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Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/28

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10 INTRODUCTION. festival he was always careful to observe. At fourteen years of age, he was sent by his parents to study at Salamanca, where he resided with Francisco Nunez de Valera, who had married his father's sister. Here he commenced a regular course of academic education, it being the intention of his parents that he should not leave the university until prepared to graduate as bachelor of laws, as they designed him, says Gomara, on account of his talents and universal genius, for that rich and honorable profession. But Cortes was destined in this instance to disappoint their hopes ; weary of study, and imbibing a taste for more active pursuits, he returned to his father's house after an absence of two years, much to the grief of his friends.* At that period war was the most honorable pui'suit in which a man could engage, and the adventurous life to which it led had peculiar charms for a youth of the bold and impetuous temper of young Cortes. The principal theatre of martial exploits in Europe at that time was Naples, where the Great Captain, Gonsalvo de Cordova, was conducting the Spanish arms ; and Cortes only hesitated between joining his countrymen in that quarter, and embarking for the new world in the retinue of his kinsman, Nicholas de Ovando, who had been just appointed to succeed Columbus in the government of the Indies. He finally decided upon the latter ; but accident- ally falling from a wall on which he stood in the act of serena- ding or otherwise paying his devoirs to some fair one, he was laid up by the injuiy he received until after the departure of Ovando. He then turned his attention again to Italy ; but after wasting a year in fruitless endeavors to place himself in the road to military fame, he once more changed his determina- tion and resolved to embark for the new world. Receiving a small outfit from his parents, Cortes took passage at St. Lucar, in the year 1504, in a merchant ship bound to the island of St. Domingo, where he safely arrived, and was kindly received by his kinsman Ovando, the governor. After some

  • Goraara, in describing the early education of Cortes, says that he spent two

years at Salamanca in studying grammar (," aprendiendo gramatica") ; but under the term "gramatica" was implied a course of study in Latin and Greek, as well as rhetoric, which it required three years to complete. See Plan de ff studios dela Universidad de Salamanca. Madrid, 1772.