Adventures in Peru, Chapter 15

An Aztec Invitation

The Inca Saga, Part 3

The last of the Incas was Manco, second son of Huayna Capac. Shortly before his death, Atahualpa had caused Huascar to be drowned in the river Andamarea. Manco accordingly came next in the succession, and one fine day surprised Pizarro by calling upon him. He informed the Spaniard what his pretensions were and claimed his protection.

It suited Pizarro’s plans to listen favourably to the young chief; and so it came to pass that in the year 1534, he caused him to be acclaimed Inca, and placed on his head the scarlet fringe held sacred to the Emperors of Peru. This exclusive mark of royalty was made from the feathers of an extremely rare bird that lives in the mountains of the desert. Some naturalists profess to identify this bird with the Peacock Trogen of Colombia, but that in my opinion is a moot point.

Father Valverde officiated at the coronation, and said Mass. Pizarro’s act made a good impression on the Indians, who were really greatly attached to the House of Capac, and hailed with delight the restoration of the monarchy. The Spaniards, however, kept a pretty strict eye on Manco and didn’t give him much rope. He, after awhile, made friends with Pizarro’s brother Hernando, and showed him some of the Inca treasure-haunts. When they had become very well acquainted Manco told his friend that the famous statue of his father, Huayna Capac, fashioned in solid gold, lay hid in a part of the Andes accessible only to one who knew the secret paths.

Hernando rose to the bait and permitted Manco to go in search of the image, accompanied by some of his nobles. A couple of soldiers were detailed to act as kind of policemen. A week passed, and then Hernando realized that he had been duped. So he sent his brother Juan with a force of cavalry to bring the Inca back.

Twenty leagues from Cuzco, in the valley of Yungay, Juan met with the soldiers who had accompanied Manco. They told him the whole country had risen in revolt against the Spanish rule, and that he would never be able to secure Manco again, except at the point of the sword. Juan held on his way, however, till he reached the river Yucay, six leagues from Cuzco. There he found his passing barred by Manco, who had assembled a vast army of men armed with native weapons. In no wise daunted by this display of force, the Spaniards attempted to cross to the other side, but after losing a number of men and horses were obliged to return to Cuzco.

Manco and his forces followed them hot-foot, and finally shut them up in the city. Juan Pizarro and his two brothers, Hernando and Gonzales, put up a resolute defence for five months, and then were delighted to see many of the Inca’s followers were being sent home to attend to the land. Juan now made the bold resolve to sally out and try and capture Manco, who had his headquarters at Tambo. Under cover of the darkness he led his men to the attack, but found, much to his disappointment, the Inca occupied an impregnable position. The only side that seemed to offer the least chance of success was that next the river. Upon Juan directing his energies to that point, the natives opened the sluices and diverted the waters of the stream so that the Spaniards were soon in imminent danger of being drowned like rats in a pail. In the circumstances, there was only one thing left for Juan to do, viz. to get back to Cuzco as soon as he could, and thank his lucky stars matters were no worse. Shortly after, D’Almagro appeared upon the scene with reinforcements of seasoned Spanish troops, so Manco raised the siege, and, with his wives and followers, betook himself to the remotest fastnesses of the Andes.

For some long time the Spaniards were too occupied in quarrelling among themselves to trouble what had become of the Incas, and when at last they attempted to pick up his trail, found that it led to parts of the country only accessible by secret paths that were a dead letter to them.

Nothing definite was ever known of what became of the Incas subsequently. According to Indian tradition they held high court for many years in a great city, hidden away among the mountains. Here and there, one very occasionally meets with old trappers who assert that in their wanderings they have chanced upon this secret stronghold; but I am afraid one must treat these narratives as fairy tales, although I am fain to admit that for many years people refused to believe in the existence of the Aztecs. And yet I know men who claim to have had dealings with that mysterious race quite recently. As a matter of fact, I was invited to go and classify their cattle and supply new blood for their stock.

In the face of that, who shall say the Children of the Sun are extinct? Some day the riddle may be solved. Until then, one is entitled to keep an open mind. For my part I have hopes of finding the answer in Ecuador.