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BOOK V

IN the foregoing, or in words practically identical, Egidius, like a preacher from his pulpit, answered as best he could through his interpreter the questions asked by Nicoragua. The latter accepted his teaching, and at the same time inquired what he and his people must do to render themselves acceptable to that God, sole author of all things. According to the treasurer, Cerezeda, 'Gonzales's response to the cacique's inquiry was as follows: "Not by offering human victims nor by shedding blood will you please the universal creator. Only a heart inflamed with love for Him is acceptable from you. The secrets of our souls are known to Him and He only loves what proceeds from the soul. He does not feast on flesh or blood, and nothing more excites His ire than Hie destruction of men whom lje has (treated to praise and glorify Him. Such abominable sacrifices only please His enemies and yours, the demons of hell, whose images you venerate. They rejoice in all the crimes because of which, when you quit this life, you will be delivered into their power to your eternal ruin. Expel, therefore, these foolish and dangerous idols from your temples and homes. Embrace the cross, bathed by Christ the God-man with His blood for the salvation of the lost human race, and you will live happily and gain for your souls an eternity of bliss. The Creator of the universe also loves not war, for He prefers peace amongst neighbours, since He has commanded us to love our neighbours as ourselves. If you are attacked while living your peaceful existence, it is permissible to every one to resist injustice, and to defend himself and his people. It is forbidden to offend others by ambition and avarice, for nothing is more contrary to good morals and the Divine will."

During this discourse Nicoragua and his courtiers there present were as though suspended upon the words of Egidius, and listened with open mouths, approving all these propositions. They made a grimace, however, at what was said about war, asking what they should do with their javelins and golden helmets, their bows and arrows, their war ornaments and their standards, glorious emblems of bravery. "Shall we abandon them to the women? Shall we spin and weave like them, or cultivate the earth like peasants?" Egidius did not venture to reopen this subject, for he perceived they were greatly troubled, but when they questioned him about the adorable mystery of the cross and its purpose, he replied: "Ask with a pure and sincere heart whatever you will, fixing your eyes on the cross and piously remembering what Christ has suffered thereon, and you will obtain it if your prayer is just; -peace, victory over proud enemies, abundant harvests, mild temperature, health or other similar desires,—they will be granted."

I have already reported that Egidius had ordered two crosses to be set up, one in the temple, and the other on an artificial mound built of bricks. On the day when the cross was brought to be erected on the mount, according to Ccrezcda's account, the procession was headed by the priests followed by Egidius and his men, and by the cacique and all his subjects. While the cross was being elevated, the trumpets sounded and the drums beat, and when it was fixed in the ground, Egidius was the first to mount the steps leading to its base. With uncovered head he bent the knee, prayed silently, and embracing the feet of

VOL. II—IS

the crucifix, he kissed them. The cacique, followed by all the others, did likewise; and thus were the natives initiated in our ceremonies.

Replying to the question, concerning the distribution of the days, Egidius told them that they should work six successive days, that the seventh was for rest and prayer; this seventh day was fixed for Sunday. He thought it useless to confuse them by explaining the long series of feast days.

I add only one particular which Egidius omitted from his report, but which Cerezeda did not forget. These natives are beardless and they regarded bearded men with aversion and fear. It was for this reason that Egidius, who had twenty-five beardless youths in his troop, had beards made for them out of their own hair. He wished to increase the number of bearded men in his troop, so as to terrify the natives, if he were forced into conflict with them; which as a matter of fact afterwards happened. Cerezeda has also informed us that Egidius wrote him that he had just sailed with two hundred and fifty foot-soldiers and seventy horsemen enrolled at Hispaniola. He embarked about the ides of March of this year, 1524, seeking to discover the much desired mystery of the strait. No news of this expedition has thus far reached our Council. I will promptly transmit to you whatever we receive.

It is time to close this narrative, and to describe the revolting customs worthy of the Lrestrygonians, 1 as well as the houses and temples of these people. I will add a few words about the site and construction of these edifices. The dwellings of the caciques are a hundred paces long and fifteen broad. Their facades are open, and the rear wall is solid. The floors of these residences are half a man's height above the ground, and in the other houses they are on a level with the ground. These houses are sustained by beams and roofed with thatch, having only one roof and no ceilings, as is the case with the temples. They are of considerable size, and are built above small, dark, underground caverns in which the noble familes bury their tutelary deities. The temples arc also used as arsenals, and in them are preserved in time of peace their arms, bows, quivers, gilded cuirasses, helmets, and large wooden swords, which they use in hand-to-hand combats, missiles of all kinds, as well as war ornaments; all these in addition to their standards on which are represented their idols. They honour the idols left them by their ancestors and which are their special patrons, by offering them, each according to his means, human victims, reciting before them prayers composed by their priests for the occasion.

1The earliest inhabitants of Sicily who were reputed to be giants and cannibals. They destroyed the vessels of Ulysses and devoured his companions.

BOOK VI

THE main facade of the cacique's dwelling is protected by a large open square, according to the size and plan of the village. If the village contains numerous houses, there are also smaller squares, where the people of the neighbourhood may assemble for trading. The royal square is surrounded by the houses of the nobles, and in the centre stands a building where the jewelers live. In this country gold is used to make various kinds of necklaces, or is beaten into little plaques and ingots according to the owner's wish, for his commands are executed with sufficient ability.

Standing in the open and in front of the temples, numerous mounds have been built of rough brick cemented by a kind of bitumen; they resemble tribunes and are used for different purposes. They are reached by eight, sometimes twelve or fifteen steps, and the arrangement of the top differs according to the kind of mysteries thereon celebrated. On one of these mounds there is space for ten men and in the centre stands a block of marble as long and wide as a man's height. This sinister stone is the altar upon which human victims are immolated. When the day fixed for the sacrifice arrives the sacrificing priest mounts upon this stone, in the sight of the prince and all the people; the latter has taken his place upon another mound to witness the ceremony. Acting as a herald, the priest brandishes a stone knife in his hand, informing the people whether the victims to be sacrificed are war

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