Page images



For gold the Spaniard cast his soul away :
His gold and he were every nation's prey.-Montgomery.

THE three speculators of Panama had made up their band of mercenaries, or what the Scotch very expressively term "rank rievers," to plunder the Peruvians. These consisted of one hundred and eighty men, thirty of whom were horsemen. These were all they could raise; and these were sufficient, as experience had now testified, to enable them to overrun a vast empire of Americans. Almagro, however, remained behind, to gather more spoilers together as soon as circumstances would permit, and Pizarro took the command, of his troop, and landed in the Bay of St. Matthew, in the north of the kingdom. He resolved to conduct his march southward so near to the coast as to keep up the communication with his vessels; and falling upon the peaceable inhabitants, he went on fighting, fording rivers, wading through hot sands, and inflicting so many miseries upon his own followers and the natives, as made him look more like an

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

avenging demon than a man. It is not necessary that we should trace very minutely his route. In the province of Coaque they plundered the people of an immense quantity of gold and silver. From the inhabitants of the island of Puna, he met with a desperate resistance, which cost him six months to subdue, and obliged him to halt at Tumbez, to restore the health of his men. Here he received a reinforcement of troops from Nicaragua, commanded by Sebastian Benalcazor, and Hernando Soto. Having also his brothers, Ferdinand, Juan, and Gonzalo, and his uncle Francisco de Alcantara, with him in this expedition, he pushed forwards towards Caxamalca, destroying and laying waste before him. Fortunately for him, that peace and unity which had continued for four hundred years in Peru, was now broken by two contending monarchs, and as unfortunately for the assertion of Robertson, that the Peruvians were unwarlike, they. were at this moment in the very midst of all the fury of a civil war. The late Inca, Huana Capac, had added Quito to the realm, and at his death, had left that province to Atahualpa, his son by the daughter of the conquered king of Quito. His eldest son, who ascended the throne of Peru, demanded homage of Atahualpa or surrender of the throne of Quito; but Atahualpa was too bold and ambitious a prince for that, and the consequence was a civil contest. So engrossed were the combatants in this warfare, that they had no time to watch, much less to oppose, the progress of the Spaniards. Pizarro had, therefore, advanced into the very heart of the kingdom when Atahualpa had vanquished his brother, put him in prison, and taken possession of Peru. Having been solicited

during the latter part of his march by both parties to espouse their cause, and holding himself in readiness to act as best might suit his interests, he no sooner found Atahualpa in the ascendant, than he immediately avowed himself as his partizan, and declared that he was hastening to his aid. Atahualpa was in no condition to repulse him. He was in the midst of the confusions necessarily existing on the immediate termination of a civil war. His brother, though his captive, was still held by the Peruvians to be their rightful monarch, and it might be of the utmost consequence to his security to gain such extraordinary and fearful allies. The poor Inca had speedy cause to rue the alliance. Pizarro determined, on the very first visit of Atahualpa to him in Caxamalca, to seize him as Cortez had seized on Montezuma. He did not wait to imitate the more artful policy of Cortez, but trusted to the now too well known ascendency of the Spanish arms, to take him without ceremony. He and his followers now saw the amazing wealth of the country, and were impatient to seize it. The capture of the unsuspecting Inca is one of the most singular incidents in the history of the world; a mixture of such naked villany, and impudent mockery of religion, as has scarcely a parallel even in the annals of these Spanish missionaries of the sword-these red-cross knights of plunder. He invited Atahualpa to an interview in Caxamalca, and having drawn up his forces round the square in which he resided, awaited the approach of his victim. The following is Robertson's relation of the event:

"Early in the morning the Peruvian camp was all in motion. But as Atahualpa was solicitous to appear

[ocr errors]

with the greatest splendour and magnificence in his first interview with the strangers, the preparations for this were so tedious, that the day was far advanced before he began his march. Even then, lest the order of the procession should be deranged, he moved so slowly, that the Spaniards became impatient, and apprehensive that some suspicion of their intention might be the cause of this delay. In order to remove this, Pizarro dispatched one of his officers with fresh assurances of his friendly disposition. At length the Inca approached. First of all appeared four hundred men, in an uniform dress, as harbingers to clear the way before him. He himself, sitting on a throne or couch, adorned with plumes of various colours, and almost covered with plates of gold and silver, enriched with precious stones, was carried on the shoulders of his principal attendants. Behind him came some chief officers of his court, carried in the Several bands of singers and dancers accompanied this cavalcade; and the whole plain was covered with troops, amounting to more than thirty thousand men.

same manner.

"As the Inca drew near to the Spanish quarters, Father Vincent Valverde, chaplain to the expedition, advanced with a crucifix in one hand and a breviary in the other, and in a long discourse explained to him the doctrine of the creation; the fall of Adam; the incarnation, the sufferings, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; the appointment of St. Peter as God's vicegerent on earth; the transmission of his apostolic power by succession to the Popes; the donation made to the king of Castile by Pope Alexander, of all the regions in the New World. In consequence of all

this, he required Atahualpa to embrace the Christian faith; to acknowledge the supreme jurisdiction of the Pope, and to submit to the king of Castile as his lawful sovereign; promising, if he complied instantly with his requisition, that the Castilian monarch would protect his dominions, and permit him to continue in the exercise of his royal authority; but if he should impiously refuse to obey this summons, he denounced war against him in his master's name, and threatened him with the most dreadful effect of his vengeance.

"This strange harangue, unfolding deep mysteries, and alluding to unknown facts, of which no powers of eloquence could have conveyed at once a distinct idea to an American, was so lamely translated by an unskilful interpreter, little acquainted with the idiom of the Spanish tongue, and incapable of expressing himself with propriety in the language of the Inca, that its general tenor was altogether incomprehensible to Atahualpa. Some parts of it, of more obvious meaning, filled him with astonishment and indignation. His reply, however, was temperate. He began with observing, that he was lord of the dominions over which he reigned by hereditary succession; and added, that he could not conceive how a foreign priest should pretend to dispose of territories which did not belong to him; that if such a preposterous grant had been made, he, who was the rightful possessor, refused to confirm it. That he had no inclination to renounce the religious institutions established by his ancestors; nor would he forsake the service of the Sun, the immortal divinity whom he and his people revered, in order to worship the God of the Spaniards who was subject to death. That, with re

« PreviousContinue »