Caonabo was a most handsome barbarian, strong and fierce and intelligent, more fierce, more intelligent than Guacanagari. All had been painted, but the heat of the lowland and their great exertion had made the coloring run and mix most unseemly. When they left Guarico they plunged into the river and washed the whole away, coming out clear red-brown, shining and better to look upon. Caonabo washed, but then he would renew his marking with the paint which he carried with him in a little calabash.
A pool, still and reflecting as any polished shield, made his mirror. He painted in a terrific pattern what seemed meant for lightning and serpent. It was armor and plume and banner to him. I thought of our own devices, comforting or discomforting kinships! He had black, lustrous hair, no beard—they pluck out all body hair save the head thatch —high features, a studied look of settled and cold fierceness. Such was this Carib in Hispaniola.
Presently they put a watch and the rest all lay down and slept, Beltran beside me. The day had been clear, and now a great moon made silver, silver, the land around. It shone upon the Spanish sailor and upon the Carib chief and all the naked Manguana men. I thought of Europe, and of how all this or its like had been going on hundred years by hundred years, while perished Rome and quickened our kingdoms, while Charlemagne governed, while the Church rose until she towered and covered like the sky, while we went crusades and pilgrimages, while Venice and Genoa and Lisbon rose and flourished, while letters went on and we studied Aristotle, while question arose, and wider knowledge. At last Juan Lepe, too, went to sleep.
Next day we traveled among and over mountains. Our path, so narrow, climbed by rock and tree. Now it overhung deep, tree-crammed vales, now it bore through just-parted cliffs. Beltran and Juan Lepe had need for all their strength of body.
The worst was that that old tremor and weakness of one leg and side, left after some sea fight, which had made Beltran the cook from Beltran the mariner, came back. I saw his step begin to halt and drag. This increased. An hour later, the path going over tree roots knotted like serpents, he stumbled and fell. He picked himself up. “Hard to keep deck in this gale!”
When he went down there had been an exclamation from those Indians nearest us. “Aiya!” It was their word for rotten, no good, spoiled, disappointing, crippled or diseased, for a misformed child or an old man or woman arrived at helplessness. Such, I had learned from Guarin, they almost invariably killed. It was why, from the first, we hardly saw dwarfed or humped or crippled among them.
We had to cross a torrent upon a tree that falling had made from side to side a rounded bridge. Again that old hurt betrayed him. He slipped, would have fallen into the torrent below, but that I, turning, caught him and the Indian behind us helped. We managed across. “My ship,” said Beltran, “is going to pieces on the rocks.”