Adventures and Conquests of Pizarro - George Towle

The City of the Kings

Pedro de Alvarado was a cavalier of renown, who had been one of the lieutenants of Cortez in his conquest of Mexico, and had distinguished himself by many deeds of daring and valor. At the time of Pizarro's conquest he was Governor of Guatemala, in Central America. It was with glistening eyes and beating heart that this Alvarado heard the stories of Pizarro's fortune, of the fabulous wealth he had found and seized, and of the ease with which, once across the Cordilleras, he had completed the conquest of the Peruvians.

These stories fired Alvarado's ambition, and lust of gold. He hastened to recruit a force of five hundred men, got together a fleet of twelve large ships, and embarked for the southern coast.

He knew that Pizarro had royal authority to take possession of Peru; but he pretended to think that this authority did not give Pizarro the right to conquer the northern kingdom of Quito. This he proposed to conquer himself.

Alvarado and his forces landed at the Bay of Caraques, and at once took their march across the mountains. And now they began to suffer the same miseries which Pizarro and his men had undergone. The intense cold froze them; their provisions gave out, and many of them died of hunger by the dreary roadside; and they were suffocated by the ashes and cinders vomited up by the volcanoes near which they passed.

When the Spanish chief emerged into a milder climate, he found that he had but a fourth of his once valiant little army left. He had managed to persuade a large body of natives to follow his fortunes; of these, too, many had perished in the snowy passes; while only a few of his horses had survived the terrible journey.

It was soon after Alvarado had thus with great difficulty crossed the Cordilleras that Pizarro learned of his approach. No time was to be lost. It was clear that Alvarado had come for no friendly purpose. He must be met and repulsed without delay. So Almagro, in whose military skill Pizarro greatly trusted, set out at once with a small force, and directed his way rapidly to the little colony of St. Michael, where he expected that additional troops would join him in his expedition against Alvarado.

On reaching St. Michael, however, Almagro was extremely surprised and enraged to hear that Benalcazar, the cavalier whom Pizarro had left in command of the colony, had gone off on an expedition on his own account. Almagro was now in a sad dilemma. The few men he had brought with him comprised too feeble a force with which to contend with the presumptuous Alvarado. But the intrepid little Almagro was not easily discouraged by an unforeseen obstacle. Though now growing old, he was still full of pluck and vigor. He set out promptly in the direction whither Benalcazar had gone, and, after a long march, found him at last with his troops at a town called Riobamba, which Benalcazar had attacked and taken in the hope of seizing some golden treasure for himself. Benalcazar had no thought of resisting Almagro; and, joining their forces on some table-lands near Riobamba which lay directly in Alvarado's path, they awaited his coming.

It was not long before Alvarado and his soldiers made their appearance. Both armies were drawn up, and confronted each other in battle-array. But, before the conflict began, the two chiefs thought it wise to meet, and attempt a reconciliation. While Almagro was talking with Alvarado in his tent, the soldiers on both sides mingled freely together; and Alvarado's followers, dazzled by the stories told by the others, were eager rather to go with them to Cuzco as friends, and share their good luck, than to fight them as foes.

Alvarado, too, was persuaded that it was not for his interest to defy Pizarro. Almagro offered him a sum of money that was in itself a large fortune if he would give up his enterprise, and make over to Pizarro his ships, stores, and troops. The invader at last accepted the offer: the two little armies joined ranks, and marched southward together in the friendliest manner possible.

Pizarro had meanwhile left Cuzco with a considerable force, and, taking the young Inca with him, had marched to the seacoast to defend it from Alvarado's ships. To his brother Juan he confided the rule of the capital during his absence. On reaching Pachacarnac, he learned with joy that Alvarado had yielded to Almagro; and he sent to Alvarado to come and visit him. Ere long the expedition arrived at Pachacamac. The two cavaliers heartily embraced each other; and Pizarro ordered a brilliant series of festivities to be prepared in honor of their reconciliation. There were great banquets and brave tournaments, and the rejoicings continued for many days. Then Alvarado, full of friendship for Pizarro, departed for Guatemala, there to live luxuriously on his newly-gotten wealth.

All seemed once more fair before Pizarro. The Peruvians still remained submissive to him; the young Inca was his obedient puppet; no storm seemed to be brewing for him in any part of the horizon. He now had leisure to turn his thoughts to a project he had conceived from the time he had first reached Cuzco. This was, to transfer the capital from that city to some site nearer the seacoast. Cuzco, hemmed in among the mountains, was too remote, and difficult of access, Pizarro needed a capital easily to be approached, and capable of nourishing the commerce which he hoped to build up between Peru and Panama.

The spot which he chose for the new city was in the lovely valley of the River Rimac, about twenty-five miles from its mouth. Here, on one bank of the picturesque stream, whence the lower spurs of the Cordilleras could be seen on the north and east, amid a soft, even, and temperate climate, refreshed by gentle southwest breezes from the Pacific, and cooler currents from the snowy mountain crests, Pizarro founded, in January, 1535, what he named as "The City of the Kings;" but we now know it as Lima, still the most beautiful city on the Pacific coast of South America. An army of Spanish soldiers and Peruvian artisans was set to work laying the foundations, and building up the new capital. The whole country round about was alive with the busy labor of the builders. Streets crossing each other at right angles, wide and straight, quickly grew up on the sunny plain; a noble public square was laid out, on the sides of which rose a lofty cathedral, a palace for Pizarro himself, and many other public edifices. The city was surrounded by a massive wall, twelve feet high and ten thick, made of dried clay, to resist not only hostile attacks, but the throes of earthquakes; and a bridge of five arches, with seats on the piers for the people to sit upon, spanned the Rimac.

Pizarro remained on the spot to overlook the building of his new capital. He went every day through the fast-growing streets, inspected the ramparts and buildings as they rose higher and higher, and always had a pleasant and encouraging word for the groups of workmen as they toiled.

Meanwhile he was puzzled to know what to do with his friend Almagro. He knew well that he had agreed to share his conquest with that valiant little cavalier, and that he had not by any means done him justice. So he sent Almagro back to Cuzco, and gave him authority to fit out an expedition, and to invade the regions south of the Peruvian capital, assuring him that whatever conquests he should make in that direction should be secured to him.

Almagro accordingly hastened to Cuzco, where he assumed command until Pizarro should return, and until his own plans for further conquest should be ripe for execution.

After dividing the treasure taken from Atahualpa's camp at Caxamalca, Pizarro had sent his brother Hernando, with the fifth of it due to the emperor Charles the Fifth, back to Spain. Hernando was received at home with the utmost cordiality. The emperor welcomed him with great honor, was delighted to receive so much gold, and listened with admiration to his tale; and, when he had finished, the monarch conferred on Pizarro the governorship of Peru, granted him power to make conquests two hundred miles farther southward, and created Hernando himself a knight and an officer of his royal court.

The emperor's favors did not stop here. He further gave Hernando leave to raise and equip a new force, and ordered his officers to aid him in this task. Besides these favors to the Pizarros, the emperor granted to Almagro the right to make conquests for six hundred miles south of Pizarro's government. The gold that Hernando had brought, and the thrilling stories he told of the riches of Peru, caused a great excitement in Spain; and large numbers eagerly flocked to his standard. Hernando put to sea with his new armament, and, after a very tempestuous voyage, reached Nombre de Dios. There terrible privations and sufferings awaited his company. They found no food on their arrival; and, before food could reach them, large numbers died of actual starvation. Many of them returned to Spain: others struggled on, and finally reached Peru; and among the latter was a friend of Almagro, who carried him the tidings of the grant which the emperor had made to him.

Almagro, though he had professed the strongest friendship for Pizarro ever since his arrival at Caxamalca, really felt aggrieved that Pizarro, instead of dividing equally with him the territory and riches of Peru, took the lion's share of both. His disappointment and anger at this bad treatment had all along rankled in his breast. When, therefore, he learned that the emperor had given him the right to conquer and govern the country south of that ruled by Pizarro, he resolved to show his temper and independence. Being now in command at Cuzco, he claimed that that city itself lay within the territory conceded to him by the emperor; and this brought about a bitter quarrel between him and Pizarro's two brothers Juan and Gonzalo, who were at Cuzco, and who had commanded the city until Almagro's arrival.

Pizarro heard of Almagro's new pretensions with great alarm. He sent to his brothers in all haste, and told them to resume their command of the city; and, learning that the dispute became more fierce every day, he soon followed his messenger, and himself hurried to Cuzco.

The governor was received with joy both by his brothers and by the natives. He treated Almagro with all the warmth of an old friend, and, by his persuasive words and manner, soon succeeded in patching up the quarrel. Once more Almagro yielded to the wishes of his old comrade. Pizarro prevailed on him to abandon, or at least postpone, his claim to Cuzco, and told him that he would aid him in raising an expedition to invade the southern country; and, ere many weeks had passed, Pizarro was relieved to see his rival march away at the head of a considerable force, leaving him to enjoy his power in Peru without molestation.

Pizarro, having set matters to rights at Cuzco, returned eagerly to the coast to watch the building of the City of the Kings. He delighted in this change from the din and turmoil of war to the more quiet task of founding cities, and making ready for the peaceful commerce which he hoped to establish. After all his wanderings, the trials of his marches, and the fierce excitements of his conquest, he welcomed the repose and gentler cares which now absorbed him. Not only did he found and build Lima, but several other cities and towns along the coast, one of which he named Truxillo, after his native place, and which is to-day a flourishing seaport. He was suddenly startled from these pleasant occupations by an event, which, almost without warning, threatened all that he had with so much difficulty, valor, and bloodshed won.

The young Inca Manco, whom Pizarro had left at Cuzco under the care of his two brothers, had up to this time submitted patiently to the conqueror's superior power. He had quietly consented to serve him, while appearing to enjoy the dignity and authority of his royal ancestors. But Manco was really a proud and courageous youth. In secret he repined at his abject condition. He mourned the humiliation and oppression of his mild and thrifty people. He rebelled at heart against the arrogant despotism of the stranger. He could not see without rage and horror the temples desecrated, the palaces pillaged, and the riches of his country carried away by the cargo to a foreign land. During Pizarro's absence on the coast, Manco formed the bold resolution to escape from his Spanish masters, to summon the down-trodden Peruvians to his standard, and to lead them himself against the oppressors. For some time he sent secret messages to the chiefs in different parts of the empire, with whom he planned a great revolt. When this plan was ripe, Manco made ready to fly from Cuzco.

One night he disguised himself as a peasant, and at a favorable moment slipped out of the palace, and made his way rapidly through by-streets into the suburbs. This he was able to do the more easily, as Juan and Gonzalo Pizarro, his guardians, had grown careless in watching him, and were busy looking after the plunder they were constantly collecting in the city.

Manco, with one or two faithful attendants, hastened to a thicket of low brush two or three miles from Cuzco, where he intended to remain concealed until his chiefs could join him. He had scarcely reached this shelter, however, when the galloping of horses was heard; and, before the young Inca could conceal himself, Juan Pizarro rode into the brush, followed by several horsemen, and arrested him.

It appears that certain Peruvians, who were hostile to Manco, had suspected his design, and had watched him; and no sooner had he escaped than they ran and told Juan.

Manco was at once taken to the great fortress overlooking the city, where he was imprisoned under a strong guard.

It was at this moment that Hernando Pizarro, that brother of the conqueror who had been to Spain with the emperor's share of the treasure, returned to Peru. After visiting the governor at the City of the Kings, he repaired to Cuzco, of which he took command.

Hernando, though by nature a stern, headstrong, cruel man towards his own soldiers, was the most gentle of all the Spaniards in his treatment of the Peruvians. He alone had succeeded in winning the friendship of poor Atahualpa, and had bitterly opposed that Inca's execution. On his return to Cuzco, he took the same care to cultivate the goodwill of the captive Manco. He ordered the strictness of his confinement to be relaxed, and sent him the choicest viands that Cuzco afforded. Then he released him from imprisonment altogether, and made a companion of him.

Manco, with great craft, took advantage of Hernando's leniency. He still dreamed of liberty, and of delivering Peru from the invader.

One day the Inca said to Hernando,—

"Sir, I know of some secret caves where an immense amount of treasure is hidden. They are among yonder mountains; and, if you will send me thither with a small escort, I will speedily bring all this treasure to you."

Hernando's insatiable love of gold disarmed his usual caution. Forgetting the Inca's previous escape, he let him go as he proposed, sending two Spaniards with him. Once more Manco found himself free; nor did he hesitate to avail himself of the opportunity. Ten days elapsed, and Hernando still awaited in vain his return with the promised treasure. Then Hernando became alarmed, and sent out his brother Juan, at the head of sixty horsemen, in search of the royal fugitive.

Juan rode at full gallop out upon the high-road, directing his way straight towards the mountains. He had not gone more than six or eight miles when he met the two Spaniards who had accompanied Manco returning in all haste to the city.

"Captain," they cried, "go no farther! The Peruvians have risen by thousands, and are preparing to march on Cuzco. The mountains are swarming with warriors. From every direction they are flocking to the Inca's standard. He is in their midst, and will lead them against us."

Despite this startling news, Juan resolved to advance some distance farther. On reaching a river, he saw on the opposite bank a great number of Peruvian troops. With all the rashness and fire of a Pizarro, he plunged his horse into the stream, and his comrades promptly followed him. Climbing the opposite bank, they set fiercely upon the Peruvians, and, after a hot fight, succeeded in driving them back among the hills. Juan then encamped upon the plain.

The next morning a sight which might well fill him with dismay greeted his eyes. Looking towards the mountains, he saw the defiles swarming with dense masses of Peruvian warriors; and presently he was assailed by clouds of javelins and arrows. He fought bravely all day, and succeeded in keeping his innumerable foes at bay; but, perceiving that the Peruvian host was constantly increasing, he at last gave up in despair, recrossed the river, and retreated in all haste upon Cuzco. At this juncture he received an urgent message from Hernando, urging him to return without delay, and apprising him that Cuzco was already besieged by an immense army of Peruvians.

As he approached the city, he saw that this was but too true. It seemed to be completely surrounded by the vast throng of besiegers. But he dashed forward, and, scattering the Peruvians right and left, succeeded in entering Cuzco without accident.

A terrible danger now hung over the Spaniards; and their valiant chief was far away on the seacoast, as yet in happy ignorance of the threatened ruin of his conquest.