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The inhabitants were finely formed, had a noble air, a more agreeable elocution, and more soft and graceful manners, than the natives of the other part of the island. The Indians of Hayti generally placed their elysium, or paradise of happy spirits, in the delightful valleys that bordered the great lake of Xaragua.
With Behechio resided his sister Anacaona, wife of the late formidable Caonabo, one of the most beautiful females in the island, of great natural grace and dignity, and superior intelligence; her name in the Indian language signified Golden Flower. She had taken refuge with her brother, after the capture and ruin of her husband, but appears never to have entertained any vindictive feelings against the Spaniards, whom she regarded with great admiration as almost superhuman beings. On the contrary, she counselled her brother, over whom she had great influence, to take warning by the fate of her husband, and to conciliate their friendship.
Don Bartholomew entered the province of Xaragua at the head of an armed band, putting his cavalry in the advance, and marching with banners displayed, and the sound of drum and trumpet. Behechio met him with a numerous force, but being assured that he came merely on a friendly visit, he dismissed his army, and conducted the Adelantado to his residence in a large town, near the deep bay called at present the Bight of Leagon.
As they approached, thirty young females, of the cacique's household, beautifully formed, came forth to meet them, waving palm branches, and dancing and singing their areytos or traditionary ballads. When they came before Don Bartholomew, they
knelt and laid their palm branches at his feet. After these came the beautiful Anacaona, reclining on a litter, borne by six Indians. She was lightly clad in a robe of various coloured cotton, with a fragrant garland of red and white flowers round her head, and wreaths of the same round her neck and arms. She received the Adelantado with that natural grace and courtesy for which she was celebrated.
For several days Don Bartholomew remained in Xaragua, entertained by the cacique and his sister with banquets, national games and dances, and other festivities; then having arranged for a periodical tribute to be paid in cotton, hemp, and cassava bread, the productions of the surrounding country, he took a friendly leave of his hospitable entertainers, and set out with his little army for Isabella.
He found the settlement in a sickly state, and suffering from a scarcity of provisions; he distributed, therefore, all that were too feeble to labour or bear arms into the interior, where they might have better air and more abundant food; and at the same time he established a chain of fortresses between Isabella and San Domingo. Insurrections broke out among the natives of the vega, caused by their impatience of tribute, by the outrages of some of the Spaniards, and by a severe punishment inflicted on certain Indians for the alleged violation of a chapel. Guarionex, a man naturally moderate and pacific, was persuaded by his brother caciques to take up arms, and a combination was formed among them to rise suddenly upon the Spaniards, massacre them, and destroy Fort Conception, which was situated in the vega. By some means the garrison received intimation of the conspiracy. They immediately wrote a
letter to the Adelantado imploring prompt assistance. How to convey the letter in safety was an anxious question, for the natives had discovered that these letters had a wonderful power of communicating intelligence, and fancied that they could talk. An Indian undertook to be the bearer of it. He enclosed it in a staff, and set out on his journey. Being intercepted, he pretended to be dumb and lame, leaning on his staff for support. He was suffered to depart, and limped forward until out of sight, when he resumed his speed, and bore the letter safely and expeditiously to San Domingo.
The Adelantado, with his accustomed promptness, set out with a body of troops for the fortress. By a rapid and well concerted stratagem he surprised the leaders in the night, in a village in which they were sleeping, and carried them all off captive, seizing upon Guarionex with his own hand. He completed his enterprise with spirit, sagacity, and moderation. Informing himself of the particulars of the conspiracy, he punished two caciques, the principal movers of it, with death, and pardoned all the rest. Finding, moreover, that Guarionex had been chiefly incited to hostility by an outrage committed by a Spaniard on his favourite wife, he inflicted punishment on the offender. The heart of Guarionex was subdued by the unexpected clemency of the Adelantado, and he made a speech to his subjects in praise of the Spaniards. They listened to him with attention, and when he had concluded, bore him off on their shoulders with songs and shouts of joy, and for some time the tranquillity of the vega was restored.
About this time, receiving information from Be
hechio, cacique of Xaragua, that his tribute in cotton and provisions was ready for delivery, the Adelantado marched there, at the head of his forces, to receive it. So large a quantity of cotton and cassava bread was collected together, that Don Bartholomew had to send to the settlement of Isabella for a caraval to be freighted with it. In the mean time, the utmost kindness was lavished upon their guests by these gentle and generous people. The troubles which distracted the other parts of devoted Hayti had not yet reached this pleasant region; and when the Spaniards regarded the fertility and sweetness of the country, bordering on a tranquil sea, the kindness of the inhabitants, and the beauty of the women, they pronounced it a perfect paradise.
When the caraval arrived on the coast, it was regarded by Anacaona and her brother with awe and wonder. Behechio visited it with his canoes; but his sister, with her female attendants, were conveyed on board in the boat of the Adelantado. As they approached, the caraval fired a salute. At the sound of the cannon, and the sight of volumes of smoke, bursting from the sides of the ship and rolling along the sea, Anacaona, overcome with dismay, fell into the arms of the Adelantado, and her attendants would have leaped overboard, but were reassured by the cheerful words of Don Bartholomew. As they drew nearer the vessel, several instruments of martial music struck up, with which they were greatly delighted. Their admiration increased on entering on board; but when the anchor was weighed, the sails filled by a gentle breeze, and they beheld this vast mass veering from side to side, apparently by its own will, and playing like a huge
monster on the deep, the brother and sister remained gazing at each other in mute astonishment. Nothing seems ever to have filled the mind of the savage with more wonder than that beautiful triumph of human ingenuity—a ship under sail.
While the Adelantado was thus absent quelling insurrections, and making skilful arrangements for the prosperity of the colony, and the advantage of the crown, new mischiefs were fermenting in the factious settlement of Isabella. The prime mover was Francisco Roldan, a man who had been raised by Columbus from poverty and obscurity, and promoted from one office to another, until he had appointed him alcalde mayor, or chief judge of the island. He was an uneducated man, but of strong natural talents, great assiduity, and intrepid impudence. He had seen his benefactor return to Spain, apparently under a cloud of disgrace, and, considering him a fallen man, began to devise how he might profit by his downfall. He was intrusted with an office inferior only to that of the Adelantado; the brothers of Columbus were highly unpopular; he imagined it possible to ruin them, both with the colonists and with the government at home, and by dexterous management to work his way into a command of the colony. For this purpose he mingled among the common people, threw out suggestions that the admiral was in disgrace, and would never return; railed at the Adelantado and Don Diego as foreigners, who took no interest in their welfare, but used them merely as slaves to build houses and fortresses for them, or to swell their state, and secure their power as they marched about the island, enriching themselves with the spoils of