15 Chapter XXI: Our Cure of Some of the Afflicted

Our Cure of Some of the Afflicted

Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca

That same night of our arrival, some Indians came to 
Castillo and told him that they had great pain in the 
head, begging him to cure them. After he made over 
them the sign of the cross, and commended them to 
God, they instantly said that all the pain had left, and 
went to their houses bringing us prickly pears, with 
a piece of venison, a thing to us little known. As 
the report of Castillo's performances spread, many came 
to us that night sick, that we should heal them, each 
bringing a piece of venison, until the quantity became 
so great we knew not where to dispose of it. We gave 
many thanks to God, for every day went on increasing 
his compassion and his gifts. After the sick were 
attended to, they began to dance and sing, making 
themselves festive, until sunrise ; and because of our 
arrival, the rejoicing was continued for three days. 

When these were ended, we asked the Indians about 
the country farther on, the people we should find in it, 
and of the subsistence there. They answered us, that 
throughout all the region prickly pear plants abounded ; 
but the fruit was now gathered and all the people had 
gone back to their houses. They said the country was 
very cold, and there were few skins. Reflecting on
this, and that it was already winter, we resolved to pass 
the season with these Indians. 

Five days after our arrival, all the Indians went off, 
taking us with them to gather more prickly pears, 
where there were other peoples speaking different 
tongues. After walking five days in great hunger, 
since on the way was no manner of fruit, we came 
to a river and put up our houses. We then went to 
seek the product of certain trees, whjch is like peas. 
As there are no paths in the country, I was detained 
some time. The others returned, and coming to look 
for them in the dark, I got lost. Thank God I found 
a burning tree, and in the warmth of it passed the cold 
of that night. In the morning, loading myself with 
sticks, and taking two brands with me, I returned 
to seek them. In this manner I wandered five days, 
ever with my fire and load ; for if the wood had failed 
me where none could be found, as many parts are with- 
out any, though I might have sought sticks elsewhere, 
there would have been no fire to Idndle them. This 
was all the protection I had against cold, while walking 
naked as I was born. Going to the low woods near 
the rivers, I prepared myself for the night, stopping in 
them before sunset. I made a hole in the ground and 
threw in fuel which the trees abundantly afforded, col- 
lected in good quantity from those that were fallen and 
dry. About the whole I made four fires, in the form 
of a cross, which I watched and made up from time to 
time. I also gathered some bundles of the coarse straw 
that there abounds, with which I covered myself in
the hole. In this way I was sheltered at night from 
cold. On one occasion while I slept, the fire fell upon 
the straw, when it began to blaze so rapidly that not- 
T^-ithstanding the haste I made to get out of it, I 
carried some marks on my hair of the danger to which 
I was exposed. All this while I tasted not a mouthful, 
nor did I find anything I could eat. My feet were bare 
and bled a good deal. Through the mercy of God, the 
wind did not blow from the north in all this time, 
otherwise I should have died. 

At the end of the fifth day I arrived on the margin 
of a river, where I found the Indians, who with the 
Christians, had considered me dead, supposing that I 
had been stung by a viper. All were rejoiced to see me, 
and most so were my companions. They said that up 
to that time they had struggled with great hunger, which 
was the cause of their not having sought me. At night, 
all gave me of their prickly pears, and the next morning 
we set out for a place where they were in large quantity, 
with which we satisfied our great craving, the Christ- 
ians rendering thanks to our Lord that he had ever 
given us his aid.


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