Immagini della pagina

the caciques. By these seditious insinuations, he exasperated their feelings to such a degree, that they at one time formed a conspiracy to assassinate the Adelantado, but it was happily disconcerted by accident.

When the caraval returned from Xaragua, laden with provisions, it was dismantled by order of Don Diego, and drawn up on the beach. Roldan immediately seized upon this circumstance to awaken new suspicions. He said the true reason for dismantling the caraval was to prevent any of the colonists returning in it to Spain, to represent the oppressions under which they suffered. He advised them to launch and take possession of the vessel, as the only means of regaining their independence. They might then throw off the tranny of these upstart foreigners, and might lead a life of ease and quiet, employing the Indians as slaves, and enjoying unlimited indulgence with respect to the Indian


Don Diego was informed of these seditious movements, but he was of a mild, pacific nature, and deficient in energy. Fearing to come to an open rupture in the mutinous state of the colony, he thought to divert Roldan from his schemes by giving him distant and active employment. He detached him suddenly, therefore, with a small force, to overawe the Indians of the vega, who had shown a disposition to revolt. Roldan made use of this opportunity to organise an armed faction. He soon got seventy well armed and resolute men at his command, disposed to go all desperate lengths with him, and he made friends and partisans among the discontented caciques, promising to free them from

tribute. He now threw off the mask, and openly set the Adelantado and his brother at defiance, as men who had no authority from the crown, but were appointed by Columbus, who was himself in disgrace. He pretended always to act in his official capacity, and to do every thing from loyal motives, and every act of open rebellion was accompanied with shouts of " Long live the king!" Having endeavoured repeatedly to launch the caraval, but in vain, he broke open the royal stores, and supplied his followers with arms, clothing, and provisions, and then marched off to the vega, and attempted to surprise and get possession of Fort Conception, but was happily foiled by its commander, Miguel Ballester, a stanch old soldier, both resolute and wary, who kept the enemy at bay until succour should


The conspiracy had attained a formidable head during the absence of the Adelantado, several persons of consequence having joined it, among whom was Adrian de Moxica, and Diego de Escobar, the latter being alcayde of the fortress of La Madalena. Don Bartholomew was perplexed at first, and could not act with his usual vigour and decision, not knowing in whom he could confide, or how far the conspiracy had extended. On receiving tidings, however, from Miguel Ballester, of the danger of Fort Conception, he threw himself, with what forces he could collect, into that fortress, and held a parley with Roldan from one of the windows, ordering him to surrender his staff of office as alcalde mayor, and submit peaceably to superior authority. All threats and remonstrances, however, were vain; Roldan persisted in his rebellion. He represented the Ade

lantado as the tyrant of the Spaniards, the oppressor of the Indians; and himself as the redresser of wrongs and champion of the injured. He sought, by crafty emissaries, to corrupt the garrison of Fort Conception, and seduce them to desert, and laid plans to surprise and seize upon the Adelantado, should he leave the fortress.

The affairs of the island were now in a lamentable situation. The Indians, perceiving the dissensions among the Spaniards, and encouraged by the protection of Roldan, ceased to send in their tributes, and threw off allegiance to the government. Roldan's band daily gained strength, and ranged insolently and at large about the country; while the Spaniards, who remained loyal, fearing conspiracies among the natives, had to keep under shelter of the forts. Munitions of all kinds were rapidly wasting, and the spirits of the well-affected were sinking into despondency. The Adelantado himself remained shut up in Fort Conception, doubtful of the fidelity of his own garrison, and secretly informed of the plots to capture or destroy him, should he venture abroad. Such was the desperate state to which the colony was reduced by the long detention of Columbus in Spain, and the impediments thrown in the way of all his endeavours to send out supplies and reinforcements. Fortunately, at this critical juncture, the arrival of two ships, under command of Pedro Hernandez Coronal, at the port of San Domingo, with troops and provisions, strengthened the hands of Don Bartholomew. The royal confirmation of his title and authority of Adelantado at once put an end to all question of the legitimacy of his power, and secured the fidelity of his soldiers; and the

tidings that the admiral was in high favour at court, and on the point of coming out with a powerful squadron, struck consternation into the rebels, who had presumed upon his having fallen into disgrace. The Adelantado immediately hastened to San Domingo, nor was there any attempt made to molest him on his march. When he found himself once more secure, his magnanimity prevailed over his indignation, and he sent Pedro Hernandez Coronal, to offer Roldan and his band amnesty for all offences, on condition of instant obedience. Roldan feared to venture into his power, and determined to prevent the emissary from communicating with his followers, lest they should be induced to return to their allegiance. When Coronal approached the encampment of the rebels, therefore, he was opposed in a narrow pass by a body of archers with their crossbows levelled. "Halt there, traitor!" cried Roldan : "had you arrived eight days later, we should all have been united."

It was in vain that Coronal endeavoured to win this turbulent man from his career. He professed to oppose only the tyranny and misrule of the Adelantado, but to be ready to submit to the admiral on his arrival, and he and his principal confederates wrote letters to that effect to their friends in San Domingo.

When Coronal returned with accounts of Roldan's contumacy, the Adelantado proclaimed him and his followers traitors. That shrewd rebel, however, did not suffer his men to remain within the reach either of promise or menace. He proposed to them to march off, and establish themselves in the remote province of Xaragua. The Spaniards, who had been there,

had given the most alluring accounts of the country and its inhabitants, and above all of the beauty of the women, for they had been captivated by the naked charms of the dancing nymphs of Xaragua. In this delightful region, emancipated from the iron rule of the Adelantado, and relieved from the necessity of irksome labour, they might lead a life of perfect freedom and indulgence, with a world of beauty at their command. In short, Roldan drew a picture of loose sensual enjoyment, such as he knew to be irresistible with men of idle and dissolute habits. His followers acceded with joy to his proposition; so, putting himself at their head, he marched away for Xaragua.

Scarcely had the rebels departed, when fresh insurrections broke out among the Indians of the vega. The cacique Guarionex, moved by the instigations of Roldan, and forgetful of his gratitude to Don Bartholomew, entered into a new league to destroy the Spaniards, and surprise Fort Conception. The plot exploded before its time, and was defeated; and Guarionex hearing that the Adelantado was on the march for the vega, fled to the mountains of Ciguay, with his family, and a small band of faithful followers. The inhabitants of these mountains were the most robust and hardy tribe of the island, and the same who had skirmished with the Spaniards in the Gulf of Samana, in the course of the first voyage of Columbus. The reader may remember the frank and confiding faith with which their cacique trusted himself on board of the caraval of the admiral, the day after the skirmish. It was to this same cacique, named Mayonabex, that the fugitive chieftain of

« IndietroContinua »