De Orbe Novo, Volume 1 (of 2) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 449 pages of information about De Orbe Novo, Volume 1 (of 2).

From the Court of the Catholic King, the eve of the nones of December, 1514, Anno Domini.

The Third Decade



I had closed the doors of the New World, Most Holy Father, for it seemed to me I had wandered enough in those regions, when I received fresh letters which constrained me to reopen those doors and resume my pen.  I have already related that after expelling the Captain Nicuesa and the judge Enciso from the colony of Darien, Vasco Nunez, with the connivance of his companions, usurped the government.  We have received letters[1] both from him and from several of his companions, written in military style, and informing us that he had crossed the mountain-chain dividing our ocean from the hitherto unknown south sea.  No letter from Capri concerning Sejanus was ever written in prouder language.  I shall only report the events related in that correspondence which are worthy of mention.

[Note 1:  Two of Balboa’s letters are published by Navarrete (tom, iii.,) and may also be read in a French translation made by Gaffarel and published in his work, Vasco Nunez de Balboa.]

Not only is Vasco Nunez reconciled to the Catholic King, who was formerly vexed with him, but he now enjoys the highest favour.  For the King has loaded him and the majority of his men with privileges and honours, and has rewarded their daring exploits.[2] May Your Holiness lend an attentive ear to us and listen with serene brow and joyful heart to our narration, for it is not a few hundreds or legions that the Spanish nation has conquered and brought into subjection to your sacred throne but, thanks to their various achievements and the thousand dangers to which they expose themselves, myriads who have been subdued.

[Note 2:  Balboa had been named Adelantado of the South Sea, and of the Panama and Coiba regions.  Pedro Arias was also enjoined to counsel with him concerning all measures of importance.]

Vasco Nunez ill endured inaction, for his is an ardent nature, impatient of repose, and perhaps he feared that another might rob him of the honour of the discovery, for it is believed that he had learned of the appointment given to Pedro Arias.[3] It may well be that to these two motives was added fear, knowing the King was vexed with his conduct in the past.  At all events he formed the plan to undertake, with a handful of men, the conquest of the country for whose subjection the son of the cacique of Comogra declared not less than a thousand soldiers to be necessary.  He summoned around him some veterans of Darien and the majority of those who had come from Hispaniola in the hope of finding gold, thus forming a small troop of a hundred and ninety men, with whom he set out on the calends of September of the past year, 1513.

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