A SPANISH SETTLEMENT
The “Golden Seahorse” being now repaired and revictualled, we once more put to sea, and stood to the south at a safe distance from the coast for fear of again meeting shoal water. On the morning of the first day out we passed the shoal upon which we had so nearly lost our ship, it being but a spot of land appearing above the surface, with several rocks about it ten feet high, to be seen at low tide. It is of triangular form, each side one league and a half long.
We now approached some formidable cliffs, which rose, like a gateway, shutting out the land beyond. It was here that Hartog reckoned we should find the place of the painted hands, if, indeed, such a locality had any real existence.
The weather was now calm and fine, the wind fair, with a cloudless sky overhead, so that barely an hour passed from the time we observed the cliffs before we rounded them, when a sight appeared so unlooked for as made us wonder if our eyes had played us false.
The coast along which we had sailed since first sighting the Great South Land had been so barren and desolate as to make the novel and attractive scene which now greeted us the more remarkable. Clustered together in a pleasant valley, surrounded by green hills, and facing a white sandy beach, were some two hundred houses, built of stone, and roofed with what appeared to be clay, of such extraordinary whiteness that it glistened, like snow, in the sun’s rays. The herbs and grass around the town were green and inviting, while tall, straight trees, not torn by the wind, bore evidence of shelter from tempest which the hills provided. To add to the beauty of the scene, flocks of parakeets and bright-coloured parrots flew among the branches of the trees, while sweet scents, from many kinds of flowers, were wafted to us from the shore. On the beach we perceived a number of white people, dressed in the fashion of some thirty years before. Many of them wore ruffs and cloaks, which were now no longer the mode, and, to set our doubts at rest as to their nationality, the Spanish ensign floated from a flagstaff in front of the town. It was plain we had chanced upon a Spanish colony, probably of some of the people of Mendana’s fleet, who had succeeded in forming a settlement in New Holland.
Anxious to make a favourable impression upon our first landing, Hartog and I now donned our best, and the cutter, being manned, we were pulled toward the beach, where we could see that a number of Spaniards had assembled to receive us.
On landing we stepped forward as the leaders of our expedition, when we were greeted with the most extravagant demonstrations of delight at our arrival, and were presently conducted by some of those whom we took to be in authority to one of the flat-roofed stone houses, somewhat larger than the others, where Donna Isabel Barreto, the ruler of the settlement, graciously welcomed us. From her we learnt the following strange story.