To the narratives of these adventurers we owe much of our early knowledge of America and its aborigines. The information they give, it is true, is not always to be taken at its face value, and often is more of the nature of travelers’ tales than scientific geography. But it has value, and, reflecting as it does the inflamed imagination of the time, vast entertainment. Thus in an account of one of Hawkins’s voyages we read of the crocodile: “His nature is ever, when he would have his prey, to cry and sob like a Christian body, to provoke them to come to him; and then he snatched at them! And thereupon came this proverb, that is applied unto women, when they weep, ‘Lachrymae Crocodili’: the meaning whereof is, that as the crocodile when he crieth goeth then about most to deceive; so doth a woman, most commonly, when she weepeth.” The wondrous properties of tobacco are thus described in the same narrative: “The Floridans, when they travel, have a kind of herb dried, who with a cane and a earthen cup in the end, with fire and the dried herbs put together, do suck through the cane the smoke thereof; which smoke satisfieth their hunger, and therewith they live four or five days without meat or drink. And this all the Frenchmen used for this purpose; yet do they hold opinion withal, that it causeth water and phlegm to void from their stomachs.” “The potato is hardly less glorified: “These potatoes be the most delicate roots that may be eaten; and do far exceed our parsnips or carrots. Their pines be of the bigness of two fists, the outside whereof is of the making of a pine apple, but it is soft like the rind of a cucumber; and the inside eateth like an apple, but it is more delicious than any sweet apple sugared.”

Besides descriptions of plants and animals, these stories of travel and conquest contain much interesting information, though colored by fancy, of the native tribes encountered and of their habits of life. Especially is the reader struck by the vast riches in gold and pearls ascribed to the Indians, such description as that of El Dorado, quoted by Raleigh in his account of the Emperor of Guiana,〖H. C., xxxiii, 318–319.〗 sounding like a fairy tale. Not content with kitchen utensils of gold and silver, the Emperor was believed to have adorned his pleasure gardens with flowers and trees of the same precious metals.

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