Imatges de pàgina

permission given by the clergy, and called another council of priests, who instantly gave him the same advice. This seems to have surprised him, but he probably did not reflect that the clergy would not have to fight themselves, and that the first blood ever spilt on earth was caused by a religious squabble.

Just before the expedition started against the Guaycurús it was found that the two friars who had come from Santa Catalina were missing. It appeared that they had started for the coast, accompanied by a bevy of Indian damsels, thirty-five in number. They were followed and brought back, and explained that they were on their way to Spain to complain against the Governor. The five-and-thirty dusky catechumens remained without an explanation.

The expedition then started commanded by the Governor in person. Only those who know the Chaco or western bank of the River Paraguay can form the least idea of what an expedition in those days had to encounter. Even to-day along the Chaco, the change since the beginning of the world can be but slight. As a steamer slips along the bank, nothing for miles and miles is seen but swamp and trees, swamps intersected with backwaters, called 'aguapeys,' in which lie alligators, electric eels, and stinging rays; swamps and more swamps, a sea of waving Pampa grass. After the swamps thickets of canes (Tacuarás in Guarani), forests of thorny trees, Chañares, Ñandubay, Jacarandás, Quebracho, Talas, and Urunday, each one hard enough to split an axe, some, like the black Canela, almost like iron, The inhabitants, those who are left, ferocious and intractable as when the Governor' himself first saw them, the climate heavy and humid, the air dank with 'vinchucas'' and mosquitos, and the little black, infernal midget, called a jején. No roads, no paths, no landmarks, but here and there at intervals of many leagues, a clearing in the

rest, where some wretched settlement strives to exist; more rarely a deserted Jesuit mission. Ostriches and deer, tigers, capibaras, and tapirs, and now and then a herd of cattle wilder than buffaloes. Sometimes an Indian on his horse, sitting like a sentinel to watch the vessel pass, with a lance of eighteen feet in length, stuck in the ground beside him, or balanced across his barebacked painted horse, with feathers in its ears.

Even in a steamer one feels outside humanity, the distances are so immense, the men so few; what then it must have been in 1600 we can only guess by reading writers such as Alvar Nuñez.

However, with 400 men he started, accompanied by above a thousand friendly Indians, all well armed and painted, and with plates of metal on their heads to shine in the sun and thus strike terror to the enemy. To save the horses they were put on board

• Vinchucas are a kind of flying bug with which an all-wise Providence has endowed Paraguay. Their shape is triangular, their colour grey, and their odour noxious.


the ships in which the troops were sent, the Indians marched along the bank. Horses at that time in Paraguay and in Peru often fetched a thousand crowns of gold, though Azara says that in Buenos Ayres, in the last century, you could often buy a good one for two needles.

At night the vessels anchored close to the bank, the Indians hauled up their canoes, and those who went on foot camped round great fires.

Then, as at present, time was of no account in Paraguay, so almost every day they 1 anded their horses, to keep them in good condition and to chase the deer. Just the sort of army we would have liked to march with—no reporters, no control by telegraph; not too much to eat, perhaps, but still a pleasant feeling of independence and a conviction that one marched to spread the true faith and make one's fortune the only unpleasant feature the foolish system of payment the Governor prescribed.

All was new and strange; the world was relatively young; and the Governor seems to have written up his diary every night, now setting down the loss of a horse, the death of an Indian, or commenting upon the fruits, the fish, the animals, the trees, and all the other * things of God, which differ from those in Old and New Castile ; now and then a fight, as when they met the warlike Guasarapos or the Payaguás, but nothing of much account (mucha monta); always the tales of gold mines to be met with further on.

Eventually the expedition arrived close to a point not far from where is now the town of Corumbá. Here, after founding a town called Reyes, long since destroyed, they turned, having first sent on Captain Mendoza to discover countries and procure provisions. Captain Mendoza discovered after the manner of captains, but not according to the wishes of Alvar Nuñez, who gave him his orders conceived as follows: What you, Captain Gonzalo de Mendoza, have to do in the towns where you may go to get provisions to support our people, so that they perish not with hunger, is, that you shall buy supplies (and pay for them to the satisfaction of the Indians); and tell them from me that I wish to be friends with them

and be careful that in the places which you pass you do not allow any


your men to do them any wrong, or treat them badly, but, on the contrary, pay for all they give you. When you come to a village say you want provisions and offer payment, and entreat them with loving words ; and if they will not give you provisions ask them even to three times, offering them the money ; if then they will not give them take them by force, for the necessity of the Armada admits no law; but in

to God's laws and those of His Majesty

, the which is fitting for you as a servant of the King.' At the same time another captain, called Ribera, was sent off up the river to try and reach Peru—that is, that portion of Peru now

Where he did get to is a matter of supposition, as No. 233

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called Bolivia,



the names of the tribes he speaks of cannot be identified. After three months' waiting at Reyes for his two captains, with all the expedition ill and himself confined to bed with quartan ague, the Governor determined to return. Before returning he gave the death-blow to his waning popularity.

The expedition had failed in finding gold, had suffered much, and was returning poorer than it started. Just as they were about to sail on the return to Asuncion, Alvar Nuñez discovered that some of his followers were taking about a hundred Indian girls. This he forbade, and, sending for their fathers, delivered the girls into their keeping, and, not content with this, published an order that no one on any account should take an Indian female or male aboard the ships.

• With this the natives were much pleased, but the Spaniards rendered angry and desperate, and for this course they hated me. Nothing more natural. Bishop Colenso was less unpopular in Africa for treating the Pentateuch like a work of sense than for hinting that perhaps a living Kaffir was more useful than a dead one.

On the 8th of April (1543) the Governor and expedition returned to Asuncion, he very ill with fever, and most of the soldiers worn out and dispirited. In Asuncion all was in confusion. Domingo de Irala -a clever, ambitious Biscayan, who had been interim Governor before Alvar Nuñez arrived-had worked upon the people against the Governor, saying that he wished to take away their property—that is, their Indians.

All, of course, was said to be in the sacred cause of liberty, as always is the case when tyranny, murder, or villany of almost any sort is to be done. So, at the hour of the Ave Maria, ten or twelve of the 'factious' entered the Governor's house, where he lay ill in bed, all shouting ' Liberty!' and, to prove they were in earnest and good patriots, one of them, Jaime Resquin, put a bent cross bow to his side, and forced him to get out of bed and took him to a prison, amid a crowd all shouting 'Liberty!' His friends attempted to rescue him ; but the patriots were too strong, and the Governor was thrown, heavily ironed, into a cell, out of which, to make room, they let a murderer under sentence of death. “He,' Alvar Nuñez grimly remarks, 'made haste to take my cloak, and then set off down the street at once, calling out “ Liberty !”? That everything should be in order, they confiscated all the Governor's goods and took his papers, publishing a proclamation that they did it because he was a tyrant.' Unluckily, the Indians have not left us any commentaries, or it would have been curious to have learned what their opinion was as to the tyranny of Alvar Nuñez.

Having got him into prison, they had to elect a Governor, and the choice of course · fell’upon Domingo de Irala. He promptly put his friends in office, like all governors, whether they enter to the cry of Liberty or not. The friends of Alvar Nuñez, in the usual

Spanish fashion, declared themselves in opposition—that is, they fortified their houses, and roamed about the country, proving by theft and murder that their love of liberty was just as strong as that of those in office.

Things came to such a pitch that no one could leave his house in the evening in Asuncion, The Indians burnt the suburbs and threatened the town, and four men, armed with daggers, kept guard on Alvar Nuñez day and night, in case he should escape. As he says himself, his prison was not fitting to his health,' for day and night: he had to keep

a candle burning to see to read, and the grass grew underneath his bed, and ' for the sake of his health ’ he had a pair of • first-rate fetters on his feet.'

For his chief jailer they procured one Hernando de Sosa, whom the Governor bad put in prison for striking an Indian chief. At the door a strong guard watched day and night. In spite of this he continued to communicate with his friends almost every day.

The method was most ingenious. His food was brought by an Indian woman, whom--so great was the fear his enemies had that he should write to the King or to his friends—they made walk naked into the prison, carrying the dishes, and with her head shaved. Notwithstanding this she used to bring a piece of paper hidden between her toes. The party of Liberty, suspecting that somehow or other Nuñez was communicating with his friends, procured an Indian youth to make love to the girl and to get the secret from her. This he failed to do, owing perhaps to his love-making being wanting in conviction on account of her shaven head. At any rate the correspondence went on for eleven months.

At last Irala and his friends, seeing the tumults did not cease and that things went from bad to worse, determined to send the exGovernor a prisoner to Spain, taking care, of course, to despatch a messenger beforehand to distort the facts and prejudice the mind of the King against him. His friends contrived to hide a trunk of papers, stating the true facts of the case, on board the ship, unknown

or the sailors. At dead of night a band of harquebusiers dragged him from his bed, as he says, “almost with the candle in his hand,' i.e. in a dying state. As he left the prison he fell upon his knees and thanked God for having let him once more feel the air of heaven; and then, in a loud voice

, exclaimed, "I name as my successor Captain Juan de Salazar de Espinosa. At this one Garci Vargas rushed at him with a knife, and told him to recall his words or he would kill him. This, however, he was prevented from doing, and Nuñez was hurried on board the ship and chained to a beam.

On board the ship he says they tried to poison him, but this seems doubtful, as there was nothing on earth to prevent their doing so had they been inclined. Still, like a prudent man, he took the precaution

to the captain

to have a cruise of oil and a piece of unicorn (pedazo de unicornio) with which he tried all the food that was set before him. Unicorns he could not have met with in Paraguay, or even in Florida, and he doe not explain how he happened to be so fortunately equipped. Nevertheless, of all the discoverers of America he is the man of least imagination—that is, in matters appertaining to natural history-so one must conclude that he brought his piece of unicorn from Spain, where he had it from some dealer in necessaries for travellers to the Indies.

After a stormy voyage he arrived in Spain, to find his accusers arrived just before him. With almost Eastern justice both accusers and accused were cast into prison, a custom well worthy of adoption in other lands. Alvar Nuñez was soon released on bail, and, his accusers having all died, in eight years' time, triumphantly acquitted, but never restored to his government in Paraguay. Eight years more of trouble must have been little to him after what he had undergone already, and so he never once complains, but, like a gentleman of Old Castile, closes his commentaries merely remarking that his lord the King forgot to repay him what he had expended in his service.


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