When he found them, they were greatly astonished. Their astonishment did not lessen when he told them how he came to be where he was. He sent Estevanico back to tell the rest of the party to come, and himself remained to talk with Diego de Alcaraz, the leader of the Spanish adventurers, and his three followers. They were slave-hunters, like the other Spaniards. When, five days afterward Estevanico, Castillo and Dorantes came on with an escort of several hundred Indians, all Cabeca’s determination and diplomacy were taxed to keep the slavers from making a raid on the confiding natives then and there. To buy Alcaraz off cost nearly all the bows, pouches, finely dressed skins, and other native treasures he had gained by trading or received as gifts. In this collection were five arrowheads of emerald or something very like that stone. It was not in Cabeca de Vaca to break his word to people who trusted him. He had suffered every sort of privation; he had traveled more than ten thousand miles on foot in his six years among the Indians of the Southwest; now he had lost most of his profit from that long exile; but he went back to Spain with faith unbroken and honor clear as a white diamond.
In May, 1536, he and his companions reached Culiacan in the territory of Spain. All the way to the City of Mexico they were feasted and welcomed as honored guests. The account which Cabeca de Vaca wrote of his travels was the first written description of the country now called Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.
This story follows closely the “Relacion of Cabeca de Vaca.” It illustrates the resourcefulness, bravery and ingenuity of Spanish cavaliers of the heroic age as hardly any other episode does.
De Soto was a gentleman of
In those proud years when Spanish chivalry
From fierce adventure never did refrain,—
Ruler of argosies that ruled the sea,
She looked on lesser nations in disdain,
As born to trafficking or slavery.
In shining armor, and with
shot and steel
Abundantly purveyed for their delight,
Banners before whose Cross the foe should kneel,
His company embarked—how great a light
Through men’s perversity to stoop and reel
Down through calamity to endless night!
Yet unsubmissive, obdurately
The savages refused to serve their need.
They would not guide the conquerors to their gold,
Nor though cast in the fire like a weed
Or driven by stern compulsion to the fold,
Would they abandon their unhallowed creed.
The forest folk in terror
broke and fled
Like fish before the fierce pursuing pike.
The stubborn chiefs as hostages were led—
And in the wilderness, a grisly dyke
Of slaves and captives, lay the heathen dead,
And the black bayou claims all dead alike.