And brought them to more islands—and still more,
A kingdom of bright lands in sunny seas.
Here did the Admiral land, and raise the Cross
Above that heathen realm,—and here went down
In battle for strange allies in strange lands.
So ended his adventure.
Yet not so,
For the Victoria, faithful to his hand
That laid her charge upon her, southward sailed
Around the Cape and westward to Seville.
El Cano brought her in, and her strange tale
Told to the Emperor. “And the Admiral said,”
He ended, “that indeed these heathen lands
God meant should all be Christian, for He set
A cross of stars above the southern sea,
A passion-flower upon the southern shore,
To be a sign to great adventurers.
These be two marvels,—and upon the way
We gained a kingdom, but we lost a day!”
“A fair lot, but I am sick of the Guinea coast. The Lisbon slavers get more of black ivory than we do of the white.”
The good Jean Parmentier, who asked the question, and the youth called Jean Florin, who answered it, were looking at a stanch weather-beaten little cargo-ship anchored in the harbor of Dieppe. She had been to the Gold Coast, where wild African chiefs conjured elephants’ tusks out of the mysterious back country and traded them for beads, trinkets and gay cloth. In Dieppe this ivory was carved by deft artistic fingers into crucifixes, rosaries, little caskets, and other exquisite bibelots. African ivory was finer, whiter and firmer than that of India, and when thus used was almost as valuable as gold.
But within the last ten years the slave trade had grown more profitable than anything else. A Portuguese captain would kidnap or purchase a few score negroes, take them, chained and packed together like convicts, to Lisbon or Seville and sell them for fat gold moidores and doubloons. The Spanish conquistadores had not been ten years in the West Indies before they found that Indian slavery did not work. The wild people, under the terrible discipline of the mines and sugar plantations, died or killed themselves. Planters of Hispaniola declared one negro slave worth a dozen Indians.
“I do not wonder that the cacique Hatuey told the priest that he would burn forever rather than go to a heaven where Spaniards lived,” said Jean Florin. “To roast a man is no way to change his religion.”
“Some of our folk in Rochelle are of that way of thinking,” agreed Captain Parmentier dryly. “What say you to a western voyage?”
“Not Brazil? Cabral claims that for Portugal.”
“No; the northern seas—the Baccalaos. Of course codfish are not ivory, and it is rough service, but Aubert and some of the others think that there may be a way to India. Sebastian Cabot tried for it and found only icebergs, but Aubert says there is a gulf or strait somewhere south of Cabot’s course, that leads westward and has never been explored.”