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71. Cortes.

138

Diego Velazquez took Cortes with him to Cuba as one of his secretaries, a situation for which he was not at that time well qualified, being too apt to jest, and too fond of conversation. Whatever the cause may have been, they soon disagreed. Judges of Appeal arrived at Hispaniola, and the malcontents in Cuba drew out secretly their complaints against the governor. There was no other means of crossing over to present them than in an open canoe, and Cortes 139undertook this desperate service. Just as he was about to embark he was seized and the papers found upon him. Velazquez at first was about to hang him: but upon intercession, contented himself with putting him in irons, and embarking him on board ship to send him to Hispaniola. He contrived to rid himself of his fetters, and while the crew were asleep, got overboard, and trusted himself upon a log of wood, for he could not swim: it was ebb tide, and he was carried a league out from the ship; the flow drove him upon shore, but he was so exhausted that he was on the point of letting loose his hold and resigning himself to his fate. It was not yet day; he hid himself, knowing search would be made for him as soon as he was mist on board; and when the church doors were opened he took sanctuary.

Near this church there dwelt one Juan Xuares, who had a handsome sister of excellent character. Cortes liked her, 140and found means to let her know it. Whoever has seen Vertue’s print of Cortes, from Titian’s picture, will know that of all men he must have been one of the most beautiful. One day he was slipping out of the church to visit her, an Alguazil watched him, slipt in at another door, came out behind him, caught him behind, and carried him to prison.

Velazquez was about to proceed against him with extreme rigour, but this governor was of a generous nature, and was persuaded to forgive him; Cortes married the girl, and said he was as well contented with her as if she had been the daughter of a dutchess. The Alguzil, Juan Escudero, who had entrapped him, was one of the conspirators whom he afterwards hung in New Spain.

Herrera.

Of these singular facts in the history of so extraordinary a man, no mention is made by Robertson. What that author has said of Antonio de Solis may be 141applied to himself: “I know no author in any language whose literary fame has risen so far beyond his real merit.”