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recorded by all the contemporary historians with trivial variations, and which Las Casas assures us was in current circulation in the island when he arrived there, about six years after the event. It accords too with the adventurous and extravagant character of the man, and with the wild stratagems and vaunting exploits incident to Indian warfare.
In the course of their march, having halted near the Little Yaqui, a considerable branch of the Neyba, Ojeda one day produced a set of manacles of polished steel, so highly burnished that they looked like silver. These he assured Caonabo were royal ornaments which had come from heaven, or the Turey of Biscay*; that they were worn by the monarchs of Castile on solemn dances, and other high festivities, and were intended as presents to the Cacique. He proposed that Caonabo should go to the river and bathe, after which he should be decorated with these ornaments, mounted on the horse of Ojeda, and should return in the state of a Spanish monarch, to astonish his subjects. The Cacique was dazzled with the glitter of the manacles, and flattered with the idea of bestriding one of those tremendous
* The principal iron manufactories of Spain are established in Biscay, where the ore is found in abundance.
animals so dreaded by his countrymen. He repaired to the river, and having bathed, was assisted to mount behind Ojeda, and the shackles were adjusted. Ojeda made several circuits to gain space, followed by his little band of horsemen, the Indians shrinking back from the prancing steeds. At length he made a wide sweep into the forest, until the trees concealed him from the sight of the army. His followers then closed around him, and drawing their swords threatened Caonabo with instant death if he made the least noise or resistance. Binding him with cords to Ojeda to prevent his falling or effecting an escape, they put spurs to their horses, dashed across the river, and made off through the woods with their prize.*
They had now fifty or sixty leagues of wilderness to traverse on their way homewards with here and there large Indian towns. They had borne off their captive far beyond the pursuit of his subjects; but the utmost vigilance was requisite to prevent his escape during this long
* This romantic exploit of Ojeda is recorded at large by Las Casas; by his copyist Herrera (decad. i., lib. ii., cap. 16); by Fernando Pizarro, in his Varones Illustres del Nuevo Mundo; and by Charlevoix in his History of St. Domingo. Peter Martyr and others have given it more concisely, alluding to but not inserting its romantic details.
and toilsome journey, and to avoid exciting the hostilities of any confederate cacique. They had to shun the populous parts of the country, therefore, and to pass through the Indian towns at full gallop. They suffered greatly from fatigue, hunger, and watchfulness; encountering many perils, fording and swimming the numerous rivers of the plains, toiling through the deep tangled forests, and clambering over the high and rocky mountains. They accomplished all in safety, and Ojeda entered Isabella in triumph from this most daring and characteristic enterprise, with his wild Indian bound behind.
Columbus could not refrain from expressing his great satisfaction when this dangerous foe was delivered into his hands. The haughty Carib met him with a lofty and unsubdued air, disdaining to conciliate him by submission, or to deprecate his vengeance for the blood of white men which he had shed. He never bowed his spirit to captivity; on the contrary, though completely at the mercy of the Spaniards, he displayed that boasting defiance which is a part of Indian heroism, and which the savage maintains towards his tormentors, even amidst the agonies of the faggot and the stake. He vaunted his achievement in surprising and burning the fortress of Nativity,
and slaughtering its garrison, and declared that he had secretly reconnoitred Isabella, with an intention of wreaking upon it the same desolation.
Columbus, though struck with the heroism of the chieftain, considered him a dangerous enemy, whom, for the peace of the island, it was advisable to send to Spain; in the meantime he ordered that he should be treated with kindness and respect, and lodged him in a part of his own dwelling, where however he kept him a prisoner in chains. This precaution must have been necessary, from the insecurity of his prison; for Las Casas observes that the Admiral's house not being spacious nor having many chambers the passers-by in the street could see the captive chieftain from the portal.*
Caonabo always maintained a haughty deportment towards Columbus, while he never evinced the least animosity against Ojeda. He rather admired the latter as a consummate warrior, for having pounced upon him and borne him off in this hawk-like manner from the very midst of his fighting-men.
When Columbus entered the apartment where Caonabo was confined, all present rose according to custom and paid him reverence; the Cacique alone neither moved nor took any * Las Casas, Hist. Ind., lib. i., cap. 102.
notice of him. On the contrary, when Ojeda entered, though small in person and without external state, Caonabo rose and saluted him with profound respect. On being asked the reason of this, Columbus being Guamiquina, or great chief over all, and Ojeda but one of his subjects, the proud Carib replied that the Admiral had never dared to come personally to his house and seize him; it was only through the valor of Ojeda he was his prisoner; to Ojeda, therefore, he owed reverence, not to the Admiral.*
The captivity of Caonabo was deeply felt by his subjects, for the natives of this island seem generally to have been extremely loyal and strongly attached to their caciques. One of the brothers of Caonabo, a warrior of great courage and address, and very popular among the Indians, assembled an army of more than seven thousand men, and led them secretly to the neighborhood of St. Thomas, where Ojeda was again in command. His intention was to surprise a number of Spaniards, in hopes of obtaining his brother in exchange for them. Ojeda as usual had notice of the design, but was not to be again shut up in his fortress. Having been reinforced by a detachment sent by the Adelantado, he left a sufficient force in *Las Casas, ubi sup., cap. 102.