Of all the enterprises undertaken in this spirit of daring adventure, none has surpassed, for hardihood and variety of incident, that of the renowned Hernando de Soto, and his band of cavaliers. It was poetry put in action. It was the knight-errantry of the old world carried into the depths of the American wilderness. Indeed the personal adventures, the feats of individual prowess, the picturesque description of steel-clad cavaliers, with lance and helm and prancing steed, glittering through the wildernesses of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and the prairies of the Far West, would seem to us mere fictions of romance, did they not come to us recorded in matter of fact narratives of contemporaries, and corroborated by minute and daily memoranda of eye-witnesses.
. The haughty Don Pedro treated him kindly. Still he regarded him, in consequence of his poverty, almost as a favored menial. He fed him, clothed him, patronized him.
It was in the year 1514 that Don Pedro entered upon his office of Governor of Darien. The insatiate thirst for gold caused crowds to flock to his banners. A large fleet was soon equipped, and more than two thousand persons embarked at St. Lucar for the golden land. The most of these were soldiers; men of sensuality, ferocity, and thirst for plunder. Not a few noblemen joined the enterprise; some to add to their already vast possessions, and others hoping to retrieve their impoverished fortunes.
A considerable number of priests accompanied the expedition, and it is very certain that some of these at least were actuated by a sincere desire to do good to the natives, and to win them to the religion of Jesus:--that religion which demands that we should do to others as we would that others should do to us, and whose principles, the gove