Great River


With that, Alvarado retired to his tent, and sent for Bigotes and Cacique. When they appeared, he had them clapped into chains for denying him what he asked for, and ordered the Turk to be kept in arrest as a witness. Trouble followed. The people of Pecos hearing what had happened to their chiefs came to Alvarado’s camp crying bad faith, and discharging arrows. Presently the Turk escaped. A parley followed. Alvarado agreed to release the captive Cacique if he and his men would bring back the Turk. When they did so, Alvarado put them back in chains again, and again there was an outcry from the Indians. And then the land of Pecos was threatened by enemy Indians from another province. Alvarado and his men helped the Indian war party to go and defeat the enemy. The captive chiefs were released for the campaign, but in the course of it, the Turk once again escaped, taking Isopete with him. Once again Bigotes and Cacique were sent to recapture the slaves, and returning without them, were still again put in chains.

“I will keep you so until the Turk is delivered to me,” declared Alvarado, whereupon the fugitives were brought back by other Indians. The battle campaign was abandoned as suddenly as it had been started, and Alvarado, bringing his four prisoners in iron collars and chains, marched westward to report to the General at Granada. But coming to the River of Our Lady he found Cárdenas and the others already at Alcanfor, and heard that the General himself with a large advance guard was on his way to the river. Alvarado halted there to wait for him with the enlivening news of the golden bracelet and all that it must mean.

Facing Battle

At Granada, to the west, by late November, the main body of the army had arrived from the south under command of Captain Tristan de Arellano. The General received them warmly, and gave orders that they should rest for twenty days and then follow him east to the river, for he was leaving with thirty men to establish his winter headquarters at Alcanfor. He took a different trail from that of Alvarado and Cardenas, striking to the southeast, meeting cold weather and for three days finding no water. Just before coming to the river he passed through a province of eight pueblos called Tutahaco, where the people were peaceable. Hearing of further towns down the river, the General sent Captain Francisco de Ovando, perhaps his most popular officer, to explore them and rejoin him at Alcanfor in the Tiguex province. Then turning upstream the General made his way in the winter valley, with all its dry golden, earthen pink and river-brown colors, to the town commandeered by his advance guard, where he arrived in the afternoon of an early December day, pleased to see the garrison established under Cardenas, and especially pleased to find Alvarado already returned from the cattle plains. The very first evening, the General sent for Alvarado to tell his story. Alvarado, who brought the Turk with him, made his report. The General then turned to the Turk. What, then, was this country like to the east of the cattle?

Oh, there was a vast river, two leagues across, where the fish were as big as the Spanish horses. On it floated great numbers of long canoes, carrying sails, with more than twenty oarsmen on each side. At their prow were large golden eagles. Under canopies at the stern the lords of the country took their ease. The ruler of that kingdom slept in the afternoons under a large tree in whose branches were hung countless little golden bells which beguiled him as they rang in the breeze.

The Turk spoke earnestly and openly. It was impossible not to believe him.

Was he sure of what he meant by gold?

Acochis , he replied. That was gold.

The General showed him some ornaments made of tin. Was this gold?

The Turk leaned over and smelled of the tin, and said that of course it was not gold, he knew gold and silver very well, and in fact, did not, as it happened, himself, care for any other metals.

Then there was silver, too?

Yes, all the ordinary table service was of silver, and larger pieces, like pitchers, bowls and platters, were of gold.

(Hardly thirty years before, the Emperor Montezuma had sent Cortes, at the seacoast, an image of the sun as large as a carriage wheel, and all of solid gold… .)

The General was enthralled.

What of the golden bracelet, then?

The Turk repeated that it had been wrested from him by Bigotes, and hidden at Pecos.

How could it be obtained?

Why, if they would let him go there alone, without Bigotes, the Turk would find it and bring it straight back to prove all he had been saying.

The General excused him, and he was led away. Alvarado advised strongly against releasing the Turk. He had long tried to escape from his enslavement; now could he be trusted to do as he promised? Bigotes, with the other captives, was at Alcanfor and could be questioned. With the advice of Fray Juan de Padilla, the General ordered him and Alvarado together to question Bigotes further. Much depended upon what they could learn from the young chief.