HE two men marched northward together at the head of their troops: the high-strung and intellectual aristocrat who had been the darling of the Spanish court and the salons of Paris, and who had chosen for himself a life of hardship, bloodshed and peril; and the stolid, illiterate vaquero who was to become enamored of and to enjoy, in his later years, those things which his companion had voluntarily foresworn. Both keen judges of men, they watched each other carefully. There was a third man marching with them, too, leading a detachment of troops from New Granada. He was Francisco Santander. These three, with strong individual qualities and diverging ambitions, were to determine, by their relations with each other and their future actions, the course of the life of each and the political destiny of millions of South Americans then living and of generations to come.
The columns arrived on the banks of the Apure at Paso El Diamante, the only spot along the jungle-lined river where there was a landing place on the opposite shore. Bolívar called his officers to solve the problem of crossing the river. The patriot boats had not arrived, and the river was a quarter of a mile wide, with a current that ran four miles an hour. Anchored in the middle of the stream was a squadron of small Spanish armed launches.
"I'll get boats for you, General," Páez said.
"Where?" asked Bolívar.
Páez pointed with his saber to the Spanish gunboats. "There, General," he said; "with your permission."