Then curiosity came rushing in like a flood. Had they seen anything on the journey? Were there any cities, any peoples worth conquering; especially did any of them have wealth in gold, silver and precious stones like that harvested so easily by Cortes and Pizarro?
Cabeza didn’t know really, but—, and his long pause and brief story of seven cities that he had heard of, one or two days’ journey to the north of his track, fired the imagination of the Viceroy and his soldiers of fortune. To be sure, though, they sent out a party of reconnaissance, under the control of a good father of the Church, Fray Marcos de Nizza, a friar of the Orders Minor, commonly known as a Franciscan, with Stephen, a negro, one of the escaped party of Cabeza de Vaca, as a guide, to spy out the land.
Fray Marcos penetrated as far as Zuni, and found there the seven cities, wonderful and strange; though he did not enter them, as the uncurbed amorous demands of Stephen had led to his death, and Marcos feared lest a like fate befall himself, but he returned and gave a fairly accurate account of what he saw. His story was not untruthful, but there are those who think it was misleading in its pauses and in what he did not tell. Those pauses and eloquent silences were construed by the vivid imaginations of his listeners to indicate what the Conquistadores desired, so a grand and glorious expedition was planned, to go forth with great sound of trumpets, in glad acclaim and glowing colors, led by his Superior Excellency and Most Nobly Glorious Potentate, Senyor Don Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, a native of Salamanca, Spain, and now governor of the Mexican province of New Galicia.
It was a gay throng that started on that wonderful expedition from Culiacan early in 1540. Their hopes were high, their expectations keen. Many of them little dreamed of what was before them. Alarcon was sent to sail up the Sea of Cortes (now the Gulf of California) to keep in touch with the land expedition, and Melchior Diaz, of that sea party, forced his way up what is now the Colorado River to the arid sands of the Colorado Desert in Southern California, before death and disaster overtook him.