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this handful of soldiers and capture their possessions, for these natives also love gold; not because they use it for money, but because they make necklaces and ornaments of it. Diriangen was followed by a numerous escort of armed men, and if he had surprised the Spaniards off their guard, he would have killed them to the last man. He sounded the attack and the fight was gallantly sustained till night.
ANY particulars follow which I omit for fear of wearying you, and of making you a bore to the Sovereign Pontiff and your friends. To sum up, the little band of Spaniards routed the large native army, and Egidius piously reports that God, who is the master of armies, assisted them in their terror and rescued them safe and sound from danger. Fortune having changed her face, the cacique Nicoiano who had been left behind, formed a similar plan to kill the Spaniards and rob them of the important sum of gold they had with them.
Egidius Gonzales, suspecting this treason, took his precautions against Nicoiano, closing up the ranks of his soldiers and prescribing the order of march. The sick and the gold were placed in the centre of the troop; he with his four horsemen and seventy archers and arquebusiers sustained the charge of his assailants and killed a great number of them. He never slept the whole night, but when the natives asked peace the following morning, he granted it.
Upon reaching Port St. Vincent, their starting-place, the Spaniards found their ships had returned. While the captain, Egidius, was exploring the interior of the country, the ships had reconnoitred about three hundred leagues of hitherto unknown coast extending westward. They had only put into port to repair the damages their ships had sustained during a voyage of several months.
Gonzales describes the neighbourhood of the region occupied by Nicoragua as follows: in the interior, just near the residence of the cacique, was found a fresh-water lake* so large that its end was not discovered. The waters of this lake are subject to tides, and it must therefore be considered a fresh-water sea. It has many islands. When asked whether its outlet was into the neighbouring sea, only three leagues distant, the natives answered that they knew of no outlet; and Gonzales says he does not know whether it flows into the South Sea, which is near by, or elsewhere. He thinks, nevertheless, that this body of water connects with the northern ocean and that the much-desired strait may be found there, in which opinion he is sustained by several pilots. If you wish to know my opinion on this subject, I would say that Gonzales thus excuses himself for not finding the strait, since both the potable quality of these lake waters and also the ignorance of the natives along its shores concerning its extent and outlet leave us in the same uncertainty as before. We are ignorant whether or no a strait, dividing those vast countries, exists.
1 Lake Nicaragua; its superficial area measures 950 square kilometres. Its outlet is the San Juan River which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. There is a tradition amongst the Indians that there existed in ancient times another river flowing from the lake into the Pacific. Of the several islands dotting the lake's surface the most considerable is that formed by the volcano Zapatero and named Ceiba.
LET me now pause. The foregoing narrative being completed, my secretary had his hat on ready to start, when Diego Arias, son of the governor Pedro Arias, came to see me bringing with him the licenciate, Espinosa, whom I have elsewhere mentioned. Espinosa alleges that he and the governor, Pedro Arias, had been injured by Egidius Gonzales, affirming that these regions had long since been discovered by them and the caciques pacified and maintained in their authority over their states. The decision of our Royal Council which will be confirmed by the Emperor, will be made known, through you, to people interested in this kind of news. Enough for the present concerning this subject.
I beg you to profit by the first opportunity to kiss the feet of our Most Holy Clement on my behalf. The Spaniards will have faith in the favour and merit of His Holiness as long as he has faith in yours. They find it quite proper that the great of this world should take you into their confidence, because they have long appreciated you. The character of princes may often be accurately judged by the choice they make of their ministers.
There is a third piece of quite fresh news which, since the courier has not actually left, I believe His Holiness will be glad to hear. In the decade dedicated to Pope Adrian, in which I described the Moluccas where spices grow, I alluded to the dispute between the Portuguese and the Castilians regarding the discovery of that archipelago. We are so confidently convinced that this archipelago lies within the limits assigned to us by Pope Alexander, that we have prepared a new expedition at considerable cost, in one of the ports of the Biscayan coast; six ships being completely fitted out at Bilbao. We have decided to despatch this fleet about the vernal equinox from a Galician port, Clunium, which you know. This port has been designated for the spice trade, because it is more accessible for the northern merchants, who can trade more easily in the market there established for Indian merchandise than in Seville or in Portugal, where they only arrive by roundabout journeys.
Realising that they would be ruined if this enterprise succeeded, the Portuguese have insisted that this injury should not be inflicted upon them without their pretensions having been studied, for they affirm that the Moluccas were first discovered and visited by their sailors and lie within the limits assigned to them, and not to the Emperor; that is to say, three hundred and seventy leagues beyond the Cape Verde Islands. Ptolemy calls this cape Risardinum, and we believe these islands correspond to the Gorgones. The Emperor, who esteems justice above profit, particularly in dealing with a king who is his cousin and who, if public rumour is to be credited, will soon become his brother-in-law,1 has acceded to the Portuguese request, and has consented that their claims should be examined. The ships have, therefore, been held back, their equipment suspended, at which the officers and sailors chosen for the expedition are discontented.
It was decided to summon a council of astronomers,
1 Through the forthcoming marriage of Charles V. with the Infanta Isabella of Portugal, which took place in 1526.
* The proceedings of this council may be studied in Navarrete, torn. IV, pp. 270, 326, 332, 342.