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Several years, it is added, had elapsed since this prediction was made; yet, that it still dwelt in the mind of Vasco Nuñez, was evident from the following circumstance. While waiting the return of his messenger, Garabito, he was on the shore of Isla Rica one serene evening, in company with some of his officers, when, regarding the heavens, he beheld the fated star exactly in that part of the firmanent which had been pointed out by the Italian astrologer. Turning to his companions, with a smile, “Behold,” said he, ‘‘the wisdom of those who believe in soothsayers, and, above all, in such an astrologer as Micer Codro ! According to his prophecy, I should now be in imminent peril of my life; yet, here I am, within reach of all my wishes; sound in health, with four brigantines and three hundred men at my command, and on the point of exploring the great Southern ocean.' '
At this fated juncture, says the chroniclers, arrived the hypocritical letter of Pedrarias, inviting him to an interview at Acla The discreet reader will decide for himself what credit to give to this anecdote, or rather, what allowance to make for the little traits of coincidence gratuitously added to the original fact by writers who delight in the marvellous. The tenor of this letter awakened no suspicion in the breast of Vasco Nuñez, who reposed entire confidence in the amity of the Governor, as his intended father-in-law, and appears to have been unconscious of anything in his own conduct that could warrant hostility. Leaving his ships in command of Francisco Compañon, he departed immediately to meet the Governor at Acla, unattended by any armed force. The messengers who had brought the letter, maintained at first a cautious silence as to the events which had transpired at Darien. They were gradually won, however, by the frank and genial manners of Vasco Nuñez, and grieved to see so gallant a soldier hurrying into the snare. Having crossed the mountains, and drawn near to Acla, their kind feelings got the better of their caution, and they revealed the true nature of their errand, and the hostile intentions of Pedrarias. Vasco Nuñez was struck with astonishment at the recital; but, being unconscious, it is said, of any evil intention, he could scarcely credit this sudden hostility in a man who had but recently promised him his daughter in marriage. He imagined the whole to be some groundless jealousy, which his own appearance would dispel, and accordingly continued on his journey. He had not proceeded far, however, when he was met by a band of armed men, led by Francisco Pizarro. The latter stepped forward to arrest his ancient commander. Vasco Nuñez paused for a moment and regarded him with a look of reproachful astonishment. “How is this, Francisco 2 '' exclaimed he. “Is this the way you have been accustomed to receive me?” Offering no further remonstrance, he suffered himself quietly to be taken prisoner by his former adherents, and conducted in chains to Acla. Here he was thrown into prison, and Bartolome Hurtado, once his favorite officer, was sent to take command of his squadron.
DON PEDRARIAs concealed his exultation at the success of the stratagem by which he had ensnared his generous and confiding rival. He even visited him in prison, and pretended deep concern at being obliged to treat him with this temporary rigor, attributing it entirely to certain accusations lodged against him by the treasurer, Alonzo de la Puente, which his official situation compelled him to notice and investigate.
“Be not afflicted, however, my son " '' said the hypocrite : " an investigation will, doubtless, not merely establish your innocence, but serve to render your zeal and loyalty still more conspicuous.” While Pedrarias assumed this soothing tone towards his prisoner, he urged the alcalde mayor, Espinosa, to proceed against him with the utmost rigor of the law. The charge brought against him of a treasonable conspiracy to cast off all allegiance to the Crown, and to assume an independent sway on the borders of the Southern Sea, was principally supported by the confessions of Andres Garabito. The evidence is also cited of a soldier, who stood sentinel one night near the quarters of Vasco Nuñez on Isla Rica, and who, being driven to take shelter from the rain under the eaves of his house, overheard a conversation between that commander and certain of his officers, wherein they agreed to put to sea with the squadron on their own account, and set the Governor at defiance. This testimony, according to Las Casas, arose from a misconstruction on the part of the sentinel, who only heard a portion of their conversation, relating to their intention of sailing without waiting orders, in case a new governor should arrive to supersede Pedrarias. The Governor, in the meantime, informed himself from day to day, and hour to hour, of the progress of the trial ; and considering the evidence sufficiently strong to warrant his personal hostility, he now paid another visit to his prisoner, and throwing off all affectation of kindness, upbraided him in the most passionate 111a11116 r. “Hitherto,” said he, “I have treated you as a son, because I thought you loyal to your King, and to me as his representative ; but as I find you have meditated rebellion against the Crown of Castile, I cast you off from my affection, and shall henceforth treat you as an enemy.” Vasco Nuñez indignantly repelled the charge, and appealed to the confiding frankness of his conduct as a proof of his innocence. “Had I been conscious of my guilt,” said he, “what could have induced me to come here and put myself into your hands 2 Had I meditated rebellion, what prevented me from carrying it into effect? I had four ships ready to weigh anchor, three hundred brave men at my command, and an open sea before me. What had I to do but to spread sail and press forward 2 There was no doubt of finding a land, whether rich or poor, sufficient for me and mine, far beyond the reach of your control. In the innocence of my heart, however, I came here promptly, at your mere request, and my reward is slander, indignity, and chains !” The noble and ingenuous appeal of Vasco