The voyage of Mendana, as previously stated, had been undertaken with a view to colonization as well as discovery. After reaching the Solomon group the fleet dispersed. The “Santa Isabel”, as her log informed us, spent five years in a fine harbour on the Southern Continent, from whence she had returned without establishing a settlement. Another of the ships and the frigate remained for a time at the islands, where the crews left many evidences of their visit. But it was reserved for us to ascertain what had befallen the “Concordia”, the third of the vessels of Mendana’s fleet. This ship, under the command of Captain Barreto, had reached New Holland, where the present settlement had been formed, and the town built. There were turbulent elements, however, among the crew, who had been allowed a license at the islands which their captain was not disposed to continue. He ordered the execution of some, before the rest were brought to submission. But there was sullen discontent remaining. To make matters worse, sickness broke out. It carried off a large number of the Spaniards, and Barreto himself died, as did his first officer. The pilot then claimed to take command, but to this Donna Isabel objected. As the captain’s wife, she declared it to be her right to rule the settlement, and, marrying a young Spanish officer, Fernando de Castro, she assumed the title of queen, with Fernando as prince consort. To complicate matters still further, the pilot and those who were attached to him sailed away in the “Concordia”, taking the infant son of Fernando and Isabel with them, and leaving the adherents of the queen marooned in this pleasant and fertile valley. Fernando, soon after the sailing of the “Concordia”, died, since when Donna Isabel, who had resumed the name of Barreto, had reigned alone. This was, in brief, the story the Queen had to tell; and on hearing it Pedro de Castro threw himself at her feet, and claimed to be her son.
Donna Isabel was now past middle age, being near forty years old, but she bore herself with a degree of uprightness and vigour which defied the advance of time. She was readily convinced of the truth of Pedro’s statement, and when she had bidden him to rise she embraced him, and acknowledged him to be her son.
“You have been led back to me,” she said, “by the will of heaven, and by the courage of these brave men who shall henceforth be to me my brothers.”
Fair words, but lacking the ring of sincerity, as we were subsequently to find.
Queen Barreto then begged us to consider her dominions at our disposal to the extent of all they contained. Houses were allotted us, and servants were instructed to place before us the best the country produced. We fared sumptuously, for the natural growth in this sheltered valley is surprising. The bread given us was made from three kinds of roots, of which there is a great abundance, and they grow without labour, receiving no more help than being dug up and cooked.