well as they can, and get down at any rate. The calabashes being emptied into their stomachs, the master of the house, with many ceremonies, goes about the room, and gathers his calabashes. And this drinking hitherto is reckoned but for one welcome, whereas every invitation ought to contain several welcomes. Afterwards, they begin to drink of the clear liquor above-mentioned, for which they were called to this treat. Hereunto follow many songs and dances and a thousand caresses to the women that are present.
They do not marry any young maid without the consent of her parents. Hereupon, if any one desires to take a wife, he is first examined by the damsel's father concerning several points relating to good husbandry. These are most commonly: whether he can make azagayas, darts for fishing or spin a certain thread which they use about their arrows. Having answered to satisfaction, the examiner calls to his daughter, for a little calabash full of the liquor above mentioned. Of this he drinks first; then gives the cup to the young man; and he finally to the bride, who drinks it up; and with this only ceremony the marriage is made. When any one drinks to the health of another, the second person ought to drink up the liquor which the other person has left in the calabash. But in case of marriage, as was said before, it is consumed alone among those three, the bride obtaining the greatest part to her share.
When the woman lies in, neither she nor her husband observe the time, as is customary among the Caribbees. But as soon as the woman is delivered, she goes instantly to the next river, brook or fountain, and washes the new-born creature, swaddling it up afterwards in certain rollers, or swaddling bands, which there are called cabalas. This being done, she goes about her ordinary labour, as before. At their entertainments it is usual, that when the man dies, his wife buries him with all his azagayas, aprons and jewels that he used to wear at his ears. Her next obligation is, to come every day to her husband's grave, bringing him meat and drink for a whole year together. Their years they reckon by the moons, allowing fifteen to every year, which make their entire circle, as our twelve months do ours.
Some historians, writing of the Caribbee Islands, affirm that this ceremony of carrying victuals to the dead is generally observed among them. Moreover, that the devil comes to the sepulchres, and carries away all the meat and drink which is placed there. But I myself am not of this opinion, seeing I have oftentimes with my own hands taken away these offerings, and eaten them instead of other victuals. To this I was moved, because I knew that the fruits used on these occasions were the choicest and ripest of all others, as also the liquors of the best sort they made use of for their greatest regale and pleasure. When the widow has thus completed her year, she opens the grave, and takes out all her husband's bones. These she scrapes and washes very well, and afterwards dries against the beams of the sun. When they are sufficiently dried, she ties them all together, and puts them into a cabala, being a certain pouch or satchel, and is obliged for another year to carry them upon her back in the daytime, and to sleep upon them in the night, until the year be completely expired. This ceremony being finished, she hangs up the bag and bones against the post of her own door, in case she be mistress of any house. But having no house of her own, she hangs them at the door of her next neighbour, or relation.
The widows cannot marry a second time, according to the laws or customs of this nation, until the space of the two years above mentioned be completed. The men are bound to perform no such ceremonies towards their wives. But if any Pirate marries an Indian Woman, she is bound to do with him, in all things, as if he were an Indian man born. The negroes that are upon this Island, live here in all respects according to the customs of their own country. All these things I have thought fit to take notice of in this place, though briefly, as judging them worthy the curiosity of some judicious and inquisitive persons. Now I shall continue the account of our voyage.
After we had refreshed and provided ourselves, as well as we could, at the island aforesaid, we departed thence, and steered our course towards the island De los Pinos. Here we arrived in fifteen days, and were constrained to refit again our vessel, which now the second time was very leaky and not fit for sailing any farther. Hereupon we divided ourselves, as before, and some went about that work of careening the ship, while others betook themselves to fishing. In this last we were so successful as to take in six or seven hours as much fish as would abundantly suffice to feed a thousand persons. We had in our company some Indians from the cape of Gracias Dios, who were very dextrous both in hunting and fishing. With the help of these men we killed likewise, in a short while, and salted, a huge number of wild cows, sufficient both to satiate our hungry appetites and to victual our vessel for the sea. These cows were formerly brought into this island by the Spaniards, with design they should here multiply and stock the country with cattle of this kind. We salted, in like manner, a vast number of tortoises, whereof in this island huge quantities are to be found. With these things our former cares and troubles began to dissipate, and our minds to be so far recreated as to forget the miseries we had lately endured. Hereupon, we began to call one another again by the name of brothers, which was customary amongst us but had been disused in our miseries and scarce remembered without regret.
All the time we continued here, we feasted ourselves very plentifully, without the least fear of enemies. For as to the Spaniards that were upon the island, they were here in mutual league and friendship with us. Thus we were only constrained to keep watch and ward every night, for fear of the crocodiles, which are here in great plenty all over the island. For these, when they are hungry, win assault any man whatsoever, and devour him; as it happened in this conjuncture to one of our companions. This man being gone into the wood, in company with a negro, they fell into a place where a crocodile lay concealed. The furious animal, with incredible agility, assaulted the Pirate, and fastening upon his leg, cast him upon the ground, the negro being fled, who should assist him. Yet he, notwithstanding, being a robust and courageous man, drew forth a knife he had then about him, and with the same, after a dangerous combat, overcame and killed the crocodile. Which having done, he himself, both tired with the battle, and weakened with the loss of blood, that ran from his wounds, lay for dead upon the place, or at least beside his senses. Being found in this posture some while after by the negro, who returned to see what was become of his master, he took him upon his back, and brought him to the sea-side, distant thence the space of a whole league, Here we received him into a canoe, and conveyed him on board our ship.
After this misfortune, none of our men dared be so bold as to enter the woods without good company. Yea, we ourselves, desirous to revenge the disaster of our companion, went in troops the next day to the woods, with design to find out crocodiles to kill. These animals would usually come every night to the sides of our ship, and make resemblance of climbing up into the vessel. One of these, on a certain night, we seized with an iron hook, but he instead of flying to the bottom, began to mount the ladder of the ship, till we killed him with other instruments. Thus, after we had remained there some considerable time, and refitted ourselves with all things necessary, we set sail thence for Jamaica. Here we arrived within few days, after a prosperous voyage, and found Captain Morgan, who was got home before us, but had seen as yet none of his companions whom he left behind, we being the first that arrived there after him.
The said Captain at that present was very busy, endeavouring to persuade and levy people to transport to the isle of St. Catharine, which he designed to fortify and hold as his own, thinking to make it a common refuge to all sorts of Pirates, or at least of his own nation, as was said before. But he was soon hindered in the prosecution of this design, by the arrival of a man-of-war from England. For this vessel brought orders from his Majesty of Great Britain, to recall the Governor of Jamaica from his charge over that island, to the court of England, there to give an account of his proceedings and behaviour in relation to the Pirates whom he had maintained in those parts, to the huge detriment of the subjects of the King of Spain. To this purpose, the said man-of-war brought over also a new Governor of Jamaica, to supply the place of the preceding. This gentleman, being possessed of the government of the island, presently after gave notice to all the ports thereof, by several boats which he sent forth to that intent, of the good and entire correspondence which his master the King of England designed henceforwards to maintain in those Western parts of the world towards his Catholic Majesty and all his subjects and dominions. And that to this effect, for the time to come, he had received from his Sacred Majesty and Privy Council strict and severe orders, not to permit any Pirate whatsoever to set forth from Jamaica, to commit any hostility or depredation upon the Spanish nation, or dominions, or any other people of those neighbouring islands.
No sooner these orders were sufficiently divulged than the Pirates, who as yet were abroad at sea, began to fear them, insomuch that they dared not return home to the said island. Hereupon they kept the seas as long as they could, and continued to act as many hostilities as came in their way. Not long after, the same Pirates took and ransacked a considerable town, seated in the Isle of Cuba, called La Villa de los Cayos, of which we made mention in the description of the said island. Here they committed again all sorts of hostility, and inhuman and barbarous cruelties. But the new Governor of Jamaica behaved himself so constant to his duty, and the orders he had brought from England, that he apprehended several of the chief actors herein, and condemned them to be hanged, which was accordingly done. From this severity many others still remaining abroad took warning, and retired to the isle of Tortuga, lest they should fall into his hands. Here they joined in society with the French Pirates, inhabitants of the said island, in whose company they continue to this day.