Voyages and Adventures of Magellan - George Towle

The King's Treachery

With the death of their brave commander, new troubles came upon the Spaniards. For awhile, all was confusion in the fleet. There was now no head; and it became necessary to replace Magellan by a new admiral. Two of the captains seemed, above all the other officers, best fitted to succeed to this office. One was Juan Serrano, who had proved not only a courageous and resolute man, but an able navigator, and a faithful friend of Magellan. The other was Edward Barbosa, a Portuguese, the brother of Magellan's wife, and the man whom, beyond all the rest in the fleet, Magellan had most thoroughly trusted.

The choice at last fell upon Barbosa; and no sooner had he received the command of the fleet, than he won the allegiance and confidence alike of the sailors and of the officers. His first purpose was to secure, if possible, the remains of Magellan, that the dead hero might be buried with all honor, and his grave consecrated by the rites of the Church. The king of Sebu, who seemed overwhelmed by his friend's death, willingly agreed to make the attempt to recover his body. He sent a boat with envoys to Matan, who implored Cilapulapu to deliver it up; at the same time promising that if he would do so, he should have as much merchandize as he chose to take.

Cilapulapu promptly made an insolent reply. "He would on no account," he said, "give up the body; he desired to keep it as, a monument of his triumph."

Barbosa was therefore obliged, with sad reluctance, to abandon the hope of burying Magellan in a manner worthy of his rank and character; and now there seemed to be no reason why the fleet should longer tarry at Sebu. Barbosa was anxious to reach the long-wished-for Moluccas, which, he knew were not far off; and then to sail home as quickly as possible, by the way of the Cape of Good Hope.

He ordered the goods which still lay in the warehouse at Sebu, to be brought on board the ships as quietly as possible; and so skillfully was this done, that the king of Sebu did not suspect what was really going on.

Various incidents, indeed, had now happened, which made Barbosa suspect the king's sincerity. He knew that, immediately after Magellan's defeat and death, Cilapulapu had sent the king a defiant message, threatening to invade Sebu with an invincible force, if he did not at once break with the Spaniards, and renounce Christianity. Barbosa saw that this threat had greatly terrified the king, and had induced him to assume a less cordial manner towards the fleet; still, he was profuse in his expressions of friendship, and was far from offering the Spaniards any open affront.

It seemed prudent to Barbosa, therefore, that the fleet should set sail suddenly, before the king knew that it was going, and before he could serve the Spaniards, if such was really his disposition, an ill turn.

Before he could put his project into execution, it was foiled by the treachery of a man who had hitherto been fidelity itself. This was the Malay interpreter, whom the Spaniards had named Henry. As soon as he had learned of Magellan's death, Henry had seemed overwhelmed with grief. He would go off to the further end of the flagship, wrap himself up in his mat, rock himself to and fro, and refuse all consolation. Barbosa allowed him to indulge his grief for awhile. But time was precious, and the Malay's assistance was absolutely necessary in getting the goods on board. Barbosa therefore spoke to him gently, and told him he must go on shore with the men. Henry would not stir, upon which Barbosa addressed him more roughly.

"You must know," said he, "that you are not free, though your master is dead. I am going to carry you to Spain, and deliver you to Dona Beatrix, the Admiral's widow. Meanwhile, if you do not get up quickly, and go ashore to your work, I will have you flogged."

The Malay upon this slowly rose, and walked sullenly away; he leaped into one of the boats and went ashore. He was very angry in his heart at Barbosa's threatening words, and resolved to be revenged on him. Slipping away from the rest, while they were busy getting out the goods, he hid himself in the thicket, and soon made his way to the mansion of the king. To him he imparted the news that the ships were preparing to set sail; and he urged the king to make haste and attack them, so that he might get possession both of the ships and their cargoes. The king listened intently to what the treacherous Malay said, and made up his mind to betray his guests. He was all the more willing to do this, as he had fully resolved to give up Christianity, and to make peace with his rebellious subjects in Matan. The Malay then returned to help the sailors, saying nothing, of course, of his visit to the king.

The next day, Barbosa received a message from the king, that the jewels he designed as a present to the king of Spain were ready to be delivered to him; and inviting Barbosa with a number of his principal officers and comrades, to dine with him that afternoon.

Barbosa, though he had some suspicions of the king, determined to accept the invitation. With twenty-four others, among whom were an astrologer named San Martin, Carvalho, the chief of police, and the Captain Serrano, and all of whom took care to go armed to the teeth, he proceeded on shore at the appointed time.

The king met them in the open space, with many smiles and grimaces of welcome, and taking Barbosa by the hand, led him into the house. The other Spaniards, with a host of native courtiers and soldiers, followed. At the table, which was bountifully spread, Barbosa was seated at the king's right hand, a custom taught the natives by Magellan.

For a time the feast went on merrily. Barbosa and his comrades, who, on first coming, had taken care to be on their guard, and had cautiously watched every movement of the royal attendants seemed at last to forget their suspicions, and gave themselves wholly up to the good cheer of the occasion. While they were thus absorbed in the good things, the king of a sudden sprang from his seat, and making a signal to his soldiers, plunged a dagger deep into Barbosa's breast. At the same moment, each Spaniard was ferociously assailed by his dusky neighbors, and fell bleeding and dying at the foot of the festive board. The surprise and slaughter were as sudden as they were dastardly. Only one of the party—Serrano—escaped for the moment the fate of his brave comrades. He succeeded in felling two of his assailants, and leaping over their bodies, jumped to the ground, and ran, wounded and bleeding, through the open space down towards the shore.

But the swifter feet of the enraged natives caught up with him, just as he reached the strand, and was screaming to the ships for help with outstretched arms. The men on board looked at him in speechless terror and amazement. Meanwhile the savages caught him, bound him, and dragged him some distance along the shore. They offered the Spaniards to release Serrano, if they would give up two cannon, but it is probable that their offer was not heard; for in all haste the ships weighed anchor, and were soon scudding out of the bay. Serrano, as he saw his only hope thus vanishing, fell upon the ground with a shriek of despair, and was soon stabbed to death by the javelin and dagger-thrusts of his blood-thirsty captors.

After this barbarous and dastardly deed, the king of Sebu was only too ready to desert his Christian professions, and to make peace with Cilapulapu. All his subjects, as well, speedily returned to their idols; and the little wooden figure of Christ was, as we have seen, afterwards used as a native deity. The cross which Magellan had set up was pulled down and burned.

Meanwhile, the fleet sailed away as fast as possible from the island where its occupants had witnessed so sudden a change from boundless hospitality to the most treacherous cruelty. Barbosa was dead; and in his place, one of the Spanish lieutenants, named Espinosa, was chosen admiral, and commander of the Trinidad." Serrano's post of captain was given to Sebastian del Cano, who took command of the Victoria."

Espinosa resolved not to turn back, but to still pursue the course which Magellan had marked out. The crews were reduced by battle, massacre, and illness, and they could hope neither to cope successfully with the perfidious king of Sebu, nor to conduct the ships back to Europe by way of the Straits of Magellan. Even now, they found it difficult to manage, in the gentle waters of the Archipelago, the three vessels which still remained to them.

When, therefore, the fleet reached an island called Bohol, about forty miles from Matan, they put in at an inviting harbor, in order to settle upon future plans. Espinosa made up his mind that one of the ships must be sacrificed; and as the Conception  was the weakest and least seaworthy of the' three, she was doomed. Her cargo was transferred to the other ships, and she was then hauled up and burned.

The two vessels that remained, the Trinidad  and the Victoria, soon proceeded on their way. They sailed southwestward, in which direction Espinosa knew the Moluccas lay, and passed many islands without stopping. On one of these, they observed, the inhabitants were as black as Ethiopians, and their appearance was too forbidding to encourage the wanderers to land. After sailing a few days, they reached a much more hospitable-looking island, where the ships put in for wood and water. The king of the tribe went fearlessly on board the Trinidad, and, as a token of his friendly disposition, drew some blood from his left hand, and smeared his face, breast, and the tip of his tongue with it. The Spaniards thought it prudent to follow his example, which they did rather awkwardly; but it pleased the dusky monarch very much. Espinosa, indeed, found this king so hospitable, that he resolved to prolong his stay. The ships entered the mouth of the river, which flowed from the hills of what proved to be one of the most beautiful islands the Spaniards had yet seen. This was Mindanao. The captains and sailors went freely on shore, and as soon as they did so the king and his courtiers began to sing and caper about, and offered them a very tempting meal of freshly-caught fish.

So much confidence did the king inspire in Espinosa and the other officers, that they were easily persuaded to visit him in the town. It was a rash thing to do, considering the base treatment to which they had just been subjected by the king of Sebu; but that perfidy seems to have been so soon forgotten. Espinosa and his comrades did not neglect, however, to arm themselves, so as to be fully prepared for foul play. The town lay for the most part on the bank of the river, from which it straggled up a gentle slope, wooded with palms and many other tropical trees.

It was night when Espinosa and his party ascended the hill, in company with the sable king and his retinue; and as they approached its crest, a large number of the natives came to meet them with blazing torches, which lit up the scene with a weird, lurid glare. The figures of the natives looked almost terrible in the flickering and fitful light, their painted faces and dark, unclothed forms standing out against the darkness.

The king conducted his visitors within the long, low hut which constituted his palace; and the first thing he did was to feast them. In the principal apartment, the Spaniards found two ravishingly beautiful women, with almost fair complexions, and exquisite forms and features, who proved to be two of his majesty's wives; two of the chiefs attended the king inside the hut; and the king, his wives, and the chiefs began at once to quaff long draughts of palm wine from enormous wooden goblets. Espinosa was prevailed on to imitate their example; but Pigafetta, the Italian, who was of the party, thought it prudent only to sip the strong liquor. Supper followed, consisting mainly of very salty fish, served up in porcelain dishes, and of rice very much boiled.

The party from the fleet remained one night in the king's house; and the next morning they breakfasted with him, as cozily as possible, the food being the same as on the night before, Pigafetta, who no longer had the least fear of the king or his subjects, took a stroll after breakfast over the island. He found it full of marvels of vegetable and floral beauty, and resplendent with all the rich and varied growths of the tropics. On reaching the summit of a hill, hard by that on which the king's house stood, he found another large mansion, which, he was told by the natives who went with him, was the residence of one of the queens. He found no difficulty in gaining admission, and was cordially welcomed by its fair occupant, who was weaving a mat, and who made him sit beside her. She was surrounded by a number of male and female slaves, and there were many porcelain ornaments and musical instruments hanging from the walls. Before Pigafetta departed, the queen amused him by playing very loudly on some metal timbrels.

He was returning. towards the ships, when he was met by several of the chiefs, who offered to row him down the river in a long canoe. This offer he smilingly accepted. As they sped smoothly down the stream, he saw on the shore the bodies of three men hanging upon a tree. On asking what this meant, he was told that they were thieves, and that this was the way that such criminals were punished in Mindanao. He also saw, on the banks, and in the fields that he passed in the canoe, many pigs, goats, and fowl of various breeds.

What surprised and dazzled Pigafetta still more, was the abundance of gold ornaments which the natives displayed. Some of the utensils in the king's house were of this precious metal; the queen had many gold rings and bracelets; and gold seemed to be a common article, even with the natives. The chiefs in the canoe, as they passed along, pointed out several valleys to Pigafetta, telling him by signs that they contained many rich veins of gold; but that as they had no iron implements with which to mine it, they could only procure it with labor and difficulty.

Refreshed by their pleasant sojourn at Mindanao, the wanderers resumed their voyage, continuing to pass, as before, many islands, some of which seemed deserted, and others inhabited by Malay tribes. They sailed perhaps a hundred miles in a westerly direction, until they reached an island called Palawan.

The provisions of the ships were now pretty much exhausted; and Espinosa, for some unexplained reason, had neglected to replenish his stores at Mindanao. Before reaching Palawan, the men had been put on short rations. It was, therefore, much to their relief that they saw another large and fruitful island rising from the sea; and still greater was their delight to find the people of Palawan and their rulers as hospitable and well-disposed as those of the place they had recently left.

The king was a very tall and imposing-looking man, whose countenance, when he first appeared, so dark was it, and so long and black his beard, seemed forbidding. But on going on board the flagship, his face was lit up with a smile so beaming and pleasant, and he seemed so sincerely rejoiced to see the strangers, that Espinosa and his comrades were at once put at their ease.

Palawan proved to be and to contain all that the Spaniards hoped. The king was generous, his people were peaceable and good-natured, and the island abounded in good things. They found not only pigs and goats, but yams (like our sweet potatoes), large and luscious bananas, and, of course, plenty of rice, cocoanuts, and sugar-canes. The pigs were cured and stowed away for future use; meanwhile the Spaniards feasted daily and freely with their new friends.

The natives seemed more civilized and intelligent than those of the other islands. They had a great fondness for gay colors and jewelry; and were wild with joy when Espinosa gave them some little brass bells, which they hung on their fingers and ears, and danced about to hear them jingle.

They had, it appeared, a superstitious respect for cocks, which they reared with great care, and never ate; but on festival days brought them out and made them fight each other. To one of these cockfights Espinosa and his officers were invited.

A week was passed at Palawan, during which the ships were repaired (a task in which the natives willingly helped the carpenters), provisions in plenty were stored, and wood and water were pat in; and when the strangers departed, the king, with a great number of his subjects, embarked in a large fleet of long canoes, and attended the Trinidad  and the Victoria  far out to sea.