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Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/29

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INTRODUCTION. 11 sei-vice in the wars against the natives of the island, he finally settled in a new town, called Azua, being appointed public no- tary, and receiving from the governor lands and Indians for his support. Here he continued to reside for five or six years, em- ploying himself in the improvement of his plantation ; but when an expedition was fitted out for the conquest of the island of Cuba, in 1511, under Diego Velasquez, Cortes was induced to embark in it in the capacity of secretary to the king's trea- surer, whose duty it was to keep an account of the fifths and other revenues of the crown* On the redaction of the island, which was efi*ected with scarcely any opposition on the part of the natives, he settled at St. Jago de Baracoa, the first town founded by the Spanish colonists in Cuba, where he again de- voted himself to the cultivation of the soil, and had alloted to him the distribution of the Indians of a certain district among the colonists in conjunction with Juan Juarez, a brother in law of the governor Velasquez. Cortes was the first to stock his plantation with cattle, and took great pains in the raising of horses, cows, and sheep. He employed his Indians in collect- ing gold, which was found in mountainous districts, the beds of rivers, and small streams, often in considerable quantities. He also formed a connexion in trade with Andres de Duero, a merchant, and by these various means succeeded in accumula- ting a handsome estate. The governor having at this time de- termined to erect a smelting-house for the precious metals, and a public hospital, the superintendence of those buildings was given to Cortes, who was otherwise much employed in pviblic business. When Don Diego Columbus, son of the Admiral, succeeded Ovando in the government of the Indies, in the year 1509, he was accompanied on his voyage to St. Domingo by his Vice- Queen, Dona Maria de Toledo, niece of the Duke of Alva, whom he had then recently married. They were attended by a retinue of hidalgos with their families, including many young ladies of rank.* Amongst these were the mother and three or ♦Gomaraisalittleungallant, when he says that they came in pursuit of rich husbands : " con pensamiento de casarse alia con homiresricos." Cron. Chap. IV, Irving is not less so : Columbus, II. 216.