Images de page

on reaching the City of Mexico, they found the crew of the third ship, a frigate, which they had believed lost in the hurricane off Mendocino. It seems that the frigate had sailed one degree farther north, to a point named in the diary Cape Blanco: and her crew told of a large river which they had seen.

By placing that "river" several degrees too far north, the mapmakers and historians of that day set going another myth which was to rival the Strait of Anian — the myth of the River of the West. And as the fable of the Strait was to lead to the discovery of Bering Strait, so the myth of the River of the West was to end with the later discovery of the Columbia.

The Count of Monterey immediately planned to occupy the port bearing his name and naturally selected Vizcaino to lead the enterprise. But, during the inevitable delays between plan and action, a new viceroy succeeded Monterey, and the plan was abandoned for a project to found a port in the mid-Pacific. With this in view, in 1611 Vizcaino was sent out to explore some islands called suggestively Rica de Oro and Rica de Plata — Rich in Gold and Rich in Silver. Nothing came of this venture; and so Vizcaino, ruined in I

health and fortune, fades out of the pages of historical narrative, though he is known to have lived for some years afterwards. And the history of. Alta-Califeraia remained obscure in the fog for a hundred and sixty years. J



Explorers first, then colonizers. Now interest in Florida, already aroused by the journey of Vaca, was quickened to a lively heat when, late in 1543, Moscoso and the remnants of De Soto's band at last straggled into the City of Mexico. It would appear that hardships and failures could in no wise impair a Spaniard's ability for storytelling; for Moscoso and his tattered comrades were soon spinning for others the golden web of romance in which they themselves had been snared. Glowing pictures they gave of the north country, especially of Coosa (in Alabama), where they had been well fed and where one or two of their number had remained to dally with Creek damsels. The Viceroy Mendoza, ambitious to extend his power into the Northern Mystery, at once offered to finance an expedition if Moscoso would undertake it. But while Moscoso's zeal for golden Florida might inspire his imagination to dazzling flights of fancy, it was inadequate to stir his feet one step again in that direction. So Mendoza's project came to nothing.

It was noticed that the Mexicans valued highly some of the fur apparel brought back by Moscoso's men. And the next year, 1544, two Spanish gentlemen sought from the King the right to conquer Florida, for the purpose of bringing deerskins and furs into Mexico, as well as in the hope of discovering pearls, mines, and whatever other marvels had embroidered Mdscoso's romance. But the King refused their petition. In his refusal he was influenced in part by religious and humane motives. Despite the presence of priests and friars, the various expeditions to the north thus far had taken no time from treasure hunting to convert natives or to establish missions. ^he Church was now considering the question of sending put its own expedition to Florida, unhampered by slave-catching soldiers.^)

Perhaps this idea of a conquest by the Cross, unaided — and unhampered — by the sword, was born in the mind of Fray Luis Cancer, a devout and learned Dominican. Fray Luis was living in the convent of Santo Domingo in the City of Mexico not long after Vaca and Moscoso arrived with their wonder tales. The account of the hundreds of savages who had followed Vaca from village to village must have moved the good friar's heart with zeal and pity. And he can have been no less stirred by the tales told by Moscoso's men of the gallant butchery their swords had done — of the clanking chains that made music on the day's march, and the sharp whisper in the night of the flint, as it pressed against an iron collar. Fray Luis desired to see all heathen made free in God's favor. The oppressions his countrymen practiced upon the natives filled him with horror. As a missionary, first in Espaflola and then in Porto Rico, he had seen the hopelessness of trying to spread religion in territories which were being swiftly depopulated by ruthless conquerors. He had therefore gone to Guatemala, to the monastery of Santiago whose head was the noble Las Casas. At that time one province of Guatemala was known as the "Land of War" because of the ferocity of its natives. Las Casas had influenced the Governor to forbid that territory to Spaniards for five years. Then he had sent Fray Luis, who had meanwhile learned the language of the natives, to the chief to request permission for the monks to come there. With his gentle words, Fray Luis

« PrécédentContinuer »