George M. (George Makepeace) Towle.

Pizarro : his adventures and conquests online

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and stripped off the aromatic bark with delight.
But they could not take it with them, and were
forced to be content with the discovery, leaving it
to future expeditions to gather its fruits. They


marched on and on ; yet no such land of gold and
plenty as had been reported to them rejoiced their
eyes. At last they were relieved to come in sight
of a broad, sweeping river, one of the largest the
Spaniards had ever seen, called the "Napo."
Here they hoped to find settlements, and a plenty
of food. They struggled with difficulty along the
banks, which were so overgrown with dense brush
that they could scarcely break through it. Sud-
denly they came to a roaring cataract, where the
waters of the river plunged headlong for hundreds
of feet through an awful chasm ; while below, as
far as eye could reach, stretched out a series of
boisterous rapids. Beyond these the river became
more narrow ; and here Gonzalo resolved to cross
over to the other bank, in the hope that the way
along it might be easier. But he found progress
on that side quite as difficult. At last, seeing that
many of his men were weary beyond endurance,
and that it was almost impossible to carry all the
baggage, the idea struck him to build a kind of
boat with which to transport the weaker men and
their burdens.

Timber was felled, and the shoes of the horses
were beaten into rude nails ; the gum of the trees


served as pitch ; and the torn coats of the soldiers
were used to fill the seams in the rude vessel. It
was soon finished, and ready to be launched upon
the river.

Among Gonzalo's chief officers was one named
Orellana, who had come from Truxillo, Pizarro's
own town. Gonzalo placed the utmost confidence
in this man, and confided to him the command of
the boat. Having chosen the less hardy half of his
force, he caused them to embark with the greater
portion of the baggage ; and, having ordered Orel-
lana to proceed down the river so slowly that
those on shore could keep up with the boat, Gon-
zalo marched with the rest along the bank.

Their hardships were far from over. Their pro-
visions were now nearly exhausted ; and the poor
fellows were forced to chew the leather of their
belts, and even to eat toads, lizards, and snakes, to
keep themselves alive.

In this desperate situation Gonzalo would have
turned back, had he not kept hearing that some
distance ahead was a flourishing land, watered by
a larger river than the Napo, into which the latter
emptied. He finally made up his mind to go no
farther, but to send Orellana forward with a small


force to explore the country beyond, and bring
him back word whether there really existed, such a
land as the natives told him of.

One morning the boat was pushed out into the
rapid stream. Orellana was upon it, with fifty
chosen soldiers. No sooner had the craft struck
the current than it sped swiftly away, and soon
disappeared in the distance.

Gonzalo and those who remained with him had
nothing to do but to exist as well as they could,
and await patiently Orellana's return. They spent
much of their time in weary search after food, of
which they could only find the most wretched and
scanty supply. After a lapse of a week without
any signs of Orellana, Gonzalo began to grow im-
patient. What could have become of the boat
and its occupants ? Day after day passed, and
yet no boat appeared. The days lengthened into
weeks, the weeks into months ; and still Orellana
did not return. Gonzalo's patience was at length
exhausted. Calling together the miserable rem-
nant of his force, he ordered them to resume their
march. He resolved to go forward at least as far
as the junction of the rivers. It was a terrible
journey; and the adventurers suffered untold tor-


tures of hunger, heat, atid sickness, many of them
dying in agony by the way. It took no less than
two months for them to reach the place where the
Napo emptied into the larger river. This larger
river was the famous 'Amazon.

Here still they heard no news and saw no signs
of Orellana. They found themselves in a wild and
desolate region. And now a new danger threat-
ened them from the ferocious savages whom they
saw hovering in multitudes on the hills, and edges
of the woods.

One day, as Gonzalo was sitting gloomily in the
midst of his forlorn camp, he was astonished to
see a gaunt, cadaverous-looking white man, his
clothes hanging in tatters and strings about his
body, come feebly creeping out of the forest.
The man was so weak and thin, that he could
scarcely drag himself forward. Several of Gon-
zalo's soldiers hurried up to him, and, supporting
him with their arms, brought him to the captain.

" Who are you ? ' exclaimed Gonzalo, looking
earnestly at him. " And how came you, a white
man, a Spaniard, in this desolate wilderness ? '

" I am Sanchez de Vargas," replied the man
faintly ; " a cavalier and a soldier, though you see
me in this sad plight."


" Ah ! I know you well, poor cavalier. You are
one of those who went with Orellana. Tell me,"
added Gonzalo, rising in his eagerness, and peer-
ing into the man's face, " where is Orellana ? '

" Give me food and drink," returned Vargas,
" and let me rest upon this bank, and I will tell

Having voraciously swallowed such miserable
fare as the camp still provided, Vargas, reclining
wearily upon the sward, told the story of Orel-
lana's adventures, and revealed to Gonzalo the
dismal news of what had become of him.

" We sailed very rapidly down the river," said
he, "and reached this place, the junction of the
rivers, in three days. But, when we had got here,
we found the country savage and unfruitful, as
you see. We were almost in despair. Our food
gave out, and we thought we should all starve to
death. Then Orellana called the chief officers to-
gether, and told them what he had resolved to do.
It was useless, he said, to try to get back to Gon-
zalo again. The current was against us, and we
could never reach the place from which we started.
Orellana therefore declared that he had made up
his mind to continue straight on down the river to


the ocean, to cross the Atlantic, and reach Spain !
I cried out earnestly against this, and told him
how perfidious it would be to leave you and your
comrades in this wilderness to die of hunger


or of the poisoned shafts of the savages. But
Orellana grew very angry with me, and, telling
me that I should not go with him, embarked on
board the boat with the rest, and sailed away on
the great river, leaving me here to starve."

Gonzalo's blood ran cold as he heard of Orel-
lana's base treachery and desertion. Ere this, no
doubt, the miscreant had reached the ocean, and
was on his way to Europe. No hope remained
that he would return, and save them from what
seemed their impending doom.

The sequel of Orellana's voyage may be told
here. After escaping many dangers, he at last
traversed the whole length of the Amazon. He
launched boldly out upon the waters of the Atlan-
tic, and succeeded in reaching Spain. There he
told wonderful stories of what he had seen and
heard of the lands through which he had passed,
and, resolved to make the most of his discoveries,
easily persuaded a force of five hundred men to
return with him to the banks of the Amazon.


But he died on the way out; and his followers,
disheartened, returned to their native country.

Nothing remained for Gonzalo, after it became
certain that he should not see Orellana again, but
to turn his face westward, and make his way
back, if possible, over the desolate country and
the perilous range of the Cordilleras, to Quito.
At first his soldiers, on learning his decision, were
in despair. But Gonzalo had all his brother's
power of persuasion. The soldiers loved him ;
for he always shared their every hardship, and was
gentle and indulgent with their faults. He held
out to them the prospect of returning to home
and comfort, and perhaps riches, so temptingly,
that their murmurs soon ceased, and they asked
nothing better than that he should lead them
back. The trials and difficulties with which the
party had to contend on their homeward march
may be judged, when it is said that they were
more than a year returning to the land of Quito.
No peril or distress known to adventure was
spared them. Often they were forced to fight for
their lives against hordes of swarthy and half-
naked savages, who burst suddenly upon them in
the densely-wooded ravines, or dashed down upon


them from behind sheltering bowlders. Many a
Spaniard and Peruvian fell wounded and poisoned
by their envenomed arrows, and lay writhing in
agony till death released them. Nor were the
savages their only assailants. Wild beasts howled
about their camp at night, and now and then
leaped from the boughs or the jungles upon them,
tearing their victims limb from limb. Now they
were horrified to hear the ominous rumbling
under the earth which betokened ,an earthquake ;
and stood still with terror as they saw great
fissures crack in the ground, puffing forth sulphur-
ous smoke and flame. Terrific tempests burst
upon them in places where they could find no
shelter from the unwonted violence of the wind
and rain. Their clothes rotted and hung in rags
upon their emaciated, half-fed bodies ; their arms
rusted in their hands. For want of food, they
suffered day by day, and week by week. They ate
every thing that they could chew, however noi-
some and unsavory. Even their belts and knap-
sacks had become exhausted with much frantic
chewing ; and they were at last so wofully re-
duced, that they struggled fiercely with each other
over a toad or a snake, as if it were a delicious

* V



Of course the poor creatures died by the hun-
dred of hunger, disease, and very weariness.
Some were killed by sunstroke in the plains ;
others were frozen to death by the bitter winds of
the mountain-heights.

When Gonzalo led his forlorn party down the
sunny slopes that led to Quito, there were scarcely
two thousand Peruvians left of the four thousand
he had led over the Cordilleras. Of the three
hundred and fifty Spaniards, only eighty survived
to tell the shocking story of their sufferings. As
the people came out of Quito to greet their re-
turn, wives and children, searching eagerly in the
gaunt and feeble band for husbands and fathers,
failed to recognize them when they saw them, so
horribly had their forms and features changed.
But the poor fellows were glad enough to get
home again, to sit in their houses, and receive the
loving care of their families ; and almost all who
returned survived their hardships, and were re-
stored to health.

But Gonzalo, who had now been away for more
than two years, and had not heard a word of news
since his departure, was overwhelmed with horror
and grief by an event which had taken place dur-


ing his absence, and which seemed to have com-
pletely changed the fortunes of the family of
Pizarro. A crushing misfortune had overtaken
them, which, it appeared, no energy or courage
could retrieve.




FTER Gonzalo's departure, Pizarro re-
mained at Lima, happy in the midst of
his young family, busy building up his
colonies, and having no longer any reason to fear
that his rule would be again attacked by the Inca
and his now scattered and overawed troops. His
security seemed to be complete : no cloud dimmed
the horizon of his power and glory.

But he was, quite unconsciously, really in the
greatest danger ; and suddenly, almost without
warning, this peril was to burst upon him, and
overwhelm him.

The young son of Almagro, Diego, was living
in Lima, in a large house on the same square
where stood Pizarro's palace. He was left in
absolute freedom, to go and come as he pleased ;


and he indulged in a great deal of luxury and

Besides Diego himself, there were numerous old
friends and adherents of Almagro in Lima, and in
the settlements along the neighboring sea-coast.
Many of the veterans who had followed the old
cavalier to the south still survived ; and, while
they revered his memory, they devotedly attached
themselves to the fortunes of his young and hand-
some son. Almagro had made his son the heir to
his claim upon Cuzco, and upon an equal share of
the conquest of Peru.

All the while that Pizarro was absorbed in the
settlements, these friends of Almagro, who one and
all detested Pizarro, were engaged in conspiring
asrainst him. Diesro's house became their com-

O * '

mon rendezvous, and almost every night a large
company of cavaliers met there to plot against the
governor. They could not forgive the execution
of Almagro, and they were determined to avenge
it at the risk of their lives.

Every now and then Pizarro received hints cf
these secret meetings, and was warned by his
friends of the bitter feeling shared by all of Al-
magro's party ; but he recklessly made light of


these alarms, and declared that his enemies were
too weak and scattered to be feared.

" Oh, poor wretches ! ' he would say with a
pitying smile ; " they have had bad luck enough :
we will let them alone."

He neither took any precautions against their
hostility, nor did he attempt to win their friend-
ship. He simply treated them with contempt,
and went his way, and attended to his affairs, as if
they were not in existence.

Among Pizarro's favorites was a man named
Picado, his secretary, a very necessary officer
indeed, as Pizarro could neither read nor write.
This Picado was a very arrogant, pompous, strut-
ting fellow, who put on a great many airs, and
made a great display in his dress. He was espe-
cially hateful to Almagro's party, because he
never lost an opportunity to ridicule and insult
them. He used to go by Diego's house in a very
ostentatious way, and display placards in his
gaudy hat, with some contemptuous epithet for
them. He domineered over them every day, be-
lieving himself to be safe under the cover of Pi-
zarro's power, and sure that the " men of Chili,"
as Almagro's men were called, would not dare to
resent his indignities.


Picado's daily insults, however, drove the hostile
cavaliers to desperation. Hating Pizarro, they
could not bear the insolence of his puppet. They
only became more firmly resolved than ever to put
an end to Pizarro's rule.

One night, twenty of Almagro's most daring
and devoted followers met at Diego's house.
They gathered around a long table, at the head of
which the young, frank, rosy face of Diego ap-
peared. By his side sat a very dark and fierce-
looking cavalier, with long raven locks streaked
with gray, a heavy mustache, and large glittering
black eyes, named Juan de Rada. A dim lamp
cast a feeble light through the apartment. The
conspirators were one and all closely muffled in
their capacious cloaks.

They talked long, in low and earnest tones ;
Rada speaking the most often and the most
vehemently. Diego scarcely spoke a word, but
listened intently to all that was said. Rada pro-
posed a project which startled his companions.
He urged it with fierce words and violent ges-
tures ; and finally the rest assented to it. There
was one among them, however, who in his heart
revolted from it, and who secretly resqlved that it
should not be executed.


Rada's plan was to waylay Pizarro on the fol-
lowing Sunday as he was returning to his palace
from mass at the cathedral ; to strike him down,
and assassinate him in the street.

This .decided upon, the conspirators separated,
to meet again on Sunday morning at Diego's

The cavalier who was secretly resolved to balk
the conspirators had no sooner parted from the
rest than he hastened to a priest, to whom he was
in the habit of confessing.

To the priest he disclosed the whole conspiracy.
The holy man was startled, and at once hastened
to Pizarro' s palace. There he met the secretary
Picado, and informed him of the danger that
threatened his master. Picado carried the story,
in great alarm, to Pizarro. What was his amaze-
ment when Pizarro broke into a loud laugh !

" Oh, rest easy, Picado ! ' he cried. " Don't
you see that this is a very cunning trick of the
priest ? All he wants is to be made a bishop ! '

Pizarro deemed it prudent, however, to apprise
the judge of what he had heard, and to abstain
from going to the cathedral on the appointed Sun-
day morning. The judge, after inquiring into the


matter, came to the conclusion that there was no
such conspiracy as had been reported; and, re-
pairing to Pizarro, he said,

" Fear nothing, marquis. No harm shall come
to you while I hold the rod of justice in my

On Sunday the conspirators met early at Diego
Almagro's house. They were one and all armed
to the teeth, and their faces betrayed a dark and
stern resolution. Rada went from one to the
other to see if each one was prepared for his part,
and animated their purpose by his vehement

Diego's house stood, it chanced, next door to
the cathedral ; so that the conspirators, by peep-
ing cautiously through the windows, might easily
see the people going in and out of the sacred edi-
fice. With bated breath they watched the cathe-
dral-door, and scanned each figure, as, dressed
in sabbath finery, the worshippers assembled.
It was a lovely morning in the latter part of
June, and all Lima seemed to have turned out to
the morning mass. Spanish cavaliers came saun-
tering along in groups in their silken or woollen
capes and plumed hats, stopped a moment to chat


in the doorway, and then entered. Little knots of
dark-eyed, black-haired Peruvian women, decked
out with gaudy ornaments of gold, silver, and
gems, and with gowns striped or checked with all
the colors of the rainbow, made their way leisurely
to the Christian church, whose creed, after the
example of their Spanish husbands or masters,
they had not unwillingly embraced.

But, as the conspirators peered anxiously from
behind the curtains, they saw no signs of Pizarro.
In vain they looked for his dazzling retinue, or
tried to recognize his tall figure among the
comers. He did not appear.

" Perhaps, after all," whispered Rada hoarsely,
"we have failed to espy him as he went in. He
will doubtless issue forth when mass is over."

There was an interval of breathless suspense.
The minutes seemed hours, as the "men of Chili,"
their hands grasping their swords, remained
huddled near the window. At last the congrega-
tion issued forth again. They came out slowly
as they had gone in ; but it was not long before
the cathedral was deserted. A few stragglers
alone lingered about the door, or stopped on the
great square for a pleasant chat.


Rada, deadly pale, turned and gazed at his con-
federates. Had Pizarro been warned of their
plot ? If so, they were ruined. There was not a
moment to be lost. They must decide at once
either to make a desperate venture, or to fly for
their lives. Several of the cavaliers urged the
latter course.

" Perhaps," they said, " Pizarro is still ignorant
of our attempt. But he will soon hear of it. Let
us make our escape from Lima while we can."

Rada drew himself up, and glared fiercely upon
those who thus proposed flight.

"No ! " he cried. "It is too late to draw back.
We must go on to the end. Let us at once, with-
out an instant's delay, go and attack the tyrant in
his palace."

Then, drawing his sword, and striding rapidly
to the door, he added,

" Follow me ! We will issue into the street,
declare aloud our intention, and call upon the
people to come to our aid."

With this he threw open the door, and rushed
out. The others followed their daring leader with
one accord.

" Death to the tyrant ! long live the king ! '


cried Rada as he appeared on the square. A few
stragglers stopped, open-mouthed with amaze-
ment. In another moment a small crowd had
collected ; and several cavaliers drew their swords,
and, repeating Rada's cry, joined the group of
conspirators. Pizarro's palace stood just across
the square, and thither the party hastily bent their
steps. It is said, that, as they were going, one of
the conspirators came to a puddle of water, and
stepped around it. Rada perceived this, and ex-

" What ! are you afraid of wetting your feet ?
You are about to wade up to your knees in blood ! "

It took but a minute or two for the conspirators
to reach the gate of Pizarro's lordly dwelling.
This gate was a very high and heavy one, built
for defence as well as for convenience. It con-
ducted into a spacious court-yard, and this led to
still another court-yard within. Had the gate been
shut, it is probable that the plot would have failed.
But Pizarro did not seriously suspect any thing ;
and the great gate, as usual, was wide open.

Rada, sword in hand, boldly entered, followed
by the rest. He passed quickly through the first
court-yard, and made his way without resistance


into the second. The conspirators were now ten
ribly excited, and kept shouting as loud as they
could, " Death to the tyrant ! "

Some of Pizarro's attendants, lounging in the
inner court-yard, became terror-stricken. Rada
struck one of them with his sword, and he fell
howling with pain upon the pavement. Another,
as soon as he had gathered his senses, rushed
wildly into the palace, crying out,

" Help, help ! Almagro's men are coming to
murder the marquis ! '

The servant ran up stairs, burst open the doors,
and without ceremony plunged into the apart-
ment where his master was.

Pizarro was seated at table, quietly dining with
a few of his friends. There were Alcantara his
half-brother, Velasquez the judge, the bishop, and
his secretary Picado. Dinner was just finished,
and the party were lingering over the fruit and
wine. The terrified cry of the servant, and the
fierce shouting in the court-yard, roused them from
their placid enjoyment. One of the guests has-
tened down the stairway, but almost immediately
returned, saying that the palace was indeed at-


tacked by traitors.


At this the judge and one or two others ran out
into a corridor in the rear, and let themselves
down into the garden. The judge, as he clam-
bered over, held the rod of justice, which he had
with him, in his mouth : so it was true that harm
only came to Pizarro when the judge no longer
"helcl the rod of justice in his hands."

Meanwhile the fearless Pizarro did not for a
moment think of flight. Rising leisurely from
the table, with set teeth, and an unmoved counte-
nance which did not even grow pale, he sum-
moned Chaves, one of his chamberlains, and
ordered him to close and bar the door of the ante-
chamber which led into the corridor that the con-
spirators were now approaching.

"I only wish," said he quietly, "to hold the
miscreants off until Alcantara and I can buckle
on our armor."

Passing across the room, he took his armor
from the wall, and began to incase himself in it.
Alcantara with firm hand helped him, and then
put his own armor on.

Unhappily Chaves neglected to obey his mas-
ter's command. Instead of closing and securing
the ante-chamber door, his curiosity got the better


of him, and he held it ajar so as to observe the con-
spirators as they mounted the staircase. Seeing
this with a glance of his quick eye, Rada rushed
forward, closely followed by his confederates, and
burst the door open.

At this moment, Alcantara, issuing from the
dining-room, saw that the conspirators had forced
their way into the ante-chamber Calling hoarsely
to several, cavaliers and pages who were near by,
he threw himself upon Rada : the rest joined arms,
and a terrible and desperate combat ensued. In
a moment two or three men lay stretched on the
floor. But Alcantara, wounded by half a dozen
sword-thrusts, continued to struggle fiercely.

Pizarro, meanwhile, was standing in the dining^
room, in vain trying to fasten on his armor. At
last he angrily threw down his cuirass, and wind-
ing one arm in the folds of his cloak, so as to use
it as a kind of shield, with the other he drew his
sword, and boldly advanced upon his assailants.

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Online LibraryGeorge M. (George Makepeace) TowlePizarro : his adventures and conquests → online text (page 15 of 16)