He found the Carib chief, and began by trying diplomacy. He said that his master, the Guamaquima or chief of the Spaniards, had sent him with a present. Would he not consent to make a visit to the colony, with a view of becoming the Admiral’s ally and friend? If he would, he should be presented with the bell of the chapel, the voice of the church, the wonder of Hispaniola.
Caonaba had heard that bell when he was prowling about the settlement, and the temptation to become its owner was great. He finally agreed to accompany Ojeda and his handful of Spaniards back to the coast. But when they were ready to start, the force of warriors in Caonaba’s escort was out of all proportion to any peaceful embassy. Ojeda turned to his original plan.
He proposed that Caonaba, after bathing in the stream at the foot of the mountain, and attiring himself in his finest robe, should put on the gift the Spanish captain had brought, a pair of metal bracelets, and return to his followers mounted with Ojeda on his horse. The chief’s eyes glittered as he saw the polished steel of the ornaments Ojeda produced. He knew that nothing could so impress his wild followers with his power and greatness as his ability to conquer all fear of the terrible animals always seen in the vanguard of the white men’s army. He consented to the plan, and after putting on his state costume, and being decorated with the handcuffs, he cautiously mounted behind the young commander, and his followers, in awe and admiration, beheld their cacique ride.
[Illustration: “HE PROPOSED THAT CAONABA SHOULD PUT ON THE GIFT THE SPANISH CAPTAIN HAD BROUGHT.”—Page 78]
Ojeda, who was a perfect horseman, made the horse leap, curvet and caracole, taking a wider circuit each time, until making a long sweep through the forest the two disappeared from the view of the Carib army altogether. Ojeda’s own men closed in upon him, bound Caonaba hand and foot, behind their leader, and thus the chief was taken into the Spanish settlement. The conspiracy fell to pieces and the colony was saved.
Caonaba showed no respect to Colon or any one else in the camp while a prisoner there, except Ojeda. When Ojeda entered he promptly rose to his feet. They had many conversations together, and Caonaba, who evidently rather admired the stratagem by which he had been captured, agreed with his captor that Ojeda was The Man Who Could Not Die.
The career of Alonso de Ojeda is one of the most picturesque and adventurous in early Spanish-American history, and his character is typical of the young Spanish cavalier of the age just following the discovery of America. The episodes here used, with many others quite as dramatic, are described at length in Irving’s “Life of Columbus.”
Why do you come here, white
men, white men?
Why do you bend the knee
When your priests before you, singing, singing,
Lift the cross, the cross of tree?