Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

the alliance of a man of wealth and renown. Thousands of adventurers were then crowding to the shores of the New World, lured by the accounts of the boundless wealth which it was said could there be found, and inspired by the passion which then pervaded Christendom, of obtaining celebrity by the performance of chivalric deeds.

Many had returned greatly enriched by the plunder of provinces. The names of Pizarro and Cortez had been borne on the wings of renown through all the countries of Europe, exciting in all honorable minds disgust, in view of their perfidy and cruelty, and inspiring others with emotions of admiration, in contemplation of their heroic adventures.

De Soto was greatly embarrassed by his poverty. Both his parents were dead.

He was friendless ; and it was quite impossible for him to provide himself with an outfit suitable to the condition of a Spanish grandee. The insulting treatment he had received from Don Pedro rendered it impossible for him to approach that haughty man as a suppliant for aid. But Don Pedro did not dare to leave De Soto behind him. The family were to remain in the ancestral home. And it was very certain that, Don Pedro being absent, ere long he would hear of the elopement of Ferdinand and Isabella. Thus influenced, he offered De Soto a free passage to Darien, a captain's commission with a suitable outfit, and pledged himself that he should have ample opportunity of acquiring wealth and distinction, in an expedition he was even then organizing for the conquest of Peru. As Don Pedro made these overtures to the young inan, with apparently the greatest cordiality, assuming that De Soto, by embarking in the all-important enterprise, would confer a favor rather than receive one, the offer was eagerly accepted.

Don Pedro did everything in his power to prevent the two lovers from having any private interview before the expedition sailed. But the ingenuity of love as usual triumphed over that of avarice. Isabella and De Soto met, and solemnly pledged constancy to each other. It seems that Isabella thoroughly understood the character of her father, and knew that he would shrink from no crime in the accomplishment of his purposes.

As she took her final leave of her lover, she said to him, very solemnly and impressively,

“Ferdinand, remember that one treacherous friend is more dangerous than a thousand avowed enleries "

CHAPTER II.

The Spanish Colony.

Character of De Soto.-Cruel Command of Don Pedro.-Incident.

The Duel.- Uracca.—Consternation at Darien.—Expedition on ganized.-Uracco's Reception of Espinosa and his Troops.The Spaniards Retreat.-De Soto Indignant.—Espinosa's Cruel. ty, and Deposition from Command.

It was in the year 1519, when the expedition sailed from St. Lucar for Darien.. We have no account of the incidents which occurred during the voyage. The fleet reached Darien in safety, and the Spanish adventurers, encased in coats of mail, which the arrows and javelins of the natives could not pierce, mounted on powerful war horses, armed with muskets and cannon, and with packs of ferocious bloodhounds at their command, were all prepared to scatter the helpless natives before them, as the whirlwind scatters autumnal leaves.

De Soto was then but nineteen years of age. In stature and character he was a mature man. There are many indications that he was a young man of humane and honorable instincts, shrinking from the deeds of cruelty and injustice which he saw every. He gave

where perpetrated around him. It is however probable, that under the rigor of military law, he at times felt constrained to obey commands from which his kindly nature recoited.

Don Pedro was a monster of cruelty. De Soto command of a troop of horse. He sent him on many expeditions which required not only great courage, but military sagacity scarcely to be expected in one so young and inexperienced.

It is however much to the credit of De Soto, that the annalists of those days never mentioned his name in connection with those atrocities which disgraced the administration of Don Pedro. He even ventured at times to refuse obedience to the orders of the governor, when commanded to engage in some service which he deemed dishonorable.

One remarkable instance of this moral and physical intrepidity is on record. Don Pedro had determined upon the entire destruction of a little village occupied by the natives. The torch was to be applied, and men, women and children, were to be put to the sword. Don Pedro had issued such a com.. mand as this, with as much indifference as he would have placed his foot upon an anthill. It is not improbable that one of the objects he had in view was to impose a revolting task upon De Soto, that lie might be, as it were, whipped into implicit obedience

He therefore sent one of the most infamous of bis captains to De Soto with the command that he should immediately take a troop of horse, proceed to the doomed village, gallop into its peaceful and defenceless street, set fire to every dwelling, and with Their keen sabres, cut down every man, woman and child. It was a deed fit only for demons to execute.

De Soto deemed himself insulted in being ordered on such a mission. This was not war,-it was butchery. The defenceless natives could make no resistance. Indignantly and heroically he replied:

“ Tell Don Pedro, the governor, that my life and services are always at his disposal, when the duty to be performed is such as may become a Christian and a gentleman. But in the present case, I think the governor would have shown more discretion by entrusting you, Captain Perez, with this commission, instead of sending you with the order to myself.”

This reply Captain Perez might certainly regard as reflecting very severely upon his own character, and as authorizing him to demand that satisfaction which under such circumstances, one cavalier expects of another. He however carried the message to the governor. Don Pedro was highly gratified. He saw that a duel was the necessary result. Captain Perez

a veteran soldier, and was the most expert swoi dsman in the army. He was famed for his quar.

was

« AnteriorContinuar »