We crossed the Yaqui in canoes and upon rafts. White, brown and black, the horses swam the stream. Again nigh impenetrable forest, again villages, again clear singing and running waters. But ever the mountains came closer. At last we entered hilly country and the streams pushed with rapidity, flowing to the Yaqui, flowing to the sea. Now we began to find gold. It glistened in the river sands. Sometimes we found nuts of it, washed from the rocks far above. There came upon us the gold fever. Mines—we must open mines! Fermin Cedo, our essayer, would have it that it was not Ophir, but at that time he was hardly believed. The Admiral wrote a letter about these golden mines.
An Indian brought him a piece of amber; another, a lump of blue stone. We found jasper, we were sure of copper.
We came to a natural rampart, wide at top, steeply descending on three sides, set in a loop of a little clear river named Yanique. “Ho!” cried Alonso de Ojeda. “Here is the cradle for the babe! Round tower, walls, barbican yonder, and Mother Nature has dug the moat!” He sent his voice across to the Viceroy. “A fort, senor, a fort!”
Council was held by the Yanique. A fort,—a luckier than La Navidad! Men left here to collect gold, establish a road, keep communication with Isabella which in turn should forward supplies and men. The returning fleet might bring two thousand—nay, five thousand men! It would certainly bring asses and mules as well as horses. We should have burden-bearers. Moreover, a company of Indians might be trained to come and go as carriers. Train them, set some sort of penalty for malfeasance.
“They should be taught to mine for us,” said Pedro Margarite. “Pay them? Of course—of course! But do not pay them too much. Do not we protect them from Caribs and save their souls to boot? Take it as tribute!” It was the first time the word was said, in Spanish, here.
We built a fort much after the model of La Navidad and named it St. Thomas. When after days it was done, and commandant must be chosen, the Viceroy’s choice fell upon Pedro Margarite. And that was great pity. But he could not know Margarite then as afterwards he came to know him. Fifty-six men he left with Margarite, and the rest of us marched home across the Vega and the northern mountains to Isabella.
Sickness. Quarrels. Idleness, vanity, dissensions and accusations. Heat, more sickness, wild quarrels.
Tidings from Margarite at St. Thomas. The Indians would no longer bring food. Caonabo was threatening from the higher mountains. The Viceroy wrote to Margarite. Compel the Indians to bring food, but as it were to compel them gently!