Christopherus Columbus spoke,—tall, powerful, gaunt, white-headed, gray-eyed, trusted because he himself so trusted, suasive, filled with the power of his vision. His frame was growing old, but he himself stayed young. His voice never grew old, nor the gray-blue light from his eyes. Here was gold at last, and Veragua manifestly richer than all Hispaniola; aye, richer than Paria! Behind Veragua ran Ciguarre that was fabulously rich, that was indeed India sloping to Ganges. The Indians were friendly enough for all their drum-beating and shell-blowing. Quibian’s first frowning aspect had been but aspect. A scarlet cloak and a sack full of toys had made all right. There was rest on land, with fruit and maize as we saw. Build a fort—leave a ship—divide our force. A half would rest here, first settlers of a golden country with all first settlers’ advantage. Half sail with Christopherus Columbus back to Spain— straight to Spain—for supplies and men. He would return, he swore it, with all speed. A ship should be left, and beyond the ship, the Adelantado.—It was for volunteers for the fortress and city of Veragua!
In the end eighty men said “We will stay.” We began to build. How long since we had built La Navidad!
The River Bethlehem, that had been full when we entered, now was half empty of its waters. The Consolacion, the Juana, and the San Sebastian that were to depart for Spain could not pass. The Admiral hung, fitted to go, but waiting perforce for rains that should lift the ships so they might pass the bar.
Again Juan Lepe was to stay—so surely would the staying need a physician.
“It is March,” said the Admiral. “God aiding, I and Fernando shall be back in October at latest.”
These Indians seemed to us to have Carib markings. Yet they all professed amity and continuously brought in gold. We began to build by the fort a storehouse for much gold.
Suddenly we found—Diego Mendez, bold enough and a great wanderer, doing the finding—that Quibian’s village up the river of Veragua contained many too, many young men and men in their prime, and that by day and night these continued to pour in. It had—Diego Mendez thought —much the aspect of a camp whose general steadily received reenforcement.
Next day came to the Admiral an Indian who betrayed his people. Quibian never meant to have in Veragua a swarm of white caciques! When he had about him every young man, he was coming, coming, coming through the woods!
The Admiral sent the Adelantado. That strong man chose fourscore Spaniards, armed them and departed. By boat and through thick forest he reached Quibian’s village, descended upon it like a hurricane and seized Quibian, much as long ago—long, long ago it seemed to us—Alonso de Ojeda had seized Caonabo.
Juan Sanchez the pilot held Quibian in the long boat while the Adelantado still wrought upon the land. Juan Sanchez was strong and wary, and watchful; so they swore were all the Spaniards in the boat. Yet when night was fallen that Indian, bound as he was, broke with a shout from them all and leaped from boat into black river.