Spanish Voyages of Discovery

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

put to death, accusing him of various crimes and cruelties. Vasco Nuñez pretended to listen to their prayers, and gave orders that his captive should be tied hand and foot and given to the dogs. The cacique approached him trembling, and laid his hand upon the pommel of his sword. "Who can pretend," said he, "to strive with one who bears this weapon, which can cleave a man asunder with a blow? Ever since thy fame has reached among these mountains have I reverenced thy valour. Spare my life and thou shalt have all the gold I can procure."

Vasco Nuñez, whose anger was assumed, was readily pacified. As soon as the day dawned the cacique gave him armlets and other jewels of gold to the value of three thousand crowns, and sent messengers throughout his dominions ordering his subjects to aid in paying his ransom. The poor Indians, with their accustomed loyalty, hastened in crowds, bringing their golden ornaments, until, in the course of three days, they had produced an amount equal to six thousand crowns. This done, Vasco Nuñez set the cacique at liberty, bestowing on him several European trinkets, with which he considered himself richer than he had been with all his gold. Nothing would draw from him, however, the disclosure of the mines from whence this treasure was procured. He declared that it came from the territories of his neighbours, where gold and pearls were to be found in abundance; but that his lands produced nothing of the kind. Vasco Nuñez doubted his sincerity, and secretly caused the brooks and rivers in his daminions to be searched, where gold was found in such quantities, that he determined at a future time to found two settlements in the neighbourhood.

On parting with Tubanama, the cacique sent his son with the Spaniards to learn their language and religion. It is said, also, that the Spaniards carried off his eighty women; but of this particular fact, Oviedo, who writes with the papers of Vasco Nuñez before him, says nothing. He affirms generally, however, that the Spaniards, throughout this expedition, were not scrupulous in their dealings with the wives and daughters of the Indians; and adds that in this their commander set them the example.*

Having returned to the village, where he had left the greater part of his men, Vasco Nuñez resumed his homeward march. His people were feeble and exhausted and several of them sick, so that some had to be carried and others led by the arms. He

____________________
*
Oviedo, Hist. Gen. Part II. c. 4, MS.

-137-

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