Adventures and Conquests of Pizarro - George Towle

Pizarro in Spain

Pizarro must have felt strangely on the day when, six or seven weeks after his departure from Panama, his eyes at length rested again upon the glittering spires and domes of Seville. It was from that beautiful city, that, more than a quarter of a century before, he had set out, a penniless and homeless youth, to seek his fortunes in an unknown land.

What strange things had happened since! How often had he been in near peril of death! What wonderful peoples and countries he had seen! And, now that his feet were once more to tread his native soil, how different was his return from his departure!

His fame had already reached the land of his birth. No longer obscure, unknown, a ragged wanderer on the face of the earth, his deeds of valiant daring, his discoveries of brilliant promise, had been repeated from mouth to mouth; and he found Spain proud of his achievements. But, just as he landed, an event happened which seemed at first likely to put an end to his schemes. A man named Enciso, who had played a somewhat conspicuous part in the settlement of the New World, and who claimed that a debt was due him from the colony on the isthmus, caused Pizarro to be seized, and thrown into prison.

This was a dismal beginning of his mission; but, as soon as the emperor heard of the outrage, he sent an order, in all haste, that Pizarro should be released. At the same time the emperor invited Pizarro to come to him at Toledo, where he then was.

Charles the Fifth was sitting in the great hall of one of his many palaces, surrounded by his knights and nobles, and by a brilliant array of courtiers of both sexes. Among them was a tall and well-built cavalier, whose swarthy face was darker even than those around him, as if it had been bronzed by much exposure, and toughened by rude experience. This was no less a person than Hernando Cortez, the conqueror of Mexico, and nearly related to Pizarro by ties of kinship.

As Pizarro advanced to the throne, he could but observe how little like a mighty monarch the emperor looked. He was a short, stubby man, with light yellow hair, which was cut short, and bristled from his forehead. His beard and mustache, carefully trimmed, were of the same homely color; but his bright, clear blue eyes, and the large, firm jaw of the family of Castile, were features that betokened the real resolution and energy of his character.

He received Pizarro with a smile of gracious welcome, and bade him sit and tell the stirring tale of his wanderings. This he did, relating his thrilling adventures in a plain, straightforward, soldierly fashion, that quite won the hearts of the emperor and his courtiers. He spoke earnestly, and with a simple and warm enthusiasm that enlisted all hearts in sympathy with him; and, as he went on, Charles leaned forward, and eagerly drank in every word.

Then Pizarro ordered the attendants to bring in the Peruvian sheep, and the chests of golden ornaments, jewels, and many-colored cloths. These called forth a cry of admiration from the emperor, who, rising to his feet, said,—

"Pizarro, you are a brave and gallant man, and a good subject. You have done wonderful things. You have opened a way to a vast and precious addition to my dominions and power, and to you shall be committed the completion of the gigantic task you have undertaken. I declare that you shall go forward and conquer Peru, and in that distant and golden land shall raise my imperial standard. You shall have not only my permission, but my Godspeed and my cordial assistance."

To the emperor's praises were added those of Cortez, who had already won the fame and glory of conquest and discovery to which Pizarro himself aspired. Cortez spoke hearty words of hope and encouragement, and promised Pizarro that he would do all he could to enable him to fit out an adequate fleet and enlist an ample force.

Charles the Fifth was as good as his word. A paper, called "the Capitulation," was drawn up, and signed by the emperor, which described the grants and powers he conferred on Pizarro in Peru. He was permitted to occupy and rule that country as its governor-general, with an enormous salary, and almost royal authority. Almagro was made commander of Tumbez, and Luque bishop of the same place; while the faithful pilot Ruiz was granted the title of "Grand Pilot of the Southern Ocean." It was, besides, agreed that Pizarro should enlist two hundred and fifty soldiers, and that he should set out for Peru within the period of six months after reaching Panama.

His errand to the emperor having thus been crowned with the most brilliant success, the adventurer's thoughts now reverted to his early home in Estremadura. He had known, to be sure, but few joys in that home; yet there was in his heart, in spite of all, that instinct of love of and yearning for one's birthplace which rarely dies wholly out in the human breast.

He resolved, therefore, to spend part of the time, while he was waiting for his expedition to be got ready, in visiting Truxillo, and observing the old familiar places of his childhood. He would return to his native place a cavalier of renown, the welcomed guest of the emperor, and the destined ruler of a great realm in the New World.

On arriving at Truxillo, he found that many changes had taken place; but these were rather in the persons he had known than in the town itself. The haughty old soldier, his father, was no more; and his humble peasant-mother had also passed away without witnessing his triumphs. But four stalwart brothers were there stilt, and were proud to welcome their famous kinsman with such scant hospitality as they could afford. They were all poor, but were at least better off than when, in their childhood's days, they had been the slaves of swineherds.

When they heard Pizarro's story of the wonders of the New World, they one and all became eager to share his good fortune. Ambition and pride ran in their blood, and they became inspired with a longing to reap the golden fruits of conquest. Pizarro was willing that his brothers should seize the opportunity which the proposed expedition would afford them, and all four of them accompanied him back to Seville.

To Pizarro's chagrin, he found, that, on reaching Seville, the required number of men had not enlisted. But he made up his mind to wait no longer; and, ordering such soldiers as had assembled to embark on three ships that had been procured, he prepared to set out across the Atlantic.

At this moment he learned from his friend and kinsman Cortez, that the Council of the Indies, finding that he had not the full force he had agreed to raise, were about to put a stop to his sailing. With all haste he weighed anchor, and pushed out to sea in one of the ships. At the same time he told his elder brother Hernando to join him with the other two ships, as soon as he could, at the Canary Islands.

The council, on hearing that Pizarro had escaped them, at first threatened to retain Hernando and his vessels; but, fearing the anger of the emperor, they at last permitted him to depart and rejoin his brother.

European captains and navigators had by this time become accustomed to the Atlantic. Its currents and other peculiarities had been observed and studied; and, since Pizarro had been in the New World, many inventions useful to navigation had been brought into use.

His voyage, therefore, across the ocean, was made easily, and without accident; and he arrived safely at the isthmus with his ships and armament. He landed at Nombre de Dios, on the side of the isthmus opposite to Panama. On going on shore, he was surprised to find his two friends Almagro and Luque waiting to receive him. They had crossed the isthmus in order to hear, at the earliest moment, the result of his mission to the emperor.

As soon as they were alone together, Pizarro told his friends how graciously the emperor had received him; how Charles had promised his aid; and, finally, with what zeal the, great conqueror Cortez had come to his assistance. Then, taking a long roll from his pocket, he informed them that that was the "capitulation" which the emperor had granted them; and proceeded to read it.

As he went on, an expression of surprise, disappointment, and anger spread over the face of Almagro; and when Pizarro came to the clauses which declared that Almagro should only be governor of Tumbez, while he himself was made the ruler of all Peru, Almagro broke out in an indignant speech.

"Is this the way, Pizarro," he exclaimed fiercely, "that you treat your devoted friends? Are you base enough to take thus the lion's share for yourself, and leave to me, who have suffered and sacrificed as well as you, only the command of a single paltry fortress? I tell you I will not submit to it. We are all equals in this matter, and for you to grasp all the power and glory is more than I will bear."

"Be patient, Almagro, and listen," replied Pizarro calmly. "I admit that it seems unjust; but I declare to you that I did all I possibly could to persuade the emperor to divide the fruits of the expedition between us. It was in vain, however, that I pleaded. The emperor insisted that the power must rest in the hands of a single man, and he compelled me to assume it. But do not doubt my friendship, comrade. Trust me, and all will go well. Peru is big enough to satisfy the ambition of us both; and, its conquest once made, I pledge you that you shall share equally with me all the power and riches I acquire."

But Almagro would not be appeased; and, when they returned to Panama, he declared that he would have nothing more to do with Pizarro, but would fit out an expedition for Peru on his own account.

The good priest Luque saw that this quarrel would ruin the project which all had so much at heart, and earnestly set about healing the breach between Pizarro and Almagro.

In this he at last succeeded. Pizarro agreed, that, if the expedition accomplished its object, Almagro should share his power, and that he would not promote his brothers at Almagro's expense.

Every preparation for Pizarro's departure for Peru was now hastened as rapidly as possible. He had been compelled to leave the ships in which he had brought his force from Spain on the other side of the isthmus: it was, therefore, necessary that new ships should be purchased and fitted out. Some of the men he had brought with him, too, became discouraged by the dismal reports which they heard about South America, and deserted; and Pizarro and Almagro had to busy themselves with making good this loss.

At last three small vessels were procured, and a company of one hundred and eighty men was raised. Some of these men had gone with Pizarro on his previous expeditions. Besides the soldiers, he proposed to carry thirty horses, in order to provide the means for cavalry operations. At the same time, arms, ammunition, and supplies were procured in what seemed to be an ample quantity.

It was about midwinter, in the year 1531, that the new expedition was fully organized, and ready to set out in pursuance of a new attempt to make the conquest of Peru. With the emperor's approval in his pocket, with a force of stalwart soldiers, almost every one of whom had seen rough service in camp and field, with stanch ships to bear him and his companions to the promised land of gold, with a knowledge of the regions he was about to invade obtained by passing through great obstacles and many hardships, and with a soul that knew no faltering, Pizarro found himself prepared to risk and suffer all to obtain the victory which had been the dream of years.