CHAPTER 10: Our Departure from Aute

THE NEXT MORNING [August 3] we quit Aute and made it to the place I had just visited. The journey was extremely arduous. We did not have horses enough to carry the sick, who kept getting worse every day, and we knew no cure for the disease [undoubtedly malaria, probably complicated by dysentery].

By the time we reached my previous campsite, it was painfully clear to all that we were unprepared to go further. Had we been prepared, we still did not know where to go; and the men could not move, most of them lying prone and those able to stand to duty very few. I will not prolong this unpleasantness; but you can imagine what it would be like in a strange, remote land, destitute of means either to remain or to get out. Our most reliable help was God our Lord; we had not wavered in this conviction.

But now something happened worse than anything that had gone before. The majority of the cavalry plotted to desert, figuring they stood a better chance if unencumbered by the prostrated Governor and largely prostrated infantry.

Since, however, many of the cavalry were hidalgos and well-bred persons, they could not but inform the Governor and Your Majesty's officers. We remonstrated with the plotters on the enormity of their notion until they relented and agreed to share the common fate, whatever it might be. The Governor then called them all into his presence and asked their advice, one man at a time, on how to escape that dismal country.

A third of our force had fallen seriously ill and was growing worse by the hour. We felt certain we would all be stricken, with death the one foreseeable way out; and in such a place, death seemed all the more terrible. Considering our experiences, our prospects, and various plans, we finally concluded to undertake the formidable project of constructing vessels to float away in.

This appeared impossible, since none of us knew how to build ships, and we had no tools, iron, forge, oakum, pitch, or rigging, or any of the indispensable items, or anybody to instruct us. Worse still, we had no food to sustain workers. At this impasse, we agreed to consider the matter deeper and ended our parley for the day, each going his way, commending our future to God our Lord.