George M. (George Makepeace) Towle.

Pizarro : his adventures and conquests online

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quered to his own kingdom. At first he very
carefully avoided giving the Inca Huascar cause
for alarm. But soon Huascar began to suspect
that Atahualpa fostered designs on Peru itself ;
and, after mutual misunderstanding had once
arisen between the brothers, a cause of quarrel
was not far to seek. Atahualpa was a handsome
young man, of noble and soldierly bearing, impetu-
ous, and as brave as a lion. He not only rushed,
with the veterans who had served his father so
valiantly, into the thickest of the battle, but he
was free, generous, and indulgent to them, and
thus completely won their hearts.

The first assault was made by Huascar, who
invaded the territory of Quito, and, after a fierce
conflict, not only routed Atahualpa, but took him
prisoner. But Atahualpa soon escaped, and, re-
turning to his kingdom, made ha'ste to restore
and swell the ranks of his defeated army. The
soldiers were only too eager to follow him once
more against the Inca. He marched them rapidly
southward, and, meeting Huascar with a formida-
ble force at the foot of Mount Chimborazo, the
loftiest peak of the Cordilleras, utterly defeated


and put him to flight. Pursuing the retreating
Peruvians, Atahualpa entered, sacked, and razed
Tumebamba, one of his brother's chief cities, and
savagely massacred its people, young and old.
Then he advanced, desolating the country in his
pathway with fire and sword, and established his
camp at Caxamalca. From thence he sent his
main army forward under the command of two
veteran generals. They met the hosts of Huascar
on a broad plain, a short distance from Cuzco, his
capital. There then ensued a desperate and terri-
ble battle, which resulted in a second and still
more fatal disaster to the Inca, whose army was
routed in the wildest disorder, whose capital was
seized and plundered, and who was himself taken

Atahualpa's triumph now seemed complete ; but
he used it with barbaric cruelty. He ordered
his brother to fie thrown into a dungeon in a dis-
tant fortress ; he summoned a large concourse of
Inca nobles to Cuzco, and, when they were gath-
ered there, ordered them to be massacred without
mercy ; and, crowning himself with the imperial
diadem, he declared himself to be the Inca of


Such was the condition of the Peruvian Empire
at the moment that Pizarro, with the aid of his
faithful friends Almagro and Luque, was prepar-
ing to sail in two small ships, and with a resolute
band of soldiers, in the direction of its shores.




IN the morning of the I4th of November,
1524, the little town of Panama was alive
with unusual commotion. The day was
misty and chilly ; yet the people, consisting not
only of Spaniards, but of Indians clad in every
variety of native costume, flocked into the streets,
as if something unusual were about to take place.
The town lay upon a projecting point of the
coast, and was surrounded by a high stone wall.
Out in the lovely bay, which was not less beauti-
ful in its contour and its surroundings than the
famous Bay of Naples, the sparkling waters were
dotted with hilly isles, densely covered to their
very summits with rich tropical trees and shrubs ;
while far off on the other side the dim outlines
of lofty mountains were visible, their peaks rising
above the floating clouds.


From the centre of the most thickly-populated
quarter rose the towers of the cathedral, then
very new, the ruins of which may still be seen by
the traveller in that southern region ; and it was
in the direction of this edifice that the motley
throng of soldiers, sailors, planters, shopkeepers,
fortune-hunters, desperadoes, Indians, women, and
children, was drifting.

The cathedral was soon crowded to its utmost
capacity. Near the high altar, with white-plumed
and blue velvet cap, stood the gaunt and grim-
looking Pedrarias, the governor of the colony.
Just by his side was seen the tall, sturdy figure,
and dark, resolute face, of Francisco Pizarro, also
attired in a handsome costume ; while a long sword
hung at his side, and a shining cuirass covered his
breast. A little behind Pizarro was stationed the
short form of Almagro, his friend, whose counte-
nance betrayed the earnestness and fire of his

For a little while silence reigned through
the cathedral. Then a stout, prosperous-looking
priest, with large and bright black eyes and pleas-
ant face, arrayed in the robes of his sacred office,
advanced, and kneeled at the high altar. This


priest, had he been seen in another place .and in a
more worldly garb, would have been taken rather
for an enterprising merchant, or even an adventur-
ous soldier, than for a minister of souls. It was
Luque, Pizarro's stanch friend, and his partner in
the venture that was about to be made.

Presently the priest's voice was heard chanting
the solemn service of the mass. The song of the
choir echoed through the cathedral ; and then
Luque, turning towards Pizarro, stretched forth
his arms, and in loud, deep, earnest tones blessed
him, and bade him God speed in his dangerous
voyage. He then administered to him the holy
sacrament, and the ceremony was at an end.

A procession was now formed, the governor,
Pedrarias, marching at the head, with Pizarro at
his side. Behind them went the soldiers and men
who had been enlisted for the voyage ; and these,
in turn, were followed by a large concourse of
soldiers and people.

Arrived on the shores of the bay, Pizarro took
leave of the governor, who, though jealous of the
gallant captain, concealed his feelings, and warmly
bade him farewell ; embraced his good friends Al-
magro and Luque ; and, amid the shouts of the


throng gathered on the quay, went on board the
larger of the two ships that lay at anchor.

It was not long before the men had all em-
barked ; and the moment arrived to weigh anchor,
to spread sails, and put out to sea. As the ships
glided out of the harbor, a loud clamor of shouts
rent the air. Flags were waved, and guns fired
off ; and the tall figure of Pizarro was seen erect
on his quarter-deck, saluting the crowd with his
plumed hat, until he and the ships faded out of
sight in the still brooding mist.

Pizarro had boldly committed his fortunes and
his life to the great deep, and to the perils sure to
be encountered in strange and savage lands. His
bold heart beat high as he thought of the glorious
prospect of success ; nor did it for a moment
shrink before the dread possibilities of disaster and
defeat. He knew almost nothing of the region
to which he was going, but trusted firmly in his
good fortune and his pluck to conquer every obsta-
cle. The little ships pushed bravely out to sea,
and soon every landmark of the town and bay
was lost to sight. Reaching the Isle of Pearls,
where Pizarro had once obtained so many precious
jewels, and to which he had given its name, he


anchored there a little while ; and then, resuming
his voyage, he sailed southward toward the con-
tinent, where, according to the stories he had
heard, he would find the riches he so ardently

In a few days, as the ships sped along the coast,
they doubled a promontory, on the other side of
which Pizarro espied the mouth of a river. Re-
solved to explore every part of the coast, lest he
should miss the country of which he was in
search, he ordered the ships to sail up this stream
as far as they could. It proved to be navigable
for about six miles. They cast anchor, and Pi-
zarro landed upon the unknown shore with all his
soldiers to explore the country round about.

He found himself in a strange and forbidding
place. Dismal swamps, overgrown with rank and
tangled shrubs, stretched out before him and his
comrades on every side as far as the eye could
reach ; and, after crossing these, they came to a
rough, craggy, barren region, which was as desolate,
and as difficult to cross, as the marshes had been.
There were no signs anywhere of human habita-
tion ; and, after several days employed in te-
dious and fruitless marches under a blazing sun,


the party returned footsore and weary to the

Once more they put out to sea, and continued
to skirt as near to the shore as it was safe to do.
It was not many days before their eyes were glad-
dened by another inlet. Here Pizarro put in, in
order not only to explore the region, but to renew
his supply of wood and water. But the place was
not less lonely and unattractive than that they had
before visited : so, after taking in wood and water,
they resumed their voyage.

Hitherto, in spite of the inclement season of
the year, the weather had not been unfavorable
to the expedition. But they had no sooner struck
into the open sea than a furious tempest assailed
the ships. It burst upon them suddenly. Thunder
rolled in deafening peals across the black and
heavy masses of clouds ; while the sharp and
quick succeeding flashes of lightning lit up the sea
and firmament, as if to show the adventurers the
frightful aspects of the storm in which they were
enveloped. The poor little ships creaked and
groaned ; and as each tremendous billow struck
and dashed over their sides, making them shake
and tremble, and deluging the men with salt


water, it seemed as if every moment would see
them staved in and shattered by the shock.

Pizarro, in the midst of the tempest, was as
patient and calm as if he had been quietly repos-
ing in his house at Panama. His men at first
raved and cursed in their terror ; but he went
amons: them and cheered them, and soon shamed


them into submission by his own dauntless cour-


The storm grew more and more terrible. Day
waned, and night came ; and the waves still rose
to awful heights, the wind swelled to a hurri-
cane, and the ships drifted and plunged helplessly
whithersoever the frenzied elements carried them.
For a week the tempest continued to rage with a
fury that only abated a few moments at a time.
And now another calamity was added to the dan-
gers of shipwreck.

Almagro had stored the ships with what he
thought an ample supply of provisions ; but he
had supposed that the voyagers would be able to
renew it from time to time by procuring food at
the places on the coast where they would land.
But they had as yet found nothing to sustain life,
and their provisions and water were almost ex-


hausted. They had now before them the danger
not only of foundering at sea, but, even if they
were spared this fate, of dying by starvation.
Each man's rations were reduced to two ears of
corn, and this scant sustenance Pizarro cheerfully
shared with the humblest of his comrades.

The storm happily ceased a few days after the
provisions fell short ; and the captain, ignorant of
what lay beyond, resolved to put back to the inlet
where he had taken in wood and water. There,
at least, they would be safe on dry land ; they
would repair the disabled ships ; and it might be,
that, by exploring farther inland than they had
done, food would be found.

On reaching the inlet, all hands disembarked,
and made preparations for a longer sojourn.
Their situation, indeed, was far from promising.
Having escaped the terrors of the sea, new trials
and miseries seemed to await them on shore. A
desolate tract of marsh and forest lay stretched
out before them. Already over thirty of the stal-
wart band which had set out from Panama had
died, and Pizarro found that he had but eighty
faithful followers left to share his dangers and
hardships. He divided these into parties, who


scoured the country, and penetrated as far as they
could through the tangled growths that lay beyond
the swamps. But one and all returned with the
same mournful story, that neither inhabitants nor
food were anywhere to be found.

Pizarro was resolved to take a desperate course.
Undismayed by his situation, and firmly set on
not returning to Panama, where the news of his
failure would be received with jeers and contempt,
he sent the smaller of his ships, under a faithful
officer named Montenegro, back to the Isle of
Pearls for provisions ; while he himself, with the
larger part of his men, remained on the dismal
coast. He trusted to his good fortune to survive
till the ship should return, and, by continually pic-
turing to his comrades the glory and riches in
store for them, persuaded them to be content to
stay with him.

He expected Montenegro to come back at least
within a fortnight. But the fortnight passed,
then three weeks, then a month ; and as the poor
little company of adventurers stood on the coast,
and strained their eyes northward, no friendly
sail, promising food for their empty stomachs, and
drink for their parched lips, greeted their sight.


Nothing could exceed the misery which Pizarro
and his comrades suffered during this long and
terrible suspense. Confined to a barren and un-
healthy shore, with scarcely any provisions, and
water so bad that it poisoned and sometimes killed
those who drank it, with scant shelter from the
storms that often swept over them, and the hope
of seeing the ship of succor appear constantly post-
poned, it seemed as if one and all were doomed
to a slow death of torture on this remote and
lonely spot. At last they were reduced to the
most desperate extremities. The small stock of
corn became exhausted ; and the half-famished
creatures greedily ate the salt seaweed that the
waves washed upon the beach, and bitter palm-
berries, and even the tanned cowhide which cov-
ered the ship's pump, and which they boiled,
divided, and devoured as best they could. Day
by day Pizarro saw his company dwindling before
his eyes. Scarcely a day passed that one or two
did not die of sheer starvation ; while the rest
became gaunt and haggard, and were gradually
reduced to little more than skeletons.

The brave captain, however, still kept up a
stout heart. He shared with the rest their repul-


sive food ; he tended the sick, and administered
such medicines as he had with his own hand ; he
piled up soft beds for them with brush and leaves ;
he caused huts to be erected, and himself assisted
in putting them up, so that some shelter might be
afforded from the frequent tempests ; and by con-
stantly going among them, showing his deep sor-
row for their miseries, cheering them by his words
of hope, and setting them a bright example of
patience and indomitable resolution, he quite won
their hearts even in the midst of their distress.
One day, as Pizarro was going about, relieving as
best he could the pains of the sick, two or three
of his men came running up, and eagerly told him
they had seen a light a great way off, through the
trees. He at once started out with a party of a
dozen, and soon, sure enough, saw a faint glim-
mering in the distance. Making his way as best
he could through the tangled forest, he at last
reached an opening, and to his surprise and de-
light found there a group of Indian huts. The
savages, frightened out of their wits on seeing the
Spaniards, ran away into the woods as fast as their
legs could carry them ; but, gathering confidence,
they soon returned to the edge of the open space.


Pizarro and his men lost no time in entering the
huts, and were overjoyed to find in them some
cocoanuts and corn. They loaded themselves
with as much as they could carry, and were on
the point of returning, when several of the In-
dians, advancing, bitterly complained, by expres-
sive signs, of the robbery, and asked Pizarro
why the Spaniards had ' come to plunder their
peaceful village.

He replied, in the same way, that he and his
men were starving, and that .it was necessary that
they should take whatever food they could find.
He then asked them many questions, and they
told him that beyond the mountains there was
a land abounding in riches.

The Spaniards observed that these savages wore
heavy ornaments of gold ; and this entirely con-
firmed their belief in a golden country, and re-
stored ambition and cupidity to their flagging
souls. They returned to their companions aglow
with the story of their discovery, and filled them
with joy by displaying the corn and cocoanuts
they had taken.

It was not until the forty-seventh day after its
departure, that Montenegro's ship, returning over


the ocean, gladdened the eyes of Pizarro's still half-
famished party. When they saw the sails in the
distance, they capered, weak as they were, wildly
about on the beach ; and, when at last Montenegro
cast anchor, they rushed out into the sea to em-
brace their comrades, and devour the good things
which were thrown overboard to them. Monte-
negro had brought an ample supply of corn and
pork, but told a harrowing tale of the hardships
he and his crew had suffered on their way back
from the Isle of Pearls.

Refreshed by the provisions which Montenegro
had brought, and re-enforced by his ship and men,
Pizarro left the place where he and his comrades
had spent so many dismal days, and which he ex-
pressively named " The Port of Famine," and
continued his voyage southward along the coast.

Resolved to push his discoveries as far as possi-
ble, he passed several harbors which looked invit-
ing, and did not cast anchor again until he came
to a place where there were indications of habita-
tion. Here he went ashore with his soldiers ; and,
finding none of the difficulties in penetrating the
country which he had experienced at the Port of
Famine, he marched rapidly forward. Every-


where he saw signs of the presence of human
beings ; and he was not surprised, when, emerging
from a thicket, he saw an Indian village, sur-
rounded by palisades, on the crest of a hill before

Pizarro's first impulse was to attack the village ;
but before he did so he sent Montenegro forward
to explore the neighborhood. While his lieutenant
was gone on this errand, the captain, knowing that
his ship had been badly disabled by the tempests
through which she had passed, ordered a few of
the sailors to take her back to Panama for re-
pairs. Thus he cut off from his party a retreat
by sea.

The savage inhabitants of the village, on espy-
ing the Spaniards, had run away into the bushes
as those at the Port of Famine had done ; but the
sequel proved that they were a far bolder race.
Montenegro, after proceeding some way, was sud-
denly assailed by the Indians, who rushed out of
their hiding-places, and with loud cries fired a per-
fect shower of arrows among the Spaniards.

The latter were completely surprised, and at
first lost their presence of mind. Quickly recov-
ering, however, they drew their swords, and fell


fiercely upon the enemy. The Indians were
driven pell-mell into the woods again, but not
until three of the Spaniards had been killed, and
several wounded.

It was now Pizarro's turn to suffer from the
valor of the warlike natives. Gathering in a
dense mass, the Indians hastened to assail him
before Montenegro's force could return to his aid.
Before he knew it, a storm of arrows assailed his
little camp ; and this was attended with hideous
yells, which struck as much terror to the heart as
the rude weapons themselves.

Pizarro was too brave a man to wait patiently
for the onset of the Indians. His blood was up;
and, calling upon his men to follow him, he leaped
over the barricade which he had caused to be
erected, and with naked sword ran forward to
meet the savage foe.

The Indians saw by his bearing, and air of
command, that he was the Spanish chief. They
directed their whole fire upon him, and, as he was
struggling valiantly, inflicted seven wounds upon
him under his armor. Pizarro faltered, and then

The savages, with an exultant cry of joy, rushed


upon him to kill him. But the heroic cavalier,
seeing their design, sprang lightly to his feet, and
despatched two of the advancing Indians with his
sword. The rest he held at bay until his soldiers
could come up; and just at this moment the day
was saved, and defeat turned into victory, by the
timely arrival of the faithful Montenegro. The
victory, however, was won at the cost of five Span-
iards killed, and seventeen wounded.

It seemed hopeless to proceed farther in the
expedition. The hostility of the natives had been
aroused ; Pizarro's force had been wofully reduced
by disease and battle ; the provisions were running
short ; and the remaining ship was not in a fit
condition to pursue the voyage farther south.

Pizarro, therefore, sorrowfully ordered his men
to embark; and the ship's prow was once more
turned towards Panama. The weather being fa-
vorable, the voyage was made rapidly and safely ;
and ere many days the lovely Isle of Pearls came
again in sight. But Pizarro was unwilling to
return to Panama, and meet Pedrarias with his
story of failure. So he cast anchor in the little
port of Chuchama, on the mainland opposite the
Isle of Pearls ; and, landing his men there, he sent


his treasurer forward to the city in the ship to
carry to the governor the golden ornaments he
had taken from the Indians, while he and his
comrades awaited at a distance the course of




OON after his arrival at Chuchama, Pizarro
learned with surprise that his friend Al-
magro, alarmed for his safety, had shortly
before set sail with seventy men to traverse the
southern seas in search of him. The ships, it
seems, had passed, but missed each other; and
now Almagro was doubtless wandering up and
down the coast of South America in despair at
not finding those for whom he was seeking.

Pizarro wisely refrained from putting himself in
the jealous Pedrarias's power. He remained
quietly where he was, and awaited, as patiently as
he could, Almagro's return. After several "weeks,
he was rejoiced to see the welcome sails of his
friend's ship in the distance. Almagro entered
the harbor, cast anchor, and was soon locked in
Pizarro's embrace.


He had a tale of startling adventure and strange
vicissitude to tell. In the course of his voyage
he had landed at several points on the coast,
where he had found traces of Pizarro's presence ;
and at the place where Pizarro had fought with the
Indians, narrowly escaping with his life, Almagro
had also engaged them in a terrific combat, in the
course of which a dart had entered one of his
eyes, and put it out.

Almagro had, moreover, sailed a considerable
distance farther southward than Pizarro. He had
entered the mouth of a beautiful river, and found
himself in a country which seemed a perfect fairy-
land. Here he had taken a great quantity of gold
ornaments from the terrified natives, and had
brought back with him a precious cargo, which
made Pizarro's eyes glisten when Almagro dis-
played it to him.

The friends, delighted with the discoveries they
had already made, and certain, that, beyond the
farthest places they had visited, there lay a coun-
try teeming with gold and gems, resolved on the
spot that they would lose no time, and shrink from
no sacrifice, in fitting out another and larger ex-


But in the ill-nature and jealousy of Pedrarias,
the governor, they had a very serious obstacle to
overcome. When Almagro went to Panama, and
besought his consent and aid, Pedrarias replied
with a dark frown,

" No : I will not permit you to go on any more
fools' errands. You have lost men, and exhausted
supplies ; and all you have brought back are a few
pitiful trinkets. Your golden country is a dream.
I need all the men I can enlist for more solid en-
terprises. You must abandon your crazy project."

Almagro was in despair. He hastened to his
good friend, the priest Luque, and told him what
Pedrarias had said.

" Cheer up," said Luque in a voice that restored
confidence to Almagro's sinking heart. "All is
not yet lost. I will myself go to Pedrarias, and
will find means to wring from him, not only his
consent, but his assistance."

The next day Luque returned to Almagro with
an exultant expression in his face.

" Victory ! " he cried. " We have won ! Pedra-
rias no longer refuses his aid. Now to buy ships,

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Online LibraryGeorge M. (George Makepeace) TowlePizarro : his adventures and conquests → online text (page 4 of 16)