Adventures and Conquests of Pizarro - George Towle

On the Borders of Peru

It was a rash but heroic act for Pizarro to set out in a single little vessel and with only eleven men, and to venture into a country, which, it seemed probable, was inhabited by millions of brave and warlike men.

But he could not bear the thought of going back to Panama until he could at least carry the certain news that a great and rich empire really existed in South America; and both he and his men were not only willing, but eager, to risk their lives in exploring regions farther southward than they had yet gone.

The little ship kept steadily on, past the Island of Gallo, the Point of Tacamez, and another point which Pizarro named St. Helena; and, after a voyage of three weeks, the adventurers entered, one afternoon, one of the most beautiful bays they had ever seen. The Indians whom Pizarro had brought with him as interpreters told him that it was the Gulf of Guayaquil, and, pointing across the water to a verdant and fertile shore, exclaimed that there was the kingdom of Quito, the most northerly part of the Peruvian Inca's dominions.

Pizarro stood still on his deck, and gazed long and silently upon the borders of the land he had suffered so much to reach, and he longed so ardently to conquer. Visions of fabulous wealth, of vast power and glory, dizzied his brain; and he thought bitterly of his ill fortune in not having a force large enough on the spot with which to attempt the contemplated conquest.

Anchoring off the Island of Santa Clara, Pizarro narrowly questioned his Indians about the locality of the region in which he had arrived. They told him, that just opposite the island, on the shore of the mainland, there stood a large town, named Tumbez; while on the other side was another island, called Puna, the inhabitants of which were hostile to the people on the coast.

The next morning Pizarro resolved to venture nearer Tumbez, and if possible to land, and enter the town, not as an enemy, but in a friendly manner. The sails of the little ship were therefore hoisted, and it was not long before the adventurers found themselves opposite the town.

The sight which now met Pizarro's gaze filled him with astonishment and admiration. Tumbez was indeed an imposing place, with a strong fortress perched on a craggy eminence, aqueducts, temples, palaces, convents, many houses built of stone, and wide, well-paved, and graded streets. The people, who flocked in great number along the shore, dressed in gay colors, and, as Pizarro observed even at his distance, glittering with rings, bracelets, and chains of gold and gems, were of a higher type than any he had yet seen, and manifested their wonder at beholding a European ship, so utterly unlike anything they had before known, by running to and fro, shouting loudly, and throwing up their swarthy hands and arms.

At this moment a large flat-boat, full of Indian soldiers, pushed out from the shore. Their purpose was not, however, to attack Pizarro; but they were setting out on an expedition against Puna.

Pizarro saw his opportunity, and, beckoning to the Indians in the boat, asked several of the chiefs to come on board his ship. This they did after some hesitation. Through his own Indians, acting as interpreters, he told them that he was no foe to the natives, but had come on a friendly errand; and at last he persuaded them to postpone their expedition, go back to the town, send him some provisions, and tell the governor that he wished to dispatch one of his men ashore.

The governor, sharing in the wonder of the people, and convinced of Pizarro's good faith, at once sent a boatload of bananas, corn, sweet-potatoes, pineapples, cocoanuts, game, and fish, to the strangers, with a message, which he sent by a Peruvian noble of high rank, consenting that a Spaniard should land, as Pizarro had asked.

This noble, who was very richly attired, and was a tall and handsome man, with great dignity of bearing, betrayed a lively curiosity to examine every part of the wonderful ship. This Pizarro cheerfully gratified, regaling him afterwards with a bountiful dinner, and presenting him with an iron hatchet.

The next morning Pizarro ordered one of his men, named Molina, ashore, with some pork and chickens for the governor, and with instructions to observe everything with the most minute attention. With Molina went a negro who had joined Pizarro from Panama. No sooner had Molina stepped on land than he was surrounded by a crowd of chattering and excited natives. The women gathered about him, and stared in amazement at his long brown beard and his fair skin; while others, never having seen a black man, went up to the negro, and tried to rub off his sooty complexion, which they thought artificial, with their fingers. The negro grinned at this, and showed his white teeth; which made the Indians shout with laughter.

Just at this moment one of the cocks which Molina had brought for the governor stretched out his neck, and crowed with all his might. The natives, who had never seen such a fowl, flocked around him, and asked Molina "what the little fellow was saying."

The Spaniard visited the governor, whom he found in a handsome house, attended by a guard, and served upon dishes of gold and silver; and was then conducted about the town, in which he saw and noted on every hand the evidence of wealth, thrift, and artistic taste.

When Pizarro heard Molina's report, he resolved to send another of his comrades to observe and confirm what the first had witnessed. Among his little band was a noble-looking Greek cavalier, named Candia, who had followed Pizarro's fortunes through every vicissitude. Candia was now chosen to go on shore; and buckling on a shining suit of armor, and carrying a gun on his shoulder, he marched boldly and alone up the principal street of Tumbez, followed by a vast multitude of Indians.

They we're especially curious about his gun, which they begged him to "make speak." So he set up a board, and fired at it. The sharp and sudden noise, the smoke, and the board split in pieces and flying in every direction, stunned and frightened the Indians. Some fell on their knees, and hid their faces in their hands; others shrieked; and many scampered away as fast as their legs could carry them.

Candia returned to the ship with an account as strange as that of Molina. He had seen, among other things, a temple, the walls of which were almost covered with golden panels; and flowers of gold and silver set out in beautiful gardens.

His wildest dreams about the riches of Peru being amply confirmed, Pizarro reluctantly took leave of Tumbez, sailed out of the lovely bay, and continued his voyage to the south. He landed on the coast at several points, and found everywhere the same proofs of wealth and skill that had so dazzled him at Tumbez. The natives received him with friendly welcome, mingled with wonder: he had no difficulty in procuring from them ample provisions, as a goodly quantity of golden trinkets and jewels. And, excepting that he encountered one or two storms, his voyage was prosperously pursued.

On reaching the port of Santa, where a broad and winding river flowed into the sea, Pizarro resolved at last to turn his prow northward, and to sail leisurely back towards Panama. He had done all that, with his very small force, he could hope to do. It remained to return home, to tell the marvelous tale of his discoveries, and to fit out a new and larger expedition with which to begin and complete the conquest of Peru.

He did not, however, hasten his arrival at Panama. As he sailed along the coast, he now and then cast anchor, and went ashore. At one place he was splendidly entertained by an Inca princess, who regaled him with a native banquet comprising mutton, game, the luscious fruits, and rich, succulent vegetables of the tropical clime; and afterwards amused him with music and dancing. It was here that Pizarro raised the royal standard of Spain, and took possession of the country in the name of the king.

Continuing his voyage, he once more anchored near Tumbez, where he met with a more cordial reception than ever. So attractive a town was it, and so friendly were the natives, that two or three of his men, among them Molina, begged permission to be left there until Pizarro should return; a permission which the captain readily granted. At the same time, Pizarro persuaded two intelligent young Indians to go with him to Panama; foreseeing, that, in any future expedition, they could not fail to be of great use to him.

The rest of the voyage was prosperous and uneventful. One day Pizarro sailed into Panama harbor, and fired guns to notify the people of his arrival. The quays were soon crowded; and among the first to greet him, as he stepped on shore, were his faithful friends Almagro and Luque.

He told them of all he had seen, and made their eyes glisten at the rare cloths, the dazzling gems, and the Peruvian sheep, or llamas, which he had brought to prove the truth of his tale. But they could not, in return, give him any pleasant news. The governor, they said, was opposed to any more expeditions, and refused to believe in the existence of a golden land. He would surely refuse his aid to their further projects; and, without his aid and consent, it would be hopeless to undertake a fresh enterprise.

Pizarro was deeply chagrined to hear this. What could they do? All three were as firmly resolved as ever to make the conquest of Peru. But their money was almost exhausted; and, with the governor's hostility, they could not hope to enlist a man. It was probable, even if they had had money and men, that De los Rios would forbid their sailing out of port.

After many long and earnest discussions, the three enthusiastic friends made up their minds that there was but one course left to them. This was to appeal to a higher power than the governor; and that was his master, the King of Spain.

Ferdinand and Isabella were now dead; and their famous and warlike son, Charles the Fifth, who was not only King of Spain, but had also been elected Emperor of Germany, wore the diadem of Aragon and Castile. A monarch so ambitious and so enlightened would surely listen eagerly to the thrilling story of Peruvian wealth; he would grasp quickly at the idea of making the conquest of the Inca's empire, and adding it to his own dominions; and he would not fail to lend them an aid far more powerful than that of the Governor of Panama.

Pizarro was chosen with one voice to go to Spain, and to seek the presence of the emperor. His discretion and tact, and simple, clear, and forcible way of talking, were equal to his bravery, and contempt of danger. His tall and sturdy frame too, and dignity of bearing, made him the fittest of the three to undertake the mission.

A ship was soon procured. Pizarro put on board three or four llamas, a variety of Peruvian cloths, and a large number of golden trinkets; taking with him, besides, several of the Indians whom he had brought from the South American coast: and in the early spring of 1528 he set sail for his native land, which he had not seen for many a long and eventful year.