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Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/39

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INTRODUCTION. 21 the religion of the natives by erecting altars in their temples, destroying their idols, and substituting in their place crosses and images of the Virgin Maiy and the saints ; to which the island- ers, abandoning their own superstitions, paid apparent respect, burning incense before them, and bringing them offerings of quails, Indian corn, fruits and other things, which they had been accustomed to present to their idols. They also requested Cortes to leave with them a teacher of the true faith, who would instruct them how to worship the God of the Christians ; which however, he declined doing on account of the small number of priests in the expedition, as well as from an unwillingness to ex- pose the life of any individual amongst a people but partially converted from the errors of paganism.* Through a native of the island who had been taken to Cuba by Grijalva, and now served as an interpreter, it was casually ascertained that there were several Spaniards in captivity on the coast of Yucatan ; when Cortes at once despatched Ordas in a brigantine with several natives, bearing a letter addressed to the Spaniards, and some trifling articles for their ransom. Ordas, after landing the Indians on the coast, was directed to wait eight days only for their return; but at the expiration of that time, neither the Spanish captives nor the islanders had ap- peared. He then went back to the island, and Cortes suppos- ing he had been deceived soon after took his leave of Cozumel. But the fleet had not proceeded far on its way, when one of the vessels sprung a leak, and rendered it necessary to return to the island for repairs. This accident was regarded by the Span- iards as an instance of divine interposition in their behalf ; for it led to the recovery of a Christian captive, Avho was well qua- lified to act as an interpreter of the language of Yucatan, from his long residence in that country. The repairs were already completed, and the ships ready to set sail on the Saturday follow- ing their return to the island, but contrary winds detained them till the next day ; as this was the first Sunday in Lent, they de- termined to hear mass, and then after taking some refreshment to embark. While Cortes was partaking of his repast, he was

  • Fathers Olmedo and Juan Diaz (supposed author of the Itinerary of Grijalva's

voyage) accompanied the expedition.