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They march towards the town of Santa Maria with design to take it. The Indian King of Darien meets them by the way. Difficulties of this march, with other occurrences till they arrive at the place.
BEING landed on the coast of Darien, and divided into companies, as was mentioned in the preceding chapter, we began our march towards Santa Maria, the Indians serving us for guides in that unknown country. Thus we marched at first through a small skirt of a wood, and then over a bay almost a league in length. After that, we went two leagues directly up a woody valley, where we saw here and there an old plantation, and had a very good path to march in. There we came to the s'de of a river, which in most places was dry, and built us houses, or rather huts, to lodge in,
To this place came to us another Indian, who was a chief commander and a man of great parts, named Captain Antonio. This Indian officer encouraged us very much to undertake the journey to Santa Maria, and promised to be our leader, saying he would go along with us now, but that his child lay very sick. However, he was assured it would die by the next day, and then he would most certainly follow and overtake us. Withal, he desired we would not lie in the grass for fear of monstrous adders, which are very frequent in those places. Breaking some of the stones that lay in the river, we found them shine with sparks of gold. These stones are driven down from the neighbouring mountains in time of floods. This day four of our men tired, and returned to the ships. So we remained in all 327 men, with six Indians to conduct us. That night some showers of rain fell.
The next day of our march we mounted a very steep hill, and on the other side at the foot thereof we rested on the bank of a river, which Captain Andrceas told us ran into the South Sea, being the same river on which the town of Santa Maria was situated. Hence we continued our march until noon, and then ascended another mountain very much higher than the former. Here we ran much danger oftentimes and in many places, the mountain being so perpendicular, and the path so narrow, that but one man at a time could pass. We arrived by the dark of the evening to the other side of the mountain, and lodged again by the side of the same river, having marched that day, according to our reckoning, about eighteen miles. This night likewise some rain fell.
The next morning being April 7th, we marched all along the river aforementioned, crossing it often, almost at every half-mile, sometimes up to the knees and at other times up to the middle, in a very swift current. About noon we came to a place where we found some Indian houses. These were very large and neat: the sides were built with cabbage-trees, and the roofs of wild canes, thatched with palmetto royal, but far neater than ours at Jamaica. They had many divisions into rooms, though no ascent by stairs into chambers. At this place were four of these houses together, that is, within a stone's throw one of another, each of them having a large plantain walk before it. At the distance of half a mile from this place lived the king or chief captain of these Indians of Darien, who came to visit us in royal robes, with his queen and family. His crown was made of small white reeds, which were curiously woven, having no other top than its lining, which was of red silk.
Round about the middle of it was a thin plate of gold, more than two inches broad, laced behind; whence did stick two or three ostrich feathers. About this plate went also a row of golden beads, which were bigger than ordinary peas; underneath which the red lining of the crown was seen. In his nose he wore a large plate of gold in the form of a half moon, and in each ear a great golden ring, nearly four inches in diameter, with a round thin plate of gold of the same breadth, having a small hole in the centre, by which it hung to the ring. He was covered with a thin white cotton robe, reaching to the small of his legs, and round its bottom a fringe of the same, three inches deep. So that by the length of this robe, our sight was impeded, that we could see no higher than his naked ankles. In his hand he had a long bright lance, as sharp as any knife. With him he had three sons, each of them having a white robe, and their lances in their hands, but standing bareheaded before him; as also were eight or nine persons more of his retinue, or guard. His queen wore a red blanket, which was closely girt about her waist, and another that came loosely over her head and shoulders, like our old-fashioned striped hangings. She had a young child in her arms, and two daughters walked by her, both marriageable, with their faces almost covered with stripes or streaks of red, and almost laden about their neck and arms with small beads of several colours. These Indian women of the province of Darien, are generally very free, airy and brisk; yet withal very modest, and cautious in their husbands' presence, of whose jealousy they stand in fear. With these Indians we made an exchange, or had a truck, as it is called, for knives, pins, needles, or any other such like trifles; but in our dealing with them we found them to be very cunning. Here we rested ourselves for the space of one day, and withal chose Captain Sawkins to lead the Forlorn, to whom, for that purpose, we gave the choice of fourscore men. The king ordered us each man to have three plantains, with sugar-canes to suck, by way of a present. But when these were consumed, if we could not truck we must have starved, for the king himself did not refuse to deal for his plantains. This sort of fruit is first reduced to mash, then laid between leaves of the same tree, and so used with water; after which preparation they call it Miscelaw.
On April 9th, we continued our march along the banks of the river abovementioned, finding on our way, here and there a house. The owners of the said houses would most commonly stand at the door, and give, as we passed by, to every one of us, either a ripe plantain, or some sweet cassava-root. Some of them would count us by dropping a grain of corn for each man that passed before them; for they know no greater number, nor can count no farther than twenty. That night we arrived at three great Indian houses, where we took up our lodgings, the weather being clear and serene all night.
The next day Captain Sharp, Captain Coxon, and Captain Cook, with about threescore and ten of our men, embarked themselves in fourteen canoes upon the river, to glide down the stream. Among this number I also embarked, and we had in our company our Indian Captain Andrťas, of whom mention was made above, and two Indians more in each canoe, to pilot or guide us down the river. But if we had been tired whilst travelling by land before, certainly we were in a worse condition now in our canoes. For at the distance of almost every stone's cast, we were constrained to quit and get out of our boats, and haul them over either sands or rocks, and at other times over trees that lay across and filled up the river so that they hindered our navigation; yea, several times over the very points of land itself. That very night we built ourselves huts for shelter upon the riverside, and rested our wearied limbs until next morning.
This being come, we prosecuted our journey all day long with the same fatigue and toil, as we had done the day before. At night came a tiger and looked on us for some while, but we did not dare to fire at the animal, fearing we should be descried by the sound of our fuzees; the Spaniards, as we were told, not being at any great distance from that place.
But the next day, which was April 12th, our pain and labour was rather doubled than diminished; not only for the difficulties of the way, which were intolerable, but chiefly for the absence of our main body of men, from whom we had parted the day before. For now hearing no news of them, we grew extremely jealous of the Indians and their councils, suspecting a design of those people thus to divide our forces, and then by cutting us off, to betray us to the Spaniards our implacable enemies. That night we rested ourselves by building huts, as we had done, and as has been mentioned before.
On Tuesday morning, the next ensuing day, we continued our navigation down the river, and arrived at a beachy point of land, at which place another arm joins the same river. Here as we understood, the Indians of Darien did usually rendezvous, whensoever they drew up in a body, with intention to fight their ancient enemies, the Spaniards. Here also we made a halt, or waited for the rest of our forces and company, the Indians having now sent to seek them, as being themselves not a little concerned at our dissatisfaction and jealousies. In the afternoon our companions came up with us, and were hugely glad to see us, they having been in no less fear for us than we had been at the same time for them. We remained and rested there that night also, with design to fit our arms for action, which now, as we were told, was near at hand.
We departed thence early the next morning, which was the last day of our march, having in all now the number of threescore and eight canoes, wherein were embarked 327 of us Englishmen, and 50 Indians, who served us for guides. To the point abovementioned the Indians had hitherto guided our canoes with long poles or sticks; but now we made ourselves oars and paddles to row with, thus to make what speed we could. Thus we rowed with all haste imaginable, and upon the river we happened to meet two or three Indian canoes that were laden with plantains. About midnight we arrived and landed at the distance of half a mile, more or less, from the town of Santa Maria, whither our march was all along intended. The place where we landed was deeply muddy, insomuch that we were constrained to lay our paddles on the mud to wade upon, and withal lift ourselves up by the boughs of the trees to support our bodies from sinking. Afterwards we were forced to cut our way through the woods for some space, where we took up our lodgings for that night, for fear of being discovered by the enemy, to whom we were so near.