Spanish Voyages of Discovery

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

spiracy forming among the natives. The implacable Zemaco had drawn four other caciques into a secret plan to assemble their vassals and make a sudden attack upon Darien. Hurtado hastened with the remnant of his followers to carry tidings to the settlement of this conspiracy. Many of the inhabitants were alarmed at his intelligence; others treated it as a false runiour of the Indians, and no preparations were made against what might be a mere imaginary danger.

Fortunately for the Spaniards, among the female captives owned by Vasco Nuñez was an Indian damsel named Fulvia, to whom, in consequence of her beauty, he had shown great favour, and who had become strongly attached to him. She had a brother among the warriors of Zemaco, who often visited her in secret. In one of his visits he informed her that on a certain night the settlement would be attacked and every Spaniard destroyed. He charged her, therefore, to hide herself that night in a certain place until he should come to her aid, lest she should be slain in the confusion of the massacre.

When her brother was gone a violent struggle took place in the bosom of the Indian girl, between her feeling for her family and her people and her affection for Vasco Nuñez. The latter at length prevailed, and she revealed all that had been told to her. Vasco Nuñez prevailed upon her to send for her brother under pretence of aiding her to escape. Having him in his power, he extorted from him all that he know of the designs of the enemy. His confessions showed what imminent danger had been lurking round Vasco Nuñez in his most unsuspecting moments. The prisoner informed him that he had been one of forty Indians sent some time before by the cacique Zemaco to Vasco Nuñez, in seeming friendship, to be employed by him in cultivating the fields adjacent to the settlement. They had secret orders, however, to take an opportunity when Vasco Nuñez should come forth to inspect their work, to set upon him in an unguarded moment and destroy him. Fortunately, Vasco Nuñez always visited the fields mounted on his war horse and armed with lance and target. The Indians were therefore so awed by his martial appearance, and by the terrible animal he bestrode, that they dared not attack him.

Foiled in this and other attempts of the kind, Zemaco resorted to the conspiracy with the neighbouring caciques with which the settlement was menaced.

Five caciques had joined in the confederacy; they had prepared a hundred canoes, had amassed provisions for an

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