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from his bed, threw on his clothes, mounted his horse, and rode in all haste to the beach. Cortez entered a boat and rowed near enough to the shore to speak with him.
"And is this the way you leave me?”' cried the angry governor; "a courteous leave-taking, truly."
"Pardon me,” said Cortez ; "time presses, and there are some things that should be done before they are even thought of. Has your excellency any commands ?'
His excellency would have commanded him to come on shore, if it had been of any use. As it was he had little to say, and with a polite wave of the hand Cortez returned to his ships. Soon only their vanishing hulls were to be seen.
The fleet stopped for supplies at Macaca and at Trinidad. At the last place many men, and several cavaliers who were to prove his ablest officers, joined him. While there, letters came from Velasquez to the governor of Trinidad, ordering him to arrest Cortez, and hold the fleet for a new admiral who was to command it. The governor looked at Cortez and his men and concluded that he had better let them alone. They were too strong for him to deal with.
So once more the bold adventurers escaped from Velasquez and his schemes and sailed in triumph away, this time for Havana. Here, also, the governor of the place had received orders to arrest Cortez, and here, also, he did not dare attempt it. Velasquez also wrote to Cortez, asking him to wait
till he could see him. Hernando Cortez was hardly the fool to pay any heed to such a letter as that. The lion was hardly likely to trust himself to the fox. He sent him a very polite and mild answer, saying that he would not lose sight of the interests of his excellency, and that he and the fleet, “God willing, would set sail the next morning.”
Finally, on the 18th of February, 1519, the fleet lost sight of Cuba at Cape San Antonio, on the western end of the island. It consisted in all of eleven vessels, most of them small, and had on board six hundred and sixty-three soldiers and sailors. A few of these were armed with crossbows and only thirteen with muskets, while the horses numbered only sixteen. In addition there were ten heavy guns and four lighter ones, with a good supply of ammunition.
Such was the fleet and such the force with which Hernando Cortez set sail to conquer a powerful and warlike nation. Fortunately the expedition had one of the world's great commanders at its head, or the enterprise would have ended in failure instead of leading, as it did, to a wonderful success.
BALBOA AND THE DISCOVERY
OF THE PACIFIC.
It was a splendid road to fortune which Colum. bus opened to the adventurers of Spain, and hundreds of them soon took that promising path. Among these was one Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, a man poor in gold or land, but rich in courage and ambition, and weary enough of trying to live at home like a gentleman with the means of a peasant. In the year 1501 he crossed the seas to Hispaniola, where, like Cortez, he took up land and began to till the soil for a living. But he had not the skill or good luck of Cortez, and after years of labor he found himself poorer than when he commenced. He began to see that nature had not meant him for a farmer, and that if he wanted a fortune he must seek it in other fields.
Balboa was not alone in this. There were others, with better-filled pockets than he, who were ripe for adventure and eager for gold. A famous one of these was Alonso de Ojeda, one of the companions of Columbus and the hero of the adventure with the Carib chief already described, who in 1509 sailed for South America and founded a settlement named by him San Sebastian. He left orders with Enciso, a lawyer of the town of San Domingo, to fit out two more
vessels and follow him with provisions for his new settlement.
Enciso sailed in 1510, his vessels well laden with casks of bread and other food-stuffs. There was more in them, indeed, than Enciso dreamed of, for when far from land there crept out of one of these casks a haggard, woe-begone, half-starved stowaway, who looked as if he had not many ounces of life left in him. It was Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, who had taken this way to join the expedition and escape from his creditors, since they would not have permitted him to go openly. The cask in which he snugly lay had been carried from his farm to the ship among others containing provisions.
Enciso was furious when he saw this unwelcome addition to his crew. He threatened to throw him overboard, and on second thought vowed to leave him to starve on a desert island. The
fellow fell on his knees and tearfully begged for mercy. Others joined him in entreaties, and Enciso at length softened and spared him his life. He was to pay bitterly for his kindness before many days.
The expedition had its adventures on the seas, ending in a wreck, and when San Sebastian was reached Ojeda was not to be found, and the settlement was a ruin. Enciso was in a quandary what to do, but Balboa had been on that coast before, on his first voyage out from Spain, and knew of an Indian village on the Darien River where they might find food and shelter. He advised Enciso to go thither, and a journey was made overland,