Immagini della pagina

The houses being sufficiently finished to be habitable, the admiral prepared for his departure, when he found to his surprise that the river, which on his arrival had been swollen by rain, had subsided to such a degree that there was not above half a fathom of water on the bar. Though his vessels were small, it was impossible to draw them over the sands at the mouth of the river, on account of a heavy surf. He was obliged, therefore, to wait until the rains should again swell the river.

In the mean time, Quibian beheld with secret indignation these strangers intruding themselves into his dominions. Columbus had sought to seeure his friendship by various presents, but in vain. The cacique, ignorant of the vast superiority of the Europeans in the art of war, thought it easy to overwhelm and destroy them. He sent messengers around, and ordered all his fighting men to assemble at his residence, under pretext of making war upon a neighbouring province. The movements of the Indians awakened the suspicions of one Diego Mendez, chief notary of the armament. He was a man of zeal and spirit, of a shrewd and prying character, and entirely devoted to the admiral. He mingled among the Indians, and observed circumstances which satisfied him that they were meditating an attack. The admiral was loth to believe it, and was desirous of clearer information, before he took any step that might interrupt the pacific intercourse that yet prevailed. The indefatigable Mendez now undertook a service of life and death. Accompanied by a single companion, he penetrated as a spy to the very residence of Quibian, who they heard had been wounded in the leg by an arrow.

Mendez gave himself out as a surgeon come to cure the wound, and made his way to the mansion of the grim warrior, which was situated on the crest of a hill, and surrounded by three hundred heads, on stakes; dismal trophies of the enemies he had vanquished in battle. Undismayed by this sight, Mendez endeavoured to enter, but was met at the threshold by the son of the cacique, who repulsed him. with a violent blow, that made him recoil several paces. He managed to pacify the furious young savage by taking out a box of ointment, and assuring him that he only came for the purpose of curing his father's wounds. He then made him presents of a comb, scissors, and mirror, taught him and his Indians the use of them in cutting and arranging their hair, and thus ingratiated himself with them by administering to their vanity. It was impossible, however, to gain admittance to the cacique ; but Mendez saw enough to convince him that the attack was about to be carried into effect, and that it was merely delayed by the wound of the cacique; he hastened back, therefore, to Columbus with the intelligence.

An Indian interpreter, a native of the neighbourhood, corroborated the report of Mendez. He informed the admiral that Quibian intended to come secretly in the dead of the night, with all his warriors, to set fire to the ships and houses, and massacre the Spaniards.

When the Adelantado heard of this plot, he conceived a counterplot to defeat it, which he carried into effect with his usual promptness and resolution. Taking with him seventy-four men, well armed, among whom was Diego Mendez, and being accompanied by the Indian interpreter who had re

vealed the conspiracy, he set off in boats to the mouth of the Veragua, ascended it rapidly, and landed in the night at the village of the cacique before the Indians could have notice of his approach. Lest Quibian should take the alarm and fly, he ascended to his house, accompanied only by Diego Mendez, and four other men, ordering the rest to come on gradually and secretly, and at the discharge of an arquebus to rush up and surround the house, and suffer no one to escape.

The cacique, hearing of his approach, came forth, and seating himself in the portal, desired him to advance singly. Don Bartholomew complied, ordering Diego Mendez and his four companions to remain at a little distance, but to rush to his aid at a concerted signal. He then advanced, addressed the cacique by means of the interpreter, inquired about his wound, and pretending to examine it, took him by the arm. This was the signal, at which four of the Spaniards rushed forward, the fifth discharged the arquebus. A violent struggle ensued between Don Bartholomew and the cacique, who were both men of great muscular force; but, with the assistance of Diego Mendez and his companions, Quibian was overpowered, and bound hand and foot. In the mean time the main body of the Spaniards surrounded the house, and captured the wives and children of the cacique, and several of his principal subjects. The prisoners were sent off to the ships, while the Adelantado, with a part of his men, remained on shore to pursue the Indians who had escaped,

The cacique was conveyed to the boats by Juan Sanchez, the principal pilot of the squadron, a powerful and spirited man. The Adelantado

charged him to be on his guard against any attempt at rescue or escape. The sturdy pilot replied, that if the cacique escaped from his clutches he would give them leave to pluck out his beard hair by hair. On arriving at the boat, he secured his prisoner by a strong cord to one of the benches. It was a dark night; as the boat proceeded down the river, the cacique complained piteously of the painfulness of his bonds, until the rough heart of the pilot was touched with compassion. He loosened

the cord, therefore, by which Quibian was tied to the bench, keeping the end of it in his hand. The wily Indian now watched his opportunity, and plunged suddenly into the water, with such violence, that the pilot had to let go the cord, lest he should be drawn in after him. The darkness of the night, and the bustle which took place in preyenting the escape of the other prisoners, rendered it impossible to pursue the cacique, or even to ascertain his fate. Juan Sanchez hastened to the ships with the residue of the captives, deeply mortified at being thus outwitted by a savage.

The Adelantado remained all night on shore, but on the following morning, seeing the wild and rugged nature of the country, he gave up all further pursuit of the Indians, and returned to the ships with the spoils of the cacique's mansion, consisting of bracelets, anklets, and massive plates of gold, and two golden coronets. One-fifth of the booty was set apart for the crown, the residue was shared among those concerned in the enterprise, and one of the coronets was assigned to the Adelantado as a trophy of his exploit.



Disasters of the Settlement.

SATISFIED that the vigorous measure of the Adelantado had struck terror into the Indians, and crushed their hostile designs, Columbus took advantage of a swelling of the river, to pass the bar with three of his caravals, leaving the fourth for the use of the settlement. He then anchored within a league of the shore, until a favourable wind should spring up for Hispaniola.

The cacique Quibian had not perished in the river, as some had supposed. Plunging to the bottom, he swam for some distance below the surface, and then emerging escaped to the shore. His home, however, was desolate, and to complete his despair, he saw the vessels standing out to sea, bearing away his wives and children captives. Furious for revenge, he gathered together a great number of his warriors, and assailed the settlement when the Spaniards were scattered and off their guard. The Indians lanched their javelins through the roofs of the houses, which were of palm leaves, or hurled them in at the windows, or thrust them between the logs which composed the walls, and wounded several of the Spaniards. On the first alarm, the Ade

« IndietroContinua »