It was halfway between sunrise and noon. Five of us were in the village, seven at La Navidad. The five were there for melons and fruit and cassava and tobacco which we bought with beads and fishhooks and bits of bright cloth. Three of the seven at La Navidad were out of gate, down
at the river, washing their clothes. Diego Minas, the archer, on top of wall, watched the forest. Walking below, Beltran the cook was singing in his big voice a Moorish song that they made much of year before last in Seville. I had a book of Messer Petrarca’s poems. It had been Gutierrez’s, who left it behind when he broke forth to the mountains.
Beltran’s voice suddenly ceased. Diego the archer above him on wall had cried down, “Hush, will you, a moment!” Diego de Arana came up. “What is it?”
“I thought,” said the archer, “that I heard a strange shouting from toward village. Hark ye! There!”
We heard it, a confused sound. “Call in the men from the river!” Arana ordered.
Diego Minas sent his voice down the slope. The three below by the river also heard the commotion, distant as Guarico. They were standing up, their eyes turned that way. Just behind them hung the forest out of which slid, dark and smooth, the narrow river.
Out of the forest came an arrow and struck to the heart Gabriel Baraona. Followed it a wild prolonged cry of many voices, peculiar and curdling to the blood, and fifty—a hundred—a host of naked men painted black with white and red and yellow markings. Guarico did not use bow and arrow, but a Carib cacique knew them, and had so many, and also lances flint or bone-headed, and clubs with stones wedged in them and stone knives. Gabriel Baraona fell, whether dead or not we could not tell. Juan Morcillo and Gonzalo Fernandez sent a scream for aid up to La Navidad. Now they were hidden as some small thing by furious bees. Diego de Arana rushed for his sword. “Down and cut them out!”
Diego Minas fired the big lombard, but for fear of hurting our three men sent wide the ball. We looked for terror always from the flame, the smoke and great noise, and so there was terror here for a moment and a bearing back in which Juan and Gonzalo got loose and made a little way up path. But a barbarian was here who could not long be terrified. Caonabo sent half his horde against Guarico, but himself had come to La Navidad. That painted army rallied and overtook the fleeing men.
Shouting, making his swung sword dazzle in light, Diego de Arana raced down path, and Diego Minas and Beltran the cook and Juan Lepe with him. Many a time since then, in this island, have I seen half a dozen Christians with their arms and the superstitious terror that surrounded them put to flight twenty times their number. But this was early, and the spirit of these naked men not broken, and Caonabo faced us. It was he himself who, when three or four had been wounded by Arana, suddenly rushed upon the commandant. With his stone-headed club he struck the sword away, and he plunged his knife into Arana’s breast. He died, a brave man who had done his best at La Navidad.