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from those cannibal marauders. The command
from an ambuscade, killed the greater part of the men, and carried off the women to the Inountains. This blow, at the very onset of his vaunted expedition, sank deep into the heart of Juan Ponce and put an end to all his military excitement. Humbled and mortified, he set sail for the island of Porto Rico, where he relinquished all further prosecution of the enterprise under the pretext of ill-health, and gave the command of the squadron to a captain named Zufiiga: but it is surmised that his malady was not so much of the flesh as of the spirit. He remained in Porto Rico as governor, but having grown testy and irritable through vexations and disappointments, he gave great offence and caused much contention on the island by positive and strong-handed measures in respect to the distribution of the Indians. He continued for several years in that island in a state of growling repose, until the brilliant exploits of Hernando Cortez, which threatened to eclipse the achievements of all the veteran discoverers, roused his dormant spirit. Jealous of being cast into the shade in his old days, he determined to sally forth on one more expedition. He had heard that Florida, which he had discovered and which he had hitherto considered, a mere island, was part of Terra Firma, possessing vast and unknown regions in its bosom. If so, a grand field of enterprise lay before him, wherein he might make discoveries and conquests to rival, if not surpass, the far-famed conquest of Mexico. Accordingly in the year 1521 he fitted out two ships at the island of Porto Rico and embarked almost the whole of his property in the undertaking. His voyage was toilsome and tempestuous, but at length he arrived at the wished-for land. He made a descent upon the coast with a great part of his men, but the Indians sallied forth with unusual valor to defend their shores. A bloody battle ensued ; several of the Spaniards were slain, and Juan Ponce was wounded by an arrow in the thigh. He was borne on board his ship, and finding himself disabled for further action, set sail for Cuba, where he arrived ill in body and dejected in heart. He was of an age when there is no longer prompt and healthful reaction, either mental or corporeal. The irritations of humiliated pride and disappointed hope exasperated the fever of his wound, and he died soon after his arrival at the island. “Thus fate,” says one of the quaint old Spanish writers, “delights to reverse the schemes of man. The discovery that Juan Ponce flattered himself was to lead to a means of perpetuating his life, had the ultimate effect of hastening his death.” It may be said, however, that he had at least attained the shadow of his desire, since, though disappointed in extending the natural term of his existence, his discovery had insured a lasting duration to his name. The following epitaph was inscribed upon his tomb, which does justice to the warrior qualities of the stout cavalier :
Mole sub hac fortis requiescunt ossa Leonis
It has thus been paraphrased in Spanish by the Licentiate Juan de Castellanos :
Aqueste lugar estrecho
’’In this sepulchre rest the bones of a man, who was a lion by name and still more by nature.''