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answer full of respect to the king of Portugal, but appeared a little doubtful what to determine with relation to the fort. The commander saw his diffidence, and used all his art of persuasion to overcome it. Caramansa, either induced by hope, or constrained by fear, either desirous to make them friends, or not daring to make them enemies, consented, with a show of joy, to that which it was not in his power to refuse; and the new comers began the next day to break the ground for the foundation of a fort.
Within the limit of their intended fortification were some spots appropriated to superstitious practices; which the negroes no sooner perceived in danger of violation by the spade and pickaxe, than they ran to arms, and began to interrupt the work. The Portuguese persisted in their purpose, and there had soon been tumult and bloodshed, had not the admiral, who was at a distance to superintend the unlading the materials for the edifice, been informed of the danger. He was told, at the same time, that the support of their superstition was only a pretence, and that all their rage might be appeased by the presents which the prince expected, the delay of which had greatly offended him.
The Portuguese admiral immediately ran to his men, prohibited all violence, and stopped the commotion; he then brought out the presents, and spread them with great pomp before the prince; if they were of no great value, they were rare, for the negroes had never seen such wonders before; they were, therefore, received with ecstacy, and, perhaps, the Portuguese derided them for their fondness of trifles, without considering how many things derive their value only from their scarcity, and that gold and rubies would be trifles, if nature had scattered them with less frugality.
The work was now peaceably continued, and such was the diligence with which the strangers hastened to secure the possession of the country, that in twenty days they had sufficiently fortified themselves against the hostility of the negroes. They then proceeded to complete their design.
A church was built in the place where the first altar had been raised, on which a mass was established to be celebrated for ever once a day, for the repose of the soul of Henry, the first mover of these discoveries.
In this fort the admiral remained with sixty soldiers, and sent back the rest in the ships, with gold, slaves, and other commodities. It may be observed that slaves were never forgotten, and that, wherever they went, they gratified their . pride, if not their avarice, and brought some of the natives, when it happened that they brought nothing else.
The Portuguese endeavoured to extend their dominions still farther. They had gained some knowledge of the Jaloffs, a nation inhabiting the coast of Guinea, between the Gambia and Senegal. The king of the Jaloffs being vicious and luxurious, committed the care of the government to Bemoin, his brother by the mother's side, in preference to two other brothers by his father. Bemoin, who wanted neither bravery nor prudence, knew that his station was invidious and dangerous, and, therefore, made an alliance with the Portuguese, and retained them in his defence by liberality and kindness. At last the king was killed by the contrivance of his brothers, and Bemoin was to lose his power, or maintain it by war.
He had recourse, in this exigence, to his great ally the king of Portugal, who promised to support him, on condition that he should become a Christian, and sent an ambassador, accompanied with missionaries. Bemoin promised all that was required, objecting only, that the time of a civil war was not a proper season for a change of religion, which would alienate his adherents; but said, that when he was once peaceably established, he would not only embrace the true religion himself, but would endeavour the conversion of the kingdom.
This excuse was admitted, and Bemoin delayed his conversion for a year, renewing his promise from time to time. But the war was unsuccessful, trade was at a stand, and Bemoin was not able to pay the money which he had borrowed of the Portuguese merchants, who sent intelli
gence to Lisbon' of his delays, and received an order from the king, commanding them, under severe penalties, to return home.
Bemoin here saw his ruin approaching, and, hoping that money would pacify all resentment, borrowed of his friends a sum sufficient to discharge his debts; and finding that even this enticement would not delay the departure of the Portuguese, he embarked his nephew in their ships with a hundred slaves, whom he presented to the king of Portugal, to solicit his assistance. The effect of this embassy he could not stay to know; for being soon after deposed, he sought shelter in the fortress of Arguin, whence he took shipping for Portugal, with twenty-five of his principal followers.
The king of Portugal pleased his own vanity and that of his subjects, by receiving him with great state and magnificence, as a mighty monarch who had fled to an ally for succour in misfortune. All the lords and ladies of the court were assembled, and Bemoin was conducted with a splendid attendance into the hall of audience, where the king rose from his throne to welcome him. Bemoin then made a speech with great ease and dignity, representing his unhappy state, and imploring the favour of his powerful ally. The king was touched with his affliction, and struck by his wisdom.
The conversion of Bemoin was much desired by the king; and it was, therefore, immediately, proposed to him that he should become a Christian. Ecclesiasticks were sent to instruct him; and having now no more obstacles from interest, he was easily persuaded to declare himself whatever would please those on whom he now depended. He was baptized on the third day of December, 1489, in the palace of the queen, with great magnificence, and named John, after the king.
Some time was spent in feasts and sports on this great occasion, and the negroes signalized themselves by many feats of agility, far surpassing the power of Europeans, who, having more helps of art, are less diligent to cultivate the
qualities of nature. In the mean time twenty large ships were fitted out, well manned, stored with ammunition, and laden with materials necessary for the erection of a fort. With this powerful armament were sent a great number of missionaries under the direction of Alvarez the king's confessor. The command of this force, which filled the coast of Africa with terrour, was given to Pedro Vaz d'Acugna, surnamed Bisagu; who, soon after they had landed, not being well pleased with his expedition, put an end to its inconveniencies, by stabbing Bemoin suddenly to the heart. The king heard of this outrage with great sorrow, but did not attempt to punish the murderer.
The king's concern for the restoration of Bemoin was not the mere effect of kindness, he hoped by his help to facilitate greater designs. He now began to form hopes of finding a way to the East Indies, and of enriching his country by that gainful commerce: this he was encouraged to believe practicable, by a map which the Moors had given to prince Henry, and which subsequent discoveries have shown to be sufficiently near to exactness, where a passage round the south-east part of Africa was evidently described.
The king had another scheme, yet more likely to engage curiosity, and not irreconcilable with his interest. The world had, for some time, been filled with the report of a powerful Christian prince, called Prester John, whose country was unknown, and whom some, after Paulus Venetus, supposed to reign in the midst of Asia, and others in the depth of Ethiopia, between the ocean and Red The account of the African Christians was confirmed by some Abyssinians who had travelled into Spain, and by some friars that had visited the Holy Land; and the king was extremely desirous of their correspondence and alliance.
Some obscure intelligence had been obtained, which made it seem probable that a way might be found from the countries lately discovered, to those of this far-famed monarch. In 1486, an ambassador came from the king of
Bemin, to desire that preachers might be sent to instruct him and his subjects in the true religion. He related that, in the inland country, three hundred and fifty leagues eastward from Bemin, was a mighty monarch, called Ogane, who had jurisdiction, both spiritual and temporal, over other kings; that the king of Bemin and his neighbours, at their accession, sent ambassadors to him with rich presents, and received from him the investiture of their dominions, and the marks of sovereignty, which were a kind of sceptre, a helmet, and a latten cross, without which they could not be considered as lawful kings; that this great prince was never seen but on the day of audience, and then held out one of his feet to the ambassador, who kissed it with great reverence, and who, at his departure, had a cross of latten hung on his neck, which ennobled him thenceforward, and exempted him from all servile offices.
Bemoin had, likewise, told the king, that to the east of the kingdom of Tombut, there was, among other princes, one that was neither Mahometan nor idolater, but who seemed to profess a religion nearly resembling the Christian. These informations, compared with each other, and with the current accounts of Prester John, induced the king to an opinion, which, though formed somewhat at hazard, is still believed to be right, that by passing up the river Senegal his dominions would be found. It was, therefore, ordered that, when the fortress was finished, an attempt should be made to pass upward to the source of the river. The design failed then, and has never yet succeeded.
Other ways, likewise, were tried of penetrating to the kingdom of Prester John; for the king resolved to leave neither sea nor land unsearched, till he should be found. The two messengers who were sent first on this design, went to Jerusalem, and then returned, being persuaded that, for want of understanding the language of the country, it would be vain or impossible to travel farther. Two more were then despatched, one of whom was Pedro de Covillan, the other, Alphonso de Pavia; they passed from