There rose a cry, it was so beautiful! The Admiral named it Vega Real, the Royal Plain.
Sweating, panting, we came at last down that most difficult descent into rolling forest and then to a small bright stream, beside it garden patches and fifty huts. The inhabitants fled madly, we heard their frightened shouts and the screaming of children. Thereafter we tried to keep in advance a small body of Indians, so that they might tell that the gods were coming, but that they would not injure.
Acclivity and declivity fell away. We were fully in an enormous, fertile and populous plain.
The horses and the horsemen! At first they thought that these were one. When some cowering group was surrounded and kept from breaking away, when Alonso de Ojeda or another leaped from steed to earth, from earth again to steed, they moaned with astonishment and some relief. But the horses, the horses—never to have seen any great four-footed things, and now these that were proud and pawed the earth and neighed and—De Ojeda’s black horse—reared, curvetted, bounded, appeared to threaten! The eyes, the mane, the great teeth!—There grew a legend that they were fed upon men’s flesh, red men’s flesh!
How many red men were in Quisquaya I do not know. In some regions they dwelled thickly, in others were few folk. In this wide, long, laughing plain dwelled many, in clean towns sunk among trees good to look at and dropping fruit; by river or smaller stream, with plantings of maize, batata, cassava, jucca, maguey, and I know not what beside. If the stream was a considerable one, canoes. They had parrots; they had the small silent dogs. In some places we saw clay pots and bowls. They wove their cotton, though not very skillfully. They crushed their maize in hand mills. We found caciques and butios, and heard of their main cacique, Gwarionex. But he did not come to meet us; they said he had gone on a visit to Caonabo in Cibao. They brought us food and took our gifts in exchange; they harangued us in answer to our harangues; they made dances for us. The children thronged around, fearless now and curious. The women were kind. Old men and women together, and sometimes more women than men, sat in a council ring about some venerable tree.
There was no quarrel and no oppression upon this adventure. I look back and I see that single journey in Hispaniola a flower and pattern of what might be.
They gave us what gold they had—freely—and we gave in return things that they prized. But always they said Cibao for gold.
We rode and marched afoot, with many halts and turns aside, five leagues across plain. A large river barred our way,—the Yaqui they called it. Here we spent two days in a village a bowshot from the water. We searched for gold, we sent from Indian to Indian rumor that it was the highest magic, god-magic that of all things in the world we most desired and took it from their hands, yet still we paid for it in goods for which they lusted, and we neither forced nor threatened force. And though we were four hundred, yet there might be in the Royal Plain forty thousand, and their hue and their economy was yet prince in the land, and the Spaniard a visitor. And there commanded the four hundred a humane man, with something of the guilelessness of the child.