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country the name of New Spain, and asked the Emperor to confirm his appellation.
There were seven merchant vessels lying in the port of Medellin, ready to return to Spain with full cargoes, when dissensions broke out among the royal officials. Some wished to send the gold and precious stones that had been collected by those ships to the Emperor who by the by, needs money badly because of the wars he is carrying on. They alleged that they should take advantage of the presence of those ships, since such an opportunity rarely occurred. Another reason was because two hundred thousand pesos of gold had been promised to the Emperor through the intermediary of Juan Ribera, secretary of Cortes, on condition that ships should immediately be sent over to carry back that amount. Their colleagues were of an opposite opinion, declaring that they should await the return of the governor, Cortes, and make no change in the established usage during his absence. They ended by taking up arms. By a mere chance Francisco de las Casas, commander of the maritime forces of Cortes, arrived, quite proud of having strangled Olid. He sided with the partisans of Cortes against those of the King, and it appears that the treasurer, Albornoz, had his horse wounded under him and was himself wounded and thrown into prison. The victors rushed to the shore, seized the captains of the seven ships, and, to prevent their departure, unloaded the vessels and carried off the tillers and rudders.
The commander of the caravel which succeeded in reaching Spain, furious at this disaster, awaited a favourable opportunity and returned to his ship. Although without sails and deprived of all his nautical instruments, he attempted a praiseworthy feat of navigation. He had cast aside as worn out and useless some old torn sails; with these rags, full of holes, and one large new canvas, he improvised a sail. Without saying a word to those who used violence against him, he raised his anchor and set sail. Aided by a favourable west wind, he reached Spain after the quickest passage that has ever been made by a ship returning from the extremity of the ocean.
The captain of this ship had no letters or instructions from any of the colonists, but the stories told by his sailors were in such agreement that they were believed. They claimed that they believed Cortes and all his followers had been killed by the natives whose territories he sought to cross in order to gratify his rage. He had left behind him the greater part of his lieutenants, having given them instructions to make ready to follow him; but when they set out they found the bridges broken and all communications cut off behind him. News was even circulated that skeletons of men and horses covered with sea-weed, which had been washed up by the tides and tempests and had taken root amongst the undergrowth, had been found in certain marches. Such are the particulars concerning Cortes and the royal functionaries occupied in quarrelling with one another, which were brought by the caravel that succeeded in escaping.
Concerning the four captains who fairly pant with desire to discover the strait, the sailors give the following information; but one must take up this story a little farther on.
If Your Holiness remembers well, Most Holy Father, a venerable jurisconsult, Antonio Tamarano, presented you in my name after the death of Pope Adrian, with the Decade beginning PRIUSQUAM, and he reported to me that you had accepted the dedication. In the course of that book I had spoken of the noble, Egidius Gonzales d'Avila, commonly called Gil Gonzales. I explained how he discovered such a stretch of fresh water that he called this lake a fresh-water sea. The populous shores of this lake, the abundant rainfall, the ceremonies, customs, and religious rites of these nations the gold mines, the preliminaries of peace and treaties, war, and the fierce battles against the sovereigns of Nicaragua and Diriangen, and the return of Gil Gonzales to Hispaniola, where he raised a troop of soldiers and horsemen whom he conducted to the gulf called Figueras which separates the shores of the continent into two parts just as the Adriatic appears to separate Italy from Ulyria and the remainder of Greece,—all these things I have related. It is known that he believed a navigable river discharged this mass of water into the gulf, just as the Ticino serves as an outlet of Lake Maggiore or the Mincio for the Lake of Garda. I have written at length on this subject and this question.
I must not forget to explain the reason of the name of this gulf, so much talked about at the present time. The first discoverers called it the Gulf of Figueras because, on their voyage of exploration they found there trees whose leaves resembled those of the fig, though their trunks were different. The trunk is in fact solid, while that of the fig-tree is porous. Since the fig-trees are called figueras in Spanish, they bestowed the name of Figueras on these trees. The natives use the trunks and large branches of fig-trees for making vases, which look as though they had been turned, and are used to ornament sideboards and other table service. There are long platters, bowls, cups, plates, and other similar utensils of common use, all artistically fashioned.
Egidius Gonzales, or, if preferred, Gil Gonzales, marched overland to the lake he had discovered, but did not find the outlet he sought. In the kingdom of the cacique Nicoragua, from whom he had parted on the best of terms, he encountered a lieutenant of Pedro Arias, governor of Castilla del Oro, called Francisco Fernandez. The latter had taken possession of the country and founded a colony there. In a few words, the following happened. Gil Gonzales complained that he was attacked and that his discovery was interfered with. The above-mentioned sailors state that three engagements took place, in which eight soldiers were killed, many wounded, and thirty horses killed. It is in this manner that the Spaniards, who cannot bear to work together, kill one another as soon as they meet.
It seems, according to the sailors' story, that Gil Gonzales had plundered Francisco Fernandez of two hundred thousand gold pesos, though the gold was not pure. According to Pedro Arias, the governor, who has sent us a heavy batch of despatches from the continent, Gil Gonzales only took from his lieutenant one hundred and thirty thousand pesos, though in other respects he complains bitterly of his attack. This sum had been collected from the neighbouring caciques, whether by force or in exchange for Spanish merchandise we need not here discuss; it is also of little consequence, as there are more important interests to consider.
Such were the dissensions among the Spaniards when Egidius Gonzales encountered Cristobal Olid, sent by Cortes, who had also founded a colony which he called Santa Cruz not far from that spot. Olid captured Gonzales. He gave this name to this new colony because, after many shipwrecks which he has lengthily described, he had escaped violent storms and had landed on the same day the Roman Church celebrates the victory won by the Emperor Herodius" against the Persians.
Hear now what a strange trick fortune played. The fourth captain, Francisco de las Casas, arrived on the scene, sent by Cortes against Olid. The latter went to meet his former companion in the army of Cortes. A naval battle followed; Francisco fired upon and sunk one of Olid's ships with all its crew, but he was obliged to put out to sea, while Olid returned to land. Now this gulf is exposed to violent northers and swept by frequent storms; moreover it extends amongst lofty mountains. It happened that several days later, Las Casas, after being tossed by winds and having lost most of his men, horses, and ships, fell into the hands of his bitter enemy Olid, who took him prisoner. Olid thus found himself in possession of two prisoners, both more important leaders than himself. He imprisoned his involuntary guests, considering them as a part of his plunder; but it was plunder destined to ruin him.
1 Meaning presumably the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, since it was he who was victorious over the Persians in 622-25 A.d.
Las Casas and Gil Gonzales plotted to kill Olid. They corrupted his servants, inducing them to promise not to come to the aid of the traitor whom they wished to attack, and who had involved so many innocent men in the crime of high treason. One night when they were sitting together on the pretext of supping, they seized the knives from the table and threw themselves upon their detested host. After serving the repast of their master, the servants were busy eating. Olid was repeatedly stabbed but not killed. He succeeded in escaping and took refuge in one of the native huts with which he was acquainted. It was announced by the public crier that whoever gave shelter to the traitor Olid, or failed to denounce his hiding-place, if he knew it, would be punished with death; while a reward would be paid to whomever gave him up. He was eventually betrayed by his own men. An accusation of treason was drawn up against him and published by the herald; after which he was strangled. Such was the end of Olid, and such is, unless I am mistaken, the fate which will shortly overtake his companions.
Let Your Holiness now give ear to the account of another crime, or rather an eccentric vagary of fortune. Francisco de las Casas, one of the two generals commanding the fleet, after strangling Olid, is said to have forcibly brought his companion, Gil Gonzales, to the town of Temistitan, the latter confiding in him, but not having as powerful a force at his disposition. We therefore have