The Pocahontas Inspiration

There was another member of the Narvaez expedition, in addition to Nunez, who was to influence Soto's exploration. He was Juan Ortiz, a young mariner who had been storm-driven with Narvaez to Florida, took Dona Narvaez to Havana and then returned at her command to search for the Adelantado.

What befell him is told dramatically by one of the members of the Soto army -- a person known to history only as "A Gentleman of Elvas."

We take up Ortiz' story shortly after Soto landed and sent out two scouting parties:

When Baltasar de Gallegos came into the open field, he discovered ten or eleven Indians. Among them was a Christian, naked and sun-burnt, his arms tattooed after their manner, and he in no respect differing from them. As soon as the horsemen came in sight they ran upon the Indians. The natives fled, hiding themselves in a thicket, though not before two or three of them were over-taken and wounded.

The Christian, seeing a horseman coming upon him with a lance, began to cry out, "Do not kill me, cavalier! I am a Christian. Do not slay these people. They have given me my life. "

Directly he called to the Indians, putting them out of fear, upon which they left the wood and came to him. The horseman took up the Christian and Indians behind them on their beasts, and, greatly rejoicing, got back to the Governor at nightfall. When he and the rest who had remained in camp heard the news, they were no less pleased than the others.

The name of the Christian was Juan Ortiz, a native of Sevilla, and of noble parentage. He had been twelve years among the Indians, having gone into the country with Panphilo de Narvaez, and returned in the ships to the Island of Cuba, where the wife of the Governor remained.

By her command, he went back to Florida, with some twenty or thirty others, in a pinnace. Coming to the port in sight of the town, they saw a cane sticking upright in the ground, with a split in the top, holding a letter. This they supposed the Governor had left there, to give information of himself before marching into the interior. They asked it be given to them, of four or five Indians walking along the beach, who, by signs, bade them come to land for it. Ortiz and another did so, though contrary to the wishes of the others.

No sooner had they got on shore, when many natives came out of the houses and, drawing near, held them in such way that they could not escape. One, who would have defended himself, they slew on the spot. The other they seized by the hands and took him to Ucita, their chief. The people in the pinnace, unwilling to land, kept along the coast and returned to Cuba.

By command of Ucita, Juan Ortiz was bound hand and foot to four stakes and laid upon scaffolding. Beneath it a fire was kindled that he might be burned. However, a daughter of the Chief en-treated that he might be spared. "Though one Christian, " she said, "might do no good, certainly he could do no harm; also, it would be an honor to have one for a captive. " To this the father acceded, directing the injuries to be healed.

When Ortiz got well he was put to watching a temple so that wolves, in the night time, might not carry off the dead there. This charge he took in hand, having commended himself to God.

One night the animals snatched away from him the body of a little child, son of a principal man. Going after them he threw a dart at the wolf that was escaping. The beast, feeling itself wounded, let go its hold and went off to die. Ortiz returned without knowing what he had done in the dark. In the morning, finding the body of the little boy gone, he became very sober.

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Boldly Onward - America's Adelantados - by Lindsey Williams