George M. (George Makepeace) Towle.

Pizarro, his adventures and conquests online

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Online LibraryGeorge M. (George Makepeace) TowlePizarro, his adventures and conquests → online text (page 1 of 15)
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JUN 1 9 1992



A PREVIOUS volume of the " Heroes of History " series fol-
lowed the bold and successful voyage of Yasco da Gama
around the Cape of Good Hope, and to the far and then
little-known regions of Hindostan. This volume transports
the young reader to the Western hemisphere, and describes
the travels and conquests of one of the most resolute and
adventurous captains that any age has produced.

Pizarro was heroic in the indomitable energy with which
he pursued his end; in the patience with which he bore
hardships as terrible as ever man encountered ; in the cour-
age with which he assailed an empire containing millions of
people, and having a vast and disciplined army, with a mere
handful of resolute souls like himself; and in the vigour
and genius with which, Peru once subdued, he founded and
established the Spanish rule over the conquered nation.

That he invaded and conquered Peru from motives of
ambition and greed of gold is but too true. It is probable
that higher motives than these seldom entered his mind.
Like all, or nearly all, the great captains of his time, he did
not hesitate to carry wide-spread havoc among a peaceful



race, to lay desolate a thriving land, to usurp a power to
which he had not the shadow of a right, and to use means
in achieving his purpose which were often barbarously cruel.
It was then the custom of nations to make conquests and
to assail unoffending nations for the sake of dominion and

By Pizarro's conquest Spain acquired a splendid empire
and gained a footing in South America by means of which
she gradually extended her power over large portions of
that continent ; and thus Pizarro may at least be credited
with having laid there the foundations of a higher and more
permanent civilization than that which he replaced.

<Sr n t e n 1 6.











































ON the early morning of a warm autumn day, not quite
four hundred years ago, three lads, varying in age
from thirteen to fifteen, were hurriedly climbing a rough and
precipitous mountain road in Central Spain. Every now and
then, as they mounted higher, they would look anxiously
back to see if they were followed ; and finding they were
not, they continued their ascent with brisker steps and more
cheerful countenances. Once in a while they came to a spot
where an opening in the dense and luxuriant forest exposed
to their view the broad plain, still veiled by a soft morning
haze, which they had left a few hours before. Here they
would stop, and strain their eyes in the direction they had
come, as if to discern any pursuing figures who might ap-
pear in the road far below, which, so high were they above
it, seemed like a narrow yellow thread winding amid the
expanse of green.

They were stalwart, dark-featured youths, with stout sin-
ews and sturdy limbs, and serious, resolute faces j wearing


the same rude apparel, which consisted of a coarse shirt, a
loose jacket, short wide breeches fastened at the knees, rude
sandals on their feet, and large, coarsely woven woollen caps
on their heads. Each carried a bundle on a stick, which he
swung across his shoulder. As they pressed upward they
spoke but little ; they not only wished to save their breath
for the long tramp before them, but their thoughts were so
deeply absorbed in their serious situation that they were not
disposed to be talkative.

At last they reached a steep and rugged cliff, the summit
of which was almost bare, and from which, over the tops of
the thick forest, they could clearly see the plain stretched
out for miles till it faded near the misty horizon. They
were tired and hungry, and, despite the danger of pursuit,
they resolved to rest awhile on this convenient crag. Throw-
ing down their bundles, and lying upon the patches of moss
which here and there covered the rock, they proceeded to
discuss such a breakfast as their resources permitted. They
took from their bundles some coarse bread and raw onions,
a few bunches of grapes which they had picked by the road,
and some chestnuts ; and these homely viands were quickly
disposed of. Then one of them produced a small can, and
running to a mountain brook which leaped madly over a
little chasm near by, filled it with deliciously cold water, and
brought it to his companions, who drank of it eagerly. Re-
freshed by their simple morning meal, the three lads, lying
at full length on the patches of moss, turned their faces in-
stinctively towards the plain, and pointed out to each other
the spots familiar to them all.

"Look!" said one, a trifle taller than the others, whom
they called Francisco, "you can plainly see the old citadel
there on the right ; and there is the old wall, and the town
on the side of the hill ; and you can just catch a glimpse of
the big castle of the duke, or at least its great square west-
em tower ; and that little open place is our broad plaza.


What a distance we must be from Truxillo, everything looks
so small ! I wonder how many miles we have come."

"Oh!" exclaimed the youngest of the three, "and can't
you see, Francisco, just this side of the town, the round hill
where our homes are ? they must be those huts midway up
the slope ; and still farther this way are the fields where we
used to tend the swine."

" We have done with that for ever, thank Heaven 1" cried
Francisco heartily. " No more tending of swine for us.
Gonzalo and Juan must do my share henceforth, as well as
their own. Bah ! what a dog's life ! But we are leaving it,
and are going out into the great world to seek our fortunes.
We will be soldiers, and fight our way to fame and power.
We will go across the seas to the beautiful lands which the
brave Columbus found, and where we will surely become
great and rich."

The third, who had not yet spoken, and whose name was
Pedro, sat and listened with a rather gloomy face. At last
he said, —

^'But think what we must go through before we so much
as begin ! We haven't a marco among us, and still we must
get to Seville somehow. It is, old Lopez says, at least one
hundred and fifty miles ; and we shall be lucky if we get
a ride now and then on a jaded donkey or a rickety cart.
When I think of it, I almost wish myself back among the
pigs again."

Francisco darted an angry glance at his companion, and
exclaimed, —

" What, Pedro ! faint-hearted already ? Out on such cow-
ardly thoughts ! I'd rather starve than go back to that
slave's work. Come, pluck up your courage ! We can't
find ourselves in a worse plight than we have been in all our

He rose from the ground, and, eagerly scanning such por-
tions of the road as were visible here and there, added, —


" We are not yet pursued. They may think we have gone
another way — towards Madrid. They did not suppose, per-
haps, that we should climb the mountains in the night. But
let us go forward. We shall not be safe till we are far away
from here. 1 have heard that there is a great river in the
valleys beyond the mountains. We must not rest till we
have put that between us and our tyrants."

So saying, he bounded up the road with the buoyant step
of youth and hope ; and his comrades, inspired by his cheer-
ful and manly words, briskly followed him.

As they trudged along — now over bald ledges where the
sun blazed remorselessly upon them, now through dense cool
forests of chestnut and oak, now across marshy levels where
the overgrown waste was covered with exasperating tangles
of rank shrubs, through which they scrambled as best' they
could — they talked, as they went, about the miseries of the
past, and the bright and glowing hopes they had formed of
the future.

Ere many hours they reached the summit of the Guada-
lupe Mountains ; and it was with a sigh of relief that they
reflected that instead of climbing upward, sometimes over
steep cliffs and near dangerous Assures, they would now de-
scend by a gradual winding road to the green and sunny
valleys they could just discern far below them.

Persuaded that, when once they had placed the mountains
between them and the wretched homes they had left, they
would be secure from pursuit, and free to pursue the journey
at their leisure, they bounded down the road, now singing a
verse of some rude peasant-song, now running a race to see
which would first reach a certain tree or a bend in the road,
now leaping lightly across a roaring mountain brook. They
soon found themselves in the midst of luxuriant fields of
wheat and rye, and crossing turfy hillside pastures where
flocks of sheep were quietly grazing. Then they came upon
olive-groves, interspersed with thick -hanging vineyards, upon


which the luscious and now just ripe clusters hung tempt-
ingly. There were grapes of every hue and size ; and our
wanderer^ did not hesitate to eat their fill of the juicy fruit,
their hunger having been once more sharpened by the long
tramp they had taken since their breakfast on the crag.

It was now very hot, and the boys rested a while under
the dense shade of a copse of chestnuts. But their young
spirits soon rose again, and they pushed on towards a strag-
gling hamlet which they perceived at a distance of a mile or
two down the road. The hamlet consisted of a few peasant-
huts ; and above it rose a hill, upon which stood the ruins
of a once noble Moorish castle. No sooner did Francisco
espy this ruin than he proposed that they should seek shelter
within its crumbling walls for the night. They began to
climb the hill, though they were now so weary that they
could scarcely drag one leg after the other, when they en-
countered a rough-looking peasant trudging home from his
day's work in the fields. He stopped, stared at the wan-
derers, and then asked them where they came from, and
whither they were going.

Francisco frankly replied that they had run away from
their homes beyond the mountains, that they were on their
way to Seville to enlist in the wars, and that they proposed
to spend the night in the castle-ruin.

The peasant looked more curiously at them than ever. A
grim smile gradually spread over his sun-burned face as he
replied, —

" No need of your going up there. Come home with me
to my hut yonder. You shall have a bundle of hay in a
corner, and to-morrow I will share my breakfast with you."

The hospitable offer was no sooner made than joyfully ac-
cepted. The boys went back with the peasant, slept soundly
on the hay, and rising, as did their host, with the dawn, par-
took of his frugal meal of chestnuts, coarse bread, goat's milk,
and grapes.


As, much refreshed and very grateful, they started forth
to resume their journey, the peasant cried out to them, —

** God give you luck ! and if you ever get to be great cap-
tains, don't forget the night you spent in my hut."

Day after day they continued to trudge bravely along
with their little bundles on their backs, picking up what bits
of food they could in the villages through which they passed,
regaling themselves on the grapes and other fruit they found
plentifully by the wayside, and resting by night wherever
they happened to be when the sun disappeared behind the

They had been travelling thus for some days, when one
afternoon they came in sight of a large town — a larger town
than any of them had ever seen before. It nestled close
upon the sloping banks of a wide, swift river, which the
wanderers could see appearing and disappearing in sparkling
patches among the trees for miles away. Above the town
rose a hoary castle, its huge towers hung thick with ivy and
other parasites, and its battlements looming steep and grim
above the river ; on another hill stood a long low building,
which the boys easily recognized as a convent ; near the
convent was a prison ; while above the group of closely-built
houses appeared the spires of two churches.

The sight of this large town caused them to hasten their
pace, and they briskly pushed forward and entered its nar-
row streets. On asking a passer-by, they learned that the
place was Merida, and that the wide river which flowed by
it was the Guadiana, one of the largest streams in Spain.

Francisco, ignorant as he was, knew something at least of
the geography of his native country. With cheery voice he
told his mates that they had gone almost a third of the way
from Truxillo to Seville, and that the most difficult part of
the journey was that which they had already accomplished.
Though quite tired, the boys could not resist the temptation
to wander about the streets of Merida, which presented many


sights to attract their curiosity and wonder. They stared
in at the shop-windows; and, their mouths watered at the
succulent viands they espied at the butchers' stalls, and the
cakes which were displayed in the pastry-cooks' windows.
They gazed with delight at a troop of gaily dressed cava-
liers, with their flowing plumes and glittering cuirasses, who
pranced across the plaza — all the more eagerly when they
learned that these cavaliers were on their way to the wars
in Italy. They listened to the playing of lutes and singing
which were going on in front of a quaint old inn just by the
river, and admiringly watched the boats as they shot swiftly
to and fro on the stream.

It was dusk before, utterly worn out with fatigue, they
bethought themselves of their hunger, and of the necessity
of finding a shelter for the night. As they were in a large
town, with no money, they despaired of obtaining the hearty
meal they craved ; so, choosing a secluded nook on the river-
bank, they contented themselves with a few chestnuts and
grapes which they had taken care to stow away in their

Then they looked about them for a resting-place. There
was one, happily, near at hand. About a quarter of a mile
off they observed a large circular edifice, so lofty that even
in the deepening dusk they could perceive that it was not
an ordinary building, and that, moreover, it appeared to be
a ruin.

Passing once more into the narrow zigzag streets, then up
a rather steep hill, and across a bridge spanning a stream
which ran into the Guadiana, they soon reached the structure.
Entering it by a very high and wide portal, they found them-
selves in a large circular space choked with weeds and rub-
bish. Around this space, which was roofless and open to
the air above, were built rows of stone seats, rising one be-
hind the other. These, too, were overgrown and tangled
with a profusion of wild shrubs and vines. In this enclosure


they easily found a convenient spot. They without more
ado threw themselves upon the bed of weeds, and were soon
wrapped in deep slumber.

There was but one highroad passing southward from
Merida ; it was that which led to the city which was the goal
of the boys' difficult journey — Seville. From the top of the
amphitheatre, to which they scrambled as soon as the bright
rays of the rising sun aroused them, they could observe all
the surrounding country ; and they were glad to see, just
below the old castle and not far away, a bridge spanning the
Guadiana. They were soon tramping gaily across it, and, as
they went, did not fail to admire its imposing proportions,
its solid masonry, and wide-springing arches. They would
have found, by counting them, that there were no less than
eighty of these arches ; and they might have been told that
the bridge had been built by the warlike Roman emperor
Trajan more than a thousand years before. The rest of
their journey was almost wholly through a country which
seemed a continuous garden. Groves of olives and of oranges,
dense vineyards covering the hill-sides and hill-tops, yellow
wheat-fields spread over the intervales, dense forests of chest-
nut and oak affording a grateful shade from the hot sun, and
picturesque streams winding amid the meadows or dashing
down from the hills, were passed in quick succession.

The boys did not hurry after leaving Merida ; for they
were now confident of not being pursued, and they felt sure
of food and shelter the rest of the way. The world was all
before them, and they knew that there was plenty of time at
their disposal.

Their tramp was now all the more enjoyable, as they came
more frequently upon towns and villages, and met more
people going to and fro. Often they encountered a train of
pack-mules carrying grain or fruit ; now a flock of shaggy
merino sheep going from Castile into their own province —
Estremadura ; sometimes whole colonies of peasants — men,


women, babies, donkeys, and all — going to reap the harvests
in the lowlands ; and once in a while a troop of bravely capa-
risoned soldiers, on their way to join the armies of King

There yet remained one more mountain range to cross —
that of the Sierra Morena. But it was less lofty than that
of the Guadalupe; and, besides, they felt that they might
make the ascent as leisurely as they pleased. They had now
no pursuers to fear, no cruel punishment to dread.

They crossed the Sierra Morena, and once more descended
into valleys lovely to the eye, and fragrant with luxuriant
and ripening fruit. They heard with delight that the greater
part of their journey had been passed, and that, by pushing
resolutely forward, they would ere long reach their destina-

So it proved. About noon one day they came in sight of
the spires and domes of the celebrated city, which glittered
afar in the sunlight, and which they had undergone so much
to reach. The noble steeple of the great cathedral, the
largest in the world save St. Peter's at Rome, rose high
above the other buildings, and the boys exclaimed in wonder
at beholding it. The vast palace of the Alcazar, too, which
looked as if it were a mile long, and was flanked by great
square towers, was eagerly pointed out and gazed at. Their
long journey was at last ended ; and as they entered the
ancient, winding streets — threading their way amidst crowds
of people attired in every variety and colour of costume,
past balconied dwellings and fragrant gardens, across the
spacious square with its splashing fountain, and under the
shadow of the lofty cathedral — they declared that they had
never imagined so grand and beautiful a city to exist in all
the world.


MY readers may have guessed that the bravest and
most determined of the runaways was no other
than the hero of this book. It was indeed Francisco Pizarro,
destined to become one of the most famous conquerors and
adventurers the world has seen, who thus ran away from
his wretched home in Truxillo, induced two boys as badly
treated as himself to go with him, and travelled on foot to
Seville to take part in the exciting and perilous events of
his time.

Pizarro, at the time of his escape, was about fifteen years
old. From his earliest recollection he had known nothing
but cruelty, drudgery, and hardship. His father, Gonzalo
Pizarro, was not only a gentleman of wealth and good de-
scent, but a brave soldier, who had fought with gallantry
and distinction in the wars ; but his mother was a humble
and ignorant peasant, who, it is said, gave birth to Francisco
on the steps of a church, took him to the wretched hovel
which was her home, and reared him in her own condition
of life. Francisco's illegitimate birth was a stigma of which
he was forced to suffer the penalty. While he bore his
father's name, Pizarro, he was not admitted to his house or
recognized as his son. The haughty old Spaniard disdained
a child born in disgrace ; and so the poor little boy was con-
signed to his mother's low lot, to eat the bread of poverty^


to grow up amid mean and squalid surroundings in ignorance
and privation, and to follow the vocation of a swineherd.
Almost as soon as he could walk, he was set to taking care
of pigs ; and this he continued to do until, rebelling against
his fate and inspired with a fiery ambition, he took the bold
resolve to leave the harsh past behind him, and carve out
a future for himself.

He had known but few of the joys of childhood. To look
after the pigs from dawn till dark, to subsist on a scanty
allowance of the coarsest food, to sleep at night on a floor of
cobble-stones thinly sprinkled with hay, to be mercilessly
beaten at the slightest neglect of his task, and to continue
this weary round day after day and month after month —
this had been the almost unbroken tenor of his life.

It happened that while he was pursuing, with fiery impa-
tience and anger in his heart, the detested round of his daily
task, an event took place which thrilled his whole soul with
ambition, and cast a bright ray of hope through the deep
gloom of his life. A rough, weather-beaten sailor arrived
in Truxillo, bringing with him wonderful news. Young
Pizarro, as it chanced, fell in with this sailor, and heard his
story ; and he listened to it with beating heart. A new
land, the sailor said, had been discovered : he had seen it
with his own eyes. He had sailed with a great Italian cap-
tain, named Christopher Columbus, far across the unknown
seas. Sometimes, amid terrific storms, they had thought that
they would be lost ; but at last they had reached a beautiful
land smiling with plenty, and rich beyond conjecture, it was
thought, in gold, silver, and precious stones. This land was
believed to be a part of Asia, but a part unknown at least
before ; and he had returned with Columbus to tell the mar-
vellous story of its discovery and its wealth. The sailor
gave a glowing account of all that he had seen : he described
the perils and excitements of the voyage, and made the boy's
eyes glisten with his tales of ^'a life on the ocean- wave ;" in


his rude fashion he told of the thrilling moment when the
shout of ^'Land ! land !" echoed across the waters from ship
to ship ; he pictured all the strange and remarkable sights
he had seen on going ashore ; and he ended by relating how
the news had created a great sensation at Cadiz, and other
cities on or near the coast, where other expeditions were
already proposed to be fitted out for the newly discovered

Young Pizarro, deeply affected by what he heard from
the sailor, plied him with questions, and listened eagerly to
his replies. As he tended the pigs by day, he pondered on
what he had heard ; and at night bright visions of distant
lands, and exciting dreams of adventure by sea, attended his
slumbers. Here, then, was a career worthy of his courage
and ambition, and he soon made up his mind that he would
risk all to pursue it. Pizarro had long thought he would
like to be a soldier. As news of the Spanish victories pene-
trated to his remote home, he longed to join in the din and
turmoil of the battle-field.

He resolved, therefore, that as soon as chance favoured
him he would escape from his drudgery, make his way as
best he could to Seville, join the army, and finally, if he
found an opportunity, embark in some expedition to the
newly discovered countries beyond the ocean of which the
sailor had told him.

Full of his scheme, which he imparted to two young com-
panions, swineherds like himself, he waited a great \vhile,
as patiently as he could, for the moment to arrive when he
might hope to escape. It came at last ; and, as we have
seen, he succeeded in reaching Seville with his friends.

They had not been long in the city before they saw many

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Online LibraryGeorge M. (George Makepeace) TowlePizarro, his adventures and conquests → online text (page 1 of 15)