Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and strengthened Aguilar more than ever in his good graces. Several years had elapsed in this manner, when intelligence was brought to the province of the arrival on the neighboring coast of great vessels of wonderful construction, filled by white and bearded men, who fought with thunder and lightning. It was in fact the squadron of Francisco Hernandez de Cordova, then on a voyage of discovery. The tidings of this strange invasion spread consternation through the country, heightened, if we may credit the old Spanish writers, by a prophecy current among the savages of these parts, and uttered in former times by a priest named Chilam Cambal, who foretold that a white and bearded people would come from the region of the rising sun, and would overturn their idols and subjugate the land. The heart of Geronimo de Aguilar beat quick with hope when he heard of European ships at hand ; he was distant from the coast however and perceived that he was too closely watched by the Indians to have any chance of escape. Dissembling his feelings, therefore, he affected to hear of the ships with perfect indifference, and to have no desire to join the strangers. The ships disappeared from the coast, and he remained disconsolate at heart, but was regarded with increased confidence by the natives.

His hopes were again revived in the course of a year or two by the arrival on the coast of other ships, which were those commanded by Juan de Grijalva, who coasted Yucatan in 1518; Aguilar however was again prevented by the jealous watchfulness of the Indians from attempting his escape, and when this squadron left the coast he considered all chance of deliverance at an end.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Seven years had gone by since his capture, and he had given up all hopes of being restored to his country and friends, when, in 1519, there arrived one day at the village three Indians, natives of the small island of Cozumel, which lies a few leagues in the Sea opposite the eastern coast of Yucatan. They brought tidings of another visit of white and bearded men to their shores, and one of them delivered a letter to Aguilar, which, being entirely naked, he concealed in the long tresses of his hair which were bound round his head. Aguilar received the letter with wonder and delight and read it in the presence of the cacique and his warriors. It proved to be from Hernando Cortez, who was at that time on his great expedition which ended in the conquest of Mexico. He had been obliged by stress of weather to anchor at the island of Cozumel, where he learned from the natives that several white men were entertained in captivity among the Indians on the neighboring coast of Yucatan. Finding it impossible to approach the mainland with his ships, he prevailed upon three of the islanders, by means of gifts and promises, to venture upon an embassy among their cannibal neighbors, and to convey a letter to the captive white men. Two of the smallest caravels of the squadron were sent under the command of Diego de Ordas, who was ordered to land the three messengers at the point of Cotoche, and to wait there eight days for their return.

[graphic]

The letter brought by these envoys informed the Christian captives of the force and destination of the squadron of Cortez, and of his having sent the caravels to wait for them at the point of Cotoche, with a ransom for their deliverance, inviting them to hasten and join him at Cozumel.

The transport of Aguilar on first reading the letter was moderated when he reflected on the obstacles that might prevent him from profiting by this chance of deliverance. He had made himself too useful to the cacique to hope that he would readily give him his liberty, and he knew the jealous and irritable nature of the savages too well, not to fear that even an application for leave to depart might draw upon him the severest treatment. He endeavored therefore to operate upon the cacique through his apprehensions. To this end he informed him that the piece of paper which he held in his hand brought him a full account of the mighty armament that had arrived on the coast. He described the number of ships and various particulars concerning the squadron, all which were amply corroborated by the testimony of the messengers. The cacique and his warriors were astonished at this strange mode of conveying intelligence from a distance, and regarded the letter as something mysterious and supernatural. Aguilar went on to relate the tremendous and superhuman powers of the people in these ships, who, armed with thunder and lightning, wreaked destruction on all who displeased them, while they dispensed inestimable gifts and benefits on such as proved themselves their friends. He at the same time spread before the cacique various presents brought by the messengers, as specimens of the blessings to be expected from the friendship of the strangers. The intimation was effectual. The cacique was filled with awe at the recital of the terrific powers of the white men, and his eyes were dazzled by the glittering trinkets displayed before him. He entreated Aguilar therefore to act as his ambassador and mediator, and to secure him the amity of the strangers. Aguilar saw with transport the prospect of a speedy deliverance. In this moment of exultation he bethought himself of the only surviving comrade of his past fortunes, Gonzalo Guerrero, and, sending the letter of Cortez to him, invited him to accompany him in his escape. The sturdy seaman was at this time a great chieftain in his province, and his Indian bride had borne him a numerous progeny. His heart however yearned after his native country, and he might have been tempted to leave his honors and dignities, his infidel wife and half-savage offspring

« AnteriorContinuar »