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[57] waters of the Mississippi. To conceal his death, his
Chap. II.} 1542.
body was wrapped in a mantle, and, in the stillness of midnight, was silently sunk in the middle of the stream. The wanderer had crossed a large part of the continent in search of gold, and found nothing so remarkable as his burial-place.1

No longer guided by the energy and pride of Soto, the company resolved on reaching New Spain without

June.
delay. Should they embark in such miserable boats as they could construct, and descend the river? Or should they seek a path to Mexico through the forests? They were unanimous in the opinion, that it was less dangerous to go by land; the hope was still cherished, that some wealthy state, some opulent city, might yet be discovered, and all fatigues be forgotten in the midst of victory and spoils. Again they penetrated the western wilderness; in July, they found
July
themselves in the country of the Natchitoches;2 but the Red River was so swollen, that it was impossible for them to pass. They soon became bewildered. As they proceeded, the Indian guides purposely led them astray; ‘they went up and down through very great woods,’ without making any progress. The wilderness, into which they had at last wandered, was sterile and scarcely inhabited; they had now reached the great buffalo prairies of the west, the huntinggrounds of the Pawnees and Comanches, the migratory tribes on the confines of Mexico. The Spaniards believed themselves to be at least one hundred and fifty leagues west of the Mississippi. Desperate as the

1 Portuguese Relation, c. XXX. Vega, l. v. p. i. c. VII. VIII. Vega embellishes. Herrera d. VII. l. VII. c. III.

2 Vega introduces the Natchitoches too soon. L. v. p. i. c. i. See Portuguese Account, c. XXXII. and XXXIII. Compare Nuttall, 264.

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