At sunset, the rain ceasing for a little, the earth smoking, the west a low, vaporous yellow, the swollen river sounding, Diego de Arana had summoned by the drum every man in La Navidad. He stood beneath our banner and put his hand upon the staff and spoke earnestly to those gathered before him, in their duty and out of their duty. He told of Caonabo, and of his own sense that Guacanagari was too confident. He told of Guacanagari’s fidelity to the Admiral, and he appealed to every Christian there to be at least as faithful. We were few and far from Spain, and we had perhaps more than we could conceive in trust. “Far from Spain, but no farther than we will from the blessed saints and the true Christ. Let us put less distance there, being few in this land and in danger!”
He knew that he had a dozen with him, and looked straight at Escobedo.
The latter said, “Live in the open and die there, if need be! To live in this rat hole, breathing plague, is dying already! Caonabo is a fable! These people! Spaniards have but to lift voice and they flee!”
He received from his following acquiescent sound. Spoke Pedro Gutierrez. “Guacanagari wishes to bottle us here; that is the whole of it. Why play his game? I never saw a safer land! Only La Navidad is not safe!”
Those two had half and perhaps more than half of the garrison. Arana cried, “Don Roderigo de Escobedo and Don Pedro Gutierrez, you serve the Queen ill!”
“You, Senor,” answered Gutierrez, “serve my Lady Idle Fear and my Lord Incapacity!”
Whereupon Arana put him in arrest and he lay that night in prison. The cloud was black over La Navidad.
IT did not lighten. Escobedo waited two days, then in the dark night, corrupting the watch, broke gaol for Pedro Gutierrez and with him and nine men quitted La Navidad. Beltran the cook it was who heard and procured a great smoking torch, and sent out against them a voice like a bull of Bashan’s. Arana sprang up, and the rest of us who slept. They were eleven men, armed and alert. There were shouts, blows, a clutching and a throwing off, a detaining and repelling. In the east showed long ghost fingers, the rain held away. They were at the gate when we ran upon them; they burst it open and went forth, leaving one of their own number dead, and two of them who stayed with Arana desperately hurt. We followed them down the path, through the wood, but they had the start. They did not go to Guarico, but they seized the boat of the Santa Maria which the Admiral had left with us and went up the river. We heard the dash of their oars, then the rain came down, with a weeping of every cloud.
The dead man they left behind was Fernando. I had seen Pedro in the gate, going forth.
Fourteen men, two of whom were ill and two wounded, stayed at La Navidad. Arana said with passion, “Honest men and a garrison at one! There is some gain!”