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tragic deaths of Ponce and Ayllón and by new tales heard in the wilderness.
The Northern Mystery was still unsolved, and it was not long before another attempt was made to settle Florida. The enterprise was undertaken this time by Pánfilo de Narváez, the same Narváez who in 1520 had been sent to Vera Cruz to arrest disobedient Cortés, and had lost an eye and suffered captivity for his pains. Narváez was a native of Valladolid, of good blood and gentle breeding. He had taken part in the conquest of Cuba. He is described as a tall man of proud mien, with a fair complexion, a red beard, and — since the encounter with Cortés one eagle eye. His manner was diplomatic and gracious and his voice resonant, “as if it came from a cave.”. He had acquired wealth in the New World (and a reputation for keeping his money) as well as sound fame as a soldier, for he was said to be “brave against Indians and probably would have been against any people, had ever occasion offered for fighting them.".
In June, 1527, Narváez sailed from Spain with six hundred colonists and a number of Franciscan
* See The Spanish Conquerors, in this Series.
* Lowery, Spanish Settlements, p. 174. Both quotations from Bernal Díaz, repeated by Lowery.
friars. Among his officers was Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, of whom more anon. Narváez's patent gave him the country from the Río de las Palmas to the Cape of Florida, and thus made him i heir to part of the land — as well as to the misfortunes of Ponce de León. His misfortunes began in the West Indies. At Santo Domingo a fourth of his colonists deserted; and two ships which he had sent to Trinidad, with Cabeza de Vaca, were wrecked in a hurricane. The fears thus spread amongst his company forced him to remain at anchor until the passing of winter. The spring of 1528 saw his expedition, its personnel now reduced to about four hundred, on the way. Strong winds from the south drove his ships to the Florida coast and on Good Friday he landed at Tampa Bay. There he found a village, from which the natives had fled at sight of his sails. And in one of the deserted houses he saw a faint glint of the hope which kindled the heart of every explorer small golden ornament dropped in the flight.
Before this tenantless village Narváez unfurled the royal standard and recited a proclamation prepared by learned jurists of Spain wherewith to acquaint the Indians of the King's lands with their new estate. But the natives ignored its benign
provisions and plain warnings. They returned next day and "made signs and menaces, and appeared to say we must go away from the country.” Narváez, however, having come as the servant of the Crown and to fill his own coffers, was in no mind to retreat. Somewhere in that wilderness there must be gold. What was that yellow-gleaming ornament he had found? Indeed, there was a land to the north, named Appalachen, teeming with gold; so the natives said. He decided to send the fleet up the coast, to find a good harbor and there await him. He and his officers with their wives, the friars, and the colonists, would press inland to seek Appalachen. In this decision Narváez ignored the advice of Vaca, who said that they and their ships would never meet again, and the warnings of one of the women. This woman had foretold in Spain many of the circumstances of the voyage and now declared that horrible disaster would befall the inland explorers; for so had a Moorish soothsayer in Castile prognosticated. This sibyl and the other wives insisted on going with the ships. The voyage having begun, they immediately took to themselves new husbands, knowing, by the Moor's prophecy, that never more should they salute their lawful spouses.
Narváez's company, now reft of its women, comprised three hundred men, including five priests and forty officers and soldiers in armor, mounted upon armored horses. Led by the standard-bearer, this shining host plunged into the Florida wilds. Crossing the Withlacoochee and Suwanee Rivers, they passed from a fairly open country into dense forests. Their food gave out and they nourished themselves and their horses as best they could on the shoots of young palm. Men and horses were exhausted from hunger and fatigue and galled from the heavy armor, when at last on St. John's Day (June 24, 1528), they reached Appalachen, near the present Tallahassee in northern Florida. But golden Appalachen proved to be only a town of forty clay huts, occupied then by women and children; for the men were away on the warpath. The Spaniards took possession of the town and fed on maize for twenty-five days, obliged occasionally to do battle against the returning warriors. Excursions into the surrounding country, attended by skirmishes, convinced Narváez that there was no great and rich city there which might answer to the false description given him of Appalachen. “Thenceforth were great lakes, dense mountains, immense deserts and solitudes.” So Narváez and
his company turned south again and westward in the hope of finding their ships. After nine days' difficult march they came upon Auté, another deserted Indian village, where again they found food. They reached the sea at last at Appalachee Bay.
But there was no sign of the ships. The ships, in fact, had sailed away to Cuba. Yet the sea was their only hope; so they determined to slay their horses for food and to build a fleet of horsehide boats in which to escape to Pánuco (Mexico) which was thought to be close by. Little did they dream that it was over a thousand miles away.
There was only one carpenter in the company. They had, says Vaca, “no tools, nor iron, nor forge, nor tow, nor resin, nor rigging.” But necessity is the mother of invention, and Robinson Crusoe could scarcely have done better himself. Bellows were contrived from wooden tubes and deerskin. Nails, saws, and axes were made of the iron from the stirrups, crossbows, and spurs.
Palmettos were used in place of tow. From the pitch of the pines a Greek made resin for calking, and the boats were covered with horsehide. Ropes and rigging were made from palmetto fiber and horsehair, sails from the shirts of the men, and oars from young savins. While the boats were building four