CHAPTER 25: The Journey to the Great Bay

AT LAST, [on the fourth visit, in November 1532] I got him off, across the strait, and across four large streams on the coast [Bastrop Bayou, Brazos River, San Bernardo River, and Caney Creek]; which took some doing, because Oviedo could not swim.

So we worked along, with some Indians, until we came to a bay a league wide and uniformly deep. From its appearance we presumed it to be Espíritu Santo [the name Pineda gave Matagorda Bay in 1519; Pineda's map, with which Cabeza de Vaca was familiar, mentions the conspicuous white sandhills beyond. They were guided not across the bay but across the Colorado River which flows into it.]

We met some Indians on the other side who were on their way to visit our late hosts. They told us that three men like us lived but a couple of days from here, and said their names. We asked about the others and were told that they were all dead. Most had died of cold and hunger. But our informants' own tribe had murdered Diego Dorantes, Valdevieso, and Diego de Huelva for sport because they left one house for another; and the neighboring tribe, where Captain Dorantes now resided, had, in obedience to a dream, murdered Esquivel [who had been in the Comptroller's barge] and Méndez [one of the four excellent swimmers who had set out, back in 1528, for Pánuco]. We asked how the living Christians fared. Badly, they replied; the boys and some of the Indian men enlivened their dreary idleness by constantly kicking, cuffing, and cudgeling the three slaves; such was the life they led.

We inquired of the region ahead and its subsistence. They said there was nothing to eat and that the few people [who evidently had not yet joined the nut-gathering exodus] were dying from the cold, having no skins or anything else to cover themselves with. They also told us that if we wished to see those three Christians, the Indians who had them would be coming in about two days to eat nuts [pecans] on the river bank a league from here.

So we would know they had spoken the truth about the bad treatment of our fellows, they commenced slapping and batting Oviedo and did not spare me either. They would keep throwing clods at us, too, and each of the days we waited there they would stick their arrows to our hearts and say they had a mind to kill us the way they had finished our friends. My frightened companion Oviedo satd he wanted to go back with the women who had just forded the bay with us (their men having stayed some distance behind). I argued my utmost against such a craven course, but in no way could keep him.

He went back, and I remained alone with those savages. They are called Quevenes and those with whom he returned, Deaguanes. [This is the last that was ever heard of the strongest man who had sailed in Cabeza de Vaca's barge.]