The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

white men were sleeping. Eight of the Spaniards fled to the seaside pursued by the savages, and, rushing into the waves, were drowned; the rest were massacred. Guacanagari and his subjects fought faithfully in defence of their guests, but not being of a warlike character, were easily routed; the cacique was wounded by the hand of Caonabo, and his village was burnt to the ground.*

Such was the history of the first European establishment in the New World. It presents in a diminutive compass an epitome of the gross vices which degrade civilization, and the grand political errors which sometimes subvert the mightiest empires. All law and order being relaxed by corruption and licentiousness, publlc good was sacrificed to private interest and passion, the community was convulsed by divers factions and dissensions, until the whole was shaken asunder by two aspiring demagogues, ambitious of the command of a petty fortress in a wilderness, and the supreme control oi eight-andthirty men.


CHAPTER V.
TRANSACTIONS WITH THE NATIVES—SUSPICIOUS CONDUCT OF
GUACANAGARI.

[ 1493.]

The tragical story of the fortress, as gathered from the Indians at the harbor, received confirmation from another quarter. One of the captains, Melchor Maldonado, coasting to the east with his caravel in search of some more favorable situation for a settlement, was boarded by a canoe in which were two Indians. One of them was the brother of Guacanagari, and entreated him, in the name of the cacique, to visit him at the village where he lay ill of his wound. Maldonado immediately went to shore with two or three of his companions. They found Guacanagari confined by lameness to his hammock, surrounded by seven of his wives. The cacique expressed great regret at not being able to visit the admiral. He related

____________________
*
Herrera, Hist. Ind., decad. i. lib. ii. cap. 9. Letter of Dr. Chanca. Peter Martyr , decad, i. lib. ii. Hist. del Almirante, cap. 49. Cura de los Palacios, cap. 120, ms. Muñoz, Hist. N. Mundo, lib. iv.

-229-

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