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[56] horsemen, to descend the banks of the Mississippi, and
Chap. II.} 1542.
explore the country. They travelled eight days, and were able to advance not much more than thirty miles, they were so delayed by the frequent bayous, the impassable cane-brakes, and the dense woods.1 The governor received the intelligence with concern; he suffered from anxiety and gloom. His horses and men were dying around him, so that the natives were be coming dangerous enemies. He attempted to overawe a tribe of Indians near Natchez by claiming a supernatural birth, and demanding obedience and tribute. ‘You say you are the child of the sun,’ replied the undaunted chief; ‘dry up the river, and I will believe you Do you desire to see me? Visit the town where I dwell. If you come in peace, I will receive you with special good-will; if in war, I will not shrink one foot back.’ But Soto was no longer able to abate the confidence, or punish the temerity of the natives. His stubborn pride was changed by long disappointments into a wasting melancholy; and his health sunk rapidly and entirely under a conflict of emotions. A malignant fever ensued, during which he had little comfort, and was neither visited nor attended as the last hours of life demand. Believing his death near at hand, he held the last solemn interview with his faithful followers; and, yielding to the wishes of his companions, who obeyed him to the end, he named a successor. On the next day he
May 21
died. Thus perished Ferdinand de Soto, the governor of Cuba, the successful associate of Pizarro. His miserable end was the more observed, from the greatness of his former prosperity. His soldiers pronounced his eulogy by grieving for their loss; the priests chanted over his body the first requiems that were ever heard on the

1 Portuguese Account, c. XXIX.

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