Spanish Voyages of Discovery

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI. ALONZO DE Ojeda SUPPOSED BY THE SAVAGES TO HAVE A CHARMED LIFE -- THEIR EXPERIMENT TO TRY THE FACT.

IN the mean time the Indians continued to harass the garrison, lying in wait to surprise the foraging parties, cutting off all stragglers, and sometimes approaching the walls in open defiance. On such occasions Ojeda sallied forth at the head of his men, and, from his great agility, was the first to overtake the retreating foe. He slew more of their warriors with his single arm than all his followers together. Though often exposed to showers of arrows, none had ever wounded him, and the Indians began to think he had a charmed life. Perhaps they had heard from fugitive prisoners the idea entertained by himself and his followers of his being under supernatural protection. Determined to ascertain the fact, they placed four of their most dexterous archers in ambush with orders to single him out. A number of them advanced towards the fort sounding their conchs and drums and uttering yells of defiance. As they expected, the impetuous Ojeda sallied forth immediately at the head of his men. The Indians fled towards the ambuscade, drawing him in furious pursuit. The archers waited until he was full in front, and then launched their deadly shafts. Three struck his buckler and glanced harmlessly off, but the fourth pierced his thigh. Satisfied that he was wounded beyond the possibility of cure, the savages retreated with shouts of triumph.

Ojeda was borne back to the fortress in great anguish of body and despondency of spirit. For the first time in his life he had lost blood in battle. The charm in which he had hitherto confided was broken; or rather, the Holy Virgin appeared to have withdrawn her protection. He had the horrible death of his followers before his eyes, who had perished of their wounds in raving frenzy.

One of the symptoms of the poison was to shoot a thrilling chill through the wounded part; from this circumstance, perhaps, a remedy suggested itself to the imagination of Ojeda, which few but himself could have had the courage to undergo. He caused two plates of iron to be made red hot, and ordered a surgeon to apply them to each orifice of the wound. The surgeon shuddered and refused, saying he would not be the mur

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