« PrécédentContinuer »
promises. He says, “We set about to preserve the liberty of the Indians and thought we had secured it, but the contrary appeared; for the Christians had arranged to go and spring upon those we had sent away in peace and confidence. They executed their plans as they had designed.”
Vaca and his comrades went on southward, through Culiacán to Compostela, then the principal town of New Galicia. Here they were hospitably received by Nuño de Guzmán, the Governor, who gave them beds, and some of his own wardrobe to screen their nakedness. But after eight years of Indian life the wanderers found that they could not wear clothes with comfort, "nor could we sleep anywhere else but on the ground.”
Vaca reached the City of Mexico on July 24, 1536; thence he went to Santo Domingo, and from there to Spain. In all places his story bore fruit. In Spain he was disappointed in his ambition for the governorship of Florida. One wonders why he should have wanted it! That office had already been taken by Hernando de Soto. Vaca was invited to accompany De Soto, but his experience with Narváez had made him unwilling to take part in an expedition not commanded by himself. After three years of hopes and disappointments, Vaca
was made adelantado of Río de la Plata, in South America. In this venture he expended all his
In the South American wilds he made marches almost as heroic as his journey from Texas to Sonora. But his humane treatment of the natives won for him the hostility of his turbulent compatriots. He was seized, on trumped-up charges, and sent in chains to Spain. There he lay in prison for six years. He was then condemned by the Council of the Indies, stripped of his honors and titles, and sentenced to exile in Africa.) Meanwhile he had become the subject of a learned controversy among clerical pamphleteers as to the propriety of a layman's performing miracles. His end is not known, though he is said to have been living in Spain twenty years later. Of his companions only the black Estevanico played a conspicuous part in later history in America. We shall hear anon how Estevanico became a permanent figure in Indian tradition.
HERNANDO DE SOTO
HERNANDO DE Soto was about thirty-six years of age when he was appointed adelantado of Florida. He was “a gentleman by all four descents,” and had recently been created by the Emperor a knight of the order of Santiago. He had already led a career of adventure not often equaled. He had served under Pedrarias in Nicaragua, and, by his marriage to Pedrarias's daughter, Doña Isabel, had become brother-in-law to Balboa, discoverer of the Pacific. Later, in following the fortunes of Pizarro in Peru, he had “distinguished himself over all the captains and principal personages present, not only at the seizure of Atabalipa (Atahualpa, the Inca), lord of Peru, and in carrying the City of Cuzco, but at all other places wheresoever he went and found resistance.” Thus does the Gentleman of Elvas, comrade of Don Hernando and narrator of his exploits, pen his biography in a line. A man of blood
and iron, wherever he “found resistance" there Hernando de Soto was roused to action. He brooked neither opposition from foes nor interference from friends; and, for him, no peril, no hardship, could surpass in bitterness the defeat of his will. His nature was to be read plainly in his swarthy, strongly lined face and burning black eyes, and in the proud carriage of his head; so that, though he was hardly more than of medium stature, men remarked him and gave him room. He had an agreeable smile at rare moments; he was renowned for courage, and his skill as a horseman was noted among those lovers of horses, the Spanish nobles. He was able to set up a fine establishment and to lend money to the Emperor Charles V, from whom he was seeking high office. And so the Emperor made him Governor of Cuba and adelantado of Florida. Narváez had pictured in Florida another Mexico. De Soto hoped to find there another Peru.
The news of De Soto's expedition took his countrymen by storm. When Vaca, fresh from his wanderings, appeared at court and told his great tale, the enthusiasm increased. Rich nobles sold their estates, their houses, vineyards, and olive-fields, their plate and jewels, their towns of vassals, to participate in the venture. There assembled in Seville so many “persons of noble extraction” that a large number of those who had sold all they had were forced to remain behind for want of shipping. De Soto mustered his volunteers for review at the port of Sanlúcar. Here he scanned them carefully and picked out his men, who were then counted and enlisted. They numbered six hundred. And, considering the small size of the ships of that day, they and their supplies must have been tightly packed in the nine vessels that bore them from Spain.
On Sunday morning of the day of St. Lazarus, April, 1538, Hernando de Soto in a "new ship fast of sail” led his fleet over the bar of Sanlúcar, “with great festivity.” From every vessel artillery roared at his command, and trumpets sounded. Favorable winds urged his vessels on; his adored Doña Isabel was beside him, adventure and fame were before him.
On Pentecost Day the ships were moored in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba. All the horsemen and footmen of the town surged down to the landing; and Don Hernando and Doña Isabel, followed by their train of six hundred, rode into the city, where they were “well lodged, attentively visited, and