صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

the people, but endowed with prudence and ability. He chose amongst his soldiers men for the offices of alguazils as they are called in Spain, who are sheriffs and inspectors of weights and measures. He exacted from them an oath to sustain him against Cortes, in case it should be necessary to use force.

Deluded as they were, and failing utterly to realise either the success, the good luck, and the craftiness of Cortes, they set sail. They were ignorant likewise of the misfortunes awaiting them from which, however, fate supplied them a means of escape. They were overtaken by a southern tempest, which deceived the pilots and landed them near a river which they took for the Panuco, though it was smaller. They were in fact seventy leagues distant and too far north, the violent gale having driven them to a part of Florida already long since discovered. The twenty-fifth of June,—on which day Spain celebrates the feast of her special patron, Santiago,—the Spaniards entered the mouth of the river, and cast anchor. As they found palm-trees upon the banks, they called it Rio de las Palmas.

Gonzales de Ocampo, brother-in-law of Garay, was sent with one of the brigantines capable of penetrating amongst the shoals, to explore. He went a distance of fifteen leagues up the river, using three days in this expedition. Going still farther up, he discovered a number of other streams flowing into the river, but as his mind was set upon the Panuco, he falsely asserted that the country was uncultivated, sterile, and desert. It has since become known that it is populous, agreeable, and rich in productions of every kind. This lying report was believed, however, and it was decided to depart for Panuco. As the horses were weak from starvation, they were brought on shore with the majority of the foot-soldiers. The sailors were ordered never to lose sight of the coast— as though they could command the waves! Garay himself set out overland towards the Panuco, marching in good order to avoid a surprise by some sudden attack of the natives.

The first three days no traces of cultivation were seen. The country was desert, for it was swampy and muddy. Another navigable river, flowing between high mountains, was encountered, which they consequently called Montalto. Some of the men crossed swimming, others on rafts. After overcoming this obstacle with great labour and fatigue, a large town was seen in the distance. The ranks were at once closed up and the company advanced in military fashion, the musketeers and other soldiers armed with long-range weapons forming the vanguard. Upon their approach, the natives abandoned their houses and fled. These houses were filled with provisions, so Garay was able to feed his soldiers and horses, already worn out with the fatigue of the march. Out of what remained, they took a supply of provisions with them.

BOOK II

THE savages fill their storehouses with all sorts of food, namely a particular kind of bread they call maize-bread, which resembles Milanese bread; and fruits having a bitter-sweet taste, and giving forth an odour unknown to us. These fruits, which are as large as an orange or a quince, are efficacious against dysentery, producing the same effect as do our sorbes and cornelberries. The natives call them guaianas. 1 After crossing the river Montalto, the Spaniards continued their march across uncultivated countries, until they came to a large lake which empties its waters by a broad, unfordable river into the neighbouring sea. They made their way towards the opposite shore of the lake, some thirty leagues distant from the river's mouth, seeking for fords by which to cross, for they had been informed that many streams emptied into the lake lower down; but they only succeeded in crossing with great difficulty and risk of grave dangers, swimming half the time. Before them extended a broad plain, and in the distance they beheld a large village. As the inhabitants were not frightened and did not fly before them, as those of the first village had done, Garay halted his men and set up his standard; after which he sent ahead interpreters, whom he had obtained the preceding year in that neighbourhood and who already spoke Spanish. The people of the village agreed to peace and accepted the alliance he offered them. They furnished his men with an abundance of maize-bread, chickens, and fruits.

1 Evidently a mis-spelling of guaiavas, called in English guava. Vol. ii—la 337

Continuing their march, the Spaniards came to a third village, and as the news that they abstained from pillage had spread, they were received without hesitation and furnished with provisions; but not enough for their needs. In consequence, a revolt broke out in this place because Garay would not permit the village to be sacked. Farther on the Spaniards crossed a third river, and in so doing they lost eight of their horses, which were carried away by the force of the current. Heyond this river they found themselves in vast swamps infested with poisonous gnats, and overgrown with various creepers and stubborn plants, which gathered about their legs and retarded their march. In my Decade addressed to the Duke Sforza I have spoken of the impediments created by these vines. Struggling through water, up to the men's waists and the horses' bellies, the Spaniards, half exhausted, finally emerged from these swamps into an admirably fertile country, where there were many villages.

Garay forbade the use of violence towards any of the natives. One of his servants, who escaped from the barbarous massacre we shall describe farther on, wrote a long letter to Pedro Espinosa, Garay's paymaster and at the present time guardian of his children's interests at the Emperor's court. This letter, written in Latin, is full of harrowing details, but the following are the facetious terms in which he alludes to the difficulties of the march: "We arrived in a land of misery, where no order prevails, but where eternal fatigue and all calamities habitually dwell; in a land where thirst, odious mosquitoes, stinking bugs, cruel bats, arrows, stinging flies, strangling creepers, and engulfing slime have worn us cruelly."

It was the Spaniards' misfortune to reach the neighbourhood of the Panuco River. Garay halted to await the fleet, for he found no food. Cortes was suspected of having captured the supplies, in order to force them either to retreat for want of provisions for themselves and their horses, or to starve. They had to await the fleet to obtain provisions. Garay's men scattered among the native towns and villages, and even he began to suspect the ill-will of Cortes towards himself. He therefore sent ahead his brother-in-law, Gonzales Ocampo, to inform himself concerning the attitude of the colonists established by Cortes. Whether Gonzales was won over or deceived I do not know, but he came back saying that there was nothing to fear and that everybody was willing to obey Garay. The latter accepted as true the report brought by his brother-in-law and those who had accompanied him. Driven by adverse destiny he approached the Panuco; but at this point we must digress in order to more fully understand the events which are to follow.

There stands upon the banks of this great Panuco River not far from its mouth, an important town bearing the same name as the stream. According to common report, this town contained fourteen thousand houses,1 built of stone, many royal palaces, and magnificent temples. This town had refused obedience to Cortes, who destroyed it from top to bottom, afterwards burning it and refusing thereafter to allow any other to be built upon its site. He treated another town which stands some twenty-five miles higher up the river in the same manner; this place was larger than the first, for it is reported that it numbered twenty thousand houses. Because it refused obedience Cortes razed it to the ground and burnt it. The name of this town was Chillia.1 Some three miles distant from

1 While Panuco is proven by the comparatively extensive ruins still existing to have been a place of considerable importance, this statement is certainly open to doubt. A town of fourteen thousand houses would have a population of some seventy thousand people.

* Cortes describes the Panuco campaign in his Fourth Letter. He calls this town Chila. Between the lake of Chila and the sea-coast, he founded the town of San Estevan del Puerto.

« السابقةمتابعة »