« السابقةمتابعة »
FROM one hour to another our ocean brings forth new prodigies. When the illustrious nunzio of Your Holiness, Balthasar Castiglione,1 a man gifted with every sort of virtue and grace, saw the two Decades dedicated to the Pope and the Duke of Milan bound together, he begged permission to offer them himself to Your Holiness. I acceded to his desire; but he has fallen seriously ill, and has been unable to busy himself with his affairs as he would have wished, although they are not numerous. During his illness he has sent no trustworthy secretary to carry despatches—and at the same time my writings—to Your Holiness, and this delay has enabled me to add some particulars as an appendix. Three vessels have arrived from the New World, coming from New Spain, now under the government of Fernando Cortes, whom I have frequently mentioned. One of these ships is a caravel and the news it brings is deplorable. But to render more intelligible the course of events I must begin by speaking of the letters brought by the other two ships above mentioned. Amongst these letters we must distinguish those which are of a general character and those which are private.
1 Balthasar Castiglione enjoyed the friendship of Leo X. and Clement VII. He was born near Mantua in December, 1478. His best known work is 77 Coriegiano. Upon hearing the news of his death at Toledo in 1529, Charles V. exclaimed: "Yo vos digo que es muerto uno de los mejores cabal leros del mundo." Castiglione's life was written in 1780 by Serassi, Vila del Castiglione.
First of all, there is a long report of general interest drawn by Cortes and his officers—his intendant, treasurer, and factor. It contains a great deal about the nature of the soil, the presents sent to the Emperor, the small number of vessels encountered in those parts, this last fact being stated to excuse the small quantity of precious stones and gold sent to Spain. Cortes insists on his enormous expenses, complaining of his poverty and the debts he has contracted. He reminds us of the ships he has built, with which he hoped to reach the equinoctial line, which is not more than twelve degrees distant; because the people along that coast told him that near by there were islands producing gold, spices, and precious stones. He has dwelt at length upon these different points and has not spared his complaints about the ships that were burned with all their stores, and the jealousy of his enemies which had hindered him in carrying out the enterprise he had undertaken. Moreover, Cortes pledges himself to make good the losses if the meddlers leave him alone. He enumerates the recently discovered gold and silver mines, which are numerous and various; the difficulties demanding new remedies; the contribution of sixty-three thousand gold pesos he had been forced to make, despite the advice of the magistrates, under pretext of raising a new army; the generals he has named to conquer other neighbouring and new provinces, and many other similar things.
The private letters and secret reports have been drawn up by the accountant and secretary Albornoz, in unknown characters, vulgarly called cipher. It was confided to Albornoz when he left, for at that time suspicions existed concerning the intentions of Cortes. These letters are full of attacks on the craftiness of Cortes, his consuming avarice, and his partially revealed tyranny. Whether they are warranted or, more likely, whether they were drawn up to please certain people, as usually happens,
time alone will show us. Serious men have already been chosen to go thither and open an enquiry. When all these mysteries are disclosed, I shall inform Your Holiness. But let us return to Cortes.
The disobedience of Cristobal Olid, of which I have spoken at length in my preceding books, so infuriated Cortes, that he desired to live no longer if that rebel went unpunished. His nostrils and throat swelled with rage.1 On several occasions he showed signs of madness and indulged in unrestrained language. According to the general evidence, Olid was then more than five hundred leagues distant east from the salt lake of Temistitan. To overtake him it would be necessary to march over almost inaccessible roads. He had established himself on a gulf discovered a long time ago and named the Gulf of Figueras. He hoped to discover the strait that has been sought with such persistency. It was due to this fact that three captains, who had landed in the country, killed one another; I shall later speak of these deplorable combats; but for the present I do not wish to leave Cortes.
When the news spread that Cortes had raised an army, the royal officials gently remonstrated with him in the beginning, cautioning him not to adopt a course which promised so many undesirable results; for it was a question of a war between Spaniards. They begged him not to provoke so great a calamity among the Christians, and not to risk his position by exposing himself to such danger. For they felt certain at the time that everything would be lost if Cortes abandoned the capital of the empire without leaving soldiers in the province of Temistitan, which had been only recently conquered and which still lamented the massacre of its ancient rulers and the loss of its tutelary deities, friends, and neighbours. If Cortes, whose name inspired all those nations with a sort of terror, were to leave, was it not to be feared that some misfortune would follow, and that all would be lost? Which God forbid. The Emperor would take upon himself to punish Olid, who would no doubt be chastised for his treachery. Such were the arguments the officials repeated, but in vain. In their own name and in that of the Emperor, they again prayed and enjoined Cortes to renounce his undertaking. He promised and even swore not to march in person against Olid, but against some rebellious caciques not far distant.
1 Cortes rarely gave vent to his passions, but despite his self-control, his anger was betrayed by the swelling of the veins of his neck.
He did not, however, keep his promise, and by forced marches pushed towards the east, still burning with fury against Olid. In the course of his march Cortes came upon vast lagoons along the seacoast, swamps in the valleys, and elsewhere steep mountains. Everywhere he commanded the natives to build bridges, dry up swamps, level mountains, and nobody dared refuse. With fire and sword he ravaged the territory of those who did not share his views; cutting his way through everything that opposed his march.
He had inspired the natives with such terror, by his defeat of so powerful a sovereign as Muteczuma and the conquest of his vast empire, that they believed him able to destroy the heavens if his fancy so prompted him. He took with him much baggage and many horses, a method of campaigning which was unknown to these nations. He collected his auxiliaries from the neighbours of those whose territories and kingdoms he traversed, and who had formerly been their enemies. On the other hand, he sent ahead overland two captains, one Pedro Alvarado, starting from the south coast, and the other a certain Godoy, starting from the north coast. These captains have sent reports to Cortes which are now, in our hands, describing these new, vast countries, and the warlike tribes inhabiting them; the cities built in lakes, upon mountain tops, and on the plains. The father of Cortes, who is now here, has received a volume on this subject from his son, and has had it printed in Spanish; it is now exhibited for sale in the public bookstalls.
His sea force consists of three large ships and many high-born officers, under command of captain Francisco de las Casas. I have already spoken, and I shall again later on, about this. But let us return to past events which the order of my narrative demands. Cortes had instructed the commander of his sea force to capture Olid, if possible; and this he did, as I shall relate at the proper moment.
Such was the state of things when the two vessels recently arrived in Spain, bringing seventy thousand pesos of gold and two tigers, sailed from the country of Temistitan. One of these animals died at Seville from sea-sickness and fatigue; the other, which is a female and has been tamed, is still here. The culverin, of which there has been so much talk, is still to be seen. It is not in reality made entirely of gold, as has been reported, but it is very curious to examine. The ornaments, the weapons covered with gold and precious stones, the artistically wrought jewels, sent either by Cortes or by other conquerors of the country, have been seen by everybody. Persons who have come here in company with the most reverend legate of Your Holiness will one day verbally describe them to you. But enough said about these two ships. Let us now speak of the one caravel out of all seven ships, which succeeded in leaving the port of Medellin, the naval port of New Spain.
In the first place, why did Cortes decide to thus name this port? We shall explain. ' Medellin is a very well known town in Castile, and it was there Cortes was born. He therefore wished that the place destined to serve as the port for all these countries should bear the name of Medellin, in honour of his birthplace; and his desire has been gratified. It is likewise he who gave to the entire