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Visit of Ojeda to the West End of the Island. Conspiracy of Moxica. [1499.]
ABOUT this time reports were brought to Columbus that four ships had anchored at the western part of the island, a little below Jacquemel, apparently with the design of cutting dye woods and carrying off the natives for slaves. They were commanded by Alonzo de Ojeda, the same hot-headed and boldhearted cavalier who had distinguished himself by the capture of Caonabo. Knowing the daring and adventurous spirit of this man, the admiral was disturbed at his visiting the island in this clandestine manner. To call him to account, however, required a man of spirit and address. No one seemed fitter for the purpose than Roldan. He was as daring as Ojeda, and of a more crafty character. An expedition of this kind would occupy the attention of himself and his partisans, and divert them from any schemes of mischief.
Roldan gladly undertook the enterprise. He had nothing further to gain by sedition, and was anxious to secure his ill gotten possessions by public services, which should atone for past offences. Departing from St. Domingo, with two caravals, he arrived, on the 26th of September, within two leagues of
the harbour where the vessels of Ojeda were anchored. Here, landing with five-and-twenty resolute men, he intercepted Ojeda, who was on an excursion several leagues from his ships, and demanded his motives for landing on that remote and lonely part of the island, without first reporting his arrival to the admiral. Ojeda replied, that he had been on a voyage of discovery, and had put in there in distress, to repair his ships and obtain provisions. On further inquiry it appeared, that Ojeda had happened to be in Spain at the time that the letters arrived from Columbus, giving an account of his discovery of the coast of Paria, accompanied by specimens of the pearls to be found there. Ojeda was a favourite with Bishop Fonseca, and obtained a sight of the letter, and the charts and maps of the route of Columbus. He immediately conceived the idea of an expedition to those parts, in which he was encouraged by Fonseca, who furnished him with copies of the papers and charts, and granted him a letter of licence, signed by himself, but not by the sovereigns. Ojeda fitted out four ships at Seville, assisted by many eager and wealthy speculators; and in this squadron sailed Amerigo Vespucci, á Florentine merchant, well acquainted with geography and navigation, who eventually gave his name to the whole of the new world. The expedition sailed in May, 1499. The adventurers arrived on the southern continent, and ranged along it, from two hundred leagues east of the Oronoco to the Gulf of Paria. Guided by the charts of Columbus, they passed through this gulf, and through the Boca del Drago, and kept along westward to Cape de la Vela, visiting the island of Mar
garita, and the adjacent continent, and discovering the Gulf of Venezuela. They subsequently touched at the Caribbee islands, where they fought with the fierce natives, and made many captives, with the design of selling them in the slave markets of Seville. From thence they sailed for Hispaniola, to procure supplies, having performed the most extensive voyage hitherto made along the shore of the new world.
Ojeda assured Roldan that he intended, as soon as his ships were ready, to go to San Domingo and pay his homage to the admiral. Trusting to this assurance, and satisfied with the information he had obtained, Roldan sailed for San Domingo to make his report. Nothing, however, was farther from the intention of Ojeda than to keep his promise. As soon as his ships were ready for sea, he sailed round to the coast of Xaragua. Here he was well received by the Spaniards, resident in that province, among whom were many of the late comrades of Roldan. Knowing the rash and fearless character of Ojeda, and finding that there were jealousies between him and the admiral, they made clamorous complaints of the injustice of the latter, whom they accused of withholding from them the arrears of their pay. Ojeda, who knew the tottering state of the admiral's favour at court, and felt secure in the powerful protection of Fonseca, immediately proposed to put himself at their head, march at once to San Domingo, and oblige the admiral to satisfy their just demands. The proposition was received with transport by some of the rebels; but others demurred, and a furious brawl ensued, in which several were killed and wounded on both sides:
the party for the expedition to San Domingo remained triumphant.
Fortunately for the peace and safety of the admiral, Roldan, who had received news of the movements of Ojeda, arrived in the neighbourhood at this critical juncture, with a band of resolute followers, and was reinforced on the following day by his old confederate, Diego de Escobar, with additional forces. Ojeda retired to his ships; a long course of manoeuvring took place between these wellmatched adversaries, each striving to gain an advantage of the other. Ojeda at length was obliged to abandon the coast, and made sail for some other island, to make up his cargo of Indian slaves.
The followers of Roldan took great merit to themselves for their unwonted loyalty in driving Ojeda from the island; and, like all reformed knaves, expected that their good conduct would be amply rewarded. Looking upon their leader as having every thing in his gift, they requested him to share among them the fine province of Cahay, adjoining to Xaragua. Roldan, who was now
anxious to establish a character of adherence to the law, declined acceding to their wishes, until sanc→ tioned by the admiral; but, to soothe their impatient rapacity, he shared among them the lands which had been granted to him in Xaragua. While he was remaining in this neighbourhood, other troubles broke out, and from somewhat of a romantic cause. A young cavalier of noble family, named Hernando de Guevara, cousin to Adrian de Moxica, one of the ringleaders of the late rebellion, was banished from San Domingo for licentious conduct, and sent to Xaragua, to embark in the ships
of Ojeda; but arrived after their departure. He was treated with indulgence by Roldan, on account of his old comrade, Adrian de Moxica, and was favourably received at the house of the female cacique, Anacaona. That remarkable woman still retained her partiality to the Spaniards, notwithstanding the disgraceful scenes that had passed before her eyes. By her late husband, Caonabo, she had a daughter, named Higuenamota, just grown up, and greatly admired for her beauty. Guevara became enamoured of her. He possessed an agreeable person, and winning manners, though he was headstrong in his passions, and destitute of principle. His endearments soon won the heart of the simple Indian girl. Anacaona, the mother, pleased with the gallant appearance and ingratiating manners of the youthful cavalier, favoured his attachment; especially as he sought her daughter in marriage. Roldan was himself attached to the young Indian beauty, and jealous of her preference of his rival. He exerted his authority to separate the lovers, and banished Guevara to the province of Cahay. The latter soon returned, and concealed himself in the dwelling of Anacaona. Being discovered, and finding Roldan implacable in his opposition to his passion, he now meditated revenge. He soon made a party among the old comrades of Roldan, who detested as a magistrate the man they had idolized as a leader. It was concerted to rise suddenly upon him, and either to kill him or put out his eyes. The plot was discovered; Guevara was seized in the dwelling of Anacaona, in the presence of his intended bride; seven of his ac