CHAPTER 57: What Became of the Others Who Went to the Indies

I NEED TO CLEAR UP what happened to the ships of the Narváez expedition and the people who remained in them. The reason I have not touched on this before now is that we were uninformed until we reached New Spain, where we found many of the individuals who had been aboard; I found more here in Castile. From all these, everything to the last detail finally came out.

At the time we split from the ships, one of them had already been lost in the breakers and the other three faced a dangerous prospect, with low stores and nearly a hundred souls on board, ten of them married women.

One of these women had prophesied to the Governor many things that later actually befell him. She warned him before he plunged inland not to go; that he nor anyone with him could ever escape; though should one get back, the Almighty must work great wonders for him. She, however, believed few or none would be seen again. The Governor said that, after all, he and his men were going to fight and conquer wholly unknown nations, and of course he knew that this would cost many slain; but the survivors would indeed be fortunate from what he understood of the riches of that land. Yet he begged her to tell him where she had got her notions of what was going to happen that was past as well as these things still to come, and she replied that they had been told her in Castile by a Moorish woman of Hornachos. She had said the same thing to us even before we left Spain, and many things happened on the passage in the way she foretold.

On making Caravallo, a native of Cuenca de Huete, lieutenant and commander of the vessels and the people on them, the Governor left orders for going immediately aboard and taking the direct course to Pánuco, closely examining along shore for the harbor and, when finding it, holding up inside it until our arrival; and then the Governor departed. The people of the ships state that, when they had got back on board, they distinctly heard that woman say to the other women that their husbands were the same as dead and that they might as well be looking after whom they would marry next; she was going to. And she did presently "marry." So did the other wives "marry" with men who remained in the ships.

When we were gone, the vessels made sail and took their course as instructed but, missing the harbor, returned. Five leagues below the place we debarked, they came upon the port where we had found crates with corpses. Meanwhile, the other ship and the brigantine arrived from Cuba and they altogether looked for us for nearly a year and, finally giving us up, went on to New Spain. [Hallenbeck conjectures that the barges and these ships must have passed within a short distance of each other in opposite directions, probably at night.]

The harbor of which I speak [Tampa Bay] is the best in the world. It has six fathoms of water at its entrance and five near shore. It stretches inland seven or eight leagues. Its bottom is fine white sand; no sea breaks upon it or wild storm; and it can contain countless vessels. Fish is plentiful. It is but a hundred leagues from Havana, a town of Christians in Cuba, with which it bears north and south. Vessels go from the one harbor to the other in a round trip of only a few days because, with the constant northeast wind, they sail either way with it on the quarter.

And now it may be well to state fully who the persons are whom our Lord pleased to release from these troubles, and what parts of these kingdoms they hail from:

1. Alonso del Castillo Maldonado, native of Salamanca, son of Doctor Castillo and Dofia Aldonza Maldonado.

2. Andrés Dorantes, son of Pablo Dorantes, native of Béjar and citizen of Gibraleon.

3. Álvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, son of Francisco de Vera, and grandson of Pedro de Vera who conquered the Canaries; his mother was Doña Teresa Cabeza de Vaca, native of Jérez de la Frontera.

4. Estevénico, an Arabian black, native of Azamor.