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many of his horses, all his supplies and extra clothing, and his slim booty were destroyed; and his men no longer shared what little hope may have remained to him of ever reaching that richest province "beyond." But if his decision, made for his pride and his honor and against the love of his wife and his own chances of survival, cost him anything, no hint of that cost passed his stern lips. For twenty-eight days he rested at Mavilla to allow the wounded, who dressed their wounds with the fat of the slain Indians, to recover; then he took up the search again.
On the 17th of November De Soto moved northwestward in quest of another Promised Land, a place called Pacaha. He crossed the Black Warrior and the Tombigbee rivers and a month later entered a Chickasaw town in the present State of Mississippi, where he went into winter quarters. Before spring he had his troubles with the proud and warlike Chickasaws. Some of the natives, caught in theft, were executed; and another, "his hands having first been cut off," was sent back to the chief as a visible warning. Four Spaniards, who pillaged some Indian houses, almost met with as hard a fate; for De Soto, stern with friend and foe alike, ordered two of them put to death and the other two deprived of their goods. Deaf to all pleas, he would have seen the sentence carried out but for the subtlety of Ortiz, the interpreter, who translated the complaints of the Indians into prayers for pardon.
When, in March, De Soto was ready to depart, he made his usual demand for male carriers and for women. The Chickasaws considered this an insult to be wiped out in blood. They fell upon the Spaniards at dawn; and, "by the time those in the town were aware, half the houses were in flames." The men, running in confusion from the fire, blinded by the smoke and the glare, not able to find their arms nor to saddle their horses, fell easy prey to the native archers. The horses snapped their halters and stampeded, or were burned to death in their stalls. It would have been a complete victory for the Indians — and the end of the expedition — if the natives had not believed that the thunder of hoofs meant that the cavalry was gathering to fall upon them. They fled, leaving only one dead on the field. He had been killed with a lance by De Soto, who was unhorsed in the act because his saddle girth was loose. Eleven Spaniards and fifty horses perished. The army then quickly moved to another town and turned to at making saddles and
lances from ash, and grass mats, to protect their naked bodies from the cold. Towards the end of April, De Soto started on, northwestward, and, during the first week inJMay, 1541, not far from the Chickasaw Bluffs, he stood on the east bank of the Mississippi River.
On the plains, a crossbow's shot from the steep timbered bank, the army pitched camp. De Soto set his men at once to felling trees and constructing vessels in which to cross the river; for on the west shore to the north, lay the "richest province" of Pacaha, whither he was bound. Presently the cacique of Aquixo, or Arkansas, came over to visit him, with his lesser chiefs and two hundred warriors. The chiefs sat in the sterns of their canoes under skin awnings; and chiefs and warriors were "painted with ochre, wearing great bunches of white and other plumes of many colors." Some held "feathered shields in their hands, with which they sheltered the oarsmen on either side, the warriors standing erect from bow to stern, holding bows and arrows.... These were fine-looking men, very large and well-formed; and what with the awnings, the plumes, and the shields, the pennons, and the number of people in the fleet, it appeared like a famous armada of galleys." The s
canoes also bore gifts of furs, buffalo robes, dried fruits, and fish for the white chief. These the cacique sent ashore; but when De Soto and his men came down to the water's edge, making signs to him to land, he hastily ordered his oarsmen to retreat, evidently in apprehension of the strange men in armor the like of which he had never seen before. De Soto, construing this as hostility, ordered the crossbowmen to fire. Half a dozen Indians fell; but the canoes continued to retire in good order, not an Indian "leaving the oar, even though the one next to him might have fallen." During the month consumed in barge-building, the Indians appeared in midstream several times but came no nearer. Early one June morning the barges were passing to and fro across the Mississippi; and by sunrise all the men and horses were on the west bank. The barges were then taken to pieces and the iron spikes were kept for making other vessels when needed.
Marching north through Arkansas, from some captives now De Soto heard more of Chisca, beyond Pacaha, where there was much gold. He found the towns along his route deserted. The inhabitants had fled and hidden themselves; but the Spaniards felt their presence in the arrow flights which descended on them from the ravines and thick timber, as they paused to find the best crossings over streams and marshes. After crossing FifteenMile Bayou in St. Francis County, Arkansas, they marched all day until sunset over flooded ground. The water was sometimes as high as their waists. At night they reached Casqui, "where they found the Indians off their guard, never having heard of them." They seized all the buffalo robes and furs in the town and many of the men and women. The towns here were thickly set in a very fruitful country; so that, while the footmen were despoiling one town, the horsemen could sweep down upon another. De Soto made friends with the chief of Casqui, who was on bad terms with the chief of Pacaha, and set up a cross in his town. After having "pacified" Pacaha, De Soto reconciled its chief to the chief of Casqui and entertained both worthies at dinner. Whereupon the chief of Casqui gave De Soto his daughter to wife; and the chief of Pacaha, by an equally simple marriage ceremony, gave him two of his sisters, Macanoche and Mochila. Of the Pacaha ladies the discriminating Gentleman of Elvas says: "They were symmetrical, tall, and full; Macanoche bore a pleasant expression; in her manners and features appeared the lady; the other was robust."