CHAPTER 28: Figueroa's Further Story of What Had Happened to the Others

FIGUEROA recounted [to Dorantes, Castillo, and the eight or nine men with them there on the peninsula] how he and his three companions had got as far as that place [Matagorda Bay] when two of them [Fernández, the Portuguese sailor, and Astudillo, the native of Zafra] and the Indian [of Auia] died of cold and hunger; it was the middle of the winter.

The Indians took Figueroa and Méndez. Méndez fled, in the direction of Pánuco; but the Indians gave chase and, when they caught him, put him to death.

While living with these Indians, Figueroa learned from them that another Christian who had come over [Matagorda Bay], but from the opposite side, was among the Mariames. Figueroa found him among the Quevenes. He turned out to be Hernando de Esquivel, a native of Badajoz, who had sailed in the Commissary's barge. From him Figueroa learned what had become of the Governor, the Comptroller, and the others, as follows.

The Comptroller [Enríquez] and the friars capsized and lost their barge against the rocks at the mouth of a river [the San Bernardo, November 1528], and proceeded down the coast afoot. The Governor passed by, landed the men in his barge and coasted on while they walked; took them back on at the great [Matagorda] bay, deposited them on the other side, returned for the Enríquez-Suárez hikers, and deposited them with the others on the south rim.

There the Governor revoked the Comptroller's commission as lieutenant and reassigned it to Captain Pantoja. That night, Narváez stayed aboard his barge, with a cockswain and a sick page. There was no food on board [or, for that matter, on shore]. At midnight, a strong north wind carried the barge, which had only a stone for an anchor, unobserved to sea. And that was the last that was known of the Commander. [It is possible, as Hallenbeck detects, that the Governor deliberately deserted his charges and headed on for Pánuco, which he never reached.]

The rest kept going along the coast. Impeded by another wide expanse of water [San Antonio Bay], they made rafts with much labor and crossed. Farther on, they came to a point of woods in the water where [some Quevene] Indians, at sight of them, stowed their [rolled-up mat] houses in their canoes and fled to the opposite side [evidently of Copano Bay, into which the Blanco and Aransas empty]. Considering the season - it was still November [1528] - the Christians stopped at this wood, where they found water and fuel, some crabs and shellfish.

One by one they began to die of cold and hunger; and Pantoja, now lieutenant governor, used them severely. At last, Sotomayor could take no more of his high-handedness. Sotomayor was a brother of Vasco Porcallo of Cuba and had joined the expedition as campmaster. In a fight, he clubbed Pantoja, who died instantly.

Thus the number went on diminishing. The living dried the flesh of those who died. The last to die was Sotomayor. Esquivel, by feeding on the corpse, was able to stay alive until the first of March, when one of the Indians who had fled returned to see if anybody might still be alive and took Esquivel with him.

Esquivel was in this native's possession when Figueroa found him and learned what had just been related. He pleaded with Esquivel to seek the way to Pánnuco with him, but Esquivel would not consent. He said he understood from the friars that Pánuco had already been passed. So he stayed there and Figueroa went back up to that part of the coast where he was accustomed to live.

Figueroa, in concluding his tale, said that if his listeners should at any time go in that direction, they too could see Esquivel; for Figueroa knew that he had fled from the Indian who had him to the neighboring Mariames.

[The Joint Report gives an extensive but confusing account of what happened after Figueroa had finished his story. The likeliest squaring of the details would be something like this: The Indian who had brought Figueroa to the peninsula would not allow him to tarry longer; but this Indian and any others who paddled up promised the famished Dorantes party fish if they would come for it, the promise including transportation back. The priest, Asturiano, and an unidentified young man, being the only ones who could swim, accompanied Figueroa and the canoemen. But when they reached the tribal village, apparently in the northern part of the bay, the Indians kept the former two as well as Figueroa with them. The remaining eight of the Dorantes party got across to the head of the bay in the broken canoe they found at the tip of the peninsula, though it is possible they had already got across when Figueroa first found them. They, at any rate, spent either the rest of the day they had talked with Figueroa, or the day following, eating wild blackberries; and the day after that, the Indians who had Figueroa and the other two Christians stowed their houses and repaired to that vicinity to eat blackberries, too. They treated the Dorantes party cavalierly, helping themselves to anything they wanted from them almost by force. But these Indians did at last relent and take the Dorantes party to their newly set-up houses where they proferred a small amount of fish at dark, and the next day shared part of a fresh catch. Figueroa was able, under close guard, to inform his friends that Esquivel had been killed attempting to escape, and that this had happened a month after Figueroa had seen him (thus within the last few days of this May 1629) . The itinerant Indians moved away once again, taking the three Christians with them and saying they would be back soon.]