History: Pizarro and the conquest of Peru

By: Frederick A. Ober

Chapter 05


THE weary months went by without a sign of succor. Oppressed by famine, worn with watching for the sail that did not appear, the Spaniards would have welcomed any diversion, even an invasion by the Indians, rather than longer endure that life of inaction. Day by day, from earliest mom to night, they vainly scanned the heaving bosom of the Pacific, until at last they settled down into sullen despair. The promised land lay within their sight, the glittering spires and domes of the snow-crested Andes beckoned them mockingly; but these famishing islanders had no means of sailing over to the main, save their clumsy raft, upon which they would be utterly defenceless.

They had resolved, at last, that death by slow starvation was to be their fate, believing themselves utterly abandoned, when, oneday, a sail was sighted tossing on the waves. It drew near the island, but might have passed it had not Pizarro and his men rushed to a conspicuous headland and waved a banner, at the same time shooting off their arquebuses. It was a small craft to which that sail belonged, but it was found to be well stored with provisions and munitions, though with only just men enough aboard to navigate it. Sent by the faithful Almagro and Luque, who had used the last of their resources in outfitting it, even this small vessel had been allowed by the governor to sail only on condition that it should return within six months. Governor Rios had felt it incumbent upon him to rescue these reckless outcasts, even though they had disobeyed him by marooning themselves in the enemies* waters; but he imposed upon them the necessity of returning within half a year, under penalty of imprisonment if they did not obey.

» We accept the conditions,’* cried Pizarro; and his men, refreshed by the food they had eaten, and fortified by the resolution of their commander, assented with a shout.

«The prison yawns for us, anyway, if we return,** continued Pizarro, «for all of us are in debt, even for the swords we carry and the armor we wear. Then, on, say I; perchance we may win fame and fortune yet!»

«On, on!*’ shouted the gallant men. «To the limit of our time. On to Peru!»

So they sailed away from Gorgona; and it seemed as if Dame Fortune mocked them, for, when in this condition, with a scant dozen of faithful adherents and only a single ship provisioned for six months, Pizarro found the kingdom and the opportunity to take it he had sought so long!