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slaughter with his single arm and, as usual, escaping unhurt from amidst showers of darts and arrows.
Caonabo saw many of his bravest warriors slain. His forces were diminishing, for the Indians, unused to any protracted operations of war, grew weary of this siege, and returned daily in numbers to their homes. He gave up all further attempt therefore on the fortress, and retired, filled with admiration of the prowess and achievements of Ojeda.*
The restless chieftain was not discouraged by the failure of this enterprise, but meditated schemes of a bolder and more extensive nature. Prowling in secret in the vicinity of Isabella, he noted the enfeebled state of the settlement.† Many of the inhabitants were suffering under various maladies, and most of the men capable of bearing arms were distributed about the country. He now ceived the project of a general league among the caciques, to surprise and overwhelm the settlement, and massacre the Spaniards wherever they could be found. This handful of intruders once exterminated, he trusted the island would be delivered from all further molestation of the kind; little dreaming of the
* Oviedo, Cronica de los Indias, lib. iii., cap. I, † Hist. del Almirante, cap. 60.
hopeless nature of the contest, and that where the civilized man once plants his foot, the power of the savage is gone forever.
Reports of the profligate conduct of the Spaniards had spread throughout the island, and inspired hatred and hostility even among tribes who had never beheld them, nor suffered from their misdeeds. Caonabo found three of the sovereign caciques inclined to cooperate with him, though impressed with deep awe of the supernatural power of the Spaniards, and of their terrific arms and animals. The league however met with unexpected opposition in the fifth cacique, Guacanagari, the sovereign of Marien. His conduct in this time of danger completely manirested the injustice of the suspicions which had been entertained of him by the Spaniards. He refused to join the other caciques with his forces, or to violate those laws of hospitality by which he had considered himself bound to protect and aid the white men, ever since they had been shipwrecked on his coast. He remained quietly in his dominions, entertaining at his own expense a hundred of the suffering soldiery, and supplying all their wants with his accustomed generosity. This conduct drew upon him the odium and hostility of his fellow caciques, particularly of the fierce Carib,
Caonabo, and his brother-in-law, Behechio. They made irruptions into his territories, and inflicted on him various injuries and indignities. Behechio killed one of his wives, and Caonabo carried another away captive.* Nothing, however, could shake the devotion of Guacanagari to the Spaniards; and as his dominions lay immediately adjacent to the settlement, and those of some of the other caciques were very remote, the want of his co-operation impeded for some time the hostile designs of his confederates. +
Such was the critical state to which the affairs of the colony had been reduced, and such the bitter hostility engendered among the people of the island, during the absence of Columbus, and merely in consequence of violating all his regulations. Margarite and Friar Boyle had hastened to Spain to make false representations of the miseries of the island. Had they remained faithfully at their posts, and discharged zealously the trust confided to them, those miseries might have been easily remedied, if not entirely prevented.
* Hist. del Almirante, cap. 2. † Herrera, Hist. Ind., decad. i., lib. ii., cap. 16.
MMEDIATELY after the return of Colum
bus from Cuba, while he was yet confined to his bed by indisposition, he was
gratified by a voluntary visit from Guacanagari, who manifested the greatest concern at his illness, for he appears to have always entertained an affectionate reverence for the Admiral. He again spoke with tears of the massacre of Fort Nativity, dwelling on the exertions he had made in defence of the Spaniards. He now informed Columbus of the secret league forming among the caciques; of his opposition to it, and the consequent persecution he had suffered ; of the murder of one of his wives, and the capture of another. He urged the Admiral to be on his guard against the designs of Caonabo, and offered to lead his subjects to the field, to fight by the side of the Spaniards, as well out of friendship for them, as in revenge of his own injuries.*
Columbus had always retained a deep sense of the ancient kindness of Guacanagari, and was rejoiced to have all suspicion of his good faith thus effectually dispelled. Their former amicable intercourse was renewed, with this difference, that the man whom Guacanagari had once relieved and succored as a shipwrecked stranger, had suddenly become the arbiter of the fate of himself and all his countrymen.
The manner in which this peaceful island had been exasperated and embroiled by the licentious conduct of the Europeans was a matter of deep concern to Columbus. He saw all his plans of deriving an immediate revenue to the sovereigns completely impeded. To restore the island to tranquillity required skilful management. His forces were but small, and the awe in which the natives had stood of the white men, as supernatural beings, had been in some degree dispelled. He was too ill to take a personal share in any warlike enterprise ; his brother Diego was not a military character, and Bartholomew was yet a
* Herrera, Hist. Ind., decad. i., lib. ii., cap. 16.