Whatever difference of opinion may exist as to the comparative merit of the ancients and the moderns in the arts, in poetry, eloquence, and all that depends on imagination, there can be no doubt that in science the moderns have eminently the advantage. It could not be otherwise. In the early ages of the world, as in the early period of life, there was the freshness of a morning existence, when the gloss of novelty was on every thing that met the eye; when the senses, not blunted by familiarity, were more keenly alive to the beautiful, and the mind, under the influence of a healthy and natural taste, was not perverted by philosophical theory; when the simple was necessarily connected with the beautiful, and the epicurean intellect, sated by repetition, had not begun to seek for stimulants in the fantastic and capricious. The realms of fancy were all untravelled, and its fairest flowers had not been gathered, nor its beauties despoiled by the rude touch of those who affected to cultivate them. The wing of genius was not bound to the earth by the cold and conventional rules of criticism, but was permitted to take its flight far and wide over the broad expanse of creation. But with science it was otherwise. No genius could suffice for the creation of facts, — hardly for their detection. They were to be gathered in by painful industry; to be collected from careful observation and experiment. Genius, indeed, might arrange and combine these facts into new forms, and elicit from their combinations new and important inferences; and in this process might almost rival in originality the creations of the poet and the artist. But if the processes of science are necessarily slow, they are sure. There is no retrograde movement in her domain. Arts may fade, the Muse become dumb, a moral lethargy may lock up the faculties of a nation, the nation itself may pass away and leave only the memory of its existence, but the stores of science it has garnered up will endure for ever. As other nations come upon the stage, and new forms of civilization arise, the monuments of art and of imagination, productions of an older time, will lie as an obstacle in the path of improvement. They cannot be built upon; they occupy the ground which the new aspirant for immortality would cover. The whole work is to be gone over again, and other forms of beauty — whether higher or lower in the scale of merit, but unlike the past — must arise to take a place by their side. But, in science, every stone that has been laid remains as the foundation for another. The coming generation takes up the work where the preceding left it. There is no retrograde movement. The individual nation may recede, but science still advances. Every step that has been gained makes the ascent easier for those who come after. Every step carries the patient inquirer after truth higher and higher towards heaven, and unfolds to him, as he rises, a wider horizon, and new and more magnificent views of the universe.
Geography partook of the embarrassments which belonged to every other department of science in the primitive ages of the world. The knowledge of the earth could come only from an extended commerce; and commerce is founded on artificial wants or an enlightened curiosity, hardly compatible with the earlier condition of society. In the infancy of nations, the different tribes, occupied with their domestic feuds, found few occasions to wander beyond the mountain chain or broad stream that formed the natural boundary of their domains. The Phoenicians, it is true, are said to have sailed beyond the Pillars of Hercules, and to have launched out on the great western ocean. But the adventures of these ancient voyagers belong to the mythic legends of antiquity, and ascend far beyond the domain of authentic record.
The Greeks, quick and adventurous, skilled in mechanical art, had many of the qualities of successful navigators, and within the limits of their little inland sea ranged fearlessly and freely. But the conquests of Alexander did more to extend the limits of geographical science, and opened an acquaintance with the remote countries of the East. Yet the march of the conqueror is slow in comparison with the movements of the unencumbered traveller. The Romans were still less enterprising than the Greeks, were less commercial in their character. The contributions to geographical knowledge grew with the slow acquisitions of empire. But their system was centralizing in its tendency; and instead of taking an outward direction and looking abroad for discovery, every part of the vast imperial domain turned towards the capital as its head and central point of attraction. The Roman conqueror pursued his path by land, not by sea. But the water is the great highway between nations, the true element for the discoverer. The Romans were not a maritime people. At the close of their empire, geographical science could hardly be said to extend farther than to an acquaintance with Europe, — and this not its more northern division, — together with a portion of Asia and Africa; while they had no other conception of a world beyond the western waters than was to be gathered from the fortunate prediction of the poet. 1
1 Seneca’s well-known prediction, in his Medea, is, perhaps, the most remarkable random prophecy on record. For it is not a simple extension of the boundaries of the known parts of the globe that is so confidently announced, but the existence of a New World across the waters, to be revealed in coming ages
Vincula rerum laxet, et ingens
Pateat tellus, Typhisque Novos
It was the lucky hit of the philosopher rather than the poet.
Then followed the Middle Ages; the dark ages, as they are called, though in their darkness were matured those seeds of knowledge, which, in fulness of time, were to spring up into new and more glorious forms of civilization. The organization of society became more favorable to geographical science. Instead of one overgrown, lethargic empire, oppressing every thing by its colossal weight, Europe was broken up into various independent communities, many of which, adopting liberal forms of government, felt all the impulses natural to freemen; and the petty republics on the Mediterranean and the Baltic sent forth their swarms of seamen in a profitable commerce, that knit together the different countries scattered along the great European waters. But the improvements which took place in the art of navigation, the more accurate measurement of time, and, above all, the discovery of the polarity of the magnet, greatly advanced the cause of geographical knowledge. Instead of creeping timidly along the coast, or limiting his expeditions to the narrow basins of inland waters, the voyager might now spread his sails boldly on the deep, secure of a guide to direct his bark unerringly across the illimitable waste. The consciousness of this powered thought to travel in a new direction; and the mariner began to look with earnestness for another path to the Indian Spice-islands than that by which the Eastern caravans had traversed the continent of Asia. The nations on whom the spirit of enterprise, at this crisis, naturally descended, were Spain and Portugal, placed, as they were, on the outposts of the European continent, commanding the great theatre of future discovery.
Both countries felt the responsibility of their new position. The crown of Portugal was constant in its efforts, through the fifteenth century, to find a passage round the southern point of Africa into the Indian Ocean; though so timid was the navigation, that every fresh headland became a formidable barrier; and it was not till the latter part of the century that the adventurous Diaz passed quite round the Stormy Cape, as he termed it, but which John the Second, with happier augury, called the Cape of Good Hope. But, before Vasco de Gama had availed himself of this discovery to spread his sails in the Indian seas, Spain entered on her glorious career, and sent Columbus across the western waters.
The object of the great navigator was still the discovery of a route to India, but by the west instead of the east. He had no expectation of meeting with a continent in his way, and, after repeated voyages, he remained in his original error, dying, as is well known, in the conviction that it was the eastern shore of Asia which he had reached. It was the same object which directed the nautical enterprises of those who followed in the Admiral’s track; and the discovery of a strait into the Indian Ocean was the burden of every order from the government, and the design of many an expedition to different points of the new continent, which seemed to stretch its leviathan length along from one pole to the other. The discovery of an Indian passage is the true key to the maritime movements of the fifteenth and the first half of the sixteenth centuries. It was the great leading idea that gave the character to the enterprise of the age.
It is not easy at this time to comprehend the impulse given to Europe by the discovery of America. It was not the gradual acquisition of some border territory, a province or a kingdom that had been gained, but a New World that was now thrown open to the European. The races of animals, the mineral treasures, the vegetable forms, and the varied aspects of nature, man in the different phases of civilization, filled the mind with entirely new sets of ideas, that changed the habitual current of thought and stimulated it to indefinite conjecture. The eagerness to explore the wonderful secrets of the new hemisphere became so active, that the principal cities of Spain were, in a manner, depopulated, as emigrants thronged one after another to take their chance upon the deep. 2 It was a world of romance that was thrown open; for, whatever might be the luck of the adventurer, his reports on his return were tinged with a coloring of romance that stimulated still higher the sensitive fancies of his countrymen, and nourished the chimerical sentiments of an age of chivalry. They listened with attentive ears to tales of Amazons which seemed to realize the classic legends of antiquity, to stories of Patagonian giants, to flaming pictures of an El Dorado, where the sands sparkled with gems, and golden pebbles as large as birds’ eggs were dragged in nets out of the rivers.
2 The Venetian ambassador, Andrea Navagiero, who travelled through Spain in 1525, near the period of the commencement of our narrative, notices the general fever of emigration. Seville, in particular, the great port of embarkation, was so stripped of its inhabitants, he says, “that the city was left almost to the women.” Viaggio fatto in Spagna, (Vinegia, 1563.) fol. 15.]
Yet that the advtenturers were no impostors, but dupes, too easy dupes of their own credulous fancies, is shown by the extravagant character of their enterprises; by expeditions in search of the magical Fountain of Health, of the golden Temple of Doboyba, of the golden sepulchres of Zenu; for gold was ever floating before their distempered vision, and the name of Castilla del Oro, Golden Castile, the most unhealthy and unprofitable region of the Isthmus, held out a bright promise to the unfortunate settler, who too frequently, instead of gold, found there only his grave.
In this realm of enchantment, all the accessories served to maintain the illusion. The simple natives, with their defenceless bodies and rude weapons were no match for the European warrior armed to the teeth in mail. The odds were as great as those found in any legend of chivalry, where the lance of the good knight overturned hundreds at a touch. The perils that lay in the discoverer’s path, and the sufferings he had to sustain, were scarcely inferior to those that beset the knight-errant. Hunger and thirst and fatigue, the deadly effluvia of the morass with its swarms of venomous insects, the cold of mountain snows, and the scorching sun of the tropics, these were the lot of every cavalier who came to seek his fortunes in the New World. It was the reality of romance. The life of the Spanish adventurer was one chapter more — and not the least remarkable — in the chronicles of knight-errantry.
The character of the warrior took somewhat of the exaggerated coloring shed over his exploits. Proud and vainglorious, swelled with lofty anticipations of his destiny, and an invincible confidence in his own resources, no danger could appall and no toil could tire him. The greater the danger, indeed, the higher the charm; for his soul revelled in excitement, and the enterprise without peril wanted that spur of romance which was necessary to rouse his energies into action. Yet in the motives of action meaner influences were strangely mingled with the loftier, the temporal with the spiritual. Gold was the incentive and the recompense, and in the pursuit of it his inflexible nature rarely hesitated as to the means. His courage was sullied with cruelty, the cruelty that flowed equally — strange as it may seem — from his avarice and his religion; religion as it was understood in that age, — the religion of the Crusader. It was the convenient cloak for a multitude of sins, which covered them even from himself. The Castilian, too proud for hypocrisy, committed more cruelties in the name of religion than were ever practised by the pagan idolater or the fanatical Moslem. The burning of the infidel was a sacrifice acceptable to Heaven, and the conversion of those who survived amply atoned for the foulest offences. It is a melancholy and mortifying consideration, that the most uncompromising spirit of intolerance — the spirit of the Inquisitor at home, and of the Crusader abroad — should have emanated from a religion which preached peace upon earth and good-will towards man!
What a contrast did these children of Southern Europe present to the Anglo–Saxon races who scattered themselves along the great northern division of the western hemisphere! For the principle of action with these latter was not avarice, nor the more specious pretext of proselytism; but independence, — independence religious and political. To secure this, they were content to earn a bare subsistence by a life of frugality and toil. They asked nothing from the soil, but the reasonable returns of their own labor. No golden visions threw a deceitful halo around their path, and beckoned them onwards through seas of blood to the subversion of an unoffending dynasty. They were content with the slow but steady progress of their social polity. They patiently endured the privations of the wilderness, watering the tree of liberty with their tears and with the sweat of their brow, till it took deep root in the land and sent up its branches high towards the heavens; while the communities of the neighbouring continent, shooting up into the sudden splendors of a tropical vegetation, exhibited, even in their prime, the sure symptoms of decay.
It would seem to have been especially ordered by Providence that the discovery of the two great divisions of the American hemisphere should fall to the two races best fitted to conquer and colonize them. Thus the northern section was consigned to the Anglo–Saxon race, whose orderly, industrious habits found an ample field for development under its colder skies and on its more rugged soil; while the southern portion, with its rich tropical products and treasures of mineral wealth, held out the most attractive bait to invite the enterprise of the Spaniard. How different might have been the result, if the bark of Columbus had taken a more northerly direction, as he at one time meditated, and landed its band of adventurers on the shores of what is now Protestant America!
Under the pressure of that spirit of nautical enterprise which filled the maritime communities of Europe in the sixteenth century, the whole extent of the mighty continent, from Labrador to Terra del Fuego, was explored in less than thirty years after its discovery; and in 1521, the Portuguese Maghellan, sailing under the Spanish flag, solved the problem of the strait, and found a westerly way to the long sought Spice-islands of India, — greatly to the astonishment of the Portuguese, who, sailing from the opposite direction, there met their rivals, face to face, at the antipodes. But while the whole eastern coast of the American continent had been explored, and the central portion of it colonized, — even after the brilliant achievement of the Mexican conquest, — the veil was not yet raised that hung over the golden shores of the Pacific.
Floating rumors had reached the Spaniards, from time to time, of countries in the far west, teeming with the metal they so much coveted; but the first distinct notice of Peru was about the year 1511, when Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the discoverer of the Southern Sea, was weighing some gold which he had collected from the natives. A young barbarian chieftain, who was present, struck the scales with his fist, and, scattering the glittering metal around the apartment, exclaimed, — “If this is what you prize so much that you are willing to leave your distant homes, and risk even life itself for it, I can tell you of a land where they eat and drink out of golden vessels, and gold is as cheap as iron is with you.” It was not long after this startling intelligence that Balboa achieved the formidable adventure of scaling the mountain rampart of the isthmus which divides the two mighty oceans from each other; when, armed with sword and buckler, he rushed into the waters of the Pacific, and cried out, in the true chivalrous vein, that “he claimed this unknown sea with all that it contained for the king of Castile, and that he would make good the claim against all, Christian or infidel, who dared to gain say it”! 3 All the broad continent and sunny isles washed by the waters of the Southern Ocean! Little did the bold cavalier comprehend the full import of his magnificent vaunt.
3 Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 1. lib. 10, cap. 2. — Quintana, Vidas de Espanoles Celebres, (Madrid, 1830,) tom. II. p. 44.]
On this spot he received more explicit tidings of the Peruvian empire, heard proofs recounted of its civilization, and was shown drawings of the llama, which, to the European eye, seemed a species of the Arabian camel. But, although he steered his caravel for these golden realms, and even pushed his discoveries some twenty leagues south of the Gulf of St. Michael, the adventure was not reserved for him. The illustrious discoverer was doomed to fall a victim to that miserable jealousy with which a little spirit regards the achievements of a great one.
The Spanish colonial domain was broken up into a number of petty governments, which were dispensed sometimes to court favorites, though, as the duties of the post, at this early period, were of an arduous nature, they were more frequently reserved for men of some practical talent and enterprise. Columbus, by virtue of his original contract with the Crown, had jurisdiction over the territories discovered by himself, embracing some of the principal islands, and a few places on the continent. This jurisdiction differed from that of other functionaries, inasmuch as it was hereditary; a privilege found in the end too considerable for a subject, and commuted, therefore, for a title and a pension. These colonial governments were multiplied with the increase of empire, and by the year 1524, the period at which our narrative properly commences, were scattered over the islands, along the Isthmus of Darien, the broad tract of Terra Firma, and the recent conquests of Mexico. Some of these governments were of no great extent. Others, like that of Mexico, were of the dimensions of a kingdom; and most had an indefinite range for discovery assigned to them in their immediate neighbourhood, by which each of the petty potentates might enlarge his territorial sway, and enrich his followers and himself. This politic arrangement best served the ends of the Crown, by affording a perpetual incentive to the spirit of enterprise. Thus living on their own little domains at a long distance from the mother country, these military rulers held a sort of vice-regal sway, and too frequently exercised it in the most oppressive and tyrannical manner; oppressive to the native, and tyrannical towards their own followers. It was the natural consequence, when men, originally low in station, and unprepared by education for office, were suddenly called to the possession of a brief, but in its nature irresponsible, authority. It was not till after some sad experience of these results, that measures were taken to hold these petty tyrants in check by means of regular tribunals, or Royal Audiences, as they were termed, which, composed of men of character and learning, might interpose the arm of the law, or, at least, the voice of remonstrance, for the protection of both colonist and native.
Among the colonial governors, who were indebted for their situation to their rank at home, was Don Pedro Arias de Avila, or Pedrarias, as usually called. He was married to a daughter of Dona Beatriz de Bobadilla, the celebrated Marchioness of Moya, best known as the friend of Isabella the Catholic. He was a man of some military experience and considerable energy of character. But, as it proved, he was of a malignant temper; and the base qualities, which might have passed unnoticed in the obscurity of private life, were made conspicuous, and perhaps created in some measure, by sudden elevation to power; as the sunshine, which operates kindly on a generous soil, and stimulates it to production, calls forth from the unwholesome marsh only foul and pestilent vapors. This man was placed over the territory of Castilla del Oro, the ground selected by Nunez de Balboa for the theatre of his discoveries. Success drew on this latter the jealousy of his superior, for it was crime enough in the eyes of Pedrarias to deserve too well. The tragical history of this cavalier belongs to a period somewhat earlier than that with which we are to be occupied. It has been traced by abler hands than mine, and, though brief, forms one of the most brilliant passages in the annals of the American conquerors. 4
4 The memorable adventures of Vasco Nunez de Balboa have been recorded by Quintana, (Espanoles Celebres, tom II.) and by Irving in his Companions of Columbus. — It is rare that the life of an individual has formed the subject of two such elegant memorials, produced at nearly the same time, and in different languages, without any communication between the authors.
But though Pedrarias was willing to cut short the glorious career of his rival, he was not insensible to the important consequences of his discoveries. He saw at once the unsuitableness of Darien for prosecuting expeditions on the Pacific, and, conformably to the original suggestion of Balboa, in 1519, he caused his rising capital to be transferred from the shores of the Atlantic to the ancient site of Panama, some distance east of the present city of that name. 5 This most unhealthy spot, the cemetery of many an unfortunate colonist, was favorably situated for the great object of maritime enterprise; and the port, from its central position, afforded the best point of departure for expeditions, whether to the north or south, along the wide range of undiscovered coast that lined the Southern Ocean. Yet in this new and more favorable position, several years were suffered to elapse before the course of discovery took the direction of Peru. This was turned exclusively towards the north, or rather west, in obedience to the orders of government, which had ever at heart the detection of a strait that, as was supposed, must intersect some part or other of the long-extended Isthmus. Armament after armament was fitted out with this chimerical object; and Pedrarias saw his domain extending every year farther and farther without deriving any considerable advantage from his acquisitions. Veragua, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, were successively occupied; and his brave cavaliers forced a way across forest and mountain and warlike tribes of savages, till, at Honduras, they came in collision with the companions of Cortes, the Conquerors of Mexico, who had descended from the great northern plateau on the regions of Central America, and thus completed the survey of this wild and mysterious land.
5 The Court gave positive instructions to Pedrarias to make a settlement in the Gulf of St. Michael, in obedience to the suggestion of Vasco Nunez, that it would be the most eligible site for discovery and traffic in the South Sea. “El asiento que se oviere de hacer en el golfo de S. Miguel en la mar del sur debe ser en el puerto que mejor se hallare y mas convenible para la contratacion de aquel golfo, porque segund lo que Vasco Nunez escribe, seria muy necessario que alli haya algunos navios, asi para descubrir las cosas del golfo; y de la comarca del, como para la contratacion de rescates de las otras cosas necesarias al buen provoimiento de aquello; e para que estos navios aprovechen es menester que se hagan alla.” Capitulo de Carta escrita por el Rey Catolico a Pedrarias Davila, ap. Navarrete, Coleccion de los Viages y Descubrimientos, (Madrid, 1829.) tom. III. No. 3.
It was not till 1522 that a regular expedition was despatched in the direction south of Panama, under the conduct of Pascual de Andagoya, a cavalier of much distinction in the colony. But that officer penetrated only to the Puerto de Pinas, the limit of Balboa’s discoveries, when the bad state of his health compelled him to reembark and abandon his enterprise at its commencement. 6
6 According to Montesinos, Andagoya received a severe injury by a fall from his horse, while showing off the high-mettled animal to the wondering eyes of the natives. (Annales del Peru, Ms., ano 1524.) But the Adelantado, in a memorial of his own discoveries, drawn up by himself, says nothing of this unlucky feat of horsemanship, but imputes his illness to his having fallen into the water, an accident by which he was near being drowned, so that it was some years before he recovered from the effects of it; a mode of accounting for his premature return, more soothing to his vanity, probably, than the one usually received. This document, important as coming from the pen of one of the primitive discoverers, is preserved in the Indian Archives of Seville, and was published by Navarrete, Coleccion, tom. III. No. 7.]
Yet the floating rumors of the wealth and civilization of a mighty nation at the South were continually reaching the ears and kindling the dreamy imaginations of the colonists; and it may seem astonishing that an expedition in that direction should have been so long deferred. But the exact position and distance of this fairy realm were matter of conjecture. The long tract of intervening country was occupied by rude and warlike races; and the little experience which the Spanish navigators had already had of the neighbouring coast and its inhabitants, and still more, the tempestuous character of the seas — for their expeditions had taken place at the most unpropitious seasons of the year — enhanced the apparent difficulties of the undertaking, and made even their stout hearts shrink from it. Such was the state of feeling in the little community of Panama for several years after its foundation. Meanwhile, the dazzling conquest of Mexico gave a new impulse to the ardor of discovery, and, in 1524, three men were found in the colony, in whom the spirit of adventure triumphed over every consideration of difficulty and danger that obstructed the prosecution of the enterprise. One among them was selected as fitted by his character to conduct it to a successful issue. That man was Francisco Pizarro; and as he held the same conspicuous post in the Conquest of Peru that was occupied by Cortes in that of Mexico, it will be necessary to take a brief review of his early history.
Francisco Pizarro was born at Truxillo, a city of Estremadura, in Spain. The period of his birth is uncertain; but probably it was not far from 1471. 1 He was an illegitimate child, and that his parents should not have taken pains to perpetuate the date of his birth is not surprising. Few care to make a particular record of their transgressions. His father, Gonzalo Pizarro, was a colonel of infantry, and served with some distinction in the Italian campaigns under the Great Captain, and afterwards in the wars of Navarre. His mother, named Francisca Gonzales, was a person of humble condition in the town of Truxillo. 2
1 The few writers who venture to assign the date of Pizarro’s birth do it in so vague and contradictory a manner as to inspire us with but little confidence in their accounts. Herrera, it is true, says positively, that he was sixty-three years old at the time of his death, in 1541. (Hist. General, dec. 6, lib. 10, cap. 6.) This would carry back the date of his birth only to 1478. But Garcilasso de la Vega affirms that he was more than fifty years old in 1525. (Com. Real., Parte 2, lib. 1, cap. 1.) This would place his birth before 1475. Pizarro y Orellana, who, as a kinsman of the Conqueror, may be supposed to have had better means of information, says he was fifty-four years of age at the same date of 1525. (Varones Ilustres del Nuevo Mundo, (Madrid, 1639,) p. 128.) But at the period of his death he calls him nearly eighty years old! (p. 185.) Taking this latter as a round exaggeration for effect in the particular connection in which it is used, and admitting the accuracy of the former statement, the epoch of his birth will conform to that given in the text. This makes him somewhat late in life to set about the conquest of an empire. But Columbus, when he entered on his career, was still older.]
2 Xerez, Conquista del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 179. — Zarate, Conq. del Peru, lib. 1, cap. 1. — Pizarro y Orellana, Varones Ilustres, p. 128.]
But little is told of Francisco’s early years, and that little not always deserving of credit. According to some, he was deserted by both his parents, and left as a foundling at the door of one of the principal churches of the city. It is even said that he would have perished, had he not been nursed by a sow. 3 This is a more discreditable fountain of supply than that assigned to the infant Romulus. The early history of men who have made their names famous by deeds in after-life, like the early history of nations, affords a fruitful field for invention.
3 “Nacio en Truxillo, i echaronlo a la puerta de la Iglesia, mamo una Puerca ciertos Dias, no se hallando quien le quisiese dar leche.” Gomara, Hist. de las Ind., cap. 144.]
It seems certain that the young Pizarro received little care from either of his parents, and was suffered to grow up as nature dictated. He was neither taught to read nor write, and his principal occupation was that of a swineherd. But this torpid way of life did not suit the stirring spirit of Pizarro, as he grew older, and listened to the tales, widely circulated and so captivating to a youthful fancy, of the New World. He shared in the popular enthusiasm, and availed himself of a favorable moment to abandon his ignoble charge, and escape to Seville, the port where the Spanish adventurers embarked to seek their fortunes in the West. Few of them could have turned their backs on their native land with less cause for regret than Pizarro. 4
4 According to the Comendador Pizarro y Orellana, Francis Pizarro served, while quite a stripling, with his father, in the Italian wars; and afterwards, under Columbus and other illustrious discoverers, in the New World, whose successes the author modestly attributes to his kinsman’s valor, as a principal cause! Varones Ilustres, p. 187.]
In what year this important change in his destiny took place we are not informed. The first we hear of him in the New World is at the island of Hispaniola, in 1510, where he took part in the expedition to Uraba in Terra Firma, under Alonzo de Ojeda, a cavalier whose character and achievements find no parallel but in the pages of Cervantes. Hernando Cortes, whose mother was a Pizarro, and related, it is said, to the father of Francis, was then in St. Domingo, and prepared to accompany Ojeda’s expedition, but was prevented by a temporary lameness. Had he gone, the fall of the Aztec empire might have been postponed for some time longer, and the sceptre of Montezuma have descended in peace to his posterity. Pizarro shared in the disastrous fortunes of Ojeda’s colony, and, by his discretion, obtained so far the confidence of his commander, as to be left in charge of the settlement, when the latter returned for supplies to the islands. The lieutenant continued at his perilous post for nearly two months, waiting deliberately until death should have thinned off the colony sufficiently to allow the miserable remnant to be embarked in the single small vessel that remained to it. 5
5 Pizarro y Orellana, Varones Ilustres, pp. 121, 128. — Herrera, Hist. Gen., dec. 1, lib. 7, cap. 14. — Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ane 1510.]
After this, we find him associated with Balboa, the discoverer of the Pacific, and cooperating with him in establishing the settlement at Darien. He had the glory of accompanying this gallant cavalier in his terrible march across the mountains, and of being among the first Europeans, therefore, whose eyes were greeted with the long-promised vision of the Southern Ocean. After the untimely death of his commander, Pizarro attached himself to the fortunes of Pedrarias, and was employed by that governor in several military expeditions, which, if they afforded nothing else, gave him the requisite training for the perils and privations that lay in the path of the future Conqueror of Peru.
In 1515, he was selected, with another cavalier named Morales, to cross the Isthmus and traffic with the natives on the shores of the Pacific. And there, while engaged in collecting his booty of gold and pearls from the neighbouring islands, as his eye ranged along the shadowy line of coast till it faded in the distance, his imagination may have been first fired with the idea of, one day, attempting the conquest of the mysterious regions beyond the mountains. On the removal of the seat of government across the Isthmus to Panama, Pizarro accompanied Pedrarias, and his name became conspicuous among the cavaliers who extended the line of conquest to the north over the martial tribes of Veragua. But all these expeditions, whatever glory they may have brought him, were productive of very little gold, and, at the age of fifty, the captain Pizarro found himself in possession only of a tract of unhealthy land in the neigbourhood of the capital, and of such repartimientos of the natives as were deemed suited to his military services. 6 The New World was a lottery, where the great prizes were so few that the odds were much against the player; yet in the game he was content to stake health, fortune, and, too often, his fair fame.
6 “Teniendo su casa, i Hacienda, i Repartimiento de Indios como uno de los Principales de la Tierra; porque siempre lo fue.” Xerez, Conq. del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 79.]
Such was Pizarro’s situation when, in 1522, Andagoya returned from his unfinished enterprise to the south of Panama, bringing back with him more copious accounts than any hitherto received of the opulence and grandeur of the countries that lay beyond. 7 It was at this time, too, that the splendid achievements of Cortes made their impression on the public mind, and gave a new impulse to the spirit of adventure. The southern expeditions became a common topic of speculation among the colonists of Panama. But the region of gold, as it lay behind the mighty curtain of the Cordilleras, was still veiled in obscurity. No idea could be formed of its actual distance; and the hardships and difficulties encountered by the few navigators who had sailed in that direction gave a gloomy character to the undertaking, which had hitherto deterred the most daring from embarking in it. There is no evidence that Pizarro showed any particular alacrity in the cause. Nor were his own funds such as to warrant any expectation of success without great assistance from others. He found this in two individuals of the colony, who took too important a part in the subsequent transactions not to be particularly noticed.
7 Andagoya says that he obtained, while at Biru, very minute accounts of the empire of the Incas, from certain itinerant traders who frequented that country. “En esta provincia supe y hube relacion, ansi de los senores como de mercaderes e interpretes que ellos tenian, de toda la costa de todo lo que despues se ha visto hasta el Cuzco, particularmente de cada provincia la manera y gente della, porque estos alcanzaban por via de mercaduria mucha tierra.” Navarrete, Coleccion, tom. III. No 7.]
One of them, Diego de Almagro, was a soldier of fortune, somewhat older, it seems probable, than Pizarro; though little is known of his birth, and even the place of it is disputed. It is supposed to have been the town of Almagro in New Castile, whence his own name, for want of a better source, was derived; for, like Pizarro, he was a foundling. 8 Few particulars are known of him till the present period of our history; for he was one of those whom the working of turbulent times first throws upon the surface, — less fortunate, perhaps, than if left in their original obscurity. In his military career, Almagro had earned the reputation of a gallant soldier. He was frank and liberal in his disposition, somewhat hasty and ungovernable in his passions, but, like men of a sanguine temperament, after the first sallies had passed away, not difficult to be appeased. He had, in short, the good qualities and the defects incident to an honest nature, not improved by the discipline of early education or self-control.
8 “Decia el que hera de Almagro,” says Pedro Pizarro, who knew him well. Relacion del Descubrimiento y Conquista de los Reynos del Peru, Ms. — See also Zarate. Conq. del Peru, lib. 1, cap. 1. — Gomara, Hist. de las Ind., cap. 141. — Pizarro y Orellana, Varones Ilustres, p. 211.
The last writer admits that Almagro’s parentage is unknown; but adds that the character of his early exploits infers an illustrious descent. — This would scarcely pass for evidence with the College of Heralds.]
The other member of the confederacy was Hernando de Luque, a Spanish ecclesiastic, who exercised the functions of vicar at Panama, and had formerly filled the office of schoolmaster in the Cathedral of Darien. He seems to have been a man of singular prudence and knowledge of the world; and by his respectable qualities had acquired considerable influence in the little community to which he belonged, as well as the control of funds, which made his cooperation essential to the success of the present enterprise.
It was arranged among the three associates, that the two cavaliers should contribute their little stock towards defraying the expenses of the armament, but by far the greater part of the funds was to be furnished by Luque. Pizarro was to take command of the expedition, and the business of victualling and equipping the vessels was assigned to Almagro. The associates found no difficulty in obtaining the consent of the governor to their undertaking. After the return of Andagoya, he had projected another expedition, but the officer to whom it was to be intrusted died. Why he did not prosecute his original purpose, and commit the affair to an experienced captain like Pizarro, does not appear. He was probably not displeased that the burden of the enterprise should be borne by others, so long as a good share of the profits went into his own coffers. This he did not overlook in his stipulations. 9
9 “Asi que estos tres companeros ya dichos Acordaron de yr a conquistar esta provincia ya dicha. Pues consultandolo con Pedro Arias de Avila que a la sazon hera governador en tierra firme. Vino en ello haziendo compania con los dichos companeros con condicion que Pedro Arias no havia de contribuir entonces con ningun dinero ni otra cosa sino de lo que se hallase en la tierra de lo que a el le cupiese por virtud de la compania de alli se pagasen los gastos que a el le cupiesen. Los tres companeros vinieron en ello por aver esta licencia porque de otra manera no la alcanzaran.” (Pedro Pizarro, Descub. y Conq., Ms.) Andagoya, however, affirms that the governor was interested equally with the other associates in the adventure, each taking a fourth part on himself. (Navarrete, Coleccion, tom. III. No. 7.) But whatever was the original interest of Pedrarias, it mattered little, as it was surrendered before any profits were realized from the expedition.
Thus fortified with the funds of Luque, and the consent of the governor, Almagro was not slow to make preparations for the voyage. Two small vessels were purchased, the larger of which had been originally built by Balboa, for himself, with a view to this same expedition. Since his death, it had lain dismantled in the harbour of Panama. It was now refitted as well as circumstances would permit, and put in order for sea, while the stores and provisions were got on board with an alacrity which did more credit, as the event proved, to Almagro’s zeal than to his forecast.
There was more difficulty in obtaining the necessary complement of hands; for a general feeling of distrust had gathered round expeditions in this direction, which could not readily be overcome. But there were many idle hangers-on in the colony, who had come out to mend their fortunes, and were willing to take their chance of doing so, however desperate. From such materials as these, Almagro assembled a body of somewhat more than a hundred men; 10 and every thing being ready, Pizarro assumed the command, and, weighing anchor, took his departure from the little port of Panama, about the middle of November, 1524. Almagro was to follow in a second vessel of inferior size, as soon as it could be fitted out. 11
10 Herrera, the most popular historian of these transactions, estimates the number of Pizarro’s followers only at eighty. But every other authority which I have consulted raises them to over a hundred. Father Naharro, a contemporary, and resident at Lima even allows a hundred and twenty-nine. Relacion sumaria de la entrada de los Espanoles en el Peru, Ms.]
11 There is the usual discrepancy among authors about the date of this expedition. Most fix it at 1525. I have conformed to Xerez, Pizarro’s secretary, whose narrative was published ten years after the voyage, and who could hardly have forgotten the date of so memorable an event, in so short an interval of time. (See his Conquista del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 179.)
The year seems to be settled by Pizarro’s Capitulacion with the Crown, which I had not examined till after the above was written. This instrument, dated July, 1529, speaks of his first expedition as having taken place about five years previous. (See Appendix, No. VII.)]
The time of year was the most unsuitable that could have been selected for the voyage; for it was the rainy season, when the navigation to the south, impeded by contrary winds, is made doubly dangerous by the tempests that sweep over the coast. But this was not understood by the adventurers. After touching at the Isle of Pearls, the frequent resort of navigators, at a few leagues’ distance from Panama, Pizarro held his way across the Gulf of St. Michael, and steered almost due south for the Puerto de Pinas, a headland in the province of Biruquete, which marked the limit of Andagoya’s voyage. Before his departure, Pizarro had obtained all the information which he could derive from that officer in respect to the country, and the route he was to follow. But the cavalier’s own experience had been too limited to enable him to be of much assistance.
Doubling the Puerto de Pinas, the little vessel entered the river Biru, the misapplication of which name is supposed by some to have given rise to that of the empire of the Incas. 12 After sailing up this stream for a couple of leagues, Pizarro came to anchor, and disembarking his whole force except the sailors, proceeded at the head of it to explore the country. The land spread out into a vast swamp, where the heavy rains had settled in pools of stagnant water, and the muddy soil afforded no footing to the traveller. This dismal morass was fringed with woods, through whose thick and tangled undergrowth they found it difficult to penetrate; and emerging from them, they came out on a hilly country, so rough and rocky in its character, that their feet were cut to the bone, and the weary soldier, encumbered with his heavy mail or thick-padded doublet of cotton, found it difficult to drag one foot after the other. The heat at times was oppressive; and, fainting with toil and famished for want of food, they sank down on the earth from mere exhaustion. Such was the ominous commencement of the expedition to Peru.
12 Zarate, Conq. del Peru, lib. 1. cap. 1. — Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 6, cap. 13.]
Pizarro, however, did not lose heart. He endeavoured to revive the spirits of his men, and besought them not to be discouraged by difficulties which a brave heart would be sure to overcome, reminding them of the golden prize which awaited those who persevered. Yet it was obvious that nothing was to be gained by remaining longer in this desolate region. Returning to their vessel, therefore, it was suffered to drop down the river and proceed along its southern course on the great ocean.
After coasting a few leagues, Pizarro anchored off a place not very inviting in its appearance, where he took in a supply of wood and water. Then, stretching more towards the open sea, he held on in the same direction towards the south. But in this he was baffled by a succession of heavy tempests, accompanied with such tremendous peals of thunder and floods of rain as are found only in the terrible storms of the tropics. The sea was lashed into fury, and, swelling into mountain billows, threatened every moment to overwhelm the crazy little bark, which opened at every seam. For ten days the unfortunate voyagers were tossed about by the pitiless elements, and it was only by incessant exertions — the exertions of despair — that they preserved the ship from foundering. To add to their calamities, their provisions began to fail, and they were short of water, of which they had been furnished only with a small number of casks; for Almagro had counted on their recruiting their scanty supplies, from time to time, from the shore. Their meat was wholly consumed, and they were reduced to the wretched allowance of two ears of Indian corn a day for each man.
Thus harassed by hunger and the elements, the battered voyagers were too happy to retrace their course and regain the port where they had last taken in supplies of wood and water. Yet nothing could be more unpromising than the aspect of the country. It had the same character of low, swampy soil, that distinguished the former landing-place; while thick-matted forests, of a depth which the eye could not penetrate, stretched along the coast to an interminable length. It was in vain that the wearied Spaniards endeavoured to thread the mazes of this tangled thicket, where the creepers and flowering vines, that shoot up luxuriant in a hot and humid atmosphere, had twined themselves round the huge trunks of the forest-trees, and made a network that could be opened only with the axe. The rain, in the mean time, rarely slackened, and the ground, strewed with leaves and saturated with moisture, seemed to slip away beneath their feet.
Nothing could be more dreary and disheartening than the aspect of these funereal forests; where the exhalations from the overcharged surface of the ground poisoned the air, and seemed to allow no life, except that, indeed, of myriads of insects, whose enamelled wings glanced to and fro, like sparks of fire, in every opening of the woods. Even the brute creation appeared instinctively to have shunned the fatal spot, and neither beast nor bird of any description was seen by the wanderers. Silence reigned unbroken in the heart of these dismal solitudes; at least, the only sounds that could be heard were the plashing of the rain-drops on the leaves, and the tread of the forlorn adventurers. 13
13 Xerez, Conq del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 180. — Relacion del Primer. Descub., Ms. — Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1515. — Zarate, Conq. del Peru, lib. 1, cap. 1. — Garcilasso, Com. Real., Parte 2, lib. 1, cap. 7. — Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 6, cap. 13.]
Entirely discouraged by the aspect of the country, the Spaniards began to comprehend that they had gained nothing by changing their quarters from sea to shore, and they felt the most serious apprehensions of perishing from famine in a region which afforded nothing but such unwholesome berries as they could pick up here and there in the woods. They loudly complained of their hard lot, accusing their commander as the author of all their troubles, and as deluding them with promises of a fairy land, which seemed to recede in proportion as they advanced. It was of no use, they said, to contend against fate, and it was better to take their chance of regaining the port of Panama in time to save their lives, than to wait where they were to die of hunger.
But Pizarro was prepared to encounter much greater evils than these, before returning to Panama, bankrupt in credit, an object of derision as a vainglorious dreamer, who had persuaded others to embark in an adventure which he had not the courage to carry through himself. The present was his only chance. To return would be ruin. He used every argument, therefore, that mortified pride or avarice could suggest to turn his followers from their purpose; represented to them that these were the troubles that necessarily lay in the path of the discoverer; and called to mind the brilliant successes of their countrymen in other quarters, and the repeated reports, which they had themselves received, of the rich regions along this coast, of which it required only courage and constancy on their part to become the masters. Yet, as their present exigencies were pressing, he resolved to send back the vessel to the Isle of Pearls, to lay in a fresh stock of provisions for his company, which might enable them to go forward with renewed confidence. The distance was not great, and in a few days they would all be relieved from their perilous position. The officer detached on this service was named Montenegro; and taking with him nearly half the company, after receiving Pizarro’s directions, he instantly weighed anchor, and steered for the Isle of Pearls.
On the departure of his vessel, the Spanish commander made an attempt to explore the country, and see if some Indian settlement might not be found, where he could procure refreshments for his followers. But his efforts were vain, and no trace was visible of a human dwelling; though, in the dense and impenetrable foliage of the equatorial regions, the distance of a few rods might suffice to screen a city from observation. The only means of nourishment left to the unfortunate adventurers were such shell-fish as they occasionally picked up on the shore, or the bitter buds of the palm-tree, and such berries and unsavoury herbs as grew wild in the woods. Some of these were so poisonous, that the bodies of those who ate them swelled up and were tormented with racking pains. Others, preferring famine to this miserable diet, pined away from weakness and actually died of starvation. Yet their resolute leader strove to maintain his own cheerfulness and to keep up the drooping spirits of his men. He freely shared with them his scanty stock of provisions, was unwearied in his endeavours to procure them sustenance, tended the sick, and ordered barracks to be constructed for their accommodation, which might, at least, shelter them from the drenching storms of the season. By this ready sympathy with his followers in their sufferings, he obtained an ascendency over their rough natures, which the assertion of authority, at least in the present extremity, could never have secured to him.
Day after day, week after week, had now passed away, and no tidings were heard of the vessel that was to bring relief to the wanderers. In vain did they strain their eyes over the distant waters to catch a glimpse of their coming friends. Not a speck was to be seen in the blue distance, where the canoe of the savage dared not venture, and the sail of the white man was not yet spread. Those who had borne up bravely at first now gave way to despondency, as they felt themselves abandoned by their countrymen on this desolate shore. They pined under that sad feeling which “maketh the heart sick.” More than twenty of the little band had already died, and the survivors seemed to be rapidly following. 14
14 Ibid., ubi supra. — Relacion del Primer. Descub., Ms. — Xerez, Conq. del Peru, ubi supra.]
At this crisis reports were brought to Pizarro of a light having been seen through a distant opening in the woods. He hailed the tidings with eagerness, as intimating the existence of some settlement in the neighbourhood; and, putting himself at the head of a small party, went in the direction pointed out, to reconnoitre. He was not disappointed, and, after extricating himself from a dense wilderness of underbrush and foliage, he emerged into an open space, where a small Indian village was planted. The timid inhabitants, on the sudden apparition of the strangers, quitted their huts in dismay; and the famished Spaniards, rushing in, eagerly made themselves masters of their contents. These consisted of different articles of food, chiefly maize and cocoanuts. The supply, though small, was too seasonable not to fill them with rapture.
The astonished natives made no attempt at resistance. But, gathering more confidence as no violence was offered to their persons, they drew nearer the white men, and inquired, “Why they did not stay at home and till their own lands, instead of roaming about to rob others who had never harmed them?” 15 Whatever may have been their opinion as to the question of right, the Spaniards, no doubt, felt then that it would have been wiser to do so. But the savages wore about their persons gold ornaments of some size, though of clumsy workmanship. This furnished the best reply to their demand. It was the golden bait which lured the Spanish adventurer to forsake his pleasant home for the trials of the wilderness. From the Indians Pizarro gathered a confirmation of the reports he had so often received of a rich country lying farther south; and at the distance of ten days’ journey across the mountains, they told him, there dwelt a mighty monarch whose dominions had been invaded by another still more powerful, the Child of the Sun. 16 It may have been the invasion of Quito that was meant, by the valiant Inca Huayna Capac, which took place some years previous to Pizarro’s expedition.
15 “Porque decian a los Castellanos, que por que no sembraban. i cogian, sin andar tomando los Bastimentos agenos, pasando tantos trabajos?” Herrera, Hist. General, loc. cit.]
16 “Dioles noticia el viejo por medio del lengua, como diez soles de alli habia un Rey muy poderoso yendo por espesas montanas, y que otro mas poderoso hijo del sol habia venido de milagro a quitarle el Reino sobre que tenian mui sangrientas batallas.” (Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1525.) The conquest of Quito by Huayna Capac took place more than thirty years before this period in our history. But the particulars of this revolution, its time or precise theatre, were, probably, but very vaguely comprehended by the rude nations in the neighbourhood of Panama: and their allusion to it in an unknown dialect was as little comprehended by the Spanish voyagers, who must have collected their information from signs much more than words.
At length, after the expiration of more than six weeks, the Spaniards beheld with delight the return of the wandering bark that had borne away their comrades, and Montenegro sailed into port with an ample supply of provisions for his famishing countrymen. Great was his horror at the aspect presented by the latter, their wild and haggard countenances and wasted frames, — so wasted by hunger and disease, that their old companions found it difficult to recognize them. Montenegro accounted for his delay by incessant head winds and bad weather; and he himself had also a doleful tale to tell of the distress to which he and his crew had been reduced by hunger, on their passage to the Isle of Pearls. — It is minute incidents like these with which we have been occupied, that enable one to comprehend the extremity of suffering to which the Spanish adventurer was subjected in the prosecution of his great work of discovery.
Revived by the substantial nourishment to which they had so long been strangers, the Spanish cavaliers, with the buoyancy that belongs to men of a hazardous and roving life, forgot their past distresses in their eagerness to prosecute their enterprise. Reembarking therefore on board his vessel, Pizarro bade adieu to the scene of so much suffering, which he branded with the appropriate name of Puerto de la Hambre, the Port of Famine, and again opened his sails to a favorable breeze that bore him onwards towards the south.
Had he struck boldly out into the deep, instead of hugging the inhospitable shore, where he had hitherto found so little to recompense him, he might have spared himself the repetition of wearisome and unprofitable adventures, and reached by a shorter route the point of his destination. But the Spanish mariner groped his way along these unknown coasts, landing at every convenient headland, as if fearful lest some fruitful region or precious mine might be overlooked, should a single break occur in the line of survey. Yet it should be remembered, that, though the true point of Pizarro’s destination is obvious to us, familiar with the topography of these countries, he was wandering in the dark, feeling his way along, inch by inch, as it were, without chart to guide him, without knowledge of the seas or of the bearings of the coast, and even with no better defined idea of the object at which he aimed than that of a land, teeming with gold, that lay somewhere at the south! It was a hunt after an El Dorado; on information scarcely more circumstantial or authentic than that which furnished the basis of so many chimerical enterprises in this land of wonders. Success only, the best argument with the multitude, redeemed the expeditions of Pizarro from a similar imputation of extravagance.
Holding on his southerly course under the lee of the shore, Pizarro, after a short run, found himself abreast of an open reach of country, or at least one less encumbered with wood, which rose by a gradual swell, as it receded from the coast. He landed with a small body of men, and, advancing a short distance into the interior, fell in with an Indian hamlet. It was abandoned by the inhabitants, who, on the approach of the invaders, had betaken themselves to the mountains; and the Spaniards, entering their deserted dwellings, found there a good store of maize and other articles of food, and rude ornaments of gold of considerable value. Food was not more necessary for their bodies than was the sight of gold, from time to time, to stimulate their appetite for adventure. One spectacle, however, chilled their blood with horror. This was the sight of human flesh, which they found roasting before the fire, as the barbarians had left it, preparatory to their obscene repast. The Spaniards, conceiving that they had fallen in with a tribe of Caribs, the only race in that part of the New World known to be cannibals, retreated precipitately to their vessel. 17 They were not steeled by sad familiarity with the spectacle, like the Conquerors of Mexico.
17 “I en las Ollas de la comida, que estaban al Fuego, entre la Carne, que sacaban, havia Pies i Manos de Hombres, de donde conocieron, que aquellos Indios eran Caribes.” Herrera, Hist. General dec. 3, lib. 8, cap. 11.]
The weather, which had been favorable, new set in tempestuous, with heavy squalls, accompanied by incessant thunder and lightning, and the rain, as usual in these tropical tempests, descended not so much in drops as in unbroken sheets of water. The Spaniards, however, preferred to take their chance on the raging element rather than remain in the scene of such brutal abominations. But the fury of the storm gradually subsided, and the little vessel held on her way along the coast, till, coming abreast of a bold point of land named by Pizarro Punta Quemada, he gave orders to anchor. The margin of the shore was fringed with a deep belt of mangrove-trees, the long roots of which, interlacing one another, formed a kind of submarine lattice-work that made the place difficult of approach. Several avenues, opening through this tangled thicket, led Pizarro to conclude that the country must be inhabited, and he disembarked, with the greater part of his force, to explore the interior.
He had not penetrated more than a league, when he found his conjecture verified by the sight of an Indian town of larger size than those he had hitherto seen, occupying the brow of an eminence, and well defended by palisades. The inhabitants, as usual, had fled; but left in their dwellings a good supply of provisions and some gold trinkets, which the Spaniards made no difficulty of appropriating to themselves. Pizarro’s flimsy bark had been strained by the heavy gales it had of late encountered, so that it was unsafe to prosecute the voyage further without more thorough repairs than could be given to her on this desolate coast. He accordingly determined to send her back with a few hands to be careened at Panama, and meanwhile to establish his quarters in his present position, which was so favorable for defence. But first he despatched a small party under Montenegro to reconnoitre the country, and, if possible, to open a communication with the natives.
The latter were a warlike race. They had left their habitations in order to place their wives and children in safety. But they had kept an eye on the movements of the invaders, and, when they saw their forces divided, they resolved to fall upon each body singly before it could communicate with the other. So soon, therefore, as Montenegro had penetrated through the defiles of the lofty hills, which shoot out like spurs of the Cordilleras along this part of the coast, the Indian warriors, springing from their ambush, sent off a cloud of arrows and other missiles that darkened the air, while they made the forest ring with their shrill war-whoop. The Spaniards, astonished at the appearance of the savages, with their naked bodies gaudily painted, and brandishing their weapons as they glanced among the trees and straggling underbrush that choked up the defile, were taken by surprise and thrown for a moment into disarray. Three of their number were killed and several wounded. Yet, speedily rallying, they returned the discharge of the assailants with their cross-bows, — for Pizarro’s troops do not seem to have been provided with muskets on this expedition, — and then gallantly charging the enemy, sword in hand, succeeded in driving them back into the fastnesses of the mountains. But it only led them to shift their operations to another quarter, and make an assault on Pizarro before he could be relieved by his lieutenant.
Availing themselves of their superior knowledge of the passes, they reached that commander’s quarters long before Montenegro, who had commenced a countermarch in the same direction. And issuing from the woods, the bold savages saluted the Spanish garrison with a tempest of darts and arrows, some of which found their way through the joints of the harness and the quilted mail of the cavaliers. But Pizarro was too well practised a soldier to be off his guard. Calling his men about him, he resolved not to abide the assault tamely in the works, but to sally out, and meet the enemy on their own ground. The barbarians, who had advanced near the defences, fell back as the Spaniards burst forth with their valiant leader at their head. But, soon returning with admirable ferocity to the charge, they singled out Pizarro, whom, by his bold bearing and air of authority, they easily recognized as the chief; and, hurling at him a storm of missiles, wounded him, in spite of his armour, in no less than seven places. 18
18 Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms. — Xerez, Conq. del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 180. — Zarate, Conq. del Peru, lib. 1, cap. 1. — Balboa, Hist. du Perou, chap. 15.]
Driven back by the fury of the assault directed against his own person, the Spanish commander retreated down the slope of the hill, still defending himself as he could with sword and buckler, when his foot slipped and he fell. The enemy set up a fierce yell of triumph, and some of the boldest sprang forward to despatch him. But Pizarro was on his feet in an instant, and, striking down two of the foremost with his strong arm, held the rest at bay till his soldiers could come to the rescue. The barbarians, struck with admiration at his valor, began to falter, when Montenegro luckily coming on the ground at the moment, and falling on their rear, completed their confusion; and, abandoning the field, they made the best of their way into the recesses of the mountains. The ground was covered with their slain; but the victory was dearly purchased by the death of two more Spaniards and a long list of wounded.
A council of war was then called. The position had lost its charm in the eyes of the Spaniards, who had met here with the first resistance they had yet experienced on their expedition. It was necessary to place the wounded in some secure spot, where their injuries could be attended to. Yet it was not safe to proceed farther, in the crippled state of their vessel. On the whole, it was decided to return and report their proceedings to the governor; and, though the magnificent hopes of the adventurers had not been realized, Pizarro trusted that enough had been done to vindicate the importance of the enterprise, and to secure the countenance of Pedrarias for the further prosecution of it. 19
19 Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 8, cap. 11. — Xerez, ubi supra.]
Yet Pizarro could not make up his mind to present himself, in the present state of the undertaking, before the governor. He determined, therefore, to be set on shore with the principal part of his company at Chicama, a place on the main land, at a short distance west of Panama. From this place, which he reached without any further accident, he despatched the vessel, and in it his treasurer, Nicolas de Ribera, with the gold he had collected, and with instructions to lay before the governor a full account of his discoveries, and the result of the expedition.
While these events were passing, Pizarro’s associate, Almagro, had been busily employed in fitting out another vessel for the expedition at the port of Panama. It was not till long after his friend’s departure that he was prepared to follow him. With the assistance of Luque, he at length succeeded in equipping a small caravel and embarking a body of between sixty and seventy adventurers, mostly of the lowest order of the colonists. He steered in the track of his comrade, with the intention of overtaking him as soon as possible. By a signal previously concerted of notching the trees, he was able to identify the spots visited by Pizarro, — Puerto de Pinas, Puerto de la Hambre, Pueblo Quemado, — touching successively at every point of the coast explored by his countrymen, though in a much shorter time. At the last-mentioned place he was received by the fierce natives with the same hostile demonstrations as Pizarro, though in the present encounter the Indians did not venture beyond their defences. But the hot blood of Almagro was so exasperated by this check, that he assaulted the place and carried it sword in hand, setting fire to the outworks and dwellings, and driving the wretched inhabitants into the forests.
His victory cost him dear. A wound from a javelin on the head caused an inflammation in one of his eyes, which, after great anguish, ended in the loss of it. Yet the intrepid adventurer did not hesitate to pursue his voyage, and, after touching at several places on the coast, some of which rewarded him with a considerable booty in gold, he reached the mouth of the Rio de San Juan, about the fourth degree of north latitude. He was struck with the beauty of the stream, and with the cultivation on its borders, which were sprinkled with Indian cottages showing some skill in their construction, and altogether intimating a higher civilization than any thing he had yet seen.
Still his mind was filled with anxiety for the fate of Pizarro and his followers. No trace of them had been found on the coast for a long time, and it was evident they must have foundered at sea, or made their way back to Panama. This last he deemed most probable; as the vessel might have passed him unnoticed under the cover of the night, or of the dense fogs that sometimes hang over the coast.
Impressed with this belief, he felt no heart to continue his voyage of discovery, for which, indeed, his single bark, with its small complement of men, was altogether inadequate. He proposed, therefore, to return without delay. On his way, he touched at the Isle of Pearls, and there learned the result of his friend’s expedition, and the place of his present residence. Directing his course, at once, to Chicama, the two cavaliers soon had the satisfaction of embracing each other, and recounting their several exploits and escapes. Almagro returned even better freighted with gold than his confederate, and at every step of his progress he had collected fresh confirmation of the existence of some great and opulent empire in the South. The confidence of the two friends was much strengthened by their discoveries; and they unhesitatingly pledged themselves to one another to die rather than abandon the enterprise. 20
20 Xerez, ubi supra. — Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms. — Zarate, Conq. del Peru, loc. cit. — Balboa, Hist. du Perou, chap. 15. — Relacion del Primer. Descub., Ms. — Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 8, cap. 13. — Levinus Apollonius, fol. 12. — Gomara, Hist. de las Ind., cap. 108.]
The best means of obtaining the levies requisite for so formidable an undertaking — more formidable, as it now appeared to them, than before — were made the subject of long and serious discussion. It was at length decided that Pizarro should remain in his present quarters, inconvenient and even unwholesome as they were rendered by the humidity of the climate, and the pestilent swarms of insects that filled the atmosphere. Almagro would pass over to Panama, lay the case before the governor, and secure, if possible, his good-will towards the prosecution of the enterprise. If no obstacle were thrown in their way from this quarter, they might hope, with the assistance of Luque, to raise the necessary supplies; while the results of the recent expedition were sufficiently encouraging to draw adventurers to their standard in a community which had a craving for excitement that gave even danger a charm, and which held life cheap in comparison with gold.
On his arrival at Panama, Almagro found that events had taken a turn less favorable to his views than he had anticipated. Pedrarias, the governor, was preparing to lead an expedition in person against a rebellious officer in Nicaragua; and his temper, naturally not the most amiable, was still further soured by this defection of his lieutenant, and the necessity it imposed on him of a long and perilous march. When, therefore, Almagro appeared before him with the request that he might be permitted to raise further levies to prosecute his enterprise, the governor received him with obvious dissatisfaction, listened coldly to the narrative of his losses, turned an incredulous ear to his magnificent promises for the future, and bluntly demanded an account of the lives, which had been sacrificed by Pizarro’s obstinacy, but which, had they been spared, might have stood him in good stead in his present expedition to Nicaragua. He positively declined to countenance the rash schemes of the two adventurers any longer, and the conquest of Peru would have been crushed in the bud, but for the efficient interposition of the remaining associate, Fernando de Luque.
This sagacious ecclesiastic had received a very different impression from Almagro’s narrative, from that which had been made on the mind of the irritable governor. The actual results of the enterprise in gold and silver, thus far, indeed, had been small, — forming a mortifying contrast to the magnitude of their expectations. But, in another point of view, they were of the last importance; since the intelligence which the adventurers had gained in every successive stage of their progress confirmed, in the strongest manner, the previous accounts, received from Andagoya and others, of a rich Indian empire at the south, which might repay the trouble of conquering it as well as Mexico had repaid the enterprise of Cortes. Fully entering, therefore, into the feelings of his military associates, he used all his influence with the governor to incline him to a more favorable view of Almagro’s petition; and no one in the little community of Panama exercised greater influence over the councils of the executive than Father Luque, for which he was indebted no less to his discretion and acknowledged sagacity than to his professional station.
But while Pedrarias, overcome by the arguments or importunity of the churchman, yielded a reluctant assent to the application, he took care to testify his displeasure with Pizarro, on whom he particularly charged the loss of his followers, by naming Almagro as his equal in command in the proposed expedition. This mortification sunk deep into Pizarro’s mind. He suspected his comrade, with what reason does not appear, of soliciting this boon from the governor. A temporary coldness arose between them, which subsided, in outward show, at least, on Pizarro’s reflecting that it was better to have this authority conferred on a friend than on a stranger, perhaps an enemy. But the seeds of permanent distrust were left in his bosom, and lay waiting for the due season to ripen into a fruitful harvest of discord. 1
1 Xerez, Conq. del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 180. — Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1526. — Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3 lib. 8, cap. 12.]
Pedrarias had been originally interested in the enterprise, at least, so far as to stipulate for a share of the gains, though he had not contributed, as it appears, a single ducat towards the expenses. He was at length, however, induced to relinquish all right to a share of the contingent profits. But, in his manner of doing so, he showed a mercenary spirit, better becoming a petty trader than a high officer of the Crown. He stipulated that the associates should secure to him the sum of one thousand pesos de oro in requital of his goodwill, and they eagerly closed with his proposal, rather than be encumbered with his pretensions. For so paltry a consideration did he resign his portion of the rich spoil of the Incas! 2 But the governor was not gifted with the eye of a prophet. His avarice was of that short-sighted kind which defeats itself. He had sacrificed the chivalrous Balboa just as that officer was opening to him the conquest of Peru, and he would now have quenched the spirit of enterprise, that was taking the same direction, in Pizarro and his associates.
2 Such is Oviedo’s account, who was present at the interview between the governor and Almagro, when the terms of compensation were discussed. The dialogue, which is amusing enough, and well told by the old Chronicler, may be found translated in Appendix, No. 5. Another version of the affair is given in the Relacion, often quoted by me, of one of the Peruvian conquerors, in which Pedrarias is said to have gone out of the partnership voluntarily, from his disgust at the unpromising state of affairs. “Vueltos con la dicha gente a Panama, destrozados y gastados que ya no tenian haciendas para tornar con provisiones y gentes que todo lo habian gastado, el dicho Pedrarias de Avila les dijo, que ya el no queria mas hacer compania con ellos en los gastos de la armada, que si ellos querian volver a su costa, que lo hiciesen; y ansi como gente que habia perdido todo lo que tenia y tanto habia trabajado, acordaron de tornar a proseguir su jornada y dar fin a las vidas y haciendas que les quedaba, o descubrir aquella tierra, y ciertamente ellos tubieron grande constancia y animo.” Relacion del Primer. Descub., Ms.]
Not long after this, in the following year, he was succeeded in his government by Don Pedro de los Rios, a cavalier of Cordova. It was the policy of the Castilian Crown to allow no one of the great colonial officers to occupy the same station so long as to render himself formidable by his authority. 3 It had, moreover, many particular causes of disgust with Pedrarias. The functionary they sent out to succeed him was fortified with ample instructions for the good of the colony, and especially of the natives, whose religious conversion was urged as a capital object, and whose personal freedom was unequivocally asserted, as loyal vassals of the Crown. It is but justice to the Spanish government to admit that its provisions were generally guided by a humane and considerate policy, which was as regularly frustrated by the cupidity of the colonist, and the capricious cruelty of the conqueror. The few remaining years of Pedrarias were spent in petty squabbles, both of a personal and official nature; for he was still continued in office, though in one of less consideration than that which he had hitherto filled. He survived but a few years, leaving behind him a reputation not to be envied, of one who united a pusillanimous spirit with uncontrollable passions; who displayed, notwithstanding, a certain energy of character, or, to speak more correctly, an impetuosity of purpose, which might have led to good results had it taken a right direction. Unfortunately, his lack of discretion was such, that the direction he took was rarely of service to his country or to himself.
3 This policy is noticed by the sagacious Martyr. “De mutandis namque plaerisque gubernatoribus, ne longa nimis imperii assuetudine insolescant, cogitatur, qui praecipue non fuerint prouinciarum domitores. de hisce ducibus namque alia ratio ponderatur.” (De Orbe Novo, (Parisiis, 1587,) p. 498.) One cannot but regret that the philosopher, who took so keen an interest in the successive revelations of the different portions of the New World, should have died before the empire of the Incas was disclosed to Europeans. He lived to learn and to record the wonders of
“Rich Mexico, the seat of Montezuma
Not Cuzco in Peru, the richer seat of
Having settled their difficulties with the governor, and obtained his sanction to their enterprise, the confederates lost no time in making the requisite preparations for it. Their first step was to execute the memorable contract which served as the basis of their future arrangements; and, as Pizarro’s name appears in this, it seems probable that that chief had crossed over to Panama so soon as the favorable disposition of Pedrarias had been secured. 4 The instrument, after invoking in the most solemn manner the names of the Holy Trinity and Our Lady the Blessed Virgin, sets forth, that, whereas the parties have full authority to discover and subdue the countries and provinces lying south of the Gulf, belonging to the empire of Peru, and as Fernando de Luque had advanced the funds for the enterprise in bars of gold of the value of twenty thousand pesos, they mutually bind themselves to divide equally among them the whole of the conquered territory. This stipulation is reiterated over and over again, particularly with reference to Luque, who, it is declared, is to be entitled to one third of all lands, repartimientos, treasures of every kind, gold, silver, and precious stones, — to one third even of all vassals, rents, and emoluments arising from such grants as may be conferred by the Crown on either of his military associates, to be held for his own use, or for that of his heirs, assigns, or legal representative.
4 In opposition to most authorities, — but not to the judicious Quintana, — I have conformed to Montesinos, in placing the execution of the contract at the commencement of the second, instead of the first, expedition. This arrangement coincides with the date of the instrument itself, which, moreover, is reported in extenso by no ancient writer whom I have consulted except Montesinos.]
The two captains solemnly engage to devote themselves exclusively to the present undertaking until it is accomplished; and, in case of failure in their part of the covenant, they pledge themselves to reimburse Luque for his advances, for which all the property they possess shall be held responsible, and this declaration is to be a sufficient warrant for the execution of judgment against them, in the same manner as if it had proceeded from the decree of a court of justice.
The commanders, Pizarro and Almagro, made oath, in the name of God and the Holy Evangelists, sacredly to keep this covenant, swearing it on the missal, on which they traced with their own hands the sacred emblem of the cross. To give still greater efficacy to the compact, Father Luque administered the sacrament to the parties, dividing the consecrated wafer into three portions, of which each one of them partook; while the by-standers, says an historian, were affected to tears by this spectacle of the solemn ceremonial with which these men voluntarily devoted themselves to a sacrifice that seemed little short of insanity. 5
5 This singular instrument is given at length by Montesinos. (Annales, Ms., ano 1526.) It may be found in the original in Appendix, No. 6.]
The instrument, which was dated March 10, 1526, was subscribed by Luque, and attested by three respectable citizens of Panama, one of whom signed on behalf of Pizarro, and the other for Almagro; since neither of these parties, according to the avowal of the instrument, was able to subscribe his own name. 6
6 For some investigation of the fact, which has been disputed by more than one, of Pizarro’s ignorance of the art of writing, see Book 4, chap. 5, of this History.]
Such was the singular compact by which three obscure individuals coolly carved out and partitioned among themselves, an empire of whose extent, power, and resources, of whose situation, of whose existence, even, they had no sure or precise knowledge. The positive and unhesitating manner in which they speak of the grandeur of this empire, of its stores of wealth, so conformable to the event, but of which they could have really known so little, forms a striking contrast with the general skepticism and indifference manifested by nearly every other person, high and low, in the community of Panama. 7
7 The epithet of loco or “madman” was punningly bestowed on Father Luque, for his spirited exertions in behalf of the enterprise; Padre Luque o loco, says Oviedo of him, as if it were synonymous. Historia de las Indias Islas e Tierra Firme del Mar Oceano, Ms., Parte 3, lib. 8 cap. 1.]
The religious tone of the instrument is not the least remarkable feature in it, especially when we contrast this with the relentless policy, pursued by the very men who were parties to it, in their conquest of the country. “In the name of the Prince of Peace,” says the illustrious historian of America, “they ratified a contract of which plunder and bloodshed were the objects.” 8 The reflection seems reasonable. Yet, in criticizing what is done, as well as what is written, we must take into account the spirit of the times. 9 The invocation of Heaven was natural, where the object of the undertaking was, in part, a religious one. Religion entered, more or less, into the theory, at least, of the Spanish conquests in the New World. That motives of a baser sort mingled largely with these higher ones, and in different proportions according to the character of the individual, no one will deny. And few are they that have proposed to themselves a long career of action without the intermixture of some vulgar personal motive, — fame, honors, or emolument. Yet that religion furnishes a key to the American crusades, however rudely they may have been conducted, is evident from the history of their origin; from the sanction openly given to them by the Head of the Church; from the throng of self-devoted missionaries, who followed in the track of the conquerors to garner up the rich harvest of souls; from the reiterated instructions of the Crown, the great object of which was the conversion of the natives; from those superstitious acts of the iron-hearted soldiery themselves, which, however they may be set down to fanaticism, were clearly too much in earnest to leave any ground for the charge of hypocrisy. It was indeed a fiery cross that was borne over the devoted land, scathing and consuming it in its terrible progress; but it was still the cross, the sign of man’s salvation, the only sign by which generations and generations yet unborn were to be rescued from eternal perdition.
8 Robertson, America, vol. III. p. 5.]
9 “A perfect judge will read each work of wit With the same spirit that its author writ,”
says the great bard of Reason. A fair criticism will apply the same rule to action as to writing, and, in the moral estimate of conduct, will take largely into account the spirit of the age which prompted it.]
It is a remarkable fact, which has hitherto escaped the notice of the historian, that Luque was not the real party to this contract. He represented another, who placed in his hands the funds required for the undertaking. This appears from an instrument signed by Luque himself and certified before the same notary that prepared the original contract. The instrument declares that the whole sum of twenty thousand pesos advanced for the expedition was furnished by the Licentiate Gaspar de Espinosa, then at Panama; that the vicar acted only as his agent and by his authority; and that, in consequence, the said Espinosa and no other was entitled to a third of all the profits and acquisitions resulting from the conquest of Peru. This instrument, attested by three persons, one of them the same who had witnessed the original contract, was dated on the 6th of August, 1531. 10 The Licentiate Espinosa was a respectable functionary, who had filled the office of principal alcalde in Darien, and since taken a conspicuous part in the conquest and settlement of Tierra Firme. He enjoyed much consideration for his personal character and station; and it is remarkable that so little should be known of the manner in which the covenant, so solemnly made, was executed in reference to him. As in the case of Columbus, it is probable that the unexpected magnitude of the results was such as to prevent a faithful adherence to the original stipulation; and yet, from the same consideration, one can hardly doubt that the twenty thousand pesos of the bold speculator must have brought him a magnificent return. Nor did the worthy vicar of Panama, as the history will show hereafter, go without his reward.
10 The instrument making this extraordinary disclosure is cited at length in a manuscript entitled Noticia General del Peru, Tierra Firme y Chili, by Francisco Lopez de Caravantes, a fiscal officer in these colonies. The Ms., formerly preserved in the library of the great college of Cuenca at Salamanca, is now to be found in her Majesty’s library at Madrid. The passage is extracted by Quintana, Espanoles Celebres, tom. II. Apend. No. 2, nota.]
Having completed these preliminary arrangements, the three associates lost no time in making preparations for the voyage. Two vessels were purchased, larger and every way better than those employed on the former occasion. Stores were laid in, as experience dictated, on a larger scale than before, and proclamation was made of “an expedition to Peru.” But the call was not readily answered by the skeptical citizens of Panama. Of nearly two hundred men who had embarked on the former cruise, not more than three fourths now remained. 11 This dismal mortality, and the emaciated, poverty-stricken aspect of the survivors, spoke more eloquently than the braggart promises and magnificent prospects held out by the adventurers. Still there were men in the community of such desperate circumstances, that any change seemed like a chance of bettering their condition. Most of the former company also, strange to say, felt more pleased to follow up the adventure to the end than to abandon it, as they saw the light of a better day dawning upon them. From these sources the two captains succeeded in mustering about one hundred and sixty men, making altogether a very inadequate force for the conquest of an empire. A few horses were also purchased, and a better supply of ammunition and military stores than before, though still on a very limited scale. Considering their funds, the only way of accounting for this must be by the difficulty of obtaining supplies at Panama, which, recently founded, and on the remote coast of the Pacific, could be approached only by crossing the rugged barrier of mountains, which made the transportation of bulky articles extremely difficult. Even such scanty stock of materials as it possessed was probably laid under heavy contribution, at the present juncture, by the governor’s preparations for his own expedition to the north.
11 “Con ciento i diez Hombres salio de Panama, i fue donde estaba el Capitan Picarro con otros cinquenta de los primeros ciento; diez, que con el salieron, i de los setenta, que el Capitan Almagro llevo, quando le fue a buscar, que los ciento i treinta ia eran muertos. Xerez, Conq. del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 180.]
Thus indifferently provided, the two captains, each in his own vessel, again took their departure from Panama, under the direction of Bartholomew Ruiz, a sagacious and resolute pilot, well experienced in the navigation of the Southern Ocean. He was a native of Moguer, in Andalusia, that little nursery of nautical enterprise, which furnished so many seamen for the first voyages of Columbus. Without touching at the intervening points of the coast, which offered no attraction to the voyagers, they stood farther out to sea, steering direct for the Rio de San Juan, the utmost limit reached by Almagro. The season was better selected than on the former occasion, and they were borne along by favorable breezes to the place of their destination, which they reached without accident in a few days. Entering the mouth of the river, they saw the banks well lined with Indian habitations; and Pizarro, disembarking, at the head of a party of soldiers, succeeded in surprising a small village and carrying off a considerable booty of gold ornaments found in the dwellings, together with a few of the natives. 12
12 Ibid., pp. 180, 181. — Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms. — Zarate, Conq. del Peru, lib 1, cap. 1. — Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 8, cap. 13.]
Flushed with their success, the two chiefs were confident that the sight of the rich spoil so speedily obtained could not fail to draw adventurers to their standard in Panama; and, as they felt more than ever the necessity of a stronger force to cope with the thickening population of the country which they were now to penetrate, it was decided that Almagro should return with the treasure and beat up for reinforcements, while the pilot Ruiz, in the other vessel, should reconnoitre the country towards the south, and obtain such information as might determine their future movements. Pizarro, with the rest of the force, would remain in the neighbourhood of the river, as he was assured by the Indian prisoners, that not far in the interior was an open reach of country, where he and his men could find comfortable quarters. This arrangement was instantly put in execution. We will first accompany the intrepid pilot in his cruise towards the south.
Coasting along the great continent, with his canvas still spread to favorable winds, the first place at which Ruiz cast anchor was off the little island of Gallo, about two degrees north. The inhabitants, who were not numerous, were prepared to give him a hostile reception, — for tidings of the invaders had preceded them along the country, and even reached this insulated spot. As the object of Ruiz was to explore, not to conquer, he did not care to entangle himself in hostilities with the natives; so, changing his purpose of landing, he weighed anchor, and ran down the coast as far as what is now called the Bay of St. Matthew. The country, which, as he advanced, continued to exhibit evidence of a better culture as well as of a more dense population than the parts hitherto seen, was crowded, along the shores, with spectators, who gave no signs of fear or hostility. They stood gazing on the vessel of the white men as it glided smoothly into the crystal waters of the bay, fancying it, says an old writer, some mysterious being descended from the skies.
Without staying long enough on this friendly coast to undeceive the simple people, Ruiz, standing off shore, struck out into the deep sea; but he had not sailed far in that direction, when he was surprised by the sight of a vessel, seeming in the distance like a caravel of considerable size, traversed by a large sail that carried it sluggishly over the waters. The old navigator was not a little perplexed by this phenomenon, as he was confident no European bark could have been before him in these latitudes, and no Indian nation, yet discovered, not even the civilized Mexican, was acquainted with the use of sails in navigation. As he drew near, he found it was a large vessel, or rather raft, called balsa by the natives, consisting of a number of huge timbers of a light, porous wood, tightly lashed together, with a frail flooring of reeds raised on them by way of deck. Two masts or sturdy poles, erected in the middle of the vessel, sustained a large square-sail of cotton, while a rude kind of rudder and a movable keel, made of plank inserted between the logs, enabled the mariner to give a direction to the floating fabric, which held on its course without the aid of oar or paddle. 13 The simple architecture of this craft was sufficient for the purposes of the natives, and indeed has continued to answer them to the present day; for the balsa, surmounted by small thatched huts or cabins, still supplies the most commodious means for the transportation of passengers and luggage on the streams and along the shores of this part of the South American continent.
13 “Traia sus manteles y antenas de muy fina madera y velas de algodon del mismo talle de manera que los nuestros navios.” Relacion de los Primeros Descubrimientos de F. Pizarro y Diego de Almagro, sacada del Codice, No. 120 de la Biblioteca Imperial de Vienna, Ms]
On coming alongside, Ruiz found several Indians, both men and women, on board, some with rich ornaments on their persons, besides several articles wrought with considerable skill in gold and silver, which they were carrying for purposes of traffic to the different places along the coast. But what most attracted his attention was the woollen cloth of which some of their dresses were made. It was of a fine texture, delicately embroidered with figures of birds and flowers, and dyed in brilliant colors. He also observed in the boat a pair of balances made to weigh the precious metals. 14 His astonishment at these proofs of ingenuity and civilization, so much higher than any thing he had ever seen in the country, was heightened by the intelligence which he collected from some of these Indians. Two of them had come from Tumbez, a Peruvian port, some degrees to the south; and they gave him to understand, that in their neighbourhood the fields were covered with large flocks of the animals from which the wool was obtained, and that gold and silver were almost as common as wood in the palaces of their monarch. The Spaniards listened greedily to reports which harmonized so well with their fond desires. Though half distrusting the exaggeration, Ruiz resolved to detain some of the Indians, including the natives of Tumbez, that they might repeat the wondrous tale to his commander, and at the same time, by learning the Castilian, might hereafter serve as interpreters with their countrymen. The rest of the party he suffered to proceed without further interruption on their voyage. Then holding on his course, the prudent pilot, without touching at any other point of the coast, advanced as far as the Punta de Pasado, about half a degree south, having the glory of being the first European who, sailing in this direction on the Pacific, had crossed the equinoctial line. This was the limit of his discoveries; on reaching which he tacked about, and standing away to the north, succeeded, after an absence of several weeks, in regaining the spot where he had left Pizarro and his comrades. 15
14 In a short notice of this expedition, written apparently at the time of it, or soon after, a minute specification is given of the several articles found in the balsa; among them are mentioned vases and mirrors of burnished silver, and curious fabrics both cotton and woollen. “Espejos guarnecidos de la dicha plata, y tasas y otras vasijas para beber, trahian muchas mantas de lana y de algodon, y camisas y aljubas y alcaceres y alaremes, y otras muchas ropas, todo lo mas de ello muy labrado de labores muy ricas de colores de grana y carmisi y azul y amarillo, y de todas otras colores de diversas maneras de labores y figuras de aves y animales, y Pescados, y arbolesas y trahian unos pesos chiquitos de pesar oro como hechura de Romana, y otras muchas cosas.’ Relacion sacada de la Biblioteca Imperial de Vienna, Ms.]
15 Xerez, Conq. del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 181. — Relacion sacada de la Biblioteca Imperial de Vienna, Ms. — Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 8, cap. 13.
One of the authorities speaks of his having been sixty days on this cruise. I regret not to be able to give precise dates of the events in these early expeditions. But chronology is a thing beneath the notice of these ancient chroniclers, who seem to think that the date of events, so fresh in their own memory, must be so in that of every one else.]
It was high time; for the spirits of that little band had been sorely tried by the perils they had encountered. On the departure of his vessels, Pizarro marched into the interior, in the hope of finding the pleasant champaign country which had been promised him by the natives. But at every step the forests seemed to grow denser and darker, and the trees towered to a height such as he had never seen, even in these fruitful regions, where Nature works on so gigantic a scale. 16 Hill continued to rise above hill, as he advanced, rolling onward, as it were, by successive waves to join that colossal barrier of the Andes, whose frosty sides, far away above the clouds, spread out like a curtain of burnished silver, that seemed to connect the heavens with the earth.
16 “Todo era montanas, con arboles hasta el cielo!” Herrera Hist. General, ubi supra.]
On crossing these woody eminences, the forlorn adventurers would plunge into ravines of frightful depth, where the exhalations of a humid soil steamed up amidst the incense of sweet-scented flowers, which shone through the deep glooms in every conceivable variety of color. Birds, especially of the parrot tribe, mocked this fantastic variety of nature with tints as brilliant as those of the vegetable world. Monkeys chattered in crowds above their heads, and made grimaces like the fiendish spirits of these solitudes; while hideous reptiles, engendered in the slimy depths of the pools, gathered round the footsteps of the wanderers. Here was seen the gigantic boa, coiling his unwieldy folds about the trees, so as hardly to be distinguished from their trunks, till he was ready to dart upon his prey; and alligators lay basking on the borders of the streams, or, gliding under the waters, seized their incautious victim before he was aware of their approach. 17 Many of the Spaniards perished miserably in this way, and others were waylaid by the natives, who kept a jealous eye on their movements, and availed themselves of every opportunity to take them at advantage. Fourteen of Pizarro’s men were cut off at once in a canoe which had stranded on the bank of a stream. 18
17 Ibid., ubi supra.]
18 Ibid., loc. cit. — Gomara, Hist. de las Ind., cap. 108. — Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms]
Famine came in addition to other troubles, and it was with difficulty that they found the means of sustaining life on the scanty fare of the forest, — occasionally the potato, as it grew without cultivation, or the wild cocoa-nut, or, on the shore, the salt and bitter fruit of the mangrove; though the shore was less tolerable than the forest, from the swarms of mosquitos which compelled the wretched adventurers to bury their bodies up to their very faces in the sand. In this extremity of suffering, they thought only of return; and all schemes of avarice and ambition — except with Pizarro and a few dauntless spirits — were exchanged for the one craving desire to return to Panama.
It was at this crisis that the pilot Ruiz returned with the report of his brilliant discoveries; and, not long after, Almagro sailed into port with his vessel laden with refreshments, and a considerable reinforcement of volunteers. The voyage of that commander had been prosperous. When he arrived at Panama, he found the government in the hands of Don Pedro de los Rios; and he came to anchor in the harbour, unwilling to trust himself on shore, till he had obtained from Father Luque some account of the dispositions of the executive. These were sufficiently favorable; for the new governor had particular instructions fully to carry out the arrangements made by his predecessor with the associates. On learning Almagro’s arrival, he came down to the port to welcome him, professing his willingness to afford every facility for the execution of his designs. Fortunately, just before this period, a small body of military adventurers had come to Panama from the mother country, burning with desire to make their fortunes in the New World. They caught much more eagerly than the old and wary colonists at the golden bait held out to them; and with their addition, and that of a few supernumerary stragglers who hung about the town, Almagro found himself at the head of a reinforcement of at least eighty men, with which, having laid in a fresh supply of stores, he again set sail for the Rio de San Juan.
The arrival of the new recruits all eager to follow up the expedition, the comfortable change in their circumstances produced by an ample supply of refreshments, and the glowing pictures of the wealth that awaited them in the south, all had their effect on the dejected spirits of Pizarro’s followers. Their late toils and privations were speedily forgotten, and, with the buoyant and variable feelings incident to a freebooter’s life, they now called as eagerly on their commander to go forward in the voyage, as they had before called on him to abandon it. Availing themselves of the renewed spirit of enterprise, the captains embarked on board their vessels, and, under the guidance of the veteran pilot, steered in the same track he had lately pursued.
But the favorable season for a southern course, which in these latitudes lasts but a few months in the year, had been suffered to escape. The breezes blew steadily towards the north, and a strong current, not far from shore, set in the same direction. The winds frequently rose into tempests, and the unfortunate voyagers were tossed about, for many days, in the boiling surges, amidst the most awful storms of thunder and lightning, until, at length, they found a secure haven in the island of Gallo, already visited by Ruiz. As they were now too strong in numbers to apprehend an assault, the crews landed, and, experiencing no molestation from the natives, they continued on the island for a fortnight, refitting their damaged vessels, and recruiting themselves after the fatigues of the ocean. Then, resuming their voyage, the captains stood towards the south until they reached the Bay of St. Matthew. As they advanced along the coast, they were struck, as Ruiz had been before, with the evidences of a higher civilization constantly exhibited in the general aspect of the country and its inhabitants. The hand of cultivation was visible in every quarter. The natural appearance of the coast, too, had something in it more inviting; for, instead of the eternal labyrinth of mangrove-trees, with their complicated roots snarled into formidable coils under the water, as if to waylay and entangle the voyager, the low margin of the sea was covered with a stately growth of ebony, and with a species of mahogany, and other hard woods that take the most brilliant and variegated polish. The sandal-wood, and many balsamic trees of unknown names, scattered their sweet odors far and wide, not in an atmosphere tainted with vegetable corruption, but on the pure breezes of the ocean, bearing health as well as fragrance on their wings. Broad patches of cultivated land intervened, disclosing hill-sides covered with the yellow maize and the potato, or checkered, in the lower levels, with blooming plantations of cacao. 19
19 Xerez, Conq. del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 181. — Relacion sacada de la Biblioteca Imperial de Vienna, Ms. — Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms. — Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1526. — Zarate, Conq. del Peru, lib. 1. cap. 1. — Relacion del Primer. Descub., Ms.]
The villages became more numerous; and, as the vessels rode at anchor off the port of Tacamez, the Spaniards saw before them a town of two thousand houses or more, laid out into streets, with a numerous population clustering around it in the suburbs. 20 The men and women displayed many ornaments of gold and precious stones about their persons, which may seem strange, considering that the Peruvian Incas claimed a monopoly of jewels for themselves and the nobles on whom they condescended to bestow them. But, although the Spaniards had now reached the outer limits of the Peruvian empire, it was not Peru, but Quito, and that portion of it but recently brought under the sceptre of the Incas, where the ancient usages of the people could hardly have been effaced under the oppressive system of the American despots. The adjacent country was, moreover, particularly rich in gold, which, collected from the washings of the streams, still forms one of the staple products of Barbacoas. Here, too, was the fair River of Emeralds, so called from the quarries of the beautiful gem on its borders, from which the Indian monarchs enriched their treasury. 21
20 Pizarro’s secretary speaks of one of the towns as containing 3,000 houses. “En esta Tierra havia muchos Mantenimientos, i la Gente tenia mui buena orden de vivir, los Pueblos con sus Calles, i Placas: Pueblo havia que tenia mas de tres mil Casas, i otros havia menores.” Conq. del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 181.]
21 Stevenson, who visited this part of the coast early in the present century, is profuse in his description of its mineral and vegetable treasures. The emerald mine in the neighbourhood of Las Esmeraldas, once so famous, is now placed under the ban of a superstition, more befitting the times of the Incas. “I never visited it,” says the traveller, “owing to the superstitious dread of the natives, who assured me that it was enchanted, and guarded by an enormous dragon, which poured forth thunder and lightning on those who dared to ascend the river.” Residence in South America, vol. II. p. 406.]
The Spaniards gazed with delight on these undeniable evidences of wealth, and saw in the careful cultivation of the soil a comfortable assurance that they had at length reached the land which had so long been seen in brilliant, though distant, perspective before them. But here again they were doomed to be disappointed by the warlike spirit of the people, who, conscious of their own strength, showed no disposition to quail before the invaders. On the contrary, several of their canoes shot out, loaded with warriors, who, displaying a gold mask as their ensign, hovered round the vessels with looks of defiance, and, when pursued, easily took shelter under the lee of the land. 22
22 “Salieron a los dichos navios quatorce canoas grandes con muchos Indios dos armados de oro y plata, y trahian en la una canoa o en estandarte y encima de el un bolto de un mucho desio de oro, y dieron una suelta a los navios por avisarlos en manera que no los pudiese enojar, y asi dieron vuelta acia a su pueblo, y los navios no los pudieron tomar porque se metieron en los baxos junto a la tierra.” Relacion sacada de la Biblioteca Imperial de Vienna, Ms.]
A more formidable body mustered along the shore, to the number, according to the Spanish accounts, of at least ten thousand warriors, eager, apparently, to come to close action with the invaders. Nor could Pizarro, who had landed with a party of his men in the hope of a conference with the natives, wholly prevent hostilities; and it might have gone hard with the Spaniards, hotly pressed by their resolute enemy so superior in numbers, but for a ludicrous accident reported by the historians as happening to one of the cavaliers. This was a fall from his horse, which so astonished the barbarians, who were not prepared for this division of what seemed one and the same being into two, that, filled with consternation, they fell back, and left a way open for the Christians to regain their vessels! 23
23 “Al tiempo del romper los unos con los otros, uno de aquellos de caballo cayo del caballo abajo; y como los Indios vieron dividirse aquel animal en dos partes, teniendo por cierto que todo era una cosa, fue tanto el miedo que tubieron que volvieron las espaldas dando voces a los suyos, diciendo, que se habia hecho dos haciendo admiracion dello: lo cual no fue sin misterio; porque a no acaecer esto se presume, que mataran todos los cristianos.” (Relacion del Primer. Descub., Ms.) This way of accounting for the panic of the barbarians is certainly quite as credible as the explanation, under similar circumstances, afforded by the apparition of the militant apostle St. James, so often noticed by the historians of these wars.
A council of war was now called. It was evident that the forces of the Spaniards were unequal to a contest with so numerous and well-appointed a body of natives; and, even if they should prevail here, they could have no hope of stemming the torrent which must rise against them in their progress — for the country was becoming more and more thickly settled, and towns and hamlets started into view at every new headland which they doubled. It was better, in the opinion of some, — the faint-hearted, — to abandon the enterprise at once, as beyond their strength. But Almagro took a different view of the affair. “To go home,” he said, “with nothing done, would be ruin, as well as disgrace. There was scarcely one but had left creditors at Panama, who looked for payment to the fruits of this expedition. To go home now would be to deliver themselves at once into their hands. It would be to go to prison. Better to roam a freeman, though in the wilderness, than to lie bound with fetters in the dungeons of Panama. 24 The only course for them,” he concluded, “was the one lately pursued. Pizarro might find some more commodious place where he could remain with part of the force, while he himself went back for recruits to Panama. The story they had now to tell of the riches of the land, as they had seen them with their own eyes, would put their expedition in a very different light, and could not fail to draw to their banner as many volunteers as they needed.”
24 “No era bien bolver pobres, a pedir limosna, i morir en las Carceles, los que tenian deudas.” Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 10, cap. 2.]
But this recommendation, however judicious, was not altogether to the taste of the latter commander, who did not relish the part, which constantly fell to him, of remaining behind in the swamps and forests of this wild country. “It is all very well,” he said to Almagro, “for you, who pass your time pleasantly enough, careering to and fro in your vessel, or snugly sheltered in a land of plenty at Panama; but it is quite another matter for those who stay behind to droop and die of hunger in the wilderness” 25 To this Almagro retorted with some heat, professing his own willingness to take charge of the brave men who would remain with him, if Pizarro declined it. The controversy assuming a more angry and menacing tone, from words they would have soon come to blows, as both, laying their hands on their swords, were preparing to rush on each other, when the treasurer Ribera, aided by the pilot Ruiz, succeeded in pacifying them. It required but little effort on the part of these cooler counsellors to convince the cavaliers of the folly of a conduct which must at once terminate the expedition in a manner little creditable to its projectors. A reconciliation consequently took place, sufficient, at least in outward show, to allow the two commanders to act together in concert. Almagro’s plan was then adopted; and it only remained to find out the most secure and convenient spot for Pizarro’s quarters.
25 “Como iba, i venia en los Navios, adonde no le faltaba Vitualla, no padecia la miseria de la hambre, i otras angustias que tenian, i ponian a todos en estrema congoja.” (Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 10, cap. 2.) The cavaliers of Cortes and Pizarro however doughty their achievements, certainly fell short of those knights-errant, commemorated by Hudibras, who,
“As some think,
Of old did neither eat nor drink;
Because, when thorough deserts vast
And regions desolate they past,
Unless they grazed, there’s not one word
Of their provision on record;
Which made some confidently write,
They had no stomachs but to fight.”
Several days were passed in touching at different parts of the coast, as they retraced their course; but everywhere the natives appeared to have caught the alarm, and assumed a menacing, and from their numbers a formidable, aspect. The more northerly region, with its unwholesome fens and forest, where nature wages a war even more relentless than man, was not to be thought of. In this perplexity, they decided on the little island of Gallo, as being, on the whole, from its distance from the shore, and from the scantiness of its population, the most eligible spot for them in their forlorn and destitute condition. 26
26 Pedro Pizarro, Descub. y Conq., Ms. — Relacion sacada de la Biblioteca Imperial de Vienna, Ms. — Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms. — Zarate, Conq. del Peru, lib. 1, cap. 1. — Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 10, cap. 2.]
It was singularly unfortunate, that Pizarro, instead of striking farther south, should have so long clung to the northern shores of the continent. Dampier notices them as afflicted with incessant rain; while the inhospitable forest and the particularly ferocious character of the natives continued to make these regions but little known down to his time. See his Voyages and Adventures, (London, 1776,) vol. I. chap. 14.]
But no sooner was the resolution of the two captains made known, than a feeling of discontent broke forth among their followers, especially those who were to remain with Pizarro on the island. “What!” they exclaimed, “were they to be dragged to that obscure spot to die by hunger? The whole expedition had been a cheat and a failure, from beginning to end. The golden countries, so much vaunted, had seemed to fly before them as they advanced; and the little gold they had been fortunate enough to glean had all been sent back to Panama to entice other fools to follow their example. What had they got in return for all their sufferings? The only treasures they could boast were their bows and arrows, and they were now to be left to die on this dreary island, without so much as a rood of consecrated ground to lay their bones in!” 27
27 “Miserablemente morir adonde aun no havia lugar Sagrado, para sepultura de sus cuerpos.” Herrera, Hist General, dec. 3, lib. 10, cap. 3.]
In this exasperated state of feeling, several of the soldiers wrote back to their friends, informing them of their deplorable condition, and complaining of the cold-blooded manner in which they were to be sacrificed to the obstinate cupidity of their leaders. But the latter were wary enough to anticipate this movement, and Almagro defeated it by seizing all the letters in the vessels, and thus cutting off at once the means of communication with their friends at home. Yet this act of unscrupulous violence, like most other similar acts, fell short of its purpose; for a soldier named Sarabia had the ingenuity to evade it by introducing a letter into a ball of cotton, which was to be taken to Panama as a specimen of the products of the country, and presented to the governor’s lady. 28
28 “Metieron en un ovillo de algodon una carta firmada de muchos en que sumariamente daban cuenta de las hambres, muertes y desnudez que padecian, y que era cosa de risa todo, pues las riquezas se habian convertido en flechas, y no havia otra cosa.” Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1527.]
The letter, which was signed by several of the disaffected soldiery besides the writer, painted in gloomy colors the miseries of their condition, accused the two commanders of being the authors of this, and called on the authorities of Panama to interfere by sending a vessel to take them from the desolate spot, while some of them might still be found surviving the horrors of their confinement. The epistle concluded with a stanza, in which the two leaders were stigmatized as partners in a slaughter-house; one being employed to drive in the cattle for the other to butcher. The verses, which had a currency in their day among the colonists to which they were certainly not entitled by their poetical merits, may be thus rendered into corresponding doggerel:
“Look out, Senor Governor,
For the drover while he’s near;
Since he goes home to get the sheep
For the butcher, who stays here.” 29
29 Xerez, Conq. del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 181. — Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms. — Balboa, Hist. du Perou, chap. 15.
“Al fin de la peticion que hacian en la carta al Governador puso Juan de Sarabia, natural de Trujillo, esta cuarteta:—
Pues Senor Gobernador,
Mirelo bien por entero
que alla va el recogedor,
y aca queda el carnicero”
Montesinos, Annales Ms., ane 1527.]
Not long after Almagro’s departure, Pizarro sent off the remaining vessel, under the pretext of its being put in repair at Panama. It probably relieved him of a part of his followers, whose mutinous spirit made them an obstacle rather than a help in his forlorn condition, and with whom he was the more willing to part from the difficulty of finding subsistence on the barren spot which he now occupied.
Great was the dismay occasioned by the return of Almagro and his followers, in the little community of Panama; for the letter, surreptitiously conveyed in the ball of cotton, fell into the hands for which it was intended, and the contents soon got abroad with the usual quantity of exaggeration. The haggard and dejected mien of the adventurers, of itself, told a tale sufficiently disheartening, and it was soon generally believed that the few ill-fated survivors of the expedition were detained against their will by Pizarro, to end their days with their disappointed leader on his desolate island.
Pedro de los Rios, the governor, was so much incensed at the result of the expedition, and the waste of life it had occasioned to the colony, that he turned a deaf ear to all the applications of Luque and Almagro for further countenance in the affair; he derided their sanguine anticipations of the future, and finally resolved to send an officer to the isle of Gallo, with orders to bring back every Spaniard whom he should find still living in that dreary abode. Two vessels were immediately despatched for the purpose, and placed under charge of a cavalier named Tafur, a native of Cordova.
Meanwhile Pizarro and his followers were experiencing all the miseries which might have been expected from the character of the barren spot on which they were imprisoned. They were, indeed, relieved from all apprehensions of the natives, since these had quitted the island on its occupation by the white men; but they had to endure the pains of hunger even in a greater degree than they had formerly experienced in the wild woods of the neighbouring continent. Their principal food was crabs and such shell-fish as they could scantily pick up along the shores. Incessant storms of thunder and lightning, for it was the rainy season, swept over the devoted island, and drenched them with a perpetual flood. Thus, half-naked, and pining with famine, there were few in that little company who did not feel the spirit of enterprise quenched within them, or who looked for any happier termination of their difficulties than that afforded by a return to Panama. The appearance of Tafur, therefore, with his two vessels, well stored with provisions, was greeted with all the rapture that the crew of a sinking wreck might feel on the arrival of some unexpected succour; and the only thought, after satisfying the immediate cravings of hunger, was to embark and leave the detested isle for ever.
But by the same vessel letters came to Pizarro from his two confederates, Luque and Almagro, beseeching him not to despair in his present extremity, but to hold fast to his original purpose. To return under the present circumstances would be to seal the fate of the expedition; and they solemnly engaged, if he would remain firm at his post, to furnish him in a short time with the necessary means for going forward. 1
1 Xerez, Conq. del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 182. — Zarate, Conq. del Peru, lib. 1, cap. 2. — Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1527. — Herrera, Hist. General dec. 3, lib. 10, cap. 3. — Naharro Relacion Sumaria, Ms.]
A ray of hope was enough for the courageous spirit of Pizarro. It does not appear that he himself had entertained, at any time, thoughts of returning. If he had, these words of encouragement entirely banished them from his bosom, and he prepared to stand the fortune of the cast on which he had so desperately ventured. He knew, however, that solicitations or remonstrances would avail little with the companions of his enterprise; and he probably did not care to win over the more timid spirits who, by perpetually looking back, would only be a clog on his future movements. He announced his own purpose, however, in a laconic but decided manner, characteristic of a man more accustomed to act than to talk, and well calculated to make an impression on his rough followers.
Drawing his sword, he traced a line with it on the sand from east to west. Then turning towards the south, “Friends and comrades!” he said, “on that side are toil, hunger, nakedness, the drenching storm, desertion, and death; on this side, ease and pleasure. There lies Peru with its riches; here, Panama and its poverty. Choose, each man, what best becomes a brave Castilian. For my part, I go to the south.” So saying, he stepped across the line. 2 He was followed by the brave pilot Ruiz; next by Pedro de Candia, a cavalier, born, as his name imports, in one of the isles of Greece. Eleven others successively crossed the line, thus intimating their willingness to abide the fortunes of their leader, for good or for evil. 3 Fame, to quote the enthusiastic language of an ancient chronicler, has commemorated the names of this little band, “who thus, in the face of difficulties unexampled in history, with death rather than riches for their reward, preferred it all to abandoning their honor, and stood firm by their leader as an example of loyalty to future ages.” 4
2 “Obedeciola Pizarro y antes que se egecutase saco un Punal, y con notable animo hizo con la punta una raya de Oriente a Poniente; y senalando al medio dia, que era la parte de su noticia, y derrotero dijo: camaradas y amigos esta parte es la de la muerte, de los trabajos, de las hambres, de la desnudez, de los aguaceros, y desamparos; la otra la del gusto: Por aqui se ba a Panama a ser pobres, por alla al Peru a ser ricos. Escoja el que fuere buen Castellano lo que mas bien le estubiere. Diciendo esto paso la raya: siguieronle Barthome Ruiz natural de Moguer, Pedro de Candi Griego, natural de Candia.” Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1527.]
3 The names of these thirteen faithful companions are preserved in the convention made with the Crown two years later, where they are suitably commemorated for their loyalty. Their names should not be omitted in a history of the Conquest of Peru. They were “Bartolome Ruiz, Cristoval de Peralta, Pedro de Candia, Domingo de Soria Luce, Nicolas de Ribera, Francisco de Cuellar, Alonso de Molina, Pedro Alcon, Garcia de Jerez, Anton de Carrion, Alonso Briceno, Martin de Paz, Joan de la Torre.”]
4 “Estos fueron los trece de la fama. Estos los que cercados de los mayores trabajos que pudo el Mundo ofrecer a hombres, y los que estando mas para esperar la muerte que las riquezas que se les prometian, todo lo pospusieron a la honra, y siguieron a su capitan y caudillo para egemplo de lealtad en lo futuro.” Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1527.]
But the act excited no such admiration in the mind of Tafur, who looked on it as one of gross disobedience to the commands of the governor, and as little better than madness, involving the certain destruction of the parties engaged in it. He refused to give any sanction to it himself by leaving one of his vessels with the adventurers to prosecute their voyage, and it was with great difficulty that he could be persuaded even to allow them a part of the stores which he had brought for their support. This had no influence on their determination, and the little party, bidding adieu to their returning comrades, remained unshaken in their purpose of abiding the fortunes of their commander. 5
5 Zarate, Conq. del Peru, lib. 1, cap. 2. — Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1527. — Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms. — Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 10, cap. 3.]
There is something striking to the imagination in the spectacle of these few brave spirits, thus consecrating themselves to a daring enterprise, which seemed as far above their strength as any recorded in the fabulous annals of knight-errantry. A handful of men, without food, without clothing, almost without arms, without knowledge of the land to which they were bound, without vessel to transport them, were here left on a lonely rock in the ocean with the avowed purpose of carrying on a crusade against a powerful empire, staking their lives on its success. What is there in the legends of chivalry that surpasses it? This was the crisis of Pizarro’s fate. There are moments in the lives of men, which, as they are seized or neglected, decide their future destiny. 6 Had Pizarro faltered from his strong purpose, and yielded to the occasion, now so temptingly presented, for extricating himself and his broken band from their desperate position, his name would have been buried with his fortunes, and the conquest of Peru would have been left for other and more successful adventurers. But his constancy was equal to the occasion, and his conduct here proved him competent to the perilous post he had assumed, and inspired others with a confidence in him which was the best assurance of success.
6 This common sentiment is expressed with uncommon beauty by the fanciful Boiardo, where he represents Rinaldo as catching Fortune, under the guise of the fickle fairy Morgana, by the forelock. The Italian reader may not be displeased to refresh his memory with it.
“Chi cerca in questo mondo aver tesoro,
O diletto, e piacere, honore, e stato,
Ponga la mano a questa chioma d’oro,
Ch’lo porto in fronte, e lo faro beato;
Ma quando ha in destro si fatto lavoro
Non prenda indugio, che’l tempo passato
Perduto e tutto, e non ritorna mai,
Ed io mi volto, e lui lascio con guai.”
Orlando, Innamorato, lib. 2, canto 8.]
In the vessel that bore back Tafur and those who seceded from the expedition the pilot Ruiz was also permitted to return, in order to cooperate with Luque and Almagro in their application for further succour.
Not long after the departure of the ships, it was decided by Pizarro to abandon his present quarters, which had little to recommend them, and which, he reflected, might now be exposed to annoyance from the original inhabitants, should they take courage and return, on learning the diminished number of the white men. The Spaniards, therefore, by his orders, constructed a rude boat or raft, on which they succeeded in transporting themselves to the little island of Gorgona, twenty-five leagues to the north of their present residence. It lay about five leagues from the continent, and was uninhabited. It had some advantages over the isle of Gallo; for it stood higher above the sea, and was partially covered with wood, which afforded shelter to a species of pheasant, and the hare or rabbit of the country, so that the Spaniards, with their crossbows, were enabled to procure a tolerable supply of game. Cool streams that issued from the living rock furnished abundance of water, though the drenching rains that fell, without intermission, left them in no danger of perishing by thirst. From this annoyance they found some protection in the rude huts which they constructed; though here, as in their former residence, they suffered from the no less intolerable annoyance of venomous insects, which multiplied and swarmed in the exhalations of the rank and stimulated soil. In this dreary abode Pizarro omitted no means by which to sustain the drooping spirits of his men. Morning prayers were duly said, and the evening hymn to the Virgin was regularly chanted; the festivals of the church were carefully commemorated, and every means taken by their commander to give a kind of religious character to his enterprise, and to inspire his rough followers with a confidence in the protection of Heaven, that might support them in their perilous circumstances. 7
7 “Cada Manana daban gracias a Dios: a las tardes decian la Salve, i otras Oraciones, por las Horas: sabian las Fiestas, i enian cuenta con los Viernes, i Domingos.” Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 10, cap. 3.]
In these uncomfortable quarters, their chief employment was to keep watch on the melancholy ocean, that they might hail the first signal of the anticipated succour. But many a tedious month passed away, and no sign of it appeared. All around was the same wide waste of waters, except to the eastward, where the frozen crest of the Andes, touched with the ardent sun of the equator, glowed like a ridge of fire along the whole extent of the great continent. Every speck in the distant horizon was carefully noticed, and the drifting timber or masses of sea-weed, heaving to and fro on the bosom of the waters, was converted by their imaginations into the promised vessel; till, sinking under successive disappointments, hope gradually gave way to doubt, and doubt settled into despair. 8
8 “Al cabo de muchos Dias aguardando, estaban tan angustiados, que los salages, que se hacian bien dentro de la Mar, les parecia, que era el Navio.” Herrera, Hist General, dec. 3, lib. 10, cap. 4.]
Meanwhile the vessel of Tafur had reached the port of Panama. The tidings which she brought of the inflexible obstinacy of Pizarro and his followers filled the governor with indignation. He could look on it in no other light than as an act of suicide, and steadily refused to send further assistance to men who were obstinately bent on their own destruction. Yet Luque and Almagro were true to their engagements. They represented to the governor, that, if the conduct of their comrade was rash, it was at least in the service of the Crown, and in prosecuting the great work of discovery. Rios had been instructed, on his taking the government, to aid Pizarro in the enterprise; and to desert him now would be to throw away the remaining chance of success, and to incur the responsibility of his death and that of the brave men who adhered to him. These remonstrances, at length, so far operated on the mind of that functionary, that he reluctantly consented that a vessel should be sent to the island of Gorgona, but with no more hands than were necessary to work her, and with positive instructions to Pizarro to return in six months and report himself at Panama, whatever might be the future results of his expedition.
Having thus secured the sanction of the executive, the two associates lost no time in fitting out a small vessel with stores and a supply of arms and ammunition, and despatched it to the island. The unfortunate tenants of this little wilderness, who had now occupied it for seven months, 9 hardly dared to trust their senses when they descried the white sails of the friendly bark coming over the waters. And although, when the vessel anchored off the shore, Pizarro was disappointed to find that it brought no additional recruits for the enterprise, yet he greeted it with joy, as affording the means of solving the great problem of the existence of the rich southern empire, and of thus opening the way for its future conquest. Two of his men were so ill, that it was determined to leave them in the care of some of the friendly Indians who had continued with him through the whole of his sojourn, and to call for them on his return. Taking with him the rest of his hardy followers and the natives of Tumbez, he embarked, and, speedily weighing anchor, bade adieu to the “Hell,” as it was called by the Spaniards, which had been the scene of so much suffering and such undaunted resolution. 10
9 “Estubieron con estos trabajos con igualdad de animo siete meses” Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1527.]
10 Xerez, Conq. del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 182. — Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1527. — Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms. — Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 10, cap. 4. — Pedro Pizarro, Descub. y Conq., Ms.]
Every heart was now elated with hope, as they found themselves once more on the waters, under the guidance of the good pilot Ruiz, who, obeying the directions of the Indians, proposed to steer for the land of Tumbez, which would bring them at once into the golden empire of the Incas, — the El Dorado, of which they had been so long in pursuit. Passing by the dreary isle of Gallo, which they had such good cause to remember, they stood farther out to sea until they made Point Tacumez, near which they had landed on their previous voyage. They did not touch at any part of the coast, but steadily held on their way, though considerably impeded by the currents, as well as by the wind, which blew with little variation from the south. Fortunately, the wind was light, and, as the weather was favorable, their voyage, though slow, was not uncomfortable. In a few days, they came in sight of Point Pasado, the limit of the pilot’s former navigation; and, crossing the line, the little bark entered upon those unknown seas which had never been ploughed by European keel before. The coast, they observed, gradually declined from its former bold and rugged character, gently sloping towards the shore, and spreading out into sandy plains, relieved here and there by patches of uncommon richness and beauty; while the white cottages of the natives glistening along the margin of the sea, and the smoke that rose among the distant hills, intimated the increasing population of the country.
At length, after the lapse of twenty days from their departure from the island, the adventurous vessel rounded the point of St. Helena, and glided smoothly into the waters of the beautiful gulf of Guayaquil. The country was here studded along the shore with towns and villages, though the mighty chain of the Cordilleras, sweeping up abruptly from the coast, left but a narrow strip of emerald verdure, through which numerous rivulets, spreading fertility around them, wound their way into the sea.
The voyagers were now abreast of some of the most stupendous heights of this magnificent range; Chimborazo, with its broad round summit, towering like the dome of the Andes, and Cotopaxi, with its dazzling cone of silvery white, that knows no change except from the action of its own volcanic fires; for this mountain is the most terrible of the American volcanoes, and was in formidable activity at no great distance from the period of our narrative. Well pleased with the signs of civilization that opened on them at every league of their progress, the Spaniards, at length, came to anchor, off the island of Santa Clara, lying at the entrance of the bay of Tumbez. 11
11 According to Garcilasso, two years elapsed between the departure from Gorgona and the arrival at Tumbez. (Com. Real., Parte 2, hb. 1, cap. 11.) Such gross defiance of chronology is rather uncommon even in the narratives of these transactions, where it is as difficult to fix a precise date, amidst the silence, rather than the contradictions, of contemporary statements, as if the events had happened before the deluge.
The place was uninhabited, but was recognized by the Indians on board, as occasionally resorted to by the warlike people of the neighbouring isle of Puna, for purposes of sacrifice and worship. The Spaniards found on the spot a few bits of gold rudely wrought into various shapes, and probably designed as offerings to the Indian deity. Their hearts were cheered, as the natives assured them they would see abundance of the same precious metal in their own city of Tumbez.
The following morning they stood across the bay for this place. As they drew near, they beheld a town of considerable size, with many of the buildings apparently of stone and plaster, situated in the bosom of a fruitful meadow, which seemed to have been redeemed from the sterility of the surrounding country be careful and minute irrigation. When at some distance from shore, Pizarro saw standing towards him several large balsas, which were found to be filled with warriors going on an expedition against the island of Puna. Running alongside of the Indian flotilla, he invited some of the chiefs to come on board of his vessel. The Peruvians gazed with wonder on every object which met their eyes, and especially on their own countrymen, whom they had little expected to meet there. The latter informed them in what manner they had fallen into the hands of the strangers, whom they described as a wonderful race of beings, that had come thither for no harm, but solely to be made acquainted with the country and its inhabitants. This account was confirmed by the Spanish commander, who persuaded the Indians to return in their balsas and report what they had learned to their townsmen, requesting them at the same time to provide his vessel with refreshments, as it was his desire to enter into a friendly intercourse with the natives.
The people of Tumbez were gathered along the shore, and were gazing with unutterable amazement on the floating castle, which, now having dropped anchor, rode lazily at its moorings in their bay. They eagerly listened to the accounts of their countrymen, and instantly reported the affair to the curaca or ruler of the district, who, conceiving that the strangers must be beings of a superior order, prepared at once to comply with their request. It was not long before several balsas were seen steering for the vessel laden with bananas, plantains, yuca, Indian corn, sweet potatoes, pine-apples, cocoa-nuts, and other rich products of the bountiful vale of Tumbez. Game and fish, also, were added, with a number of llamas, of which Pizarro had seen the rude drawings belonging to Balboa, but of which till now he had met with no living specimen. He examined this curious animal, the Peruvian sheep, — or, as the Spaniards called it, the “little camel” of the Indians, — with much interest, greatly admiring the mixture of wool and hair which supplied the natives with the materials for their fabrics.
At that time there happened to be at Tumbez an Inca noble, or orejon, — for so, as I have already noticed, men of his rank were called by the Spaniards, from the huge ornaments of gold attached to their ears. He expressed great curiosity to see the wonderful strangers, and had, accordingly, come out with the balsas for the purpose. It was easy to perceive from the superior quality of his dress, as well as from the deference paid to him by the others, that he was a person of consideration, and Pizarro received him with marked distinction. He showed him the different parts of the ship, explaining to him the uses of whatever engaged his attention, and answering his numerous queries, as well as he could, by means of the Indian interpreters. The Peruvian chief was especially desirous of knowing whence and why Pizarro and his followers had come to these shores. The Spanish captain replied, that he was the vassal of a great prince, the greatest and most powerful in the world, and that he had come to this country to assert his master’s lawful supremacy over it. He had further come to rescue the inhabitants from the darkness of unbelief in which they were now wandering. They worshipped an evil spirit, who would sink their souls into everlasting perdition; and he would give them the knowledge of the true and only God, Jesus Christ, since to believe on him was eternal salvation. 12
12 The text abridges somewhat the discourse of the military polemic; which is reported at length by Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 10, cap. 4. — See also Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1527 — Conq. i Pob. del Piru, Ms. — Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms — Relacion del Primer. Descub. Ms.]
The Indian prince listened with deep attention and apparent wonder; but answered nothing. It may be, that neither he nor his interpreters had any very distinct ideas of the doctrines thus abruptly revealed to them. It may be that he did not believe there was any other potentate on earth greater than the Inca; none, at least, who had a better right to rule over his dominions. And it is very possible he was not disposed to admit that the great luminary whom he worshipped was inferior to the God of the Spaniards. But whatever may have passed in the untutored mind of the barbarian, he did not give vent to it, but maintained a discreet silence, without any attempt to controvert or to convince his Christian antagonist.
He remained on board the vessel till the hour of dinner, of which he partook with the Spaniards, expressing his satisfaction at the strange dishes, and especially pleased with the wine, which he pronounced far superior to the fermented liquors of his own country. On taking leave, he courteously pressed the Spaniards to visit Tumbez, and Pizarro dismissed him with the present, among other things, of an iron hatchet, which had greatly excited his admiration; for the use of iron, as we have seen, was as little known to the Peruvians as to the Mexicans.
On the day following, the Spanish captain sent one of his own men, named Alonso de Molina, on shore, accompanied by a negro who had come in the vessel from Panama, together with a present for the curaca of some swine and poultry, neither of which were indigenous to the New World. Towards evening his emissary returned with a fresh supply of fruits and vegetables, that the friendly people sent to the vessel. Molina had a wondrous tale to tell. On landing, he was surrounded by the natives, who expressed the greatest astonishment at his dress, his fair complexion, and his long beard. The women, especially, manifested great curiosity in respect to him, and Molina seemed to be entirely won by their charms and captivating manners. He probably intimated his satisfaction by his demeanour, since they urged him to stay among them, promising in that case to provide him with a beautiful wife.
Their surprise was equally great at the complexion of his sable companion. They could not believe it was natural, and tried to rub off the imaginary dye with their hands. As the African bore all this with characteristic good-humor, displaying at the same time his rows of ivory teeth, they were prodigiously delighted. 13 The animals were no less above their comprehension; and, when the cock crew, the simple people clapped their hands, and inquired what he was saying. 14 Their intellects were so bewildered by sights so novel, that they seemed incapable of distinguishing between man and brute.
13 “No se cansaban de mirarle, hacianle labar, para ver si se le quitaba la Tinta negra, i el lo hacia de buena gana, riendose, i mostrando sus Dientes blancos.” Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 10, cap. 5.]
14 Ibid., ubi supra.]
Molina was then escorted to the residence of the curaca, whom he found living in much state, with porters stationed at his doors, and with a quantity of gold and silver vessels, from which he was served. He was then taken to different parts of the Indian city, saw a fortress built of rough stone, and, though low, spreading over a large extent of ground. 15 Near this was a temple; and the Spaniard’s description of its decorations, blazing with gold and silver, seemed so extravagant, that Pizarro, distrusting his whole account, resolved to send a more discreet and trustworthy emissary on the following day. 16
15 “Cerca del solia estar una fortaleza muy fuerte y de linda obra, hecha por los Yngas reyes del Cuzco y senores de todo el Peru. . . . . . Ya esta el edificio desta fortaleza muy gastado y deshecho: mas no para que dexe de dar muestra de lo mucho que fue.” Cieza de Leon, Cronica, cap. 4.]
16 Conq. i Pob. del Piru, Ms. — Herrera, Hist. General, loc. cit — Zarate, Conq. del Peru, lib. 1 cap. 2.]
The person selected was Pedro de Candia, the Greek cavalier mentioned as one of the first who intimated his intention to share the fortunes of his commander. He was sent on shore, dressed in complete mail as became a good knight, with his sword by his side, and his arquebuse on his shoulder. The Indians were even more dazzled by his appearance than by Molina’s, as the sun fell brightly on his polished armour, and glanced from his military weapons. They had heard much of the formidable arquebuse from their townsmen who had come in the vessel, and they besought Candia “to let it speak to them.” He accordingly set up a wooden board as a target, and, taking deliberate aim, fired off the musket. The flash of the powder and the startling report of the piece, as the board, struck by the ball, was shivered into splinters, filled the natives with dismay. Some fell on the ground, covering their faces with their hands, and others approached the cavalier with feelings of awe, which were gradually dispelled by the assurance they received from the smiling expression of his countenance. 17
17 It is moreover stated that the Indians, desirous to prove still further the superhuman nature of the Spanish cavalier, let loose on him a tiger — a jaguar probably — which was caged in the royal fortress. But Don Pedro was a good Catholic, and he gently laid the cross which he wore round his neck on the animal’s back, who, instantly forgetting his ferocious nature, crouched at the cavalier’s feet, and began to play round him in innocent gambols. The Indians, now more amazed than ever, nothing doubted of the sanctity of their guest, and bore him in triumph on their shoulders to the temple. — This credible anecdote is repeated, without the least qualification or distrust, by several contemporary writers. (See Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms. — Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 10, cap. 5. — Cieza de Leon, Cronica, cap. 54. — Garcilasso, Com. Real., Parte 2, lib. 1, cap. 12.) This last author may have had his version from Candia’s own son, with whom he tells us he was brought up at school. It will no doubt find as easy admission with those of the present day, who conceive that the age of miracles has not yet past]
They then showed him the same hospitable attentions which they had paid to Molina; and his description of the marvels of the place, on his return, fell nothing short of his predecessor’s. The fortress, which was surrounded by a triple row of wall, was strongly garrisoned. The temple he described as literally tapestried with plates of gold and silver. Adjoining this structure was a sort of convent appropriated to the Inca’s destined brides, who manifested great curiosity to see him. Whether this was gratified is not clear; but Candia described the gardens of the convent, which he entered, as glowing with imitations of fruits and vegetables all in pure gold and silver! 18 He had seen a number of artisans at work, whose sole business seemed to be to furnish these gorgeous decorations for the religious houses.
18 “Que habia visto un jardin donde las yerbas eran de oro imitando en un todo a las naturales, arboles con frutas de lo mismo, y otras muchas cosas a este modo, con que aficiono grandemente a sus companeros a esta conquista.” Montesinos, Annales, ano 1527.]
The reports of the cavalier may have been somewhat over-colored. 19 It was natural that men coming from the dreary wilderness, in which they had been buried the last six months, should have been vividly impressed by the tokens of civilization which met them on the Peruvian coast. But Tumbez was a favorite city of the Peruvian princes. It was the most important place on the northern borders of the empire, contiguous to the recent acquisition of Quito. The great Tupac Yupanqui had established a strong fortress there, and peopled it with a colony of mitimaes. The temple, and the house occupied by the Virgins of the Sun, had been erected by Huayna Capac, and were liberally endowed by that Inca, after the sumptuous fashion of the religious establishments of Peru. The town was well supplied with water by numerous aqueducts, and the fruitful valley in which it was embosomed, and the ocean which bathed its shores, supplied ample means of subsistence to a considerable population. But the cupidity of the Spaniards, after the Conquest, was not slow in despoiling the place of its glories; and the site of its proud towers and temples, in less than half a century after that fatal period, was to be traced only by the huge mass of ruins that encumbered the ground. 20
19 The worthy knight’s account does not seem to have found favor with the old Conqueror, so often cited in these pages, who says, that, when they afterwards visited Tumbez, the Spaniards found Candia’s relation a lie from beginning to end, except, indeed, in respect to the temple; though the veteran acknowledges that what was deficient in Tumbez was more than made up by the magnificence of other places in the empire not then visited. “Lo cual fue mentira; porque despues que todos los Espanoles entramos en ella, se vio por vista de ojos haber mentido en todo, salvo en lo del templo, que este era cosa de ver, aunque mucho mas de lo que aquel encarecio, lo que falto en esta ciudad, se hallo despues en otras que muchas leguas mas adelante se descubrieron.” Relacion del Primer. Descub., Ms.]
20 Cieza de Leon, who crossed this part of the country in 1548, mentions the wanton manner in which the hand of the Conqueror had fallen on the Indian edifices, which lay in ruin, even at that early period. Cronica, cap. 67.]
The Spaniards were nearly mad with joy, says an old writer, at receiving these brilliant tidings of the Peruvian city. All their fond dreams were now to be realized, and they had at length reached the realm which had so long flitted in visionary splendor before them. Pizarro expressed his gratitude to Heaven for having crowned his labors with so glorious a result; but he bitterly lamented the hard fate which, by depriving him of his followers, denied him, at such a moment, the means of availing himself of his success. Yet he had no cause for lamentation; and the devout Catholic saw in this very circumstance a providential interposition which prevented the attempt at conquest, while such attempts would have been premature. Peru was not yet torn asunder by the dissensions of rival candidates for the throne; and, united and strong under the sceptre of a warlike monarch, she might well have bid defiance to all the forces that Pizarro could muster. “It was manifestly the work of Heaven,” exclaims a devout son of the Church, “that the natives of the country should have received him in so kind and loving a spirit, as best fitted to facilitate the conquest; for it was the Lord’s hand which led him and his followers to this remote region for the extension of the holy faith, and for the salvation of souls.” 21
21 “I si le recibiesen con amor, hiciese su Mrd. lo que mas conveniente le pareciese al efecto de su conquista: porque tenia entendido, que el haverlos traido Dios era para que su santa fe se dilatase i aquellas almas se salvasen.” Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms.]
Having now collected all the information essential to his object, Pizarro, after taking leave of the natives of Tumbez, and promising a speedy return, weighed anchor, and again turned his prow towards the south. Still keeping as near as possible to the coast, that no place of importance might escape his observation, he passed Cape Blanco, and, after sailing about a degree and a half, made the port of Payta. The inhabitants, who had notice of his approach, came out in their balsas to get sight of the wonderful strangers, bringing with them stores of fruits, fish, and vegetables, with the same hospitable spirit shown by their countrymen at Tumbez.
After staying here a short time, and interchanging presents of trifling value with the natives, Pizarro continued his cruise; and, sailing by the sandy plains of Sechura for an extent of near a hundred miles, he doubled the Punta de Aguja, and swept down the coast as it fell off towards the east, still carried forward by light and somewhat variable breezes. The weather now became unfavorable, and the voyagers encountered a succession of heavy gales, which drove them some distance out to sea, and tossed them about for many days. But they did not lose sight of the mighty ranges of the Andes, which, as they proceeded towards the south, were still seen, at nearly the same distance from the shore, rolling onwards, peak after peak, with their stupendous surges of ice, like some vast ocean, that had been suddenly arrested and frozen up in the midst of its wild and tumultuous career. With this landmark always in view, the navigator had little need of star or compass to guide his bark on her course.
As soon as the tempest had subsided, Pizarro stood in again for the continent, touching at the principal points as he coasted along. Everywhere he was received with the same spirit of generous hospitality; the natives coming out in their balsas to welcome him, laden with their little cargoes of fruits and vegetables, of all the luscious varieties that grow in the tierra caliente. All were eager to have a glimpse of the strangers, the “Children of the Sun,” as the Spaniards began already to be called, from their fair complexions, brilliant armour, and the thunderbolts which they bore in their hands. 22 The most favorable reports, too, had preceded them, of the urbanity and gentleness of their manners, thus unlocking the hearts of the simple natives, and disposing them to confidence and kindness. The iron-hearted soldier had not yet disclosed the darker side of his character. He was too weak to do so. The hour of Conquest had not yet come.
22 “Que resplandecian como el Sol. LIamabanles hijos del Sol por esto.” Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1528.]
In every place Pizarro received the same accounts of a powerful monarch who ruled over the land, and held his court on the mountain plains of the interior, where his capital was depicted as blazing with gold and silver, and displaying all the profusion of an Oriental satrap. The Spaniards, except at Tumbez, seem to have met with little of the precious metals among the natives on the coast. More than one writer asserts that they did not covet them, or, at least, by Pizarro’s orders, affected not to do so. He would not have them betray their appetite for gold, and actually refused gifts when they were proffered! 23 It is more probable that they saw little display of wealth, except in the embellishments of the temples and other sacred buildings, which they did not dare to violate. The precious metals, reserved for the uses of religion and for persons of high degree, were not likely to abound in the remote towns and hamlets on the coast.
23 Pizarro wished the natives to understand, says Father Naharro, that their good alone, and not the love of gold, had led him to their distant land! “Sin haver querido recibir el oro, plata i perlas que les ofrecieron, a fin de que conociesen no era codicia, sino deseo de su bien el que les habia traido de tan lejas tierras a las suyas.” Relacion Sumaria, Ms.
Yet the Spaniards met with sufficient evidence of general civilization and power to convince them that there was much foundation for the reports of the natives. Repeatedly they saw structures of stone and plaster, and occasionally showing architectural skill in the execution, if not elegance of design. Wherever they cast anchor, they beheld green patches of cultivated country redeemed from the sterility of nature, and blooming with the variegated vegetation of the tropics; while a refined system of irrigation, by means of aqueducts and canals, seemed to be spread like a net-work over the surface of the country, making even the desert to blossom as the rose. At many places where they landed they saw the great road of the Incas which traversed the sea-coast, often, indeed, lost in the volatile sands, where no road could be maintained, but rising into a broad and substantial causeway, as it emerged on a firmer soil. Such a provision for internal communication was in itself no slight monument of power and civilization.
Still beating to the south, Pizarro passed the site of the future flourishing city of Truxillo, founded by himself some years later, and pressed on till he rode off the port of Santa. It stood on the banks of a broad and beautiful stream; but the surrounding country was so exceedingly arid that it was frequently selected as a burial-place by the Peruvians, who found the soil most favorable for the preservation of their mummies. So numerous, indeed, were the Indian guacas, that the place might rather be called the abode of the dead than of the living. 24
24 “Lo que mas me admiro, quando passe por este valle, fue ver la muchedumbre que tienen de sepolturas: y que por todas las sierras y secadales en los altos del valle: ay numero grande de apartados, hechos a su usanca, todo cubiertas de huessos de muertos. De manera que lo que ay en este valle mas que ver, es las sepolturas de los muertos, y los campos que labraron siendo vivos.” Cieza de Leon, Cronica, cap. 70.]
Having reached this point, about the ninth degree of southern latitude, Pizarro’s followers besought him not to prosecute the voyage farther. Enough and more than enough had been done, they said, to prove the existence and actual position of the great Indian empire of which they had so long been in search. Yet, with their slender force, they had no power to profit by the discovery. All that remained, therefore, was to return and report the success of their enterprise to the governor at Panama. Pizarro acquiesced in the reasonableness of this demand. He had now penetrated nine degrees farther than any former navigator in these southern seas, and, instead of the blight which, up to this hour, had seemed to hang over his fortunes, he could now return in triumph to his countrymen. Without hesitation, therefore, he prepared to retrace his course, and stood again towards the north.
On his way, he touched at several places where he had before landed. At one of these, called by the Spaniards Santa Cruz, he had been invited on shore by an Indian woman of rank, and had promised to visit her on his return. No sooner did his vessel cast anchor off the village where she lived, than she came on board, followed by a numerous train of attendants. Pizarro received her with every mark of respect, and on her departure presented her with some trinkets which had a real value in the eyes of an Indian princess. She urged the Spanish commander and his companions to return the visit, engaging to send a number of hostages on board, as security for their good treatment. Pizarro assured her that the frank confidence she had shown towards them proved that this was unnecessary. Yet, no sooner did he put off in his boat, the following day, to go on shore, than several of the principal persons in the place came along-side of the ship to be received as hostages during the absence of the Spaniards, — a singular proof of consideration for the sensitive apprehensions of her guests.
Pizarro found that preparations had been made for his reception in a style of simple hospitality that evinced some degree of taste. Arbours were formed of luxuriant and wide-spreading branches, interwoven with fragrant flowers and shrubs that diffused a delicious perfume through the air. A banquet was provided, teeming with viands prepared in the style of the Peruvian cookery, and with fruits and vegetables of tempting hue and luscious to the taste, though their names and nature were unknown to the Spaniards. After the collation was ended, the guests were entertained with music and dancing by a troop of young men and maidens simply attired, who exhibited in their favorite national amusement all the agility and grace which the supple limbs of the Peruvian Indians so well qualified them to display. Before his departure, Pizarro stated to his kind host the motives of his visit to the country, in the same manner as he had done on other occasions, and he concluded by unfurling the royal banner of Castile, which he had brought on shore, requesting her and her attendants to raise it in token of their allegiance to his sovereign. This they did with great good-humor, laughing all the while, says the chronicler, and making it clear that they had a very imperfect conception of the serious nature of the ceremony. Pizarro was contented with this outward display of loyalty, and returned to his vessel well satisfied with the entertainment he had received, and meditating, it may be, on the best mode of repaying it, hereafter, by the subjugation and conversion of the country.
The Spanish commander did not omit to touch also at Tumbez, on his homeward voyage. Here some of his followers, won by the comfortable aspect of the place and the manners of the people, intimated a wish to remain, conceiving, no doubt, that it would be better to live where they would be persons of consequence than to return to an obscure condition in the community of Panama. One of these men was Alonso de Molina, the same who had first gone on shore at this place, and been captivated by the charms of the Indian beauties. Pizarro complied with their wishes, thinking it would not be amiss to find, on his return, some of his own followers who would be instructed in the language and usages of the natives. He was also allowed to carry back in his vessel two or three Peruvians, for the similar purpose of instructing them in the Castilian. One of them, a youth named by the Spaniards Felipillo, plays a part of some importance in the history of subsequent events.
On leaving Tumbez, the adventurers steered directly for Panama, touching only, on their way, at the ill-fated island of Gorgona to take on board their two companions who were left there too ill to proceed with them. One had died, and, receiving the other, Pizarro and his gallant little band continued their voyage; and, after an absence of at least eighteen months, found themselves once more safely riding at anchor in the harbour of Panama. 25
25 Conq. i Pob. del Piru, Ms. — Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1528. — Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms. — Pedro Pizarro, Descub. y Conq., Ms. — Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 4, lib. 2, cap. 6, 7. — Relacion del Primer. Descub. Ms.]
The sensation caused by their arrival was great, as might have been expected. For there were few, even among the most sanguine of their friends, who did not imagine that they had long since paid for their temerity, and fallen victims to the climate or the natives, or miserably perished in a watery grave. Their joy was proportionably great, therefore, as they saw the wanderers now returned, not only in health and safety, but with certain tidings of the fair countries which had so long eluded their grasp. It was a moment of proud satisfaction to the three associates, who, in spite of obloquy, derision, and every impediment which the distrust of friends or the coldness of government could throw in their way, had persevered in their great enterprise until they had established the truth of what had been so generally denounced as a chimera. It is the misfortune of those daring spirits who conceive an idea too vast for their own generation to comprehend, or, at least, to attempt to carry out, that they pass for visionary dreamers. Such had been the fate of Luque and his associates. The existence of a rich Indian empire at the south, which, in their minds, dwelling long on the same idea and alive to all the arguments in its favor, had risen to the certainty of conviction, had been derided by the rest of their countrymen as a mere mirage of the fancy, which, on nearer approach, would melt into air; while the projectors, who staked their fortunes on the adventure, were denounced as madmen. But their hour of triumph, their slow and hard-earned triumph, had now arrived.
Yet the governor, Pedro de los Rios, did not seem, even at this moment, to be possessed with a conviction of the magnitude of the discovery, — or, perhaps, he was discouraged by its very magnitude. When the associates, now with more confidence, applied to him for patronage in an undertaking too vast for their individual resources, he coldly replied, “He had no desire to build up other states at the expense of his own; nor would he be led to throw away more lives than had already been sacrificed by the cheap display of gold and silver toys and a few Indian sheep!” 26
26 “No entendia de despoblar su Governacion, para que se fuesen a poblar nuevas Tierras, muriendo en tal demanda mas Gente de la que havia muerto, cebar do a los Hombres con la muestra de las Ovejas, Oro, i Plata, que havian traido.” Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 4, lib 3, cap. 1.]
Sorely disheartened by this repulse from the only quarter whence effectual aid could be expected, the confederates, without funds, and with credit nearly exhausted by their past efforts, were perplexed in the extreme. Yet to stop now, — what was it but to abandon the rich mine which their own industry and perseverance had laid open, for others to work at pleasure? In this extremity the fruitful mind of Luque suggested the only expedient by which they could hope for success. This was to apply to the Crown itself. No one was so much interested in the result of the expedition. It was for the government, indeed, that discoveries were to be made, that the country was to be conquered. The government alone was competent to provide the requisite means, and was likely to take a much broader and more liberal view of the matter than a petty colonial officer.
But who was there qualified to take charge of this delicate mission? Luque was chained by his professional duties to Panama; and his associates, unlettered soldiers, were much better fitted for the business of the camp than of the court. Almagro, blunt, though somewhat swelling and ostentatious in his address, with a diminutive stature and a countenance naturally plain, now much disfigured by the loss of an eye, was not so well qualified for the mission as his companion in arms, who, possessing a good person and altogether a commanding presence, was plausible, and, with all his defects of education, could, where deeply interested, be even eloquent in discourse. The ecclesiastic, however, suggested that the negotiation should be committed to the Licentiate Corral, a respectable functionary, then about to return on some public business to the mother country. But to this Almagro strongly objected. No one, he said, could conduct the affair so well as the party interested in it. He had a high opinion of Pizarro’s prudence, his discernment of character, and his cool, deliberate policy. 27 He knew enough of his comrade to have confidence that his presence of mind would not desert him, even in the new, and therefore embarrassing, circumstances in which he would be placed at court. No one, he said, could tell the story of their adventures with such effect, as the man who had ben the chief actor in them. No one could so well paint the unparalleled sufferings and sacrifices which they had encountered; no other could tell so forcibly what had been done, what yet remained to do, and what assistance would be necessary to carry it into execution. He concluded, with characteristic frankness, by strongly urging his confederate to undertake the mission.
27 “E por pura importunacion de Almagro cupole a Pizarro, por que siempre Almagro le tubo respeto, e deseo honrarle.” Oviedo, Hist. de las Indias Ms, Parte 3. lib. 8, cap. 1.]
Pizarro felt the force of Almagro’s reasoning, and, though with undisguised reluctance, acquiesced in a measure which was less to his taste than an expedition to the wilderness. But Luque came into the arrangement with more difficulty. “God grant, my children,” exclaimed the ecclesiastic, “that one of you may not defraud the other of his blessing!” 28 Pizarro engaged to consult the interests of his associates equally with his own. But Luque, it is clear, did not trust Pizarro.
28 “Plegue a Dios, Hijos, que no os hurteis la bendicion el uno al otro que yo todavia holgaria, que a lo menos fuerades entrambos.” Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 4. lib. 3, cap. 1.]
There was some difficulty in raising the funds necessary for putting the envoy in condition to make a suitable appearance at court; so low had the credit of the confederates fallen, and so little confidence was yet placed in the result of their splendid discoveries. Fifteen hundred ducats were at length raised; and Pizarro, in the spring of 1528, bade adieu to Panama, accompanied by Pedro de Candia. 29 He took with him, also, some of the natives, as well as two or three llamas, various nice fabrics of cloth, with many ornaments and vases of gold and silver, as specimens of the civilization of the country, and vouchers for his wonderful story.
29 “Juntaronle mil y quinientos pesos de oro, que dio de buena voluntad Dn Fernando de Luque.” Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1528.”]
Of all the writers on ancient Peruvian history, no one has acquired so wide celebrity, or been so largely referred to by later compilers, as the Inca Garcilasso de la Vega. He was born at Cuzco, in 1540; and was a mestizo, that is, of mixed descent, his father being European, and his mother Indian. His father, Garcilasso de la Vega, was one of that illustrious family whose achievements, both in arms and letters, shed such lustre over the proudest period of the Castilian annals. He came to Peru, in the suite of Pedro de Alvarado, soon after the country had been gained by Pizarro. Garcilasso attached himself to the fortunes of this chief, and, after his death, to those of his brother Gonzalo, — remaining constant to the latter, through his rebellion, up to the hour of his rout at Xaquixaguana, when Garcilasso took the same course with most of his faction, and passed over to the enemy. But this demonstration of loyalty, though it saved his life, was too late to redeem his credit with the victorious party; and the obloquy which he incurred by his share in the rebellion threw a cloud over his subsequent fortunes, and even over those of his son, as it appears, in after years.
The historian’s mother was of the Peruvian blood royal. She was niece of Huayna Capac, and granddaughter of the renowned Tupac Inca Yupanqui. Garcilasso, while he betrays obvious satisfaction that the blood of the civilized European flows in his veins, shows himself not a little proud of his descent from the royal dynasty of Peru; and this he intimated by combining with his patronymic the distinguishing title of the Peruvian princes, — subscribing himself always Garcilasso Inca de la Vega. His early years were passed in his native land, where he was reared in the Roman Catholic faith, and received the benefit of as good an education as could be obtained amidst the incessant din of arms and civil commotion. In 1560, when twenty years of age, he left America, and from that time took up his residence in Spain. Here he entered the military service, and held a captain’s commission in the war against the Moriscos, and, afterwards, under Don John of Austria. Though he acquitted himself honorably in his adventurous career, he does not seem to have been satisfied with the manner in which his services were requited by the government. The old reproach of the father’s disloyalty still clung to the son, and Garcilasso assures us that this circumstance defeated all his efforts to recover the large inheritance of landed property belonging to his mother, which had escheated to the Crown. “Such were the prejudices against me,” says he, “that I could not urge my ancient claims or expectations; and I left the army so poor and so much in debt, that I did not care to show myself again at court; but was obliged to withdraw into an obscure solitude, where I lead a tranquil life for the brief space that remains to me, no longer deluded by the world or its vanities.”
The scene of this obscure retreat was not, however, as the reader might imagine from this tone of philosophic resignation, in the depths of some rural wilderness, but in Cordova, once the gay capital of Moslem science, and still the busy haunt of men. Here our philosopher occupied himself with literary labors, the more sweet and soothing to his wounded spirit, that they tended to illustrate the faded glories of his native land, and exhibit them in their primitive splendor to the eyes of his adopted countrymen. “And I have no reason to regret,” he says in his Preface to his account of Florida, “that Fortune has not smiled on me, since this circumstance has opened a literary career which, I trust, will secure to me a wider and more enduring fame than could flow from any worldly prosperity.”
In 1609, he gave to the world the First Part of his great work, the Commentarios Reales, devoted to the history of the country under the Incas; and in 1616, a few months before his death, he finished the Second Part, embracing the story of the Conquest, which was published at Cordova the following year. The chronicler, who thus closed his labors with his life, died at the ripe old age of seventy-six. He left a considerable sum for the purchase of masses for his soul, showing that the complaints of his poverty are not to be taken literally. His remains were interred in the cathedral church of Cordova, in a chapel which bears the name of Garcilasso; and an inscription was placed on his monument, intimating the high respect in which the historian was held both for his moral worth and his literary attainments. The First Part of the Commentarios Reales is occupied, as already noticed, with the ancient history of the country, presenting a complete picture of its civilization under the Incas, — far more complete than has been given by any other writer. Garcilasso’s mother was but ten years old at the time of her cousin Atahuallpa’s accession, or rather usurpation, as it is called by the party of Cuzco. She had the good fortune to escape the massacre which, according to the chronicler, befell most of her kindred, and with her brother continued to reside in their ancient capital after the Conquest. Their conversations naturally turned to the good old times of the Inca rule, which, colored by their fond regrets, may be presumed to have lost nothing as seen through the magnifying medium of the past. The young Garcilasso listened greedily to the stories which recounted the magnificence and prowess of his royal ancestors, and though he made no use of them at the time, they sunk deep into his memory, to be treasured up for a future occasion. When he prepared, after the lapse of many years, in his retirement at Cordova, to compose the history of his country, he wrote to his old companions and schoolfellows, of the Inca family, to obtain fuller information than he could get in Spain on various matters of historical interest. He had witnessed in his youth the ancient ceremonies and usages of his countrymen, understood the science of their quipus, and mastered many of their primitive traditions. With the assistance he now obtained from his Peruvian kindred, he acquired a familiarity with the history of the great Inca race, and of their national institutions, to an extent that no person could have possessed, unless educated in the midst of them, speaking the same language, and with the same Indian blood flowing in his veins. Garcilasso, in short, was the representative of the conquered race; and we might expect to find the lights and shadows of the picture disposed under his pencil, so as to produce an effect very different from that which they had hitherto exhibited under the hands of the Conquerors.
Such, to a certain extent, is the fact; and this circumstance affords a means of comparison which would alone render his works of great value in arriving at just historic conclusions. But Garcilasso wrote late in life, after the story had been often told by Castilian writers. He naturally deferred much to men, some of whom enjoyed high credit on the score both of their scholarship and their social position. His object, he professes, was not so much to add any thing new of his own, as to correct their errors and the misconceptions into which they had been brought by their ignorance of the Indian languages and the usages of his people. He does, in fact, however, go far beyond this; and the stores of information which he has collected have made his work a large repository, whence later laborers in the same field have drawn copious materials. He writes from the fulness of his heart, and illuminates every topic that he touches with a variety and richness of illustration, that leave little to be desired by the most importunate curiosity. The difference between reading his Commentaries and the accounts of European writers is the difference that exists between reading a work in the original and in a bald translation. Garcilasso’s writings are an emanation from the Indian mind.
Yet his Commentaries are open to a grave objection, — and one naturally suggested by his position. Addressing himself to the cultivated European, he was most desirous to display the ancient glories of his people, and still more of the Inca race, in their most imposing form. This, doubtless, was the great spur to his literary labors, for which previous education, however good for the evil time on which he was cast, had far from qualified him. Garcilasso, therefore, wrote to effect a particular object. He stood forth as counsel for his unfortunate countrymen, pleading the cause of that degraded race before the tribunal of posterity. The exaggerated tone of panegyric consequent on this becomes apparent in every page of his work. He pictures forth a state of society, such as an Utopian philosopher would hardly venture to depict. His royal ancestors became the types of every imaginary excellence, and the golden age is revived for a nation, which, while the war of proselytism is raging on its borders, enjoys within all the blessings of tranquillity and peace. Even the material splendors of the monarchy, sufficiently great in this land of gold, become heightened, under the glowing imagination of the Inca chronicler, into the gorgeous illusions of a fairy tale.
Yet there is truth at the bottom of his wildest conceptions, and it would be unfair to the Indian historian to suppose that he did not himself believe most of the magic marvels which he describes. There is no credulity like that of a Christian convert, — one newly converted to the faith. From long dwelling in the darkness of paganism, his eyes, when first opened to the light of truth, have not acquired the power of discriminating the just proportions of objects, of distinguishing between the real and the imaginary. Garcilasso was not a convert, indeed, for he was bred from infancy in the Roman Catholic faith. But he was surrounded by converts and neophytes, — by those of his own blood, who, after practising all their lives the rites of paganism, were now first admitted into the Christian fold. He listened to the teachings of the missionary, learned from him to give implicit credit to the marvellous legends of the Saints, and the no less marvellous accounts of his own victories in his spiritual warfare for the propagation of the faith. Thus early accustomed to such large drafts on his credulity, his reason lost its heavenly power of distinguishing truth from error, and he became so familiar with the miraculous, that the miraculous was no longer a miracle.
Yet, while large deductions are to be made on this account from the chronicler’s reports, there is always a germ of truth which it is not difficult to detect, and even to disengage from the fanciful covering which envelopes it; and after every allowance for the exaggerations of national vanity, we shall find an abundance of genuine information in respect to the antiquities of his country, for which we shall look in vain in any European writer.
Garcilasso’s work is the reflection of the age in which he lived. It is addressed to the imagination, more than to sober reason. We are dazzled by the gorgeous spectacle it perpetually exhibits, and delighted by the variety of amusing details and animated gossip sprinkled over its pages. The story of the action is perpetually varied by discussions on topics illustrating its progress, so as to break up the monotony of the narrative, and afford an agreeable relief to the reader. This is true of the First Part of his great work. In the Second there was no longer room for such discussion. But he has supplied the place by garrulous reminiscences, personal anecdotes, incidental adventures, and a host of trivial details, — trivial in the eyes of the pedant, — which historians have been too willing to discard, as below the dignity of history. We have the actors in this great drama in their private dress, become acquainted with their personal habits, listen to their familiar sayings, and, in short, gather up those minutiae which in the aggregate make up so much of life, and not less of character.
It is this confusion of the great and the little, thus artlessly blended together, that constitutes one of the charms of the old romantic chronicle, — not the less true that, in this respect, it approaches nearer to the usual tone of romance. It is in such writings that we may look to find the form and pressure of the age. The worm-eaten state-papers, official correspondence, public records, are all serviceable, indispensable, to history. They are the framework on which it is to repose; the skeleton of facts which gives it its strength and proportions. But they are as worthless as the dry bones of the skeleton, unless clothed with the beautiful form and garb of humanity, and instinct with the spirit of the age. — Our debt is large to the antiquarian, who with conscientious precision lays broad and deep the foundations of historic truth; and no less to the philosophic annalist who exhibits man in the dress of public life, — man in masquerade; but our gratitude must surely not be withheld from those, who, like Garcilasso de la Vega, and many a romancer of the Middle Ages, have held up the mirror — distorted though it may somewhat be — to the interior of life, reflecting every object, the great and the mean, the beautiful and the deformed, with their natural prominence and their vivacity of coloring, to the eye of the spectator. As a work of art, such a production may be thought to be below criticism. But, although it defy the rules of art in its composition, it does not necessarily violate the principles of taste; for it conforms in its spirit to the spirit of the age in which it was written. And the critic, who coldly condemns it on the severe principles of art, will find a charm in its very simplicity, that will make him recur again and again to its pages, while more correct and classical compositions are laid aside and forgotten.
I cannot dismiss this notice of Garcilasso, though already long protracted, without some allusion to the English translation of his Commentaries. It appeared in James the Second’s reign, and is the work of Sir Paul Rycaut, Knight. It was printed at London, in 1688, in folio, with considerable pretension in its outward dress, well garnished with wood-cuts, and a frontispiece displaying the gaunt and rather sardonic features, not of the author, but his translator. The version keeps pace with the march of the original, corresponding precisely in books and chapters, and seldom, though sometimes, using the freedom, so common in these ancient versions, of abridgment and omission. Where it does depart from the original, it is rather from ignorance than intention. Indeed, as far as the plea of ignorance will avail him, the worthy knight may urge it stoutly in his defence. No one who reads the book will doubt his limited acquaintance with his own tongue, and no one who compares it with the original will deny his ignorance of the Castilian. It contains as many blunders as paragraphs, and most of them such as might shame a schoolboy. Yet such are the rude charms of the original, that this ruder version of it has found considerable favor with readers; and Sir Paul Rycaut’s translation, old as it is, may still be met with in many a private, as well as public library.
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