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• When the Spaniards arrived at the sea-shore in this lamentable plight, it was obvious that the attempt to march along the coast in search of the fleet would probably lead to their destruction. No alternative remained but to construct vessels, and encounter at once the hazards of the sea. Their shirts were sewn together for sails, and ropes were made of the fibrous bark of the palm tree. A horse was killed every third day, and its flesh distributed in small portions to the workmen and to the sick. So zealously did they labour, that in little more than six weeks they had completed five boats, capable of holding from forty to fifty men each. In these small barks they put to sea, although they were so crowded that the gunwales of their overladen boats were but a few inches above the water; yet desperation urged them on. For some weeks they endured all the miseries of want and anxiety. At an Indian village on the coast they obtained some trifling relief; but, quarrelling with the natives, they were obliged to re-embark with precipitation. In these desperate circumstances Narvaez resigned the authority which he was unable to use beneficially. As his boat was well manned he hastened forward, leaving his companions to shift for themselves in the best way they could. The boat commanded by Alvaro reached a small island after some days of extreme suffering, when the exhausted crew had hardly strength enough to crawl on shore upon their hands and feet. The Indians took pity on their wretched condition, and loaded them with fruits, fish, and whatever provisions the island afforded. A stock of these being formed, Alvaro prepared to continue his voyage ; but just as the Spaniards were embarking, a wave overset the boat, which sunk with all their clothes. Three of the crew were drowned by this accident; the remainder threw themselves naked on the sand.
No resource now remained to the survivors but the compassion of the savages, who generously shared with them the few comforts they possessed. But some of the Spaniards, who had witnessed the rites with which
the Mexicans sacrificed their prisoners, felt for a long time more horror than consolation from the care bestowed on them by the natives ; supposing that they were destined to be devoured when restored to health.
The liberality of the savages proved greater than their industry: as winter approached they felt the scourge of famine, and the Spaniards, who were instrumental in causing, were the chief sufferers by, this scarcity of food. Some other of the followers of Narvaez, thrown on the same coast, had been reduced to such extremities as to devour one another;, a deed which shocked the Indians so much that they never afterwards regarded the Spas niards favourably. Alvaro and his companions were, in consequence, reduced to the condition of slaves, and treated with much severity; as all the calamities of want and disease from which the Indians suffered, were ascribed by them to the presence of these wicked strangers.
Alvaro at length made his escape to the continent, where he contrived to set on foot a singular traffic. He carried into the interior shells and other marine productions, and for these he brought back in exchange red ochre, with which the savages daubed themselves ; hides for thongs; canes and flints for the manufacture of arrows. In his capacity of merchant, Alvaro acquired great estimation among all the savage tribes, whose perpetual hostilities made them feel the want of a neutral hand to manage the little commerce which they were capable of sustaining one with another. After spending some years in this occupation, Alvaro grew weary of so hopeless an exile, and determined to encounter any peril in the attempt to revisit his native country. His only chance was to reach Mexico overland; and in this daring project of crossing such an extent of country, inhabited by savage tribes, and hitherto unexplored, he was joined by two companions in misfortune, Andrea Dorante and Alonzo de Castiglio.
The three wanderers suffered severely at the outset of their journey: the first tribe they encountered was the most barbarous they ever met with. The wretched Spaniards were reduced to slavery, and compelled to subsist on worms, loathsome reptiles, fish bones, and even wood. The savages, their masters, were in that abject condition in which parental attachment is unequal to the care of rearing a family, and it was their practice to expose all their female offspring. When the summer arrived, and the woods were loaded with fruits, Alvaro and his companions contrived to escape during the festivities in which the savages celebrated this season of temporary abundance. The Indian nation which he next arrived at offered him a better reception : and the respect shown to him as a stranger was very much increased when he began to display his medical skill; for he had learned on the coast that pretensions of this sort might be profitably united to the business of a merchant. By blowing on his patients, or muttering certain words, according to the nature of the case, he wrought many wonderful cures, and, as he relates, on one occasion even raised a dead man to life: nor will this bold assertion shake our confidence in the general veracity of his narrative, when we consider how easy it is to work miracles among the ignorant; and how naturally we imbibe the most absurd persuasions, if they tend to raise us in our own esteem. The three Spaniards, now reverenced as the children of the sun, were escorted in their journey to the west by a troop of their admirers, who proclaimed as they went along their wondrous virtues and preternatural gifts; and this impulse, once given to the superstitious admiration of the Indians, was easily propagated from tribe to tribe. Alvaro, travelling westward, crossed a great river (the Mississippi), and then entered upon those deserts which separate the territories of Mexico from those of the United States. In answer to his enquiries respecting the Christians, he was informed that a wicked nation so named dwelt to the south-west ; and was warned not to have any dealing with that mischievous and inhuman people. These accusations he found to be not quite groundless ; for when he approached the Mexican frontiers, it was with difficulty he could prevent the Spaniards from reducing to slavery the Indians who accompanied him as guides; and when he remonstrated with them for their brutal conduct he was himself made prisoner, and experienced greater severities from his own countrymen than from any of the savage tribes among whom he had wandered. When he arrived in the interior of the country, however, where the manners of the colonists were less violent and licentious than on the borders, he was treated with abundant courtesy and respect, and liberally supplied with every thing he wanted. In the following year he embarked for Europe ; and arrived at Lisbon in August, 1537.
When Alvaro arrived in Spain, he applied for a grant of territory and a government in Florida, to which he was eminently entitled according to the principles by which the court affected to guide itself in bestowing such gifts. But he was forestalled in his suit by a rival possessing overwhelming interest. Hernando de Soto, one of the most distinguished captains of Pizarro's army, had returned to Spain from the conquest of Peru with immense wealth, and all the reputation which brilliant success is sure to add to competent abilities. By his judicious liberality at court, he won the unbounded favour of the emperor, whose pecuniary difficulties made him quick to discern the merits of a wealthy subject. Soto, who had acted but a subordinate part in Peru, imagined that in a higher station he might expect the same good fortune and more conspicuous fame. He accordingly asked for and easily obtained the government of Florida — ambition rendering him blind to the lesson inculcated by the failure of Narvaez. So ample were his means, and so great his reputation, that he was able to equip an armament of ten ships, on board of which were 900 men, most of them trained to arms.
In May, 1539, Soto disembarked on the coast of Florida. But he was disappointed in all his hopes of gaining the confidence of the native chieftains : neither
by kindness, nor patience, nor demonstrations of his power, could he succeed in conquering their deeply rooted aversion to the Spanish name. After fighting many battles to little purpose ; after proceeding a long way into the interior, towards the north-west, without finding the expected treasures of gold and silver ; after subduing many Indian nations without making a single settlement; Soto died in the fourth year of his ill-fated enterprise. His companions, long tired of their fruitless labours, lost all courage on his death. They immediately resolved to abandon Florida for ever; and making their way to the sea-shore, pursued by the Indians, who were now emboldened by the dejection of their adversaries, hastily embarked for Mexico. Here they were kindly treated, but the exasperation of disappointment long hindered them from incorporating with the mass of peaceable and industrious citizens.
Alvaro Nunez, whose just claims to the government of Florida had been so unwisely slighted at court, was appointed, in 1540, to succeed Mendoza in the province of Buenos Ayres. Having lost two of his vessels on the coast of Brazil, he determined to proceed by land ; a bold measure, in which the experience acquired by a ten years' residence among savage nations rendered him peculiarly qualified to succeed. Ascending the river Ytabucu, opposite to the island of St. Catharine, he reached a chain of desert mountains, which he crossed, and in nineteen days arrived in the fertile country of the Guaranys. Here he purchased canoes, in which the sick and delicate embarked to descend the Parana. He himself, with the remainder of his troop, continued his journey by land, and after a four months' march reached his capital in safety. His authority, however, was not of long continuance; by his zeal to protect the Indians from oppression he gave offence to the colonists, who rebelled against him in 1544, and sent him back a prisoner to Spain. Eight years were suffered to elapse before that dilatory court proceeded to examine his complaints, or those of his adversaries. The trial at