Page:The Story of Mexico.djvu/167

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Fernando Cortés was born in 1485 at Medellin, the principal town of the province of Estramadura, in Spain. His father was a gentleman of old blood, but poor. He sent his son to the University of Salamanca, but Fernando had no taste for study, and of his own will entered the army, with the intention of serving under the great captain Gonsalvo of Cordova in the campaign of Naples, but an injury caused by falling from a roof prevented his starting with the fleet. As soon as he was well enough he set off in quest of adventure for the West Indies, then a new and tempting discovery, and joined a relative in St. Domingo, who happened to be governor there. This was in 1504. He passed several years there, and in 1511 accompanied Diégo Velasquez to Cuba when the latter was appointed to colonize that island.

The contemporaries of Fernando Cortés draw an attractive portrait of him. He was well built and skilful in all manly exercises. The wonderful beauty of his glance enhanced the charm to his fine and regular features. With unequalled bravery he combined wonderful penetration which never failed him. He was eloquent and persuasive, with the faculty of