• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Half Title
 Title Page
 Frontispiece
 Table of Contents
 List of Illustrations
 Authorities on Ferdinand De Soto...
 Ferdinand De Soto
 Map of ancient Florida, showing...
 Chapter I: The man on horseback,...
 Chapter II: Ferdinand and Isabella,...
 Chapter III: In the wilds of Nicaragua,...
 Chapter IV: De Soto, the avenger,...
 Chapter V: The reward of devotion,...
 Chapter VI: Adelantado and governor,...
 Chapter VII: The landing in Florida,...
 Chapter VIII: In the Floridian...
 Chapter IX: Battles with the Indians,...
 Chapter X: The fierce Apalachees,...
 Chapter XI: The first winter in...
 Chapter XII: The trackless wilderness,...
 Chapter XIII: The princess and...
 Chapter XIV: De Soto's beautiful...
 Chapter XV: The great chief, Tuscaloosa,...
 Chapter XVI: Desperate encounter...
 Chapter XVII: De Soto's fatal decision,...
 Chapter XVIII: How the Mississippi...
 Chapter XIX: A year of aimless...
 Chapter XX: Last days of De Soto,...
 Index






Group Title: Heroes of American history
Title: Ferdinand De Soto and the invasion of Florida
CITATION THUMBNAILS PAGE IMAGE
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/AM00000177/00001
 Material Information
Title: Ferdinand De Soto and the invasion of Florida
Series Title: Heroes of American history
Physical Description: Book
Creator: Ober, Frederick A.
Publisher: Harper & brothers
Publication Date: 1906
 Subjects
Subject: De Soto, Hernando, ca. 1500-1542   ( lcsh )
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: AM00000177
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Florida A&M University (FAMU)
Holding Location: Florida A&M University (FAMU)
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: notis - AAB7851
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Other version: Alternate version (PALMM)
PALMM Version

Table of Contents
    Half Title
        Title
    Title Page
        Title 1
        Title 2
    Frontispiece
        Frontispiece
    Table of Contents
        Contents
    List of Illustrations
        List, Illustrations
    Authorities on Ferdinand De Soto and Florida
        Unnumbered ( 7 )
    Ferdinand De Soto
        Unnumbered ( 8 )
    Map of ancient Florida, showing route of De Soto, 1539-1543
        Unnumbered ( 9 )
    Chapter I: The man on horseback, 1532
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
    Chapter II: Ferdinand and Isabella, 1501-1521
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
    Chapter III: In the wilds of Nicaragua, 1521-1524
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
    Chapter IV: De Soto, the avenger, 1524-1527
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
    Chapter V: The reward of devotion, 1532-1538
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Plate
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
    Chapter VI: Adelantado and governor, 1538-1539
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
    Chapter VII: The landing in Florida, 1539
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Plate
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
    Chapter VIII: In the Floridian forests, 1539
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
    Chapter IX: Battles with the Indians, 1539
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
    Chapter X: The fierce Apalachees, 1539
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Plate
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
    Chapter XI: The first winter in Florida, 1539-1540
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
    Chapter XII: The trackless wilderness, 1540
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
    Chapter XIII: The princess and her pearls, 1540
        Page 170
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 179
        Page 180
        Page 181
        Page 182
        Page 183
        Page 184
        Page 185
        Page 186
    Chapter XIV: De Soto's beautiful captive, 1540
        Page 187
        Page 188
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
        Page 192
        Page 193
        Page 194
        Page 195
        Page 196
        Page 197
        Page 198
        Page 199
        Page 200
        Page 201
        Page 202
        Page 203
    Chapter XV: The great chief, Tuscaloosa, 1540
        Page 204
        Page 205
        Page 206
        Page 207
        Page 208
        Page 209
        Page 210
        Page 211
        Page 212
        Page 213
        Page 214
    Chapter XVI: Desperate encounter at Mauvila, 1540
        Page 215
        Page 216
        Page 217
        Page 218
        Page 219
        Page 220
        Page 221
        Page 222
        Page 223
        Page 224
        Page 225
        Page 226
        Plate
        Page 227
        Page 228
    Chapter XVII: De Soto's fatal decision, 1541
        Page 229
        Page 230
        Page 231
        Page 232
        Page 233
        Page 234
        Page 235
        Page 236
        Page 237
        Page 238
        Page 239
        Page 240
        Page 241
    Chapter XVIII: How the Mississippi was crossed, 1541
        Page 242
        Page 243
        Page 244
        Page 245
        Page 246
        Page 247
        Page 248
        Plate
        Page 249
        Page 250
        Page 251
        Page 252
        Page 253
        Page 254
        Page 255
    Chapter XIX: A year of aimless wandering, 1541-1542
        Page 256
        Page 257
        Page 258
        Page 259
        Page 260
        Page 261
        Page 262
        Page 263
        Page 264
        Page 265
        Page 266
        Page 267
        Page 268
        Page 269
        Page 270
        Page 271
        Page 272
    Chapter XX: Last days of De Soto, 1542
        Page 273
        Page 274
        Page 275
        Page 276
        Plate
        Page 277
        Page 278
        Page 279
        Page 280
        Page 281
        Page 282
        Page 283
        Page 284
        Page 285
        Page 286
    Index
        Page 287
        Page 288
        Page 289
        Page 290
        Page 291
Full Text














HEROES OF
AMERICAN HISTORY


DE SOTO














SWV
FERDINAND DE SOTO


AND THE INVASION OF FLORIDA



BY

FREDERICK A. OBER





HEROES OF AMERICAN HISTORY



ILLUSTRATED





OTZIN


S^K


HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
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Copyright, 1906, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

All rights reserved.
Published September, 19o6.
























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FERDINAND SOTO













CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE
I. THE MAN ON HORSEBACK . I
II. FERDINAND AND ISABELLA . 13
III. IN THE WILDS OF NICARAGUA. .. 30
IV. DE SOTO, THE AVENGER. 46
V. THE REWARD OF DEVOTION . 60
VI. ADELANTADO AND GOVERNOR . 76
VII. THE LANDING IN FLORIDA . 89
VIII. IN THE FLORIDIAN FORESTS . 101
IX. BATTLES WITH THE INDIANS . 112
X. THE FIERCE APALACHEES 129
XI. THE FIRST WINTER IN FLORIDA .. 142
XII. THE TRACKLESS WILDERNESS .. 157
XIII. THE PRINCESS AND HER PEARLS. .170
XIV. DE SOTO's BEAUTIFUL CAPTIVE I87
XV. THE GREAT CHIEF, TUSCALOOSA 204
XVI. DESPERATE ENCOUNTER AT MAUVILA 215
XVII. DE SOTO'S FATAL DECISION 229
XVIII. How THE MISSISSIPPI WAS CROSSED. 242
XIX. A YEAR OF AIMLESS WANDERING 256
XX. LAST DAYS OF DE SOTO 273
INDEX . 286

















ILLUSTRATIONS


FERDINAND DE SOTO . Frontispiece
MAP OF ANCIENT FLORIDA, SHOWING ROUTE
OF DE SOTO, 1539-1543 . Facing p. I
ATAHUALLPA, INCA OF PERU 62
EARLY INDIAN LIFE . 94
THE MARCH THROUGH THE FOREST 134
BATTLE OF MAUVILA . .. 2 226

DE SOTO ON THE SHORE OF THE MISSISSIPPI 248
BURIAL OF DE SOTO . 276







AUTHORITIES
ON
FERDINAND DE SOTO AND FLORIDA

XVITH CENTURY. The "first and best" of three
contemporary narratives, describing the expedition of
De Soto, was printed in Portugal, in 1557, as:
The True Relation of the Fidalgos of Elvas. It was
translated and reprinted by Hakluyt in 1609, and ap-
peared again in 1611, as The Worthye and Famous
Historic of the Travailles, Discovery, and Conquest of
Terra Florida. The latest edition, in English, was
published in New York, 1904.
The Relation of the Conquest of Florida was written
by Luis de Biedma, the king's factor on the expedition,
as early as 1544, but did not appear in print until 1841.
Another personal narrative was that of Rodrigo
Ranjel, De Soto's secretary, which, though written
in the form of a journal, when on the march, also re-
mained in manuscript for more than three hundred
years, and was first issued in 1855.
XVIITH AND XVIIITH CENTURIES. La Florida del
Inca, by Garcilaso (or Garcilasso) de la Vega, was de-
rived from soldiers who were with De Soto (though more
than forty years after the return of the expedition), and
was published first in Lisbon, 1605; in Madrid, 1722.,
Translated and republished, New York, 1904.
The narratives of the Fidalgo and Ranjel, though
written and published independently, are generally
corroborative, and agree in important particulars with
the "Florida" of the Inca.
XIXTH CENTURY. The Conquest of Florida, by Theo-
dore Irving, New York, i85 is based mainly upon the
Inca's history, and is quite complete.
Buckingham Smith, Spanish scholar and indefatiga-
ble historian, devoted much time to original research,
and published The Career of Hernando de Soto, 1864,
as well as other valuable papers.














FERDINAND DE SOTO





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FERDINAND DE SOTO


I

THE MAN ON HORSEBACK
1532

IN the doorway of his pavilion on the tented
hill-slopes of Cassamarca sat the Inca of
Peru. Around him were his nobles and
captains of companies, from whom he was
distinguished, not only by the deference
they paid him, but by the crimson fringe, or
borla, badge of royalty, with which his brow
was banded. That memorable afternoon of
November I5th was drawing to its close.
Inca Atahuallpa had watched since morning
for the coming of the strangers, first of the
white race to invade the valley of the sierras
in which he was intrenched. He had seen
them emerge from the gloomy defiles of the
mountains, with the sun shining on their
helmets and reflected from their swords




FERDINAND DE SOTO
and arquebuses. He had looked in awed
wonder upon their prancing steeds, their
glittering weapons, their flaunting banners,
and had noted with apprehension their solid
formation-that steel-girdled phalanx which
was to prove a wedge to split his empire in
twain.
The mailed men of Spain marched straight
across the valley and into the city of Cassa-
marca, but had hardly reached its central
square ere their commander, grim and mer-
ciless Pizarro, detached a small band of
troopers as an embassy to the Inca, in his
camp on the hill-side three miles distant.
Again were the eyes of Atahuallpa greeted
with a vision of armor-clad horsemen as,
emerging from behind the city walls, they
swept across the intervening distance and
approached his intrenchments. Conspicu-
ously in advance was the leader of the
cavalcade, a tall and handsome hidalgo, en-
cased from head to foot in shining armor.
He was mounted upon a milk-white charger
of noble proportions, which, when midway
the distance between city and camp it en-
countered a stream twenty feet in width, took
it at a bound and seemed to fly over the
ground. Soon the cavaliers were in front of
2





THE MAN ON HORSEBACK
the royal ruler, who, while astonished and
secretly alarmed, yet preserved an unmoved
countenance. He directed his gaze to the
ground at his feet, nor would he look up
while the leader of the troop delivered the
message with which he had been charged by
Pizarro. Out of the corners of his eyes, how-
ever, he could not refrain from glancing,
observing which, and probably piqued at the
Inca's lack of interest, the cavalier resolved
to arouse it.
He was, and had been for years, the "best
lance" in the army, and by far the finest
horseman of Pizarro's cavalry, so it was from
pardonable vanity, perhaps, that he suddenly
put spurs to his horse and dashed down the
hill-side to the plain out-stretched beneath.
There, in the waning light of the departing
day, he put the fiery war-horse through a
variety of evolutions, circling round, and
round, impetuously charging an imaginary
foe, and finally advancing at full speed upon
the Inca and his nobles. The latter fled in
wild dismay, but Atahuallpa sat immovable,
even when the snorting, panting charger,
thrown suddenly upon his haunches, launch-
ed out with iron-shod hoofs close to his head.
This was the manner in which Ferdinand
3




FERDINAND DE SOTO

de Soto introduced himself to the Inca of
Peru. For it was he (though by some ac-
counts it was Hernando Pizarro) who, as the
leader of that little band of troopers, was the
first of white men to hold converse with the
renowned "Child of the Sun." It is said
that the Inca ordered such of his nobles as
had fled at the approach of the war-horse to
be executed; but whatever his feelings tow-
ards them may have been, for the gallant cav-
alier he ever after entertained the greatest
respect, and this strange meeting was but
the beginning of a friendship which lasted
until severed by his untimely death.
The conquest of Peru was achieved, some
historians have asserted, not so much by
Francisco Pizarro, the reputed commander
of the invading army, as by Ferdinand de
Soto, captain of cavalry, and the adored
leader of an invincible band of dragoons.
Certain it is that he always led the advance,
whether in reconnoitring the enemies' out-
posts on the skirmish line, scouting the un-
known country, or in hand-to-hand encoun-
ters. He had joined Pizarro at the island
of Puna, before he had really landed on the
main, and when in sore need of reinforce-
ments. From the very first he had asserted
4





THE MAN ON HORSEBACK

his independence of command, had refused
to obey any orders that his judgment did not
approve, and especially those which related
to the plundering and massacring of the
natives.
At the time he joined Pizarro, bringing
two ships well laden, and one hundred com-
panions armed to the teeth, the ferocious
Francisco had so exasperated the Peruvians
by his massacres and murders, that he and
his band were about to be exterminated.
They would doubtless have paid the extreme
penalty of their evil deeds had it not been
for the opportune arrival of De Soto, who not
only supplied the men and munitions neces-
sary for an invasion of the mainland, but
also dictated the course to be pursued.
While it may not be claimed with truth
that he was more humane than the majority
of those cruel Spaniards who accomplished
the conquest of Mexico, Central and South
America, yet it may be confidently asserted
that he had within him the elements of a
manhood to which most of them were utter
strangers. He was bold, dashing, and, above
all, high-spirited and honorable. Though he
had come to America with only a sword
and a shield as his fortune, he was a gentle-
2 5




FERDINAND DE SOTO

man born, and no one could rob him of his
birthright. With that sword he had fought
his way to honorable distinction; with that
shield he had turned aside the arrows of
calumny, by which his enemies had assailed
him often in the past.
We will not, at this moment, inquire into
the circumstances which induced, or rather
compelled, his going to the assistance of
Pizarro; but let it suffice to state that he had
been promised by the commander-in-chief
the rank of lieutenant-general, or second in
command. When he arrived at the seat of
war, however, he found that post occupied
by Francisco Pizarro's brother, Hernando,
who, moreover, very plainly intimated that
he intended to hold it against all comers.
It was not De Soto's desire to foment a
disturbance, and demand a nominal authority
of which he was the actual possessor; so,
after roundly berating Pizarro for his bad
faith, he accepted things as they were and
took his place in the army of invasion. From
that time forward, however, he treated the
Pizarros with contempt, and though they
were four in number (Francisco, Hernando,
Juan, and Gonzalo, besides a half-brother,
Martin Alcantara), he was always ready to
6





THE MAN ON HORSEBACK

fight them, one and all, at the winking of an
eyelid or the dropping of a glove. This they
well knew, and took good care never to offend
him, so that they all departed their different
ways eventually (most of them through meet-
ing their death by violence) without coming
into personal combat.
Holding, then, the position of a commander
of dragoons, every one devoted to him and
ready to fight for him to the death, yet
nominally at the orders of the commander-
in-chief, Ferdinand de Soto made common
cause with the invaders, and was foremost
of them all in the conquest of the Inca's
kingdom. Hernando Pizarro commanded
another body of dragoons, similar in size and
equipment to De Soto's, and the wonder is
that their followers did not clash in conflict.
That they did not was probably owing to the
fact that both bands of marauders were en-
gaged against the poor natives, whom they
despoiled without mercy, and sometimes mur-
dered.
When we speak of Ferdinand de Soto as a
chivalrous and merciful conqueror, we must
bear in mind that he was in contrast with one
of the most brutal and merciless of those
Spaniards who trailed the flag of their coun-
7




FERDINAND DE SOTO

try through blood and dishonor, during the
many years they were permitted by Provi-
dence to scourge the southern portions of our
hemisphere. While in Peru, indeed, he was
not only comparatively humane, but actually
so; though when he had an absolutely inde-
pendent command in Florida (as we shall see
later) he hung and burned Indian caciques,
cut off their hands, and cast them to the
dogs, with that disregard for the sacredness
of human life displayed by Pizarro himself.
Now, Francisco Pizarro was an astute
commander who, though he had many and
grievous faults, could appreciate a good man
at his full worth. He saw that De Soto was
immeasurably superior to his brothers, and
governed himself accordingly, wisely ignor-
ing his contempt and insubordination, and
at all times treating him with respect. When,
therefore, after the mainland invasion had
commenced, De Soto, sent off to scout the
country, remained many days over the time
allowed him, and returned without any ex-
planation, Pizarro said nothing. He sent
him off again, and this time he was gone so
long, it became common talk in the army
that he had at last thrown off the command-
er's yoke and revolted. A spy returned, in
8





THE MAN ON HORSEBACK
fact, with information to that effect; but
Pizarro knew his man, and gave no credence
to the report. Meanwhile, De Soto and his
men were ranging the country at will. They
were the first, it is said, to discover that
magnificent highway of the Incas, which
connected the two great capitals, Quito and
Cuzco; the first to penetrate the sierras and
explore the wonderful valleys abounding in
natural wealth and teeming with inhabitants.
Hernando Pizarro was jealous of the free-
dom and personal initiative allowed his rival,
and one day tauntingly asked him if he in-
tended to penetrate the kingdom as far as
Cassamarca, where the Inca was said to
dwell, and perchance form an alliance with
him. Ferdinand flashed back at him the
reply that he intended to do as he pleased,
and he certainly was going to visit the Inca,
whether the rest would keep him company
or not.
"As for you, Sefior Hernando-the only
one of your family who can boast a father!-
presume not upon your connections to insult
me with impunity. Neither you nor your
brother can control my movements!"
Hernando turned livid with rage, but he
dared not reply. He reported the remark
9




FERDINAND DE SOTO

to Francisco, who merely shrugged his shoul-
ders, though the allusion to his illegitimacy
cut him to the quick.
"It is well," he finally said. "Let him go
to see the Inca Atahuallpa, for there may
be no better way of getting rid of him! For
it is said that the Inca is all-powerful, that he
has warriors as the sands of the sea; and if
this be so, who, my dear brother, can be
better spared than Don Fernando?"
"Who, indeed?" answered Hernando, with
a malignant smile. But suppose he returns
-that he escapes the Inca's warriors-then
he gathers all the laurels!"
"Well, he may, so we get all the gold!
Laurel leaves fade quickly, do they not?
While gold, bright gold, can never tarnish."
Pizarro said no more, for he was a man of
few words; but he lost no time in despatching
De Soto on his dangerous errand. With only
twenty-four men, though the pick of his com-
pany, he set out. Knowing no fear, craving
adventure, always anxious to be first in a
fight and the last to draw out, Ferdinand
de Soto gayly pranced away, as to a tourney.
He and his men sought again the great high-
way, along which they swept, resplendent in
their armor, like blazing meteors, bursting
S10





THE MAN ON HORSEBACK

upon the astonished gaze of the terrified
natives, only to disappear again, with clash
of weapons and metallic rattle of accoutre-
ments.
Such forays as this were the delight of De
Soto, for he had made many in the wilds
of Nicaragua previous to his adventure in
Peru. He had gained there a rich experi-
ence, which stood him in good stead now in
his dealings with the natives. Indian nature
is much the same the wide world over; and
though the natives of Nicaragua were far
beneath those of Peru in culture, at heart
they did not differ. Thus it was that De
Soto was successful, everywhere he went, in
gaining the confidence of the aborigines; thus
it was that, though he met an army ready to
fight him, gathered in a valley of the moun-
tains, he and his men were finally summoned
to a banquet, rather than to battle. After it
was over, he was about to ride on again, when
he was met by an envoy from the Inca him-
self, bearing presents for Pizarro, and in all
honor could not refuse his request to return
and escort him to the camp of the com-
mander-in-chief.
It was not in accord with De Soto's desires
to return, for he had set himself the task of

jj




FERDINAND DE SOTO

being the first of his race to meet and hold
an interview with the then unknown Inca.
So he went back reluctantly, and, if this were
a narrative of Pizarro's doings, instead of
De Soto's, we might tell how the envoy was
received, how the commander was filled,
first, with a great desire to see the owner of
the golden treasure, of which he had sent
specimens to Pizarro, and again with appre-
hension at the difficulties in the way. In
the end, the whole army set out for Cassa-
marca, with De Soto's company in the lead,
and Hernando Pizarro bringing up the rear.











II

FERDINAND AND ISABELLA
I50I-I52I

IT may be presumed that before proceeding
further with the career of Ferdinand de
Soto in Peru, the reader may wish to learn
something of his previous life, and how he
came to the New World in search of advent-
ure. Acting upon this assumption, we will
turn back a few leaves in his biography, and
investigate the scant records of his early life
as they exist in Spain. Like his great coun-
trymen, Pizarro and Cort6s, he was a native
of Estremadura, which seems to have been
prolific in sturdy sons and daughters. Un-
like them, he was born a gentleman, "by all
four descents "-which means that not only
his father and mother were of gentle birth,
but also their parents as well. Then again,
he was born in the noble town of Jer6s de los
Caballeros, anciently a seat of the Templars,
the ruins of whose castle may still be traced,
I3




FERDINAND DE SOTO

Some have given his birthplace as Bar-
carota, in the same province of Estrema-
dura; but the majority of his biographers
agree on Jeres, or Xeres (pronounced Hay-
ris), which lies about forty miles south of
Badajoz, where resided a family, that of
Don Pedro Arias de Avila, with which he
became intimately connected. It was in
one of the ruinous castles of Jer6s that Fer-
dinand de Soto was born; but so obscure was
his family at that time, that no exact record
was kept of the occurrence. The year, how-
ever, was probably 1500, or 1501, and it is
generally agreed that he made his advent
with the sixteenth century.
Though his family belonged to the hidal-
guia, or nobility, it must have been quite
poor, for on the death of his parents, which
occurred when he was a youth, Ferdinand
was thrown upon the world. Fortunately
for him, he had won the regard of Don Pedro
de Avila, the Count of Punforostro, who oc-
cupied one of the several castles for which
ancient Badajoz is famous. This nobleman
invited him to make his home at Badajoz, and
is said to have supported him at the uni-
versity of Salamanca for a number of years,
where he acquired some knowledge of books,
14




FERDINAND AND ISABELLA
but not enough to make him eligible for a
profession. As a member of the Spanish no-
bility, indeed, it was not necessary that he
should be proficient in much besides horse-
manship, sword-play, fencing, and the like,
and in these he led all his young companions.
Possessing a handsome face, muscular limbs,
and a shapely body, combined with a happy
disposition and gallant demeanor, he became
a great favorite at the tourney, where he won
the admiration of the fair sex, and took
prizes in every competitive encounter with
the caballeros. There was no other horseman
like him in all Estremadura, neither a gallant
who was so reckless and jovial with the
cavaliers, but at the same time held in such
high repute by the ladies.
Now, Don Pedro had a family, comprising
several sons and daughters, as well as a wife
who was so nearly related to royalty that she
entertained the highest hopes of great alli-
ances for her children. She was, in fact, a
niece of the Marchioness of Moya, that be-
loved friend and constant companion of
Queen Isabella of Spain, who was with her
when she died, and who nearly lost her life
by an assassin's dagger intended for her
royal mistress. The Marchioness of Moya,
15




FERDINAND DE SOTO

it may be recalled, has the credit of inclining
Queen Isabella's ear to the story told by
Columbus when he went begging for some
one to send him out to find a world. Her
niece, the Dofia Isabel, was also a favorite
at court, at which, as soon as they became
old enough, she presented her daughters, two
of whom were noted for their beauty. The
most promising of them all was the second
daughter, named after her mother, Isabel de
Bobadilla, and whom her parents had de-
cided should marry no less than a prince of
the royal blood. They had, in truth, picked
out the very prince she should espouse; but,
alas for their plans! Isabel fell in love with
Ferdinand de Soto.
Ferdinand, of course, had fallen in love
with her; but being only a poor cavalier, and
regarded in the light of a dependant of the
family, with no fortune but his sword, and
that, perhaps, a borrowed one, he was a long
time in declaring his affection. This should
be said to his honor; but such a condition of
things could not exist forever, it must be
admitted, and the day came when each be-
came acquainted with the affection of the
other. And, what was very bad for them,
Don Pedro became acquainted with it also!
16





FERDINAND AND ISABELLA

He was away when the affair first developed
so far that Ferdinand first spoke of his love,
having sought and obtained the position of
governor of Darien. It was a position which
the king had no right to give him, as it be-
longed really to Vasco Nufiez de Balboa, who
had fought the natives of Darien, subdued
the province, and also discovered the Pacific
Ocean, before Don Pedro received his ap-
pointment.
But "might was right" with the king
and Don Pedro, and the latter sailed from
Spain in the year 1514 to take possession
of his province. What he did there has
a bearing on the fortunes of De Soto, else it
would not be detailed in this connection; but
it was of vastly greater consequence to poor
Balboa, who lost, not only all his hard-
earned possessions, but his head as well,
which Don Pedro caused to be cut off in
1517. From this it will be seen that Fer-
dinand de Soto's prospective father-in-law
was not the sort of man to be trifled with.
In very truth, he was one of the most cruel
and tyrannical of all those Spaniards who
went out to conquer the natives of the New
World. Not alone that, but he was peculiar-
ly ferocious in his cruelty, taking delight in
17




FERDINAND DE SOTO

the infliction of pain and even torture upon
the innocent natives of his territory.
Imagine, then, the reception he gave poor
Ferdinand when, the old tyrant having re-
turned to Spain, the young man threw him-
self at his feet and announced his love for
Isabel. At first he was speechless from
indignation, then, in a voice trembling with
passion, he bellowed: "What? You-pov-
erty-stricken wretch that you are, one who
has sat at my table and lived in my castle
for years! You, dastard, venture to aspire
to the hand of the daughter of Don Pedro
Arias de Avila, Count of Pufiorostro, an hi-
dalgo of ancient lineage, friend of the king
and the queen? You must be mad! Mad,
I say! Do you hear? Begone, ingrate, and
never let me see thy face again!"
The young man thought it prudent to
retire, not only from the immediate presence
of Don Pedro, but from the castle; but be-
fore he departed from Badajoz he somehow
secured a final interview with his beloved.
She appeared at the grated window of her
room, which overlooked a garden, and he,
standing beneath, amid the myrtles and the
rose-trees, poured forth his woes. She lis-
tened in silence, then said, in sorrowful ac-
18





FERDINAND AND ISABELLA

cents: "Ferdinand, it is true, you cannot re-
main here longer. My father is a cruel man,
and he never forgives! He thinks you have
betrayed a trust, that you have committed a
crime, in loving me."
"But I do love you, Isabel. I will go
away, but I shall return; and you-you will
be true to me?"
"Always, Ferdinand. Always. But do
not allow my father to get you in his power.
Remember what he did to Vasco Nufiez
[Balboa]. Did he not behead him? And
for what? Merely because he aspired too
greatly. And-and he was betrothed to my
sister, too! Ah me, that I should be com-
pelled to say it-but my father is a vengeful
man!"
It was true, as Isabel had said, that in
order to get the gallant Balboa completely
in his power, Don Pedro had pledged him his
eldest daughter in marriage,, then had turned
and slain him. Ferdinand pressed her to
elope with him, as soon as her father should
return to Darien; but she had too high a
sense of honor and of her obligations to her
family to consent.
"No," she mournfully replied, "it cannot
be. He will return; but he will not leave
19




FERDINAND DE SOTO

you here to plot in his absence. He is too
wise for that. And, being himself deceitful,
he will not trust me, either. Ferdinand, he
will compel you to go with him, and-and I
see no way other than that you must go."
"Compel!" replied De Soto, scornfully.
"Isabel, no man hath ever compelled me
yet. And again, he has driven me from
him."
"Yes, but that was when in a rage. He
will recall you, Ferdinand, and (though I
warn you to beware of his friendship), it may
be, that way your fortune lies, beloved."
"Ah, that would impel me," declared De
Soto, warmly. If he does invite me, surely
I will go to that land of gold, where quickly
I may win a fortune, perchance fame. Then
I will return, Isabel."
"And I shall await you, Ferdinand, even
through long years!"
This was the purport of their conversation,
in the last meeting between Ferdinand and
Isabel, and it fell out as she had predicted.
Informed by her governess that Isabel's
heart was in the keeping of the young cava-
lier, Don Pedro at first stormed and raged,
declaring that she should die rather than
become the bride of an impecunious noble-
20





FERDINAND AND ISABELLA

man like De Soto. Then, as he grew calmer,
he took counsel with himself and dissembled.
He sent for Ferdinand and asked him if he
would accept a captain's commission in the
expedition he was then preparing for Darien.
He pictured the land of promise, rich in vast
possibilities for the young and ardent ad-
venturer; he assured him that wealth and
distinction awaited him in that land, where,
as the favorite of the governor, he would be
rapidly promoted.
"Enough, Don Pedro," exclaimed De Soto.
"I will serve you faithfully; but I ask no fa-
vors, only an opportunity for winning my
way with my sword."
"That you shall have," replied Don Pedro.
" Darien is the land of opportunities, and you
may carve out an empire. Sooth, there will
be blood enough to spill, and gold enough
for all!"
Don Pedro was as good as his word. Over-
joyed to have De Soto in his power, and
relieved at being able to part him so easily
from his daughter, he advanced the money
for a splendid outfit, and gave him a com-
mission as captain of a troop. They sailed
for Darien in the year 1519, with a gallant
company of fortune-seekers, most of whom
3 21




FERDINAND DE SOTO

"found their graves in the land. whither
they had gone to dig for gold."
As Ferdinand was about embarking, he
was handed a note from Isabel, containing
two lines, merely: "Dearest, remember my
promise, and remember my warning!" Her
promise to remain faithful always; her
warning-against the treachery of her own
father.
Ferdinand de Soto pondered her words,
and took heed. That he escaped the snares
set for him by Don Pedro, was owing to
the watchfulness of Isabel; that he held to
higher aims and loftier purposes than his
companion conquistadores, was because of his
love for her and the consciousness that in
the end she was to be his reward.
He was noble by nature; but many noble
natures became perverted in that prolonged
hunt for gold; many a man of honorable
instincts became a monster of cruelty when
pitted against the savages of Darien and
Panama. It was, however, the universal
testimony of De Soto's companions that he
was constantly humane to the unfortunate
Indians whom he was ordered by Don Pedro
to torture or destroy. To women and chil-
dren, especially, he was tender and consid-
22





FERDINAND AND ISABELLA

erate; thus many a poor wretch was saved
from suffering through the love that existed
between Isabel de Bobadilla and Ferdinand
de Soto!
Old Don Pedro, or "Pedrarias," as he was
sometimes called, dissembled well; but his
settled purpose, which was to destroy his
daughter's suitor at the earliest opportunity,
was perfectly apparent to De Soto. It was
no secret, even, among the men of his com-
mand, who, seeing the unequal fight that
was being carried on, were the closer drawn
to him, through sympathy. They soon be-
came his pronounced partisans, and would
follow him through fire, if need be, when he
ordered them. Though never a word was
spoken as to this between the captain and
his men, the latter frequently foiled Pedrarias
in his efforts to find a joint in De Soto's
armor, through which he might thrust a poi-
soned weapon.
Ferdinand himself, while ever alert, al-
ways treated Don Pedro with the deference
due to a benefactor, and the father of one
whom he loved better than his life. As
time went by, and Pedrarias found himself
continually foiled in his evil purpose, he
became nearly insane with rage. Indeed, it
23




FERDINAND DE SOTO
is doubtful if he were not insane during his
entire term as governor of Darien and Nica-
ragua. For what man in his right mind
would order, as he did often and again,
the extermination of people who had never
offended, save by withholding from him the
gold they found in the forest, and which was
theirs by right? And it was almost in-
variably Captain de Soto's troop of horse-
men that was ordered on this disgusting
service. Thus a twofold object was attained
by crafty Pedrarias: the extermination of
the natives, and the decimation of the de-
tested troop.
As he did not accompany the troops on
their forays, he was not aware, at first, that
his orders were disobeyed, and that the poor
natives were oftener warned of an attack
than sufferers from it. At last, the suspicious
old governor sent out a creature of his com-
pany to spy upon the doings of De Soto in the
field, and this man reported the true con-
dition of affairs. When he heard it, Don
Pedro nearly choked with rage. "Ho!" he
exclaimed. "That is it! Instead of putting
those red scoundrels to the sword, and tear-
ing them to pieces with the dogs, he merely
sacks their dwellings and then allows them
.24





FERDINAND AND ISABELLA
to return. Little wonder that I have not
received gold enough, in the months just
past, to pay the expenses of my household!
"Now, go you, Captain Perez, and tell
that squeamish son of a nobody, Fernan
Soto, that my orders are for all villages to be
razed, or burned to the ground, and for all
Indians to be killed. He is not to spare a
single one, remember, and you are to see that
he does as I command."
This Captain Perez was scarcely less fe-
rocious than Pedrarias himself-he could not
be more so--and, moreover, he hated De
Soto for his popularity. So he gladly under-
took the errand that was to result in his
humiliation; but when he delivered the orders
he met with such a reception that he returned
like a whipped cur to his master. He found
De Soto sitting easily on his horse, superin-
tending the collecting of tribute from some
Indians of a forest hamlet, who were only too
glad to escape with their lives, and were
bringing him all their portable possessions.
He heard Perez through, disdainfully and
in silence, then replied: "My life and my
services are, of course, always at my superi-
or's commands, and I shall do his bidding-so
long as I can do so without besmirching my
25




FERDINAND DE SOTO

character as a Spanish cavalier. But in this
instance, Captain Perez, it would seem that
the service to be performed could more
fittingly be done by yourself! I am sur-
prised at Don Pedro's lack of discrimination,
and this, if you like, you may tell him from
me."
This was the reply, in substance, which
Perez carried back to Pedrarias, and, as the
ferocious captain had the reputation of being
in his element while massacring unarmed
Indians and burning their dwellings, he took
it as an insult. In this view he was sup-
ported by Pedrarias, who told him, in ef-
fect, that were he a younger man, this in-
solence should not go unpunished. "But,
alas!" he exclaimed, smiling significantly, "I
am no longer able to hold my own on the
field of honor. Old age has palsied my arm,
and perhaps, also, it has enfeebled my con-
stitution, for I seem to lack courage to meet
this insolent young man and chastise him as
he deserves!"
This hint was not lost upon Perez, who,
as Pedrarias knew, of course, was a noted
duellist. He had already killed several men
and had never, himself, been harmed. A
challenge was promptly sent to De Soto and
26





FERDINAND AND ISABELLA

as promptly accepted. Feeling assured that
the young man's doom was surely sealed,
Pedrarias was in high glee, and issued invi-
tations to all the officials and dignitaries of
his capital, which was then at Panama, the
city he had founded.
A noted and numerous assemblage wit-
nessed the combat, which took place on the
plain outside the city. Though each man
had his partisans, and it was with difficulty
that Ferdinand restrained his troopers from
assaulting his opponents, fair play was given,
and the fight proceeded according to the
"code of honor." It was to be a sword-
fight, and to the death. As the combatants
stepped into the arena, a murmur of admira-
tion went around the throng, chiefly on ac-
count of De Soto's gallant appearance and
his youth, as contrasted with the savage as-
pect of his grizzled opponent;
Ferdinand was the embodiment of Spanish
chivalry, in the eyes of the dames and gentle-
men who loved Spain for her glorious tradi-
tions. He seemed a typical knight-errant,
clad as he was in shining armor, tall, erect,
confident of bearing, and sweeping the as-
semblage with his flashing glances. He re-
minded the veterans of the Moorish war
27





FERDINAND DE SOTO

(who, under King Ferdinand, had driven the
Moslems from Andalusia) of their knightly
defender, Garcilaso, when he went forth to
meet the Moor in mortal combat on the
vega of Granada.
Many a prayer was muttered for his suc-
cess, and many a scowling glance was cast
at old Pedrarias, who, crafty dissembler
that he was, could not conceal his satisfac-
tion. The combat lasted two long hours,
and its various stages might have been
followed by scanning the features of Don
Pedro, who cried out in delight when Ferdi-
nand received a scratch, and growled like a
lion when his champion seemed in danger.
As Ferdinand received several slight
wounds during the protracted conflict, while
his opponent remained untouched, Pedrarias
seemed to have no doubt as'to the issue. The
old soldier forced the fighting from the first,
Ferdinand remaining mostly on the defensive,
having all he could do to parry the lightning-
like blows and thrusts that were rained upon
him. But, through it all, he kept himself
cool and collected, never once losing temper
nor allowing himself to be taken off his guard.
From the very fact that the fierce Perez had
forced the fighting, he had, naturally, ex-
.28





FERDINAND AND ISABELLA

pended his strength in doing so, while Ferdi-
nand had held his in reserve. As the old
duellist's thrusts became feebler, those of his
adversary became more forceful, until at last
the veteran was compelled to act wholly on
the defensive. He was finally forced upon
his knees, while, with a rapid upward cut,
Ferdinand gashed his sword hand at the
wrist. His weapon fell to the ground,
whither, in attempting to recover it, Perez
swiftly followed. He was then completely
at the mercy of Ferdinand, who, planting a
foot upon his breast, and holding the point
of his sword at his throat, demanded sub-
mission. A single word would have saved
the surly veteran's life, but, game to the last,
he refused to utter it.
"Very well," exclaimed the magnanimous
victor. "Then I give back to you a life
not worth the taking, since it is not worth the
asking." He removed his foot, and, care-
fully wiping his sword, returned it to its
scabbard.










III

IN THE WILDS OF NICARAGUA
I521-1524

IMAGINE the rage and confusion of Pedra-
rias at beholding the man whom he per-
sisted in regarding as his enemy the cen-
tre of a tumultuous and admiring throng.
But he fumed and threatened to no purpose.,
for Ferdinand de Soto was the hero of the
hour, and thenceforth the darling of the
army. His delighted troopers lifted him
upon their shoulders, all clad in weighty
armor as he was, and carried him around the
field, with shouts of triumph.
Don Pedro was compelled to overlook
these proceedings, and, like the fabled Giant
Despair at the cave's mouth, gnawed his
nails with impotent vexation. As for the
crestfallen duellist, he slipped out of sight as
soon as possible, and took the first ship for
Spain. Thus the Isthmus was well rid of one
villain; and if old Pedrarias had gone with
3.0





IN THE WILDS OF NICARAGUA

him, there would have been few, if any,
mourners over his absence in Panama. Still,
the latter continued his depredations as
before, and he by no means gave up the idea
of making way with Ferdinand, though he
had not the temerity to send him to the
scaffold nor the courage to assassinate him
openly. He could provoke nobody to chal-
lenge him a second time, for, aside from the
fact that nearly everybody was his friend,
he had proved himself the most accomplished
swordsman in the army.
Not very far from Panama lay the rich
region of Veragua, populous with Indians and
abounding in gold. This region was invaded,
by the orders of Don Pedro, and swept with
fire and sword. Troops of blood-hounds ac-
companied the Spaniards, and the terrible
outrages committed by man and beast com-
bined at last aroused the resentment of a
powerful chief named Uracca, who soon
showed the ruthless invaders of what he was
capable. He assembled a vast army of
savages, who, though half-clothed in skins,
or entirely naked, were skilled in the use
of the poisoned arrow, and were otherwise
armed with war- clubs, javelins, and spears
made of hardened wood tipped with copper.
31
a




FERDINAND DE SOTO

Pedrarias sent out his army in two divisions
one in ships along the coast, and commanded
by a lawyer named Espinosa; the other by
land, under Francisco Pizarro, with orders to
form a junction with the first division when
it should reach and land in the enemies'
country. As there were no roads, or even
open trails, in that wild land, Pizarro's divis-
ion was far behind Espinosa's in reaching
the appointed place of rendezvous. With-
out awaiting the arrival of Pizarro, Espinosa
disembarked his soldiers in a sheltered harbor
and established a camp in a valley surround-
ed by forest.
Unknown to Espinosa, Chief Uracca him-
self was guiding the movements of the
Indians. His scouts and spies had brought
him exact information of the Spaniards'
forces, and his most expert warriors had en-
ticed them into the forest, where thousands
of savages lay in ambush. Then, when he
had drawn his foes into a deep and gloomy
gorge, whence it was impossible for them to
escape without great loss, Uracca shouted
the piercing war-whoop. Suddenly, as if
descended from the tops of the giant trees
that towered above them, hundreds of
Indians appeared, and from their powerful
32




IN THE WILDS OF NICARAGUA
bows launched a shower of poisoned arrows.
Few of these arrows pierced the armor in
which most of the Spaniards were encased,
but such as were not thus protected were
doomed to an agonizing death. They fell
by scores, and many who escaped the arrows
were trampled upon by their companions
in the tumult of retreat. Too late, then,
Espinosa saw that he had been entrapped,
and wished he had waited for Pizarro, whose
greater experience might have prevented this
disaster.
The Spaniards were routed, and, in a panic,
attempted to withdraw from their perilous
position; but the wary Uracca had closed in
Behind them with a thousand warriors, and
all hope of escape seemed to be vain. Mass-
ing in phalanx, so far as the broken nature
of the ground would permit, the Spaniards
forced a passage to the verge of the valley in
which they had encamped; but here they
were halted by the horde of savages re-
solved upon their extermination.
Their destruction seemed assured, when,
just as the sun was sinking behind the hills,
they observed a great commotion in the
ranks of their opponents. It appeared as if
they were being attacked in the rear, and
33




FERDINAND DE SOTO

such, indeed, was the case, for soon the
despairing Spaniards heard the well-known
war-cry, "Santiago! Santiago!" and upon
their vision burst a band of horsemen, led by
Ferdinand de Soto. He and his dragoons
had formed a part of Pizarro's company, and,
being in the van, were the first to hear the
sound.of conflict and the first to hurry to the
rescue. They arrived, as we have seen, just
in time to save their comrades from total
destruction, for at sight of their horses, and
on receiving their impetuous charge, the
Indians fled in wild terror. They had felt
sure of Espinosa's soldiers; but the horses
and their riders, impervious in their armor of
steel, were too powerful for them to resist.
Uracca tried to rally them again to the attack,
and they returned, like a wave rolling upon
the strand; but De Soto quickly formed his
battalion as a protection to the rear-guard,
charging upon the Indians when they ap-
proached too closely, and a safe retreat was
thus effected.
Pizarro arrived in time to establish a camp
that night, but, famished and exhausted as
they were, the Spaniards resolved upon a
retreat to the ships, which was finally effect-
ed after midnight, De Soto and his troop-
34




IN THE WILDS OF NICARAGUA

ers holding the desperate savages at bay,
They safely embarked, and, sailing down the
coast, at quite a distance from the scene of
their disgraceful defeat came upon an Ind-
ian village. Nearly all the men were with
Uracca in the mountains, but the town was
filled with defenceless women and children,
whom Espinosa surrounded with his sol-
diers, intending to carry them away as
slaves.
This proceeding was resented by De Soto,
who denounced the lawyer-commander as a
coward, and threatened to ride away with
his entire troop if he still persisted in his in-
tention. Espinosa, on his part, called De
Soto a mutineer, and a traitor to the gov-
ernor, to whom he would promptly report his
conduct. The answer the young captain
made to this threat was to assemble his men,
and then, riding to Espinosa's tent, repeat
his demand for the unconditional release of
the prisoners.
"You may do as you please respecting
making a report to Don Pedro," he said to
Espinosa; "but I am not under your orders,
neither am I disposed to assist you in the
event that you are attacked by the warriors
of Uracca. In a word, release these women
35




FERDINAND DE SOTO

and children or I and my men will ride
away. Now, choose you, and at once!"
It was evident to Espinosa that the Indian
chief was sending out runners to assemble
his warriors for another attack, and as his
force was already weakened by the great
losses sustained, he was compelled to comply
with De Soto's demand. As further retreat
was impracticable, it was resolved to send
to Panama for supplies and reinforcements,
which were absolutely necessary to save the
little army and hold what small portion of
territory had been conquered. De Soto
volunteered to go to Panama, and rode the
entire distance through the forests, then
swarming with hostile Indians, accompanied
only by a single trooper, like himself a superb
horseman and intrepid spirit. During his
absence, Chief Uracca entirely surrounded
Espinosa's encampment, effectually cutting
off all supplies, and reducing the beleaguered
Spaniards to a diet of roots and herbs.
Returning as rapidly as possible, De Soto
broke through the line of investment, and
threw a small reinforcement into the camp;
then, taking command of his dragoons, he
foraged the surrounding country with such
success that the army was enabled to subsist
36





IN THE WILDS OF NICARAGUA

until assistance arrived from Panama, in the
shape of more than four hundred men com-
manded by Don Pedro himself. Altogether,
when he arrived, the army amounted to more
than five hundred, counting new adventurers
and volunteers. High hopes were entertain-
ed that with this force Veragua could be over-
run and subdued; but they still had Chief
Uracca to reckon with, and he had collected
a larger army of warriors than ever before.
The two forces came into collision on the
banks of a deep and rapid river, in attempt-
ing to cross which the Spaniards were assailed
by such a storm of javelins and poisoned
arrows that they wavered, then fell back,
then broke into headlong flight. Not even
the impassioned pleadings of Don Pedro could
stop them; and, in fact, he himself was com-
pelled to ride from the field in a hurry to
avoid being made a prisoner. Owing to the
efforts of De Soto and Pizarro, the men were
rallied on open ground and made a stand,
committing great havoc in the savage ranks
with their ordnance; but they could not be
induced to pursue the Indians into the for-
ests again.
Don Pedro now saw what warfare against
Uracca was like, and could understand how
4 37




FERDINAND DE SOTO

his captains had been, one after the other,
driven with slaughter from the country. But
he was obstinate-as we know-and hesitated
to abandon the field and order a retreat. He
needed but another lesson in Indian cun-
ning, however, to induce him to change his
mind. This was given him by Uracca in the
following manner. Learning that the Span-
iards were desperately enraged because of
their lack of success in finding gold, he allow-
ed several of his men to be captured, who,
when threatened with torture unless they
divulged the hiding-place of the chief's treas-
ure, promised to conduct their captors to the
place where it was concealed.
Pedrarias was in high glee, and taunted De
Soto and his veteran officers with their lack
of skill in matters of the sort. They were too
chicken-hearted, he said, to apply the tort-
ure, by which alone information could be
obtained as to the deposits of precious metal,
and he would show them what they ought to
do. De Soto retorted that a man would say
anything expected of him when put to tort-
ure; and, moreover, he did not have faith in
the pretended revelation, but, on the con-
trary, suspected treachery.
"You will give your opinion when asked
38





IN THE WILDS OF NICARAGUA

for it," snapped Don Pedro. "I was fight-
ing Indians, remember, when you were eating
the crumbs that fell from my table, while I
was absent from my castle-yea, while you
were prowling around that castle seeking- to
purloin my most precious jewel!"
Ferdinand laid his hand quickly on his
sword-hilt, and his eyes flashed angrily; but
he turned away without a word. His opin-
ion, however, though unasked, was speedily
confirmed, for when the forty men, whom
the governor despatched to the spot indi-
cated by the captives, arrived at the supposed
treasure-vault, they were set upon by Ind-
ians in ambush and murdered. One mangled
survivor finally reached camp with the dis-
mal tidings, on receipt of which Pedrarias
ordered every captive in his possession thrown
at once to the dogs. As the ravening brutes
tore the wretched Indians limb from limb, he
looked on calmly, gloating over the gory
spectacle, which was by no means an uncom-
mon one for him to witness.
"Sorry am I we have so few to feed the
hounds," he was heard to mutter. "The
poor creatures are famished! Sooth, there is
one Christian I would like them to try teeth
upon!"
39




FERDINAND DE SOTO

He meant De Soto, of course; and it is said
that Ferdinand overheard the remark, and,
striding up to him, shook a mailed fist in his
face, exclaiming: "One hound has tried his
teeth on me, and perchance they are broken,
Senior Governor!"
Pedrarias glared at him, but ventured no
reply, for he too obviously merited the vile
epithet' De Soto had applied to him, and
feared to provoke an encounter. Another
hero of this war, who shone in contrast with
Pedrarias, was the Indian chief, Uracca.
Notwithstanding that his opponent had de-
livered to the blood-hounds, not only warriors
taken in battle, but infants torn from their
mothers' breasts (children whose innocence
should have appealed to his heart), the chief
did not retaliate. Indeed, it is said that once
having made captive a Spanish lady of
Panama, he treated her with great considera-
tion, and when opportunity offered returned
her safe and sound to her friends. When, at
last, despairing of conquering this brave and
gallant savage, Pedrarias ordered a retreat
from Veragua, Uracca refrained from pursuit,
satisfied at having driven the ferocious in-
vaders from his country.
In such inglorious labors as we have nar-
40
p





IN THE WILDS OF NICARAGUA
rated, Ferdinand de Soto passed his first five
years in America, and when they were gone
he found himself no better off, as to fame or
fortune, than when he landed at Darien.
He had expected to gather gold-veined peb-
bles from every stream and precious pearls
on every strand, but, in common with others,
had been disappointed. If he ever reflected
seriously, he must have seen that he was no
better than a bandit-that he was one, in fact
-for, instead of devoting himself to some
honorable occupation, like mining, or the
tilling of the soil, he had spent all his time in
ravaging Indian villages, contributing tow-
ards, if not actively engaged in, the massacre
of innocent natives, and destroying the fruits
of their toil.
It is strange that he should have so
persistently attached himself to Pedrarias;
though the truth is that he might have .gone
east or west, north or south, and he could not
have removed himself beyond his sphere of
influence. He had an opportunity, in 1524,
to sail southward with Francisco Pizarro,
when he made his first voyage in search of
Peru; but, though urged by that adventurer
to accompany him, he positively refused,
having no liking for the man.
41




FERDINAND DE SOTO

Soon after the return of Pizarro from this
voyage, Pedrarias was superseded by Don
Pedro de los Rios, a new governor appointed
by the king, with full authority to bring his
immediate predecessor to trial for his nu-
merous crimes. Having little to hope from
the king's clemency, Pedrarias resolved to
retire into the almost unknown territory of
Nicaragua, and there, with his bandit band,
follow to its final ending the lawless career he
had pursued at Darien. He sent two of his
generals, Fernando de Cordova and De Soto,
to prepare the country for his arrival by
suppressing the people and putting down any
usurper who might dispute his authority.
There was one unique individual, known as
Gil Gonzales the fanatic, who had prac-
tically taken possession of Nicaragua, and
went about "converting" its native inhabi-
tants to the religion he and his fellow-bandits
professed, at the head of a hundred followers.
They were all well mounted and armed.
Their alternative of "receive our religion or
fight" was taken to mean that they desired
gold in exchange for a promise of salvation,
so the natives flocked to Gonzales and were
baptized at the rate of thirty thousand a year.
For baptismal fees alone he is said to have
42





IN THE WILDS OF NICARAGUA
received four hundred thousand dollars, and
he was rapidly accumulating a fortune, when
the arrival of De Cordova and De Soto inter-
fered with his plans. Encountering the lat-
ter one night, he engaged him in battle, with
the result that he lost fifty of his best men,
though his force outnumbered De Soto's more
than five to one. Ferdinand fought with his
accustomed valor and energy, never counting
the cost of a conflict, and so impressed the
fanatic that he fled from the province and in-
trenched himself in the mountains.
There was no other foe to molest them, so
De Cordova and De Soto carried out the in-
structions of old Pedrarias to the letter, and
founded two towns, Granada and Leon, which,
favored with a fertile soil and charming cli-
mate, soon became quite flourishing. Hav-
ing done as he was directed by Pedrarias, De
Soto returned to Panama to report. The dis-
tance was more than four hundred miles, and
there were no roads or beaten paths for the
guidance of the traveller; but the Spaniards
of those days thought nothing of obstacles
which to-day might be deemed insuperable.
Finding his irascible patron about to de-
part from Panama, and the new governor
perilously near, the loyal Ferdinand attached
43




FERDINAND DE SOTO

himself to Pedrarias again and returned with
him to Nicaragua. He was shocked, how-
ever, to discover that the old tyrant had
conceived the idea that his friend, De Cor-
dova, intended to cast off his allegiance and
set up a government of his own. Captain
Bernal Diaz, that veracious historian of the
conquest of Mexico, states it was really De
Cordova's intention to disavow Pedrarias,
who was, to all intents, a fugitive, and ally
with Hernando Cort6s, then recently arrived
in Honduras, on the northern border of
Nicaragua.
However, the mere supposition was enough
to excite the frantic Pedrarias to action. All
the long way to Nicaragua, he was breath-
ing vengeance against De Cordova, and as
soon as he arrived at Leon he summoned
him to appear before him in the public
square. Now, De Cordova had been warned,
not only by letters from De Soto, but by Gil
Gonzales, that unless he successfully resisted
Pedrarias he would do to him as he had done
to Balboa--that is, cut off his head. And
this is what he did, when, relying upon the
justice of his cause, poor De Cordova ap-
peared before him as ordered, unarmed and
without soldiers, in a twinkling the stalwart
44





IN THE WILDS OF NICARAGUA
executioner, who had been concealed behind
Don Pedro's chair, stepped forward and sev-
ered his head from his shoulders.
It was done so quickly that De Soto him-
self, who had charge of the soldiers on guard
about the square, was taken by surprise.
When he realized the appalling nature of the
crime Pedrarias had committed before his
very eyes, he drew sword and was about to
dash forward and cut down the old man on
the spot; but something within restrained
him. This old man was the father of Isa-
bel, whose memory he sacredly cherished in
his heart, whom he still intended to claim as
his bride. How, then, could he do so if he
Should be guilty of her father's death?










IV

DE SOTO, THE AVENGER
1524-1527

THE sword was reluctantly restored to
its scabbard; but it was soon to have a
victim, nevertheless. Hardly had the ex-
ecutioner held the bleeding head aloft and
shouted: This is the doom of a traitor," than
Pedrarias issued an order to a file of soldiers,
who marched across the square and closed
about De Soto. They were the most reliable
of the old tyrant's mercenaries, and led by an
officer who had committed many a crime at
his behest.
"Seize and drag him hither," cried Pedra-
rias, pointing at Ferdinand an accusing finger.
" He, too, is a traitor, false to me and to his
king. He shall share the penalty we have
meted to his comrade." For a single instant
Ferdinand sat as if petrified. He had long ex-
pected death at the hands of Pedrarias, but did
not believe he would dare inflict it so openly.
46




DE SOTO, THE AVENGER
As the officer reached out to seize his bridle-
rein, De Soto recovered himself. His good
sword leaped from the scabbard, and like a
flash descended upon the officer's helmet,
cleaving it and the head within in twain.
Wrenching it free with a violent effort, De
Soto held the dripping blade aloft, and, put-
ting spurs to his powerful charger, dashed
through the ring of soldiers straight upon
Pedrarias.
"Murderer! Usurper!" he shouted, plac-
ing the sword-point at the trembling tyrant's
breast. "That I do not kill you is because I
hold sacred the memory of one who is not
here. Your death has long been overdue,
but-" He made as if to sheath his sword,
when there arose cries on every side: "Down
with the tyrant! Kill him! Kill him!"
"You hear them? Those are the cries of
your soldiers. They know, and I know, that
the blood of our dead comrade cries aloud
for vengeance-that justice demands your
death. You killed Balboa-a most dastard-
ly crime-Balboa, who was betrothed to your
daughter; and now you would kill me! I
have served you most faithfully many years,
but henceforth my sword shall never be drawn
in your service, not even to defend your life."
47




FERDINAND DE SOTO

With these words De Soto turned from
the despicable wretch and joined his troop.
The citizens of Leon and the soldiery gathered
around him and urged that he seize upon
the government of Nicaragua, in the name of
the king, promising him their loyal and un-
wavering support. Nicaragua lay as a mid-
dle ground between Mexico-Guatemala and
the Isthmus. With such an energetic ruler
as De Soto would have made, it might have
become great and powerful; but he put aside
this opportunity and contented himself with
exploration merely.
It must be remembered that at the time
these occurrences took place the three
Americas, North, Central, and South, were
but little known. Mexico had only just been
conquered; Guatemala was being invaded;
the West Indies, alone, had been to any
extent explored. The great problem that
confronted the discoverers was what was
termed the "secret of the strait"-of a pas-
sage supposed to exist between the Carib-
bean Sea and the Pacific. Columbus had
searched for it vainly; so had Cort6s and
others.
We know that it was never discovered,
and that the waters of the sea and the ocean
48





DE SOTO, THE AVENGER

will be blended only after an artificial water-
way shall have been opened through the
mountains that separate them at the narrow-
est part of the Isthmus. But De Soto did not
know this, and, believing the solution of the
secret to be vastly more important than the
founding or government of a colony, he set
himself to the task. Choosing a few con-
genial spirits from his troop, he departed on
an exploring expedition, which resulted in
making known more than seven hundred miles
of coast- line. He solved the secret by as-
certaining that there was no strait; and in
exploring it is quite as important to nail a
fallacy as to make a new discovery. He re-
turned greatly enriched, from traffic with the
natives; and though this was, so far as can be
ascertained, his first accumulation of gold,
he generously shared it with his comrades,
not only with those who went with him, but
those of his troop who remained behind.
Pedrarias was still living, and, unfortunate-
ly for Nicaragua, still wielding a semblance
of power; so Ferdinand remained in the
country only long enough to set his affairs
in order, and started south again. His
loyal troopers accompanied him, but for
what purpose they returned towards the
49




FERDINAND DE SOTO

Isthmus is not exactly known, though it is
conjectured that they were drawn thither by
the reports of Pizarro's great successes in
Peru. They all set out for Panama, taking
no account of the difficulties in the journey;
but when some distance on the way, while
marching along the coast, they discovered
a vessel, which De Soto promptly chartered.
Had the master of this vessel known the
character of De Soto and the relation in
which he stood to Pedrarias, he would have
refused him passage, to a certainty; but he
paid the penalty of his ignorance with his
life. Hereby hangs a short story of crime,
for the proper development of which we
must turn back a few years in the life of our
hero.
It chanced that, in one of his forays,
Ferdinand had found captive among the
Indians, and rescued, an Italian astronomer
named Micer Codro. He was a man of
science, unacquainted with war, and went
about looking for and delving into the secrets
of nature. His head was always "in the
stars "; but he valued it highly, just the same,
and was very grateful to De Soto for having
rescued him from the savages. Being some-
thing of an astrologer, he cast his horoscope,
50





DE SOTO, THE AVENGER
as, some years previously, he had foretold the
fate of Balboa. He informed him that he was
ever in peril while with Pedrarias, who would
seek to take his life, as he had taken that of
Vasco Nufiez de Balboa; but he would escape
his wiles and live to accomplish the great
aim of his life, which was a union with the
one he loved.
"You will be more fortunate than Vasco
Nufiez," said the astrologer, and will live
to the age he attained, which was forty-two,
before death, in a strange manner and in a
new land, shall claim you."
"We are all in the keeping of God," re-
plied De Soto, humbly. "I rely upon Him
to protect me."
Shortly after this conversation took place
the artless philosopher, Micer Codro, was se-
lected by Pedrarias to represent him at the
court of Spain. He could not trust a man
less simple and unworldly than the astrologer,
for fear his crimes might be made known;
but, as it turned out, he was the last person
he should have employed, owing to his
friendship for Ferdinand. When he learned
that he was to be sent to Spain, Codro was
overjoyed at the opportunity it gave him to
serve the man who had saved his life. He
5'




FERDINAND DE SOTO

hastened to Ferdinand and said: I am go-
ing to Spain. I shall see the family of Don
Pedro, to whom I am to be intrusted with
letters. Is there no member of that family
you would like me to carry a message to?
Five years is a long time, without news of
one's beloved, is it not?"
Ferdinand started in astonishment. "How
did you know?" he asked. "Oh, I forgot-
perhaps you learned it of the stars. Yes, it
is five years since I came here, and during
that time not one word. Sometimes I ques-
tion whether she has written."
"Nay, do not doubt her, friend. She has
written, but her letters have been inter-
cepted by her father. This chance I offer
you is the only one you will have, for I not
only go, but I return, and everything will be
wrapped in secrecy."
"But," answered De Soto, doubtfully,
"should Don Pedro discover it he would not
hesitate to kill you."
"I fear him not. If he is to kill me, then
it is so written in the stars. Prepare your
letter, friend, and I will carry it."
Ferdinand raised no more objections, but
wrote a letter to Isabel de Bobadilla, in
which he poured forth the pent-up feelings of
52





DE SOTO, THE AVENGER

those five long years. It was taken by
Micer Codro to Spain, and delivered in per-
son to the delighted maiden, who respond-
ed with an epistle filled with fervent love
and protestations of undying affection. She
assured her lover that, though she had
written him previously, and received no
answer, she knew and appreciated the cause
of that long silence. She had not for a
moment distrusted him, nor would she ever
do so. She impatiently awaited his return;
but whatever time might elapse before that
happy event, she would be faithful to the
end.
Eight years more were to pass before the
Return of De Soto to Spain, or fifteen in all,
ere he found the fortune which enabled him
to go and claim his bride; but during this
long period both were faithful to each other.
Simple Micer Codro, though he could predict
future events, did not possess the craft to
conceal his intentions. There were spies
about the castle, and spies in Panama, who
reported to Don Pedro everything that had
happened, and he knew that Isabel had
sent a letter to her lover almost as soon as
Ferdinand had received it.
He said nothing, and kept a smiling face
S53




FERDINAND DE SOTO

for poor Codro, whom he rewarded for his
services by sending him on an exploring trip
down the coast. Such an expedition was
what the man of science delighted in, and he
embarked most joyfully; but he had not been
long aboard the vessel before he discovered
the real nature of the fiendish governor's in-
tentions. The craft was a slaver, command-
ed by' a brutal wretch named Geronimo de
Valenzuela, who, carrying out the instruc-
tions he had received from Pedrarias, chain-
ed poor Codro to the main-mast. There he
was kept until he finally died from exhaus-
tion, exposed to the fierce rays of a tropical
sun by day and the drenching dews of night.
Ten days he was kept thus, all the time with-
out food or water, and suffering abuse from
the heartless crew. As his end approach-
ed he called Valenzuela to him and, with
his last accents, said: "Captain, you have
caused my death by your cruelty. I now
summon you to appear with me, within a
year, before the judgment-seat of God."

The vessel in which De Soto had taken
passage worked its way along the southern
coast of Veragua, and late one afternoon
arrived off a group of islands about one hun-
54





DE SOTO, THE AVENGER

dred miles southwest of Panama, known as
the Zebacos. They were green and beautiful
isles. Something in their appearance seem-
ed to excite in the captain of the vessel a
spirit of reminiscence.
"Oh ho!" he exclaimed to his mate; "do
you remember the last time we passed Ze-
bacos, and the old wizard we buried there?"
"Sooth, I do," replied the mate; "and,
moreover, the year is nearly up, my captain,
so prepare yourself, perchance."
"What is it?" asked one of the soldiers.
A group of De Soto's men had gathered
about, and among them was their commander,
who listened carelessly as the master of the
vessel gave the details of a fiendish story.
He was a man of brutal appearance, whose
whole career had been one of wickedness.
His name was Geronimo de Valenzuela, and
he was the same who had tortured poor
Codro to death, though De Soto was not
aware of that. Indeed, he had never learned
what had become of his friend, who had
mysteriously disappeared and left no trace
by which his fate could be known. He was
soon to learn, however, and in a startling
manner was to avenge his death.
"Ye see that island standing up high
55




FERDINAND DE SOTO

above the sea, with a cocoa palm on its
highest part? Well, there we buried him,
the old wizard who, somehow, had offended
Pedrarias. He had proved treacherous, I
believe, bringing back letters from Spain
which Don Pedro would rather had not been
sent. Whatever it was, he was to suffer for
it, and I had orders to chain him to the mast
and keep him there till he died. It was not
so easy a task, for the old man was all of ten
days in dying, though we helped him along
somewhat. Eh, mate?"
The captain burst into a roar of brutal
laughter, in which he was joined by such of
his crew as were with him when poor Codro
was tortured. Had they looked up, they
would have seen that De Soto was standing
near, with flashing eyes and paling cheek, one
hand convulsively gripping his sword. But
he kept silence, and the fiend continued:
"Well, towards the last the old man lost
his speech; but some time before he died he
recovered and called to me. 'Captain,' he
said, 'I die; you have killed me; but know
this: within one year you will appear with me
before the judgment-seat of Almighty God.'
"Oh ho, he spoke like a prophet; but the
year is within a week of its ending, and here
56





DE SOTO, THE AVENGER

am I. And there is the island where we
buried him. Now, who can say Don Codro
was no liar?"
"I say it," thundered a voice in his ear.
"He was my friend and a good man, and
with this blade I will prove he was no liar."
With one swift and powerful blow De Soto
severed the man's head from his body, and
it rolled upon the deck.
"Now come at me, varlets, one or all.
Here stand I, Ferdinand de Soto, to defend
the good name of my friend, to avenge an
atrocious deed, for that friend doubtless died
for doing me an inestimable service."
But not one of those cringing villains
made a move towards the valiant swords-
man. Instead, they slunk away, one by
one, overpowered by the suddenness of the
onslaught. The skill displayed by De Soto,
as well as his courage, elicited their admi-
ration; and though they murmured among
themselves as they cast the captain's remains
to the sharks, they attempted no reprisal.
The date of this incident and the length of
De Soto's stay in Nicaragua are not known.
It is probable that, after his return to
Panama, he lingered so long, in a country
already impoverished by the raids of in-
57




FERDINAND DE SOTO

satiate Spaniards, who repeatedly ravaged
it with fire, sword, and packs of blood-
hounds, that he expended all the gold he had
obtained in Nicaragua. We know this: that
when, after having reached the frontiers of
Peru, and finding himself unable to advance
because of the few men he had with him,
Francisco Pizarro sent urgent calls to Panama
for reinforcements, De Soto consented to go
to the rescue.
He had long known Pizarro, from having
come in contact with him during the fre-
quent raids they had made together when
in Panama and Darien, but by no means
admired him. In fact, he heartily despised
him, although he could not but have rec-
ognized his soldierly qualities. But Pizarro
had now obtained the consent of the Span-
ish sovereign to the conquest of Peru; he
had persisted in his attempt to reach that
country during many years, and was at last
on the verge of success. He offered great in-
ducements to any cavaliers who would come
to his assistance, and sent a special request
to De Soto.
For several years previous to the departure
of De Soto for Peru he and Pedrarias had held
no communication. Don Pedro was consistent
58





DE SOTO, THE AVENGER

in his cruelties, it is believed, up to the time
of his death, which occurred while De Soto
was absent in Peru. He pursued the Indians
vindictively, using blood-hounds unsparingly
and committing atrocities which called down
upon his head the curses of all who spoke his
name. The natives of Nicaragua were en-
slaved, and the survivors of his massacres de- .
prived of their harvests, so that famine resulted
and many thousands perished of a pestilence.
De Soto would not lend himself to the en-
slavement of the Indians, nor is his name
notably connected with any act of atrocity
in Nicaragua or Panama. But, in transfer
ring his allegiance from Pedrarias to Pizarro,
he merely passed from the service of one
unscrupulous villain to that of another. In
the interim, however, he had become a free-
lance, and owned no man as his master. His
strength and prestige enabled him to dictate
terms to the Conqueror of Peru, and, "ac-
cording to the report of many persons who
were there, he distinguished himself over all
the captains and principal personages present,
not only at the seizure of Atabalipa, lord of
Peru, and in carrying the city of Cuzco, but
at all other places wheresoever he went and
found resistance."
$9









V

THE REWARD OF DEVOTION
1532-1538

HAVING informed ourselves as to the in-
fluences which shaped the character of
Ferdinand de Soto, we will now return to the
Inca's court, at which we found our hero in
the first chapter of this biography. Suc-
ceeding to the arrival of Pizarro's army at
Cassamarca and the visit paid the Spaniards
by the Inca, Atahuallpa, came the horrible
massacre by which Peruvian affairs were
thrown into chaos and the "Child of the
Sun" made a prisoner.
While this atrocious deed was planned by
Pizarro, it evidently received the sanction of
his captains, and there is nothing to show
that De Soto disapproved it or did not lend
his active assistance. As commander of the
most active troop of cavalry, he probably
took a leading part in the fiendish slaugh-
ter of unarmed Peruvians; but, as he is not
60





THE REWARD OF DEVOTION
mentioned particularly, we may give him the
"benefit of the doubt," and hope, at least,
that he did not. He was assuredly absent
when the massacre was planned, but present
when it was carried into execution.
It does not accord with our conception of
him, as obtained through scanning his deeds
in Darien and Nicaragua; but inasmuch as
he shared in the spoils-which he did to a
notable extent-he must have participated
in the slaughter. However this may have
been, it is known that he was the only man
in Pizarro's army who was admitted to the
confidence of the captive monarch, and per-
haps the only one who could have saved
Shim from an inglorious death. It is said
that it was through him that Atahuallpa
offered to ransom himself by filling an im-
mense room with gold and another with
silver.
An ardent friendship existed between him
and Atahuallpa, who now regarded the hand-
some cavalier as his sole reliance. Pizarro
did not dare attempt the Inca's life while De
Soto was by, so he invented the report that
a conspiracy had been formed by the Peru-
vians to release their ruler, and sent him
off with his troopers to investigate. The un-
61




FERDINAND DE SOTO

suspicious Ferdinand set out on this toil-
some journey as a mission of love-for it
was said that the Inca had incited this
conspiracy, and he was anxious to disprove
it. He was gone several days, and when
he returned the dreadful deed had been
committed.
Atahuallpa was dead. He had been sen-
tenced to be burned at the stake, on the
evening of the very day he went through the
semblance of a trial, in order that he should
be put out of the way before De Soto re-
turned. Though the sentence of burning
had been commuted to death by strangling,
that "he might die a Christian," he had
suffered the extreme penalty. When led to
the stake, and while the fagots were being
piled about him, the hapless Inca looked
around for De Soto.
"Oh, where is he, my friend?" he asked.
"It is not like him to consent to this foul
murder. He can save me, I know. Why
does he not compel my release ?"
When told that De Soto had gone to sup-
press a conspiracy instigated by the Inca
himself, he groaned, and said no more. The
full extent of Pizarro's treachery was then
apparent to him. His only friend with in-
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ATAHUALLPA, INCA OF PERU





THE REWARD OF DEVOTION

fluence had been sent away, in order that he
might be murdered without a protest.
When De Soto arrived at the place at
which it was declared by Pizarro the Inca's
followers were assembling, he found every-
thing quiet and no signs of a disturbance.
A terrible suspicion then took possession of
him, and he hastened back to the city with
all speed. On the way he learned the truth,
and on his arrival at headquarters strode
into the room where Pizarro was sitting,
with a slouched hat drawn over his eyes, in
sign of mourning, and fiercely upbraided him
for his perfidy.
Look up, miserable coward and assassin!"
he shouted, drawing his sword and with its
point lifting the hat from Pizarro's head.
"There was no conspiracy-as you knew.
There was no treachery, except in your own
black heart-which I have a mind to thrust
through with this sword, Francisco Pizarro!"
In this tenor he raved, his indignation
blazing forth like a flame; but to no avail.
The deed was done, and he could not restore
the dead. It is said that he ended by chal-
lenging all the Pizarros to single combat,
and that not one of them dared accept it;
but it is certain that he threatened to re-
63




FERDINAND DE SOTO

sign his commission and leave Peru at once.-
Thinking it over, however, after his wrath
had somewhat cooled, he concluded to re-
main, at least until Cuzco was taken.
The entire force of invaders amounted to
less than five hundred men, while the Inca's
standing army was ten times that number,
and the people were everywhere rising to
avenge the death of their ruler. To resign,
in those circumstances, would appear the
act of a coward, and De Soto resolved to re-
main until victory perched upon the Spanish
standards. Nearly another year, in truth, he
remained in Peru, and when he left it was
with the satisfaction of having done his duty,
in the light in which he saw it then.
But it was a sullen and fractious De Soto
that went along with the army when, on a
day in September, 1533, it set out for Cuz-
co, the former capital of the incas. He had
accomplished the object of his ambition, and
was now wealthy, even beyond the antici-
pations in which he had indulged when, as
a young adventurer, he first set foot on
American soil. He was at liberty to return
to Spain and claim his bride, but his keen
sense of honor restrained him.
Sullenly, then, he led his troopers over the
64





THE REWARD OF DEVOTION

mountains, taking as usual the post of danger,
and obeying with alacrity the command of
Pizarro to force a perilous pass held and
fortified by the Indians. It was a gloomy
defile between precipitous cliffs, and the only
passage was over a narrow stairway cut in
solid rock. Setting the example to his men,
De Soto dismounted and, with his bridle-
rein over one arm, began the perilous ascent.
He had scarcely done so when a great
boulder came rolling down, sent by a troop
of howling savages above. It bounded over
him, as he was sheltered by an intervening
ledge, and cut a ghastly swath through his
men, who were toiling behind. Several were
crushed to death, as well as their horses; but,
though the approaching contest promised
to be one with cyclopean forces, Ferdinand
hesitated only long enough to give directions
to clear the pathway of the mangled remains,
and hastened on. The air was filled with
arrows, javelins, lances, hurled by sinewy
arms, and now and again great rocks came
thundering down; but still on he pressed,
bowing his head to the storm, the missile-
weapons glancing like hail from his armor.
Gallantly supported by his brave troopers,
he gained at last a plateau on the mountain-
65




FERDINAND DE SOTO

top, where, forming his men in battle array,
he charged the Indians and drove them to a
distance. He did this repeatedly, but, just
as often as he returned to the spot he had
fixed upon for a camp, just so often came
rolling back the tide of yelling savages, evi-
dently intent upon forcing him and his men
over the precipices. The coming of night
alone saved the Spaniards from complete
destruction; but they dared not sleep, for
ominous noises in the surrounding forest told
them that the desperate Peruvians were as-
sembling by thousands, determined to make
one last effort to save their capital from in-
vasion.
They had chosen their stand with consum-
mate strategy, and here they concentrated
their warriors, with the intention of destroy-
ing the Spaniards at the coming of the dawn.
They were only prevented from doing so by
the opportune arrival of reinforcements un-
der Almagro, the partner of Pizarro in this
enterprise. He was in command of a strong
detachment of infantry, which had camped
at the. foot of the mountain, unaware of the
desperate situation of De Soto. A courier,
sent by the latter, managed to break through
the investing lines and take to Almagro ti-
66





THE REWARD OF DEVOTION

dings of the disaster. Without a moment's
hesitation, the command was set in motion.
It scaled the dizzy heights in midnight dark-
ness, and gained the plateau, the first inti-
mation of succor coming to De Soto from Al-
magro's bugle-blasts, which echoed through
the forest.
Both commanders held a similar detesta-
tion of Pizarro, for both had been wronged
by him; yet both were engaged in a common
cause against the foe. Back to back, with
the infantry in the centre and the mailed
chargers presenting a front of steel, they re-
pulsed the advancing Indians, then in loosen-
ed formation opened fire with cross-bows and
arquebuses, while the cavalry charged madly
across the plain. The slaughter was terrible,
and the ground was soon covered with the
slain; but victory was won at great cost to
the Spaniards, many of whom were crushed
beneath the blows from ponderous battle-
axes or transfixed with arrows and javelins.
The Peruvians retreated in confusion, and,
save for a slight skirmish a few days later,
the Spaniards encountered no further op-
position to their entry into Cuzco, which was
accomplished on November 15, 1533. The
battle of the plateau was the first of any im-
67




FERDINAND DE SOTO

portance fought between Peruvians and the
invaders of their country, and it was also the
last in which De Soto was engaged.
In Cuzco the Spaniards found a large
amount of treasure, though not so much as
if they had pushed on rapidly, as De Soto
had desired to do after the battle of the pass.
It may have been because Pizarro was feeling
the effects of advancing years, or from an
inclination to allow De Soto to bear the brunt
of the attacks, that he lingered by the way,
when the City of the Sun was almost within
his grasp. But he did so, first in this seduc-
tive valley, then in another, until at last his
fiery captain, provoked beyond measure at
the delay, which was unpardonable from a
military point of view, burst the slight bands
of restraint which held him, and dashed for-
ward with his devoted dragoons.
He and they led the advance, from be-
ginning to end of that long march, as well as
fought all the battles. When the setting sun
of that November day in which the valley
of Cuzco was entered glanced athwart the
helms and banners of Pizarro's army descend-
ing the sierras, Ferdinand de Soto might have
been seen well in the van. He was also the
first in Cuzco, and not the last to engage in
68





THE REWARD OF DEVOTION

the sacking of the city, where the spoils were
vast, notwithstanding much treasure had
been taken away and secreted. Plunder,
chiefly gold and silver, was divided among
the common soldiers alone to the amount of
half a million dollars, of above a thousand
dollars to each one, while the officers, all,
were made affluent for life, if they could but
keep the treasure they had gained.
There was but one way to do this, and that
was to retire at once from the country where
the wealth had been acquired and return to
Spain. To this sensible conclusion came Fer-
dinand de Soto, and, as his services were no
longer urgently required-as, in fact, Pizar-
ro would rather be rid of him than have
him remain-he resolved to return. Some-
time in the summer of 1534 he bade farewell
to his comrades in arms and, after making
the long journey from Cuzco to the coast,
embarked for Spain. We have no particu-
lars of the final scenes when De Soto and
his faithful troopers parted company. They
had been together during years of hard ser-
vice, had encountered dangers, and run the
gantlet of death many times in company,
so it came hard, at the end, to say farewell.
Some of his comrades, in truth, followed his
6 69




FERDINAND DE SOTO

example and returned in the same ship with
him to Spain, afterwards going wit him
through Florida. All were enriched by the
spoils of Peru, and Ferdinand himself took
back, according to the old historian, one hun-
dred and eighty thousand crusados in gold,
or more than half a million dollars.
Next we see this hero of many battles and
numberless skirmishes with the Indians of
America at the court of his sovereign, where
he was received with great distinction, as the
most heroic figure, on the Spanish side, in
the conquest of Peru. The laurels of that
conquest belong by right to Francisco Pizar-
ro, and De Soto manifested no inclination to
snatch them from his brow; but, as the first
honorable man of importance to arrive in
Spain from Peru, with his pockets well lined
and his claim to nobility well founded, he
became for a while the observed of all ob-
servers.
The king not only received him well, but
honored him by accepting a loan--which,
strange to say, he repaid. "De Soto made
his home in Seville, where he set up in great
state, employing a major-domo, or superin-
tendent of the household, an usher, pages,
chamberlain, footmen, and all other req-
70





THE REWARD OF DEVOTION

uisites for the establishment of a gentle-
man."
And it was not a bachelor establishment,
either, that he set up in that grand old city
by the banks of the Guadalquivir, for, some
time after his arrival, he took thither as its
mistress none other than Dofia Isabel de
Soto, born Bobadilla, second daughter of the
infamous Pedrarias.
The course of true love had not run very
smooth with these two lovers, but it had run
a long while, and nobody can with truth deny
that Ferdinand was entitled to his Isabel,
having fought for her and waited for her
fifteen long and weary years. In the end, as
all true lovers will rejoice to learn, he was
successful in getting possession of her hand,
having won it years before; but it was only
after the death of Don Pedro, who sought to
frustrate his designs by leaving his second
daughter penniless.
The hardened old wretch had died, after
lingering long in physical agony and mental
anguish. His conscience was troubled, not
at the thought of the misery he had caused
in this world, but at the prospect of what he
was to receive in the next. The only repara-
tion he could make (the priests at his bedside
71




FERDINAND DE SOTO

assured him) was a liberal donation to the
Church, and the way in which he did this was
eminently characteristic of the man fiend
Pedrarias.
In his gloomy castle at Badajoz, ever since
her father had assassinated her affianced hus-
band, had lived his eldest daughter, Maria.
She had remained true to the memory of
Balboa, as her. sister had continued faithful
to De Soto, and her father rewarded this
constancy by bequeathing her his vast fort-
une, for the founding of a nunnery, over
which she was to rule as abbess. Unless she
went into the nunnery, poor Isabel was left
at the mercy of the world, without a centavo
to her name; but at this juncture arrived
Ferdinand de Soto from Peru, and she be-
came the wife of a rich and powerful noble
and the envy of her sex throughout all Spain.
Thus far, in narrating the adventures of
De Soto, we have followed the accounts
which have seemed most entitled to credence;
but all are not alike, and, indeed, some writ-
ers have stated that Ferdinand first met his
wife at court, whither she had gone with her
mother, the widow of Pedrarias. Also, that,
instead of being at feud with her father, he
had lived with him in Nicaragua, without
72





THE REWARD OF DEVOTION
falling out at all. Whether this be true or
not, most of us would rather believe that
Ferdinand had met his Isabel in youth, and
was constant to her throughout, and that
he returned to Spain for the sole purpose of
laying his hard-won fortune at her feet. Con-
stancy in man is such a rare jewel, and so
seldom discovered, that we cannot refrain
from making the most of that which is said
to have sparkled on the breast of Ferdinand
de Soto.
Ferdinand was under forty years of age at
the time he settled down in Seville and be-
came a gentleman of leisure. As entitled to
that distinction by birth, he was made a
knight of Santiago, and felt bound to sustain
the dignities of his position by a large es-
tablishment and vast expenditure. Within
two years his fortune had been reduced more
than one-half, and, having become wearied
of inaction, he cast about for some means
of replenishing his coffers and for a field in
which to exercise his energies.
That field seemed to open to him in the
then boundless region called Florida, which
was in the main unknown, and extended from
the most northern territory of which the
Spaniards had knowledge to the confines of
73




FERDINAND DE SOTO

Mexico. Though Ponce de Leon.had landed-
on the coast of Florida in 1513, and eight
years later had received his death-wound in
a conflict with Indians there, little was known
of the country until the attempted conquest
by Pinfilo de Narvaez in 1527.
This unfortunate Spaniard, who had op-
posed Cort6s in Mexico, where he lost an eye
in the fight at Cempoalla, obtained from
Emperor Charles V. permission to conquer
Florida, of which country he was made
adelantado, or military governor. He landed
on its eastern coast, in a large bay open to the
sea, with a force of four hundred men and
forty horses. After crossing the peninsula,
and after enduring incredible hardships, his
command, diminished to about one-half its
original strength, launched upon the waters
of the gulf, with the intention of seeking a
port of Cuba or Mexico.
The vessels in which Narvaez and his men
had sailed to Florida could not be found,
and they constructed rude barks from the
wood of native trees, with nails forged from
their bits and bridles, and sails made from
their garments. They embarked, it is sup-
posed, in the Bay of St. Marks, and coasted
southwardly, occasionally landing and fight-
74






THE REWARD OF DEVOTION

ing with the Indians for food to keep them
from starvation. A gale drove the boat in
which was Narvaez out to sea, and he was
never heard of after, while all the rest of his
men save four perished through shipwreck
or starvation. Nine years later, after most
wonderful adventures with various Indian
tribes, these four arrived in Mexico, and in
1537 one of their number, Cabeza de Vaca,
met and conversed with Ferdinand de Soto
in Spain.









VI

ADELANTADO AND GOVERNOR
1538-I539

IT was a wonderful story Cabeza de Vaca
had to tell, of perils many and narrow
escapes from savage Indians, and as he had
been ten years absent, all the while exposed.
to danger, it might have been imagined that
he had endured enough. But no, Alvar
Nufio Cabeza de Vaca was of a piece with
the others who had suffered in various parts
of the New World. As soon as he reached
home and friends, and was surrounded with
comforts, he reverted regretfully to the ac-
tive life he had led in the unknown country,
and thought sorrowfully upon the chances
he had let slip to become the richest man in
the world.
As a matter of fact, the worthy Cabeza de
Vaca (or Cow's Head, as his name might be
literally rendered) found nothing but hard
usage in the lands he had explored, and re-
76





ADELANTADO AND GOVERNOR
turned without even a grain of the gold with
which his imagination filled them. But the
gold was there, he convinced himself by fre-
quently recalling what the various Indians
had told him; and the air of mystery and
reserve which he summoned up when ques-
tioned by friends convinced them, also, that
Senior Vaca had much to reveal-if only he
would reveal it!
Especially impressed was De Soto, who,
just before the return of Vaca to Spain, had
secured from the emperor all the rights and
titles in Florida which had been vacated by
the death of Narvaez. Emperor Charles
was very generous always-with other peo-
ples' properties-and had bestowed this same
region of Florida-or the conquest of it-
first upon Ponce de Leon, then upon Pin-
filo de Narvaez, before he handed it over
to De Soto. Each one of them had offered
to explore and conquer it at his own ex-
pense, and, as this was a consideration which
always had weight with the emperor, each
one had been granted his request as soon as
proffered.
Like the foolish explorers before him, Fer-
dinand de Soto was "created" by Charles
adelantado and governor of Florida, and, in
77




FERDINAND DE SOTO

addition, captain-general of Cuba, which isl-
and he desired as a base of supplies in his pro-
jected conquest of the vast and far-stretch-
ing empire which he presumed to exist on
the main. Cabeza de Vaca was offered a
high position under him; but he himself de-
sired a government of his own, and was
given that of the Rio de la Plata, as a sop
for relinquishing a country where he had en-
dured unutterable privations, and which (it
was afterwards hinted) he would not have
accepted on any terms.
De Soto was thenceforth known as the
adelantado and the governor; and, as titles
cost the emperor nothing, he also made
his favorite a marquis, bestowing upon him,
with magnificent liberality, a marquisate in
Florida, thirty leagues in length and fifteen
in breadth-which was to be won by his
sword.
When it became noised abroad that the
gallant hero of Peru was about setting forth
on an independent expedition, recruits came
flocking in from every direction, attracted
by the splendor and magnificence with which
De Soto was surrounded. The cavaliers of
Spain vied with one another in securing places
of honor, the rich ones pouring out their
78





ADELANTADO AND GOVERNOR
money with a lavishness exceeded only by
that of their leader himself, and the poor
ones being assisted by him in procuring ex-
travagant equipment.
One day, as he was about sitting down
to dinner, a brilliant band of Portuguese hi-
dalgos came clattering into the court-yard
of his great house in Seville. They were su-
perbly mounted and clad in polished armor.
Descending from the gallery overlooking the
court, De Soto gracefully welcomed them and
invited the whole party to dinner, afterwards
sending out his major- domo to secure for
them the best quarters in the city. Thus the
cavaliers gathered around him, and in the
course of a year the equipment was com-
plete. Nearly a thousand persons assembled
at the port of San Lucar, in April, 1538,
whence sailed De Soto's magnificent expedi-
tion, comprised of ten vessels, large and small.
The governor and his wife, together with their
brilliant retinue, embarked in the San Cris-
tobal, of eight hundred tons, and the fleet set
sail, to the blare of trumpets and amid sal-
vos of artillery.
Two weeks later the vessels dropped anch-
or off Gomera, in the Canary Islands, arriv-
ing there on Easter Sunday. The governor
79




FERDINAND DE SOTO

of the island, the Count of Gomera (wrote
one of the Portuguese hidalgos in this gallant
company), "was apparelled all in white-
cloak, jerkin, hose, shoes, and cap-so that
he looked like a governor of gypsies. He
received the adelantado with much pleas-
ure, lodging him well, and the rest with
him, gratuitously. To Dofia Isabel he gave
a natural daughter of his to be a waiting-
maid," and entertained the entire company
right joyously for a week.
There were twenty-four ecclesiastics aboard
ship monks, priests, and clerics and a
large number of young nobles sumptuously
arrayed, with silken doublets and cassocks,
"silk over silk," and with retinues of sernile
attendants. The reverendos did not seek to
mar the festivities, for they were going out
merely to convert the heathen; while the cav-
aliers, many of them, devoted themselves to
Dofia Isabel and the attractive damsels in
her train.
Among them all there was none more
beautiful than the daughter of the Count of
Gomera, who was less a sering-maid than
companion to the fair Isabel, and who, be-
fore the voyage was over, won the heart of
a cavalier named Nufio de Tobar. He was
8o





ADELANTADO AND GOVERNOR

one of the men who had returned from Peru
with De Soto, his fortune made and the best
of his life still before him. Tobar went out
as lieutenant-general in the expedition; but
when, after arriving in Cuba, De Soto found
that he had been trifling with the affections of
the lovely Leonora, daughter of the count, he
was summarily deposed.
Ferdinand and his wife regarded Leonora
in the light of a daughter, having none of
their own, and were wounded to the quick by
the ungallant behavior of Tobar. It is said
that De Soto, in addition to deposing Tobar,
challenged him to mortal combat, as having
committed an affront which could only be
palliated by the shedding of blood. As such
an encounter, with one whose sword was in-
vincible, was equivalent to a sentence of
execution, the young man begged for mercy,
promising to make every reparation in his
power. His life was contemptuously grant-
ed him; but he never recovered the con-
fidence of his commander, though he served
him long and well.
This untoward incident had not developed,
fortunately, before the arrival of the fleet at
Santiago de Cuba, which port was reached
at the end of a month after leaving Gomera,
81




FERDINAND DE SOTO

where the new governor was received with
great rejoicings. The festivities conducted
by the wealthy residents of Santiago lasted
nearly a week, and consisted of bull- fights,
horse-racing, and tournaments by day, with
banquets, balls, and theatrical displays by
night. The planters of the island came into
town with numerous fine horses, which they
presented to such cavaliers as were in need
of them, and, in fact, to many who had not,
so that some of the noblemen possessed three
or four each, all of them mettlesome chargers,
finely caparisoned.
These planters vied with one another in
extending hospitalities to the new arrivals,
sending horses and mules for the governor
and his lady, with their suites, to ride out to
their estates in the country, where they were
entertained in baronial style. Among these
gentry there was one Vasco Porcallo, who
lived near the town of Trinidad, having a vast
estate, which he had bought with the proceeds
of long years spent in fighting the enemies of
Spain. He had thought to settle there for
life, and had surrounded himself with every
luxury that money could purchase in that
lonely island. But on his visit to Santiago
he met so many kindred spirits and saw so
82





ADELANTADO AND GOVERNOR

much that reminded him of his fighting days
that he caught the enthusiasm of the cava-
liers and volunteered his services to De Soto,
out of hand. As he had great wealth and a
lavish disposition, and, moreover, was pos-
sessed of military skill, De Soto accepted
his offer at once. He was made lieutenant-
general, in place of Tobar, and was so elated
thereby that he showered the army with his
gifts. He gave a vast amount of provisions
to the fleet, and contributed heavily to its
armament, besides presenting to various cav-
aliers who took his fancy more than fifty
blooded horses. Thirty-six horses were in-
cluded in the outfit he took with him to
Florida, and a great number of Indian and
negro servants and slaves.
All Cuba was aflame over the approaching
conquest of the peninsula, which lay but a
comparatively short distance away, yet had
never been explored. Nearly forty years
had passed since Columbus discovered the
Bahamas and Cuba, thirty since the latter
was circumnavigated, and twenty-five since
its people were subjugated. Yet Florida,
only a few miles distant across the Gulf
Stream, still existed as a wilderness await-
ing the coming of its conqueror.
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FERDINAND DE SOTO

Sending his fleet around to Havana, where
Dofia Isabel was instructed to await his arri-
val, De Soto spent three months in a careful
inspection of the island, acquainting himself
with its resources and accumulating supplies
for his expedition. Travelling overland from
Santiago, by the way of Trinidad and Puerto
Principe, the governor arrived at Havana
towards the end of August, and there re-
mained several months, attending to the
needs of the people and establishing his gov-
ernment on a sure foundation.
The commerce of Cuba had risen to such
proportions as to attract the attention of the
Caribbean corsairs, who had assailed both
Havana and Santiago; thus much repairing
of fortifications and planning of new ones
was necessary, to secure the island from their
depredations.
During this while, a small vessel, with a
selected crew under Juan de Afiasco, was
engaged in cruising the Floridian waters in
search of a harbor commodious enough for
the fleet. This was found, after several
months of dangerous navigating among the
shoals and cays of the Florida Reefs. Two
voyages were made before the end was
attained, and on the second trip the frail
84





ADELANTADO AND GOVERNOR

craft came near foundering, for a tempest
assailed her, and the crew passed two months
on an uninhabited islet, where their only
subsistence consisted of raw shell-fish and
wild fowl which they killed with stones and
clubs.
This venture of Afiasco's was the fifth or
sixth that had come to grief on the coast of
Florida, and it did not augur well for the next
one. No one can say, however, that Ferdi-
nand de Soto did not use great caution and
care in opening the way for his expedition,
even though it ended in greater ruin and
disaster than any other that had preceded it
in America.
The winter of 1538-1539 passed away, with
the cavaliers in Cuba worn to desperation
from lack of employment and sighing for a
sight of the land for which they had set out
so many months before. It was not until
May, 1539, that De Soto finally set his sails
for Florida, more than a year after he had
departed from Spain.
Just as he was getting his last supply of
sea-stores aboard, in the harbor of Havana,
a ship came into port bearing as its most
important passenger an old comrade of his,
Heran Ponce, with whom he had been most
7 85




FERDINAND DE SOTO

intimately associated in Peru. In truth,
these two had formed a sort of partnership,
common in those days, by which they had
agreed to share equally all gains, honors, etc.,
that might be acquired by either. Ponce
was now on his way to Spain, with a fortune
in gold and gems, which he was by no means
willing to share with De Soto, who, by the
terms of their agreement, was entitled to the
half of it. By the same terms, Ponce was
also entitled to his moiety of De Soto's
estate, and, as well, to participate in the
honors which had been showered upon him
by his sovereign.
These, indeed, the open-handed De Soto
proffered to Ponce; but the latter professed
himself as satisfied, and content to leave
matters as they were. But his former part-
ner delayed his voyage for the sake of honor-
ing him, took him to his palace on shore,
seated him at his table, and proclaimed that
his ancient comrade, Hernan Ponce, was
henceforth to be addressed as "governor"
and to receive the same attentions as him-
self.
Still, Sefior Ponce was uneasy, for some-
thing seemed to prey upon his mind. Going
aboard his vessel in the harbor, in the dead
86





ADELANTADO AND GOVERNOR

of night, he caused several large boxes filled
with gems to be taken ashore, where he had
them buried, for fear that De Soto would
discover his wealth and insist upon his share.
But the frank yet wary Ferdinand had sus-
pected something of the kind, and had
stationed sentinels on the watch, who sur-
prised Sefior Ponce at his task, and, driving
him away, bore off the treasure in triumph.
It was taken to the governor, unknown, of
course, to Ponce, who let his troubles be
known, the following day, over the wine at
dinner. De Soto whispered a word to his
major domo, who went out and soon re-
turned with the stolen coffers intact.
"Are these your gems?" he asked, indig-
nantly; "and did you bury them in order to
deprive me of my portion? Take them, then,
and as promptly as possible sail with them
to Spain. My own fortune, my titles, and
my honors I consider also yours, and have
executed writings to that effect. Even now,
I say, will you share with me in the con-
quest ?"
The humiliated Ponce protested that he
desired nothing more than what he had, and,
to show that he held his comrade in esteem,
begged that he be allowed to present Dofia
87




FERDINAND DE SOTO

Isabel with ten thousand dollars' worth of
gems. This generous proffer De Soto, with a
laugh in his sleeve, consented to accept, and
the gems were duly delivered to the fair lady.
But there is a sequel to this transaction.
After De Soto had sailed, and was well on
his way to Florida, the wily Ponce demanded
his jewels back, asserting that they had been
obtained by fraud. Doia Isabel sagely re-
plied that they were in her possession; that
Hernan Ponce owed her husband far more
than they were worth, on old debts, for
which he was liable to arrest, and arrested he
should be forthwith. On receipt of which
discouraging information he promptly de-
parted for Spain.










VII

THE LANDING IN FLORIDA
1539

D E SOTO'S fleet, in which he sailed from
Havana for Florida, on Sunday, May
18, 1539, consisted of five large vessels, two
pinnaces, and two caravels. Dofia Isabel
greatly desired to accompany the expedition,
but was compelled to remain in Cuba as
regent. With her were left the wives of
Nunio de Tobar, of Don Carlos, who had
married a niece of De Soto, and of Baltasar
de Gallegos, who had sacrificed a fine vine-
yard in Spain in order to gratify his ambi-
tion to be a soldier.
The castle-tower is still pointed out in
Havana from the battlements of which
these sorrowing wives waved farewell to the
fleet as it ploughed its way into the open
sea. It was to be a'last farewell for Donia
Isabel, who never set eyes on Ferdinand
again. Fifteen years she had waited for this
89




FERDINAND DE SOTO

-to be united, at last, to the chosen com-
panion of her heart, only to be separated
from him, after a short period of wedded
bliss, then to lose him forever. He sailed
away with that gallant company, and the
wilderness swallowed him up.
Thanks to the precautions De Soto had
taken, a safe harbor was made in the great
bay of Espiritu Santo, on the west coast
of Florida, which was reached on May 25th.
It is now known as Tampa Bay, and at
present is a flourishing winter resort, between
which and Havana frequent steamers per-
form the voyage in a few hours, which in
De Soto's time consumed a week. There
were nearly a thousand men in the expedi-
tion, with three hundred and fifty horses, so
the debarkation was a slow and toilsome
process, and was not accomplished until the
last of May.
During this time the savages on shore
had not been inactive, for they were alert
and vigorous, expert in the use of bow-and-
arrows, and efficient with their war-clubs.
They had watched the progress of the fleet
as it sailed along the coast, as numerous
signal-smokes attested, and by the time it
had come to anchor were gathered to oppose
90




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