Queen Barreto kept Pedro with her in her own house, while Hartog and I, together with the officers and crew of the “Golden Seahorse”, were suitably accommodated and made free of the settlement, where we enjoyed a run ashore after so much storm and stress at sea.
We had not yet ascertained whether the settlers had been successful in finding gold in this place. Pearls and silver they possessed as evidence of their wealth, but we saw no gold among them. Pedro, who came to consult with us regarding this, informed us that his mother, the queen, had heard nothing of the place of the painted hands, or of gold being found there, but had told him that some years previously an expedition, sent to punish a tribe of natives who had proved hostile to the settlers, had reported the discovery of caves, very deep and mysterious, into which the natives could not be induced to enter, where, it was reported, gold was to be found by washing the sand from the bed of a subterranean stream which took its course through the caves from none knew where, and emptied itself into the sea.
To these caves, therefore, now being rested and refreshed, we determined to direct our steps.
THE PLACE OF THE PAINTED HANDS
Upon leaving the Spanish settlement, Queen Barreto provided us with an escort to guide us to the caves in which it was reported gold was to be found. The country outside the settlement was of the same rocky, barren nature as everywhere along the coast, while the natives we encountered were hostile and warlike. Armed with spears and slings, they attacked us, and were only driven off after many had been slain.
Pedro de Castro did not accompany us. He had pleaded a disinclination to leave his mother so soon after their long separation. At the time we thought his conduct strange, but in return for the assistance that Queen Barreto had given us, we promised him a share of any gold obtained.
At length, after a day’s journey, we came to the entrance to the caves, a gloomy portal to a tunnel which ran into a high rocky cliff from which issued a sluggish stream over a bed of water-worn pebbles. At the entrance to this dark recess, upon the face of a flat rock, appeared painted hands, some with six fingers, some with four, and others with only two. They were painted with a dark brown pigment,