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Cofachiqui: An Indian Princess Of Historic Legend
by [?]

IT was a day in late April. In the flourishing Indian town of Yupaha, a town lying on the east bank of the Savannah River, in what is now the State of South Carolina, an unusual commotion was evident. An Indian on the river bank had noticed with his far-seeing eyes a strange sight on the opposite side of the river. The sunshine was flashing on glinting brass and steel implements upheld by a host of strange foreigners who were massed near the river, some on foot and others mounted on such animals as the Indian had never before seen. What was to be the next move of these strangers? Were they planning to cross the river and invade the Red Man’s stronghold? Quickly the Indian called around him the principal men of the village, sent a message also to the young and beautiful princess who had recently been made Queen of the province of Cofachiqui and of many neighbouring provinces. This princess was so just and loyal and honest in dealing with her people that they loved her as though she had been a wise man instead of a young girl. Now she was quickly told of the strange spectacle across the water and came herself to view it. Then her councillors gathered around her to receive her commands, and several Indians hurrying to the river, hastily embarked in their canoes, the rhythmic sound of their paddles echoing on the still air.

Meanwhile on the bank toward which they steered their canoes, there was an air of expectancy as the canoes came nearer, were grounded, as six stalwart Indian chiefs filed up the bank from the river, and stood before the foreigners, who were no other than Hernandez de Soto, the Spanish general, and his band of adventurers. The chiefs made three profound bows, one toward the East, to the Sun, one toward the West, to the moon, and one to De Soto himself. Then their spokesman asked:

“Do you wish peace or war?”

“Peace,” answered De Soto promptly. “We ask only permission to pass through your province, transportation across the river, food while we are in your territory and the treatment of friends, not foes.”

Gravely the Indian listened, gravely he answered. Peace, he said, could be assured, but for the other requests there must be time given to make answer. Cofachiqui, queen of the province bearing her name, must be consulted. Of food there was a scant supply because of a pestilence which had recently ravaged their land causing many natives to go into the forests, and preventing them from planting their fields as usual, but if the strangers would await Cofachiqui’s response to their demands with what patience they could command, that patience would surely be rewarded.

The Indian ceased speaking and bowed. Gravely his companions also bowed. The interview was over. With silent sinuous strides the chiefs retraced their steps to the river, and entered their canoes which soon shot through the water, homeward bound, watched by the eager eyes of the waiting Spaniards.

Now although De Soto had shown surprise at the news that the ruler of the neighbouring province was a young princess, the surprise was not genuine. Some months earlier in the season, while encamped in what is now the State of Florida, an Indian had been captured and brought into the Spanish camp. This youth had told thrilling tales to the Spaniards of the fascinating young Queen Cofachiqui and he related to a breathless audience how all the neighbouring chiefs paid tribute to her as to a great ruler, and sent her presents of magnificent clothing and provisions and gold. At the mention of gold which was the ruling passion of De Soto and his followers, they plied the young Indian with further questions, and he, hoping for release as the price of his information, told in detail of the wonderful yellow metal which was found in such quantities in the province of Cofachiqui and neighbouring territories and how it was melted and refined, and as the Spaniards listened, they exchanged glances of joy that at last after all their weary wanderings, they were to find the long-looked-for treasure. At once they broke camp, robbing and plundering the Indians, without whose kindness and hospitality during the long Winter months they would have fared badly, but of that they were careless, and in every possible way drained the stores of the savages who had befriended them, in fitting themselves out for their expedition northward.