1492 eBook

Mary Johnston
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 376 pages of information about 1492.

I should say that three hundred young men and maidens danced.  They advanced, they retreated, they cowered, they pressed forward.  They made supplication, arms to heaven or forehead to ground, they received, they were grateful, they circled fast in ease of mind, they hungered again and were filled again, they flowed together, they made a great square, chanting proudly!

Fray Ignatio beside me glowered, so far as so good a man could glower.  But Juan Lepe said, “It is doubt and difficulty, approach, reconciliation, holy triumph!  They are acting out long pilgrimages and arrivals at sacred cities and hopes for greater cities.  It is much the same as in Seville or Rome!” Whereupon he looked at me in astonishment, and Jayme de Marchena said to Juan Lepe, “Hold thy tongue!”

Dance and the feast over, it became the Admiral’s turn.  He was set not to seem dejected, not to give any Spaniard nor any Indian reason to say, “This Genoese—­or this god—­does not sustain misfortune!” But he sat calm, pleased with all; brotherly, fatherly, by that big, easy, contented cacique.  Now he would furnish the entertainment!  Among us we had one Diego Minas, a huge man and as mighty a bowman as any in Flanders or England.  Him the Admiral now put forward with his great crossbow and long arrows.  A stir ran around.  “Carib!  Carib!” We made out that those mysterious Caribs had bows and arrows, though not great ones like this.  Guacanagari employed gestures and words that Luis Torres and I strove to understand.  We gathered that several times in the memory of man the Caribs had come in many canoes, warred dreadfully, killed and taken away.  More than that, somewhere in Hayti or Quisquaya or Hispaniola were certain people who knew the weapon.  “Caonabo!” He repeated the name with respect and disliking.  “Caonabo, Caonabo!” Perhaps the Caribs had made a settlement.

Diego fastened a leaf upon the bark of a tree and from a great distance transfixed it with an arrow, then in succession sent four others against the trunk, making precisely the form of a cross.  The Indians cried, “Hai!  Hai!” But when the four harquebus men set up their iron rests, fixed the harquebuses, and firing cut leaves and twigs from the same tree, there was a louder crying.  And when there was dragged forth, charged with powder and fired, one of the lombards taken from the Santa Maria, wider yet sprang the commotion.  Pedro Gutierrez and a young cavalier from the Nina deigned to show lance play, and Vicente Pinzon who had served against the Moors took a great sword and with it carved calabashes and severed green boughs.  The sword was very marvelous to them.  We might have danced for them for Spain knows how to dance, or we might have sung for them, for our mariners sing at sea.  But these were not the superior things we wished to show them.

Guacanagari, big and easy and gentle, said, “Live here, you who are so great and good!  We will take you into the people.  We shall be brothers.”  We understood them that the great white heron was their guardian spirit and would be ours.  I said, “They do not think of it as just those stalking, stilly standing birds!  It is a name for something hovering, brooding, caring for them.”

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1492 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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