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While this reconciliation was being effected, Coronado heard from one of the plains Indians,[72] held as a slave in the village of Cicuye [p394] or Pecos, the stories about Quivira, which were to add so much to the geographic extent of the expedition.

When the Spaniards were about to kill this Indian—“The Turk,” they called him[73]—he told them that his masters, the people of Cicuye, had induced him to lead the strangers away to the pathless plains, where water was scarce and corn was unknown, to perish there, or, if ever they should succeed in finding the way back to the village settlements, tired and weak, to fall an easy prey to their enemies.


This plan was shrewdly conceived, and it very nearly succeeded. There is little reason why we should doubt the truth of the confession, made when the Indian could scarcely have hoped to save his life, and it affords an easy explanation of the way in which the exaggerated stories of Quivira originated and expanded. The Turk may have accompanied Alvarado on the first visit to the great plains, and he doubtless told the white men about his distant home and the roving life on the prairies. It was later, when the Spaniards began to question him about nations and rulers, gold and treasures, that he received, perhaps from the Spaniards themselves, the hints which led him to tell them what they were rejoiced to hear and to develop the fanciful pictures which appealed so forcibly to all the desires of his hearers. The Turk, we can not doubt, told the Spaniards many things which were not true. But in trying to trace these early dealings of Europeans with the American aborigines, we must never forget how much may be explained by the possibilities of misinterpretation on the part of the white men, who so often heard of what they wished to find, and who learned, very gradually and in the end imperfectly, to understand only a few of the native languages and dialects. And besides this, the record of their observations, on which the students of today have to depend, was made in a language which knew nothing of the things which it was trying to describe. Much of what the Turk said was very likely true the first time he said it, although the memories of home were heightened, no doubt, by absence and distance. Moreover, Castañeda, who is the chief source for the stories of gold and lordly kings which are said to have been told by the Turk, in all probability did not know anything more than the reports of what the Turk was telling to the superior officers, which were passed about among the common foot soldiers.[74] The present narrative has already shown the wonderful power of gossip, and when it is gossip recorded twenty years afterward, we may properly be cautious in believing it.


Coronado wrote to the King from Tiguex, on April 20, 1541, as he says in his next letter, that of October 20. The April letter, written just before the start for Quivira, must have contained a full and official account of all that had been learned in regard to the country toward [p395] the east, as well as more reliable details than we now possess, of what had happened during the preceding fall and winter. But this April letter, which was an acknowledgment and answer to one from Charles V, dated in Madrid, June 11, 1540, has not been found by modern students. When the reply was dispatched, the messenger—probably Juan Gallego, who had perhaps brought the Emperor’s letter from Mexico—was accompanied by Pedro de Tovar, who was going back to Corazones valley for reinforcements. Many mishaps had befallen the town of San Hieronimo during the year, and when the messengers arrived there they found it half deserted. Leaving Don Pedro here, Gallego hastened to Mexico, where he raised a small body of recruits. He was leading these men, whose number had been increased by some stragglers and deserters from the original force whom he picked up at Culiacan, toward Cibola and Quivira, when he met the expedition returning to New Spain. It was during this, probably his fifth trip over the road from Mexico to our New Mexico, that he performed the deeds of valor which Castañeda so enthusiastically recounts at the very end of his book.