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Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/37

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INTRODUCTION. 19 it was not necessary to offer wages to Spaniards in the Indies as an inducement to engage in such expeditions. The prospect of making valuable discoveries, leading to their own as well as the public advantage, was a sufficient consideration. When the whole expedition was in readiness for sailing, Cortes made an animated address to his followers, by which they were much encouraged in their hopes of a successful enterprise. After celebrating a solemn mass, and invoking St. Peter, his patron saint, he gave orders for the fleet to get under weigh, and the expedition finally sailed on the eighteenth of February, in the year 1519. The first night a violent storm arose that dispersed the ships, but as it was not of long continuance, the whole fleet, with the exception of one ship, arrived in good condition at the island of Cozumel, which had been appointed as a place of rendez- vous in case of separation ; the missing vessel was afterwards found on the other side of the peninsula, safely anchored in a bay near Campeachy. Pedro de Alvarado had reached Cozu- mel two days in advance of the rest of the expedition, and landing at the Indian town on the coast, found it deserted ; proceeding thence into the interior of the island, he discovered another town about a league distant, which was also abandoned by the inhabitants. The soldiers here seized upon every thing of any value, such as cotton garments, provisions, &.c., and stripped a temple of its idols with their ornaments of gold, sac- rificial knives, and other utensils, formed of gold alloyed with copper. They also took three prisoners, two men and a woman. As soon as Cortes arrived, and understood what had been done by Alvarado's party, he was greatly incensed, and having pub- licly reprimanded that officer, ordered whatever had been taken to be restored, and the prisoners set at liberty ; to whom he gave some trifling presents for their caciques, as a token of friendship, at the same time expressing his regret at what had taken place in his absence. Soon after the natives began to visit the Spanish camp, and before the departure of the expe- dition, the most cordial and friendly intercourse existed be- tween them. Such was a commencement of the conciliatory policy adopted by Cortes towards the Indians throughout his