In my many travels across the world I came across a small island somewhere in the Meditteranean. It was a place unlike others. There was an unusual tranquility and peace that one experienced over there. And the men accompanying me on this voyage found that there were unusually happy and ecstatic. The weather was neither hot nor cold. It was just about perfect. There were large palm trees and coconut trees planted all around the island. Infact the forest was quite dense. One could see different species of birds sitting about in the trees. And I was sure that there were sure to be plenty of wild beasts around. My men had bought plenty of food and water along with them. They also carried pistols and rifles should there be any encounter with the natives or with wild beasts. Till now, there was nothing to suggest that there was any human life there. We saw a distant hill. And the pathway to it lay in the forest. Once the men had had plenty to eat and drink, we decided to move forth and explore the island. The weather was clear and pleasant. And the men seemed to be filled with boundless energy.
So we slowly made our way through the forest. There were crows, cockatoos, pigeons, sparrows, robins and parrots all about perched in the trees. Every now and then, we would see a serpent hanging from the trees or slithering past us on the ground. We had not gone far when we came across a deep pit. Peering into it, we got a shock of our lives. It was full of many skulls and bones. And then we uncovered many such pits. Were they burial grounds for the dead of the natives that inhabited this island ?
I could sense that the natives were hidden and watching us. The men looked serious and a little fearful. They looked around them and about them expecting an ambush of some sort. For the first time, we felt insecure and tense. As we inched our way forward, we heard shrieks and screams. And then we were attacked from every side by hideous looking pygmies. Of course they carried knives and bamboo sticks. We used our rifles and pistols to good effect and soon we had shot many of them. Some of them had died and some lay seriously injured.
The natives were dark in color and short in stature. Barely clad, they had painted there faces with different colors to look quite fierce. One of the natives that we had captured stared at us. And then he used his hands and gestures to tell us that we were all as good as dead. Of course this did not go well with my men and they wanted to skin him alive but I forbade them from doing any such thing. We were just thinking of what to do when we heard a loud hooting sound. And then we heard more cries and shrieks. The men quickly took out their pistols and rifles. This time the attack of the natives was much more violent and deadly. Some of them were hidden in the trees and they used sling shots and darts to good effect and many of my men lay dead. However we managed to shoot them down. However on ground, we were soon overwhelmed by the sheer numbers that attacked us. We shot and killed many of them but alas we were soon subdued and captured.
Tied tightly to bamboo poles we were carried forth to a large village made up of straw and mud houses. I feared what lay in store. Lined on either side of the sandy pathway that led towards the village were men, women and children speaking in a language which we did not understand. It seemed to be a curious mixutire of incessant chattering and hooting sounds. The natives wore no clothes. Soon we were unbound and placed within cages made of bamboo.
Altogether we were about twenty five men. About a similar number had perished fighting these strange natives. We did not know what lay in store for us. The pits full of skulls and bones terrified us all. I was lost in my thoughts when I saw three fierce looking natives approach our bamboo enclosure.
They motioned me with their bamboo sticks and knives to come out. I was prodded on my back with bamboo sticks to walk and in front of a large crowd made up of natives, I was led to a large mud house.
Seated within was a fierce looking man adorning necklaces made up of colored beads and stones. He sat on a raised chair that had leopard skin covering a part of it. Two young women sat near him pressing his feet. When he looked at me, he waved the women aside and he got up and walked towards me and around me inspecting me from top to bottom. It was obvious he had never seen a man wearing clothes let alone a white man. He was in a state of disbelief. How could a person be white? That was the impression I fathomed by his examining his skin and then mine? Because he was short and I was tall, he motioned his guards to make me sit down. And when I did do, he looked down at me and for the first time I saw him smile. His white teeth seemed to glitter against his dark skin. He then motioned me to stand and I complied with his orders. Chattering in his strange language, he barked some orders and one of the men disappeared only to return with one of my mens rifles. He examined it carefully and motioned me to show him what it was used for.
The guard actually handed me the rifle. I found that it was still loaded. Had I wanted, I could have shot the native who was obviously the king or leader of these strange people. However I did not do any such thing.
I was led out by the guards in the company of the king. A large number of men armed with sharp blades that looked like machetes and with bamboo poles appeared and pushed the crowd back. The King motioned me to use the rifle. I aimed the rifle towards the coconuts hanging from the coconut tree. There was a loud bang as the gun went off. The bullet found its mark knocking down some of the coconuts. It seemed to have a profound act on the people who had never seen anything like this. And I noticed that the men and women amongst the natives looked quite fearful. The king seemed to look alarmed. However he had enjoyed what he had seen and he motioned to me to show him the rifle. He took it from me and then pointed it towards me before aiming it at one of the trees and fired. By the looks on his face, he was quite amazed.
I was then led back to the bamboo enclosure where we were being held. After a short while I and my men were brought cool water placed in vessels that seemed to have been carved out from the coconut shells. The men heaved a sigh of welcome relief. And this was followed by a broth which seemed to have been made from a mixture of various vegetables. It had an intoxicating impact and we slept like logs for perhaps two hours or more.
When I woke up, I found Mr. Roger Wilkins, who was a priest and Mr. Clyde Atkins who was a writer were both missing from the enclosure. There was fear and apprehension amongst the remaining crew members. Where could they have gone? Had they been killed, eaten or sacrificed? A guard walked upto the enclosure and unlocked the door leading into it and motioned me to follow him. I saw the frightened look of my men and I told them nothing would happen to me. And I prayed to God to have mercy upon my soul as I was led away.
I was led towards to what seemed to be the village square. Two wooden stakes had been planted into the ground and I saw Roger Wilkins and Clyde Atkins had had their hands and feet nailed to them. They were screaming out in pain and agony as blood oozed outwards. It was a sight hard to swallow and I felt nauseous. I was led to a raised platform where the King sat along with two pretty native women and they seemed to be enjoying this horrible spectacle. The onlooking seemed to be enjoying what they saw. And I motioned to the king using my hands and gestures asking for his mercy for these men. I took off a gold watch that I wore and handed it to him. He seemed to be fascinated by the hour hand of the watch ticking about. I even handed him my gold ring studded with glittering diamonds. For a while, he seemed to enjoy what I had given him but it did not stop him from ordering his guards to build a fire about the stakes. Soon the wooden stakes caught fire and consumed the stakes and my men. Their heart wrenching screams and blood curling resonated in my ears but I was unable to do
Afterwards I was led back to the bamboo enclosure and my men knew from my facial expressions that something dastardly and horrible happened. Later as I narrated what had happened to my men, the hearts of my men were filled with fear and anger.
There seemed to be no escape possible. When the men had to make their call to nature they were often led away by guards to nearby bushes. They were armed with knives and bamboo poles. Escape seemed to futile.
It was over there amongst the bushes that we relieved ourselves often wiping our behinds with pebbles and dust. All that I could hope for was that the group of ten men that I left aboard the ship would come to our rescue.
It had been a day since we had been captured. Late in the day, I was once again led to the presence of the king. He seemed to be in a jolly mood and motioned me to have some apples and bananas. And I politely refused. The smile on his face disappeared for a while. He looked at one of the many beautiful women that were about him and muttered something in his strange chattering language. And she had gotten up and was making her way towards me when she slipped somehow and hurt her foot. She had sprained her ankle and was in a lot of pain. I had held her ankle gently and rubbed it. Looking around, I motioned the king to follow me. Rather reluctantly he followed me back to the enclosure where I was being held and called upon a member of my expedition who was a Doctor. Luckily the black box that carried his medicine lay intact. I had spotted it lying with the king. When I had reached the enclosure, I had hurriedly asked Doctor Davy Watson to follow me. We reached the place where the young woman with the sprained ankle still lay. I had pointed towards the medicine box and the king had given orders to hand it to me.
Doctor Davy Watson soon rubbed a soothing balm upon the sprained ankle and given her a medicine for relief of pain. Soon the woman felt much better and the king thought we had worked a miracle. And he motioned to his bones and his face wore an expression of intense pain. The doctor diagnosed a case of rheumatism and looking into his bag of medicine, he dug out some medicine to treat him. Later that day, the king called me and Doctor Watson over. He was apparently very happy and invited us to have food with him. For the first time we ate fish served along with salad. Later on I learned that all my companions had been served the same dish. Even they looked in better spirits. However we still all feared the worst. It may not take long for the King to have one of his fierce mood swings and summon another round of executions. So far so good. At least we were alive. That night the king ordered for me once again and I was presented before him. And I was presented a seat next to him. The king wore a happy expression. He was all smiles. And then he clapped his hands.
And some dancing women, totally nude danced a most erotic dance. I cast my eyes low in shame. Of course, the king seemed to enjoy it a lot. Once the women had stopped, the king motioned one of them and muttered something strange to her in his language. She had bowed before him before she came my way and led me away to a chamber where a bed made from wood and layers of leaves lay. Obviously she meant to copulate with me. However I was not in the mood to do any such thing. I stared at the young woman who was barely twenty and yet so exquisitely beautiful. And I stroked her gently on her cheeks and motioned her to lie down. She had perhaps never been with someone white. And she examined at me as if I was a rare specimen. She bent forward and kissed me. And I gently pushed her back. I then got up and went upto the king and used my facial expressions and gestures of the hands to suggest I was very thankful.
Once I reached the confines of the enclosures where I and my companions were held captive, I was pleasantly delighted to see that the men had been well fed once again. Nothing untowards had happened so far. The men seemed to be in good spirits and they were singing different songs.
We slept peacefully that night. When I woke up, I saw something that really frightened me. A number of men from my ship who I had hoped would lead a rescue operation, had been captured. They were not imprisoned like us. Later in the day, I had been led to the village square once again. And I was fearful of what the fate of the men who had been captured might be. I was guided into the presence of the king who did not look that happy. However he motioned me to sit down.
My eyes fell upon my men, five of them bound and tied to five seperate slabs of stone. And a man appeared with a large knife. I bent before the king and motioned him to free my men as they were dear to me.
However the crowd of savages that had gathered wanted blood spilt. The king seemed to be in two minds but at long last he motioned to the executioner to carry out the grim job. He responded swiftly and severed the jugular of one of my men. I watched the others tightly bound screaming but alas there was no one to hear their pleading. Once the heads were severed off, men appeared and held them up high for all the people to see. It was a horrible sight and I vomited twice or thrice, such was this revolting and horrific sight. Afterwards the bodies were carried away. I donot know where they disposed of them.
When I reached back in my prison, I related to my companions what had happened to the raiding party. "Men", I said, my voice hoarse and quivering with emotion, " Our last ray of hope for achieving freedom and leaving this God forsaken place seems ot have vanished."
There was a element of despair which hung in the atmosphere and we could only hope that by divine providence, there was some sort of miracle by which we could save our selves.
England seemed to be far off right now. So was our freedom. We knew not what fate had in store for us. Right now, every single one of us was lost in deep contemplation remembering our friends, girl friends, wives, parents and relatives. It was a grim moment in our lives.
We had not showered for three days and there was an awful stench in the bamboo enclosures. The savages had noticed that and we were tightly bound and led to a place where naked women undressed us much to our concern and using utensils made of wood much like buckets they poured water over us.
After this we were led naked back to our prison. Sitting naked in the presence of one another was highly demeaning for all of us. However in the evening the women came back with our clothes washed and dried.
We soon wore our clothes. It was our fourth day in captivity. Clouds had drifted in and we had our first rains since we were there. The cool winds and rain were a blessing. And we enjoyed the weather.
Doctor Watson sat there next to me and we had been discussing the beautiful environs of the island when two of the Kings guards unlocked the door and motioned for both of us to follow them. We were soon in the presence of the King who seemed to be sick. The king pointed towards the head and indicated that he had a severe headache. Luckily we had some aspirin which relieved and alleviated it. He was deeply grateful to us and he barked some orders.
On the way back to our enclosures where we were held captive, the guards carried a large amount of fruit which was distributed equally amongst my companions.
Early next morning, we were herded out of the bamboo enclosures and marched into the town with our hands and feet bound. We soon came to the rectangular village square where there was a raised platform made of stone. And we stood on top of them whilst a lot of women queued up and examined us from head to foot. Some giggled. And others smiled. We had no idea of what was happening. But within an hour, we were all lead to seperate abodes by the women who had selected us. What was happening?
As I went entered the straw hut, I found that the floor was covered with a small rug made of some animals skin. In a corner lay a wooden jar full of water and then their were different utensils made of coconut and wood. A lot of fruit lay in another corner.
The young woman who had selected me was quite pretty. She called me towards her and motioned me to sit with her. Coming near me she undressed me and we made love. She then brought me some fish to eat and water to drink. Later on, she offered me some fruit to eat. Once that had been done, one of the guards who I was familiar with, led me back to the bamboo enclosure. All the men had sex with the women who had chosen them. The purpose seems to be cross breeding.
The Island seems to be rich in species of animals, plants, insects, flowers and trees. I have seen scarab beetles, dragon flies, flies, mosquitoes and termites over here. On one or two occasions, I have seen snakes slithering by. The people over here love to cultivate the land and they even rear livestock. There are plenty of horses , donkeys, goats and cows around. The entire island is made up of a number of hills and there is even a mountain whose summit is buried under snow.
Over the next few days, I spent my time observing the people and trying to learn their values, customs and traditions. I have noted that when people meet one another they rub their noses with one another. And when they part ways they hug one another.
The men over here like anywhere else in the world spend their time in cultivating the land and rearing livestock. Meanwhile the women do all the housework. Each young male member of the society has to partake in a test before being officially initiated into manhood. In the company of the king, I have attended such trials that are attended by a large number of people. Young men who have achieved puberty are circumsized in public. The second part of the initiation of men as young as twelve involves being beaten on the buttocks by a bamboo cane about five times. Once that has been done they are taken away from their parents and they are taught how to rear animals and how to fight.
It has been two weeks now on this island. The men have been shifted to new accomodations. We have been provided four straw huts that can hold five men each. We are constantly kept under the observation of armed guards. However we are free to move about. The King seems to be pleased with Doctor Watson and he has using sign language conveyed to me his desire to learn my language. I started giving him lessons and found him to be a very attentive pupil.
We even have men, women and children lining up for being cured for different ailments. Mostly it is fever. However cases of anaemia, diarrhea and malaria are also not uncommon. I am afraid that the medicine that we have may soon finish. And I have used sign language to tell the king that our supplies of medicine are nearly finished. However he seems to be more interested about learning English language.
On my fifteenth day on the island, I used hand gestures to tell the king that my clothes were torn and tattered. And he just laughed.
Though my companions are healthy but they seem to be homesick. And I have had many dreams in which I was back in England amongst my friends, family and relatives. I notice that the men need something worthwhile to occupy their minds. And so I asked the king to allow the men with me to educate their people in English language, Maths, Science & Scientific Applications, and much more. The king looked to be delighted. However we decided that teaching English should be the first step.
Soon we had regular classes teaching English especially to the young children. The elder natives were too busy in their work. The children were quite friendly and willing to learn. My companions were soon busy teaching many of them English.
From what I have observed so far, the people seem to be quite friendly. However they are quite backward with little concept of what ethics and morality are. It is quite common for men and women to copulate freely in the open which is quite animal like. I have even seen boys barely reaching puberty having sex with young girl in the open.
The sight of naked women breast feeding in the open is quite repulsive and yet it does not perturb anyone. Life seems to continue unabated.
Likewise the sight of people picking their noses or farting in public is another sign that these people are uncultured.
When a male member is interested in a particular female, he usually chatters away excitedly and dances around her. If the female responds by dancing with him, it means that she is attracted otherwise she just looks away and the despondent male walks away. And it works in a similar manner for a female interested in a male member.
During the days that followed, I had the opportunity of attending a marriage ceremony with my companions. We had been invited by the parents of one of our students. As usual guards escorted us. It was at a hut made of mud and straw that we came where we saw a number of men and women, young and old gathered together. They stood in a semi circle about the couple that was to be married. Whilst the women chanted and sang songs in their language, the men danced about the couple.
The parents and relatives of the woman bring gifts for the newly wedded couple which includes fruits, vegetables and livestock.
At the end of this ceremony which lasts barely ten minutes, the husband and wife disappear into their hut whilst the parents and guest leave. Such a ceremony lasts twenty minutes at the most.
It was during our fourth week on the island that many of us and the natives fell ill to a strange fever that caused our bones to ache and pain. Even the doctor was not spared. And luckily due to the doctors efforts and extensive knowledge of medicine and utility of herbs and plants for curing maladies and sickness, that we soon regained our health.
During the month that we have been on this island, I have witnessed many people die from snake bites, from the attack of wild animals, from natural causes and due to murder. When someone dies, the natives carry them into the forest and leave them for scavengers such as vultures and for insects and wild animals to feed upon. Later the bones are cast into the deep pits that we saw earlier on.
When people have disputes or when they commit a crime, a council of elders sits and decides how a dispute is to be resolved and what sort of punishment is to be meted out to those guilty of crime.
If a person commits murder, he or she is led to the village square where they are executed publically.A mans head is usually chopped off by an executioner and for a woman, she is made to drink a poisonous liquid which kills her instantly.
On the other hand if a person is found guilty of stealing something, he or she is led to the village square where the appointed person uses bamboo canes to good effect on their buttocks or on the soles of their feet.
It was perhaps on the third day of our second month on the island that the king recited the english alphabet perfectly before me and I was positively delighted. I had patted his back as a sign of appreciation and he had been one delighted person.
I had noted the men a little restless for sexual recreation and I used sign language to ask the king for women for the men. And the king complied and we soon had females at our sides. The king had gifted them to us.
However I requested him for seperate quarters for each man and his wife and the king complied. Within two weeks of my request, I and my companions all had mud huts of their own where they moved in with the women that had been graciously provided to them by the king. My companions were ecstatic and their spirits were greatly lifted.
With the passage of time, the natives have grown to consider us one of their own. They are at peace with us and we are grateful to them for that.
However I am deeply fearful that what sort of treatment may be meted out to should the king die.
Being king on this island is not associated with any life of grandeur, wealth, power and riches. Over here the people have no concept of money, wealth and jewellery. Every one seems to enjoy a decent life and there is peace and fraternity amongst the local natives.
The King is usually appointed by a council consisting of elderly men and women who select a person who is wise, responsible and noble. The king is responsible for safeguarding life and property of all the citizens of this island. He ensures that laws are not violated and that the guilty are punished. Each year the council of elders sits and reviews the performance of the king. A vote is taken from the public and it is decided whether the person would continue to lead the people as king or not.
I learnt this much later when the king finally learnt to read and write english.
It was on a rather cloudy day when I heard excited shouting and chattering. The king and a lot of men and women were looking out towards the sea. Many of my companions were already there and they told me that it was a pirate ship carrying the jolly roger flag. The king had already been briefed on what pirates were.
We saw about five long boats, containing about ten men each making their way towards the shore. Hurriedly about a hundred armed soldiers were prepared for attacking them. The king gratefully has handed us our pistols and rifles back along with our ammunition. And my men are ready to fight along the natives.
So we hurriedly descended down the slope of the hill. Some of the natives warriors have chose ambush as a strategy. They lay hidden in bushes and others have climbed up trees. Even my men have suggested that the element of surprise would work to our advantage.
Hidden in a bush, I saw white men armed with cutlasses and pistols making their way towards the forest. I hear different birds chattering in the trees. Mosquitoes swarm about biting us. There are leeches, worms and spiders all about us in this forest. And every now and then, I see snakes slithering past me.
As the party of bucaneers came near us, I heard their voices. And it looks like they are Portugese. Any ways there was a loud whooping sound which was the sign for attack. We used our pistols and rifles to good attack. Native warriors jumped down from the tall trees upon the unsuspecting pirates. They also emerged from the bushes and there was fierce battle which ended soon. All fifty of the pirates that had stepped ashore had been clubbed, hacked and shot till death. We made our way towards the bucaneers who lay dead. My men and I quickly stripped them bare of their clothes and shoes. We prized that more than anything else.
However I and my companions were concerned about what the pirates may do when they learn that the fifty men who had been sent did not return.
So I apprised the king of my fears. He looked pensive and thoughtful much like a thinking philosopher.
However we decided that the best course of action would be to prepare ourselves for another battle if need be.
Luckily only five natives had perished during the first battle. The king spoke to his warriors in an animated manner and the warriors erupted in loud whooping and cooing sounds waving their clubs, sling shots and machetes.
Later the king walked upto me. A team of a hundred warriors was ready for another battle if need be.
My companions and I stood and watched the sea. It was about three hours later that we saw the pirate ship sailing away. A schooner usually carried 75 pirates and with fifty of them unaccounted, they decided to sail away. Perhaps seeing our ship "Discovery" without any signs of life on it, they had suddenly put two and two together.
Anyways the king was delighted at the outcome. It was a cause for celebration and rejoicement. During the evening the king held a feast where the native warriors and my companions were feted for their valour and bravery. We all had a lot to eat and drink that day and the king asked me for the first time whether I and my companions would like to go home.
He was quite serious. And though the island was a beautiful place and the people were very hospitable, a lot of my companions decided on leaving for England. Of course, they were leaving with their female companions. Out of the twenty companions that I had only five decided to stay back on the island.
However I was off those who left back for England but with memories full of a place that was beautiful. After a tearful embrace with the king which lasted for a while, I climbed aboard one of four rowboats.
Of course one of them held two natives with vegetables, fruit, chicken, ducks, fruit and much water.
Natives had descended upon the shore to say goodbye to us along with the King. As our ship sailed away we felt quite sad. However we were going back to England where our relatives, siblings, children and wives would likely to be quite surprised but happy to see us.
We covered a distance of 3597 nautical miles in approximately 15 days at a speed of 10 knots. As we sailed into the port of London and finally alighted at the harbor, the people witnessed a procession of men, nude women and a lot of animals.
It was the 5th of June, 1840. And when we reached our homes, our relatives and friends were pleasantly surprised to find us alive. A lot many of them had thought that we were dead. On seeing the beautiful and yet nude women with us, they were surprised. However when they heard of our adventure, they were quite delighted. Even local newspapers such as the Carlisle Patriot and Champion covered our adventure.
Even today, I sit back and think about the time I spend on that Meditteranean Island that I named
" Hermoso" which means ' beautiful' in Spanish.