This butio—Guarin his name—was a young man with eyes that could burn and voice that fell naturally into a chant. He took me into the forest with him to look for a very rare tree. When it was found I watched him gather plants from beneath it and scrape bits off its bark into a small calabash. I understood that it was good for fever, and later I borrowed from him and found that he had grounds for what he said.
La Navidad and Guarico neighbored each other. The Indians came freely to the fort, but Diego de Arana made a good alcayde and he would not have mere crowding within our wooden wall. Half of our thirty-eight, permitted at a time to wander, could not crowd Guarico. But in himself each Spaniard seemed a giant. At first a good giant, profoundly interesting. But I was to see pleased interest become a painful interest.
Women. The first complaint arose about the gods or the giants and women. Guacanagari came to La Navidad with Guarin and several old men his councilors. Diego de Arana received them and there was talk under the great tree within our gate. Then all the garrison was drawn up, and in the presence of the cacique Arana gave rebuke and command, and the two that had done the outrage had prison for a week. It was our first plain showing in this world that heaven-people or Europeans could differ among themselves as to right and wrong, could quarrel, upbraid and punish. But here was evidently good and bad. And what might be the proportion? As days went by the question gathered in this people’s bosom.
It was not that their women stood aloof from our men. Many did not so in the least! But it was to be free will and actual fondness, and in measure.—But there were those among us who, finding in lonely places, took by force. These became hated.
Diego de Arana was to collect the gold that was a royal monopoly. Trading for gold for one’s self was forbidden. Assuredly taking it by force—assuredly all robbery of that or anything else—was forbidden. But there came a robbery, and since it was resisted, murder followed. This was a league from Guarico and from La Navidad. The slain Indian’s companion escaping, told.
This time Diego de Arana went to Guarico and Guacanagari. He took with him a rich present, and he showed how the guilty men were punished. “You do not slay them?” asked Guacanagari. Arana shook his head. He thought we were too few in this land to be ridding of life the violent and lustful. But the Indians seemed to think that he said that he could not. They still doubted, I think, our mortality. As yet they had seen no mighty stranger bleed or die.
Arana would have kept his garrison within the walls. But indeed it was not healthful for them there, and at the very word of confinement faction rose. There were now two parties in La Navidad, the Commandant’s party and Escobedo’s party.
The heat increased. It was now March. An illness fell among us. I took Guarin into counsel and gave in water the bitter inner bark of that tree shredded and beaten fine. Those who shook with cold and burned with fever recovered.