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fierce fight took place in the spring of 1495, the natives suffering a severe defeat. The next was at Fort Santo Tomas, which was commanded by Alonso de Ojeda, a young man who had come out with Columbus in his second voyage. He was a man of great courage and unusual daring, one of the chief among those dauntless spirits who had to do with the conquest of the New World.
A man of his spirit was needed to command this isolated fort in the mountains, for the cacique, Caonabo, was not pleased with this invasion of his territory, and soon marched upon the fort with a strong force of his warlike race. Santo Tomas was closely invested and fiercely attacked, Ojeda being reduced to such an extremity that he owed his escape only to a rescuing force sent by Columbus from Fort Isabella, on the coast. Driven off by the superior arms of his foes, Caonabo withdrew sullenly to his stronghold in the mountains. But he was quickly back again, with a larger force than before. He had never met his equal among the Indians, but the fire-spouting tubes of the Spaniards proved too much even for his courage, and he was a second time forced to withdraw.
It was evident, however, that Ojeda was perilously situated, surrounded as he was by warlike enemies, led by so bold and persistent a chief. In the face of this peril he adopted an expedient as daring as any of those shown by Cortez, Pizarro, or any other of the Spanish caballeros of that age of conquest, and one whose ingenuity equalled its
daring. It is this striking adventure which it is our purpose
to describe. Choosing from his men a few of the bravest and most trusty, Ojeda set out on horseback over the mountains, following paths never before traversed by the Spaniards, until they came to the Carib town of Maguana, where he found Caonabo surrounded by a throng of armed warriors. The Spaniards had bearded the lion in his den, and were in a position of extreme peril should the cacique prove hostile. But Ojeda was a past-master in craftiness, and by professions of friendship and other arts of duplicity he persuaded the chief to accompany him alone into the edge of the forest.
He now took from his pocket a pair of handcuffs, bright and shining manacles of which the untutored Indian had no conception of the use, but whose brightness attracted him. Ojeda told him they were bracelets, which the King of Spain had graciously sent him as a present, in recognition of his fame as a warrior of skill and courage. Indian probably understood all this very imperfectly, but he was easily brought to view the manacles as Turey, or a gift from Heaven, and willingly held out his wrists that his guest might adorn them with those strange and splendid bracelets. In a moment his hands were secu
cured, and before he could recover from his surprise Ojeda, whose small frame concealed much strength, reached from his saddle, seized the astonished chief, and by a great exertion of muscular force lifted him from
the ground and swung him up on the horse. The warriors, who beheld this act with sudden suspicion, had no time to use their weapons before the Spaniards had put spur to their horses and dashed off into the forest. Two of them rode on each side of Ojeda, to prevent the captive throwing himself from the horse. Threatened by their swords and with his hands clasped in those fatal bracelets, Caonabo was forced to submit, and was carried by his captors for many miles through the heart of his own country to Fort Isabella, a stronghold which Columbus had built at a site on the sea-coast, fronting a bay in which all his vessels could ride in safety. Here the bold Ojeda, as the culmination of his daring enterprise, delivered his captive to Columbus, and he was locked up in a secure cell.
As the story goes, the brave cacique had a greater admiration for courage than anything else in the world, and instead of hating Ojeda for the crafty way in which he had been captured, he seemed to hold him in high esteem as the bravest of the Spaniards. Whenever Ojeda appeared in his cell he would rise and courteously salute him, while he treated the visits of Columbus with haughty disregard. So far as the captive cacique could make himself understood, the high rank of Columbus was nought to him. He had no proof that he was a man of courage, while the manner in which Ojeda had captured him showed him to be a brave man. To the bold Carib courage was the first of virtues and the only one worthy of respect.
The poor Indian suffered the fate of most of his countrymen who had to do with the Spanish invaders. Put on board ship and sent as a prize of valor to Spain, the unfortunate chief died on the voyage, perhaps from a broken heart, or as a result of the change from his free forest life to the narrow confines of a fifteenth-century ship.
The life of Ojeda after that date was one full of adventure, in which he distinguished himself as much by rashness as by valor. In 1499 he was put in command of an exploring expedition and sent out from Spain, one of his companions being Amerigo Vespucci, he whose first name gained the immemorial honor of being given to the great western continent. In this voyage Ojeda discovered part of the continent of South America, which he called Venezuela, or Little Venice, a name suggested by an Indian village built on piles in the water. Eight years later Ojeda sought to plant a colony in New Andalusia, but the natives there proved too bold and hostile for him, and he failed to subject them to his authority.
Many were his adventures, all of them characterized by a rash daring like that he had shown in the capture of Caonabo. When at length he died, he was buried, in response to his own request, in the doorway of the Franciscan monastery in the city of Santo Domingo, so that all who entered that place of worship should walk over his grave.
THE EARLY DAYS OF A FAMOUS
The island elysium which Columbus had discov. ered, and of which he wrote and conversed in the most glowing terms, seemed like a fairy-land of promise to the people of Spain, and hundreds of adventurers soon crossed the seas, hopeful of winning gold and ready for deeds of peril and daring in that wonderful unknown land. Some of them were men of wealth, who were eager to add to their riches, but the most of them had little beyond their love of adventure and their thirst for gold to carry them across the seas, needy but bold soldiers and cavaliers who were ready for any enterprise, however perilous, that might promise them reward. The stories of many of these men are full of romantic interest, and this is especially the case with one of them, the renowned Hernando Cortez.
We propose here to deal with the interesting early history of this most famous of the New World conquerors. The son of a Spanish captain, of good family, his buoyant spirit and frolicsome humor led him into many wild escapades while still a boy. The mystery and romance of the strange land beyond the sea and the chance to win gold and glory which it offered were fasci