Spanish Voyages of Discovery

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

VASCO NUÑBALBOA, DISCOVERER OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN.

CHAPTER I. FACTIONS AT DARIEN -- VASCO NUÑEZ ELECTED TO THE COMMAND.

WE have traced the disastrous fortunes of Alonzo de Ojeda and Diego de Nicuesa; we have now to record the story of Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, an adventurer equally daring, far more renowned, and not less unfortunate, who, in a manner, rose upon their ruins.

When the bark disappeared from view which bore the illstarred Nicuesa from the shores of Darien, the community relapsed into factions, as to who should have the rule. The Bachelor Enciso insisted upon his claims as paramount, but he met with a powerful opponent in Vasco Nuñez, who had become a great favourite with the people, from his frank and fearless character, and his winning affability. In fact, he was peculiarly calculated to manage the fiery and factious, yet generous and susceptible nature of his countrymen; for the Spaniards, though proud and resentful, and impatient of indignity or restraint, are easily dazzled by valour, and won by courtesy and kindness. Vasco Nufiñez had the external requisites also to captivate the multitude. He was now about thirty-five years of age; tall, well formed, and vigorous, with reddish hair, and an open prepossessing countenance. His office of Alcalde, while it clothed him with influence and importance, tempered those irregular and dissolute habits he might have indulged while a mere soldier of fortune; and his superior talent soon gave him a complete ascendancy over his official colleague Zamudio. He was thus enabled to set on foot a vigorous opposition to Enciso. Still he proceeded according to the forms of law, and summoned the Bachelor to trial, on

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