History: Pizarro and the conquest of Peru

By: Frederick A. Ober

Chapter 07


ON a day in January, 1531, nearly three years after his departure for Spain, Pizarro launched the fourth and largest expedition, for which he had been so long preparing, and in which he had invested everything he possessed. His ships were freighted with his hopes, as well, for he never despaired of achieving the conquest upon which he had set his heart.

Having in mind the treasures he had seen at Tumbez, and doubting not they were yet awaiting him, he issued orders for his pilots to steer straight for the gulf of Guayaquil, upon which that port was situated. Baffling winds and currents forced him to land at a point about sixty miles from Tumbez; but still, despite these obstacles, he traversed in fourteen days a distance it had taken him two years to gain in his previous attempts. 95

Landing his troops in the province of Coaque, Pizarro marched them along the shore, while the ships pursued a parallel course by sea, and in this manner he approached and surprised an Indian village. The inhabitants came forth to greet him amicably, as they had done before, relying upon the supposed friendliness of the strangers ; but, having arrived in strength and with power, the Spaniards cast off the cloak of humanity, which they had assumed in their weakness, and fell upon the Indians like fiends. They fled in terror as the soldiers, sword in hand, ravaged the village of all they possessed, not only of gold, silver, and gems, but of food as well. A vast amount of spoil was obtained, which, boasted Pizarro, would never have been foimd if they had not surprised the natives before they could secrete it.

«Hereafter, comrades,» he said, as he harangued his men in the deserted village, «we will do as we have done to-day. The friendship of the natives is a good thing, but their treasure is what we are after. We will pursue this course at Tumbez, for there we shall find enough to enrich us all. This is but paltry plimder to what we shall find at Tumbez!»

Still, there was gold, in ornaments and grains; and as for emeralds, they were so numerous that the Spaniards did not realize their value. Some were fotmd as large as birds* eggs; but the best of them were destroyed by the soldiers, on the advice of one Fray Reginaldo, a Dominican monk, who had come out to convert the heathen, but who was not averse to despoiling them of their riches. Fray Reginaldo advised the soldiers to test the stones with a hammer. If they broke, they were not precious stones, but if they did not break they were true emeralds, said Fray Reginaldo.