Spanish Voyages of Discovery

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII. VASCO NUÑEZ DETERMINES TO SEEK THE SEA BEYOND THE MOUNTAINS. -- (1513.)

THE temporary triumph of Vasco Nuñez was soon overcast by tidings received from Spain. His late colleague, the Alcalde Zamudio, wrote him word that the Bachelor Enciso had carried his complaints to the foot of the throne, and succeeded in rousing the indignation of the king, and had obtained a sentence in his favour, condemning Vasco Nuñez in costs and damages. Zamudio informed him in addition, that he would be immediately summoned to repair to Spain, and answer in person the criminal charges advanced against him on account of the harsh treatment and probable death of the unfortunate Nicuesa.

Vasco Nuñez was at first stunned by this intelligence, which seemed at one blow to annihilate all his hopes and fortunes. He was a man, however, of prompt decision and intrepid spirit. The information received from Spain was private and informal, no order had yet arrived from the king, he was still master of his actions, and had control over the colony. One brilliant achievement might atone for all the past, and fix him. in the favour of the monarch. Such an achievement was within his reach -- the discovery of the southern sea. It is true, a thousand soldiers had been required for the expedition, but were he to wait for their arrival from Spain, his day of grace would be past. It was a desperate thing to undertake the task with the handful of men at his command, but the circumstances of the case were desperate. Fame, fortune, life itself, depended upon the successful and the prompt execution of the enterprise. To linger was to be lost.

Vasco Nuñez looked round upon the crew of daring and reckless adventurers that formed the colony, and chose one hundred and ninety of the most resolute and vigorous, and of those most devoted to his person. These he armed with swords, targets, cross-bows, and arquebusses. He did not conceal from them the peril of the enterprise into which he was about to lead them; but the spirit of these Spanish adventurers was always roused by the idea of perilous and extravagant exploit. To aid his slender forces, he took with him a number of blood

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