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fell behind, and at nightfall the army was out of sight. Nicosia spoke words of cheer and refused to leave him, even to save his own life. In the dead of night they were roused by a terrible roar, and an animal which they thought to be a tiger,
but which was probably a jaguar, suddenly burst through the underbrush and crouched near them for a spring. Estevan,
“NICOSIA ADVANCED TOWARD too feeble to raise a weapon, sank powerless to the earth. Nicosia flung some faggots on the smouldering fire to make it burn up brilliantly, raised his shield so as to protect his breast, drew his keen sword and advanced toward the beast.
Either the fire-light, the secret power in the eyes of the youth, or the gleaming blade made the beast cower before him, and retire with growls into the woods.
Next day Estevan was better and they rejoined the army. He was mounted on a horse and thus enabled to keep up with the others. The little army had suffered frightfully and all were growing discouraged, when they were suddenly gladdened by sight of a vessel from Panama with supplies and reinforcements. From these Estevan hoped to receive some news of Inez; but although one of the recruits had seen Don Oviedo, who had arrived at Panama two days after the departure of Pizarro, he knew nothing of his daughter, and was quite sure she had not accompanied him. Recruits from Spain were also sure she was not there; then where was she?
“Would to heaven I could have seen her before leaving Panama,” Estevan thought, and he sighed in his perplexity.
But the ambitious, restless Pizarro gave him little time for sighs and regrets. They pressed on over a country which became less sandy and more fertile. Some of the Spaniards wanted to halt and establish a colony, but Pizarro was more intent on conquest, and pushed on toward Tumbez. He made his first halt at the island of Puna in the Gulf of Guayaquil at no great distance from the Bay of Tumbez, where he rallied his forces, and prepared to make his descent on the Indian aity.
They had not long been here before a deputation of natives with their caciques at their head crossed over in their balsas from the mainland to welcome the Spaniards. Felipillo put the general on his · guard and warned him against treachery, and Pizarro arrested some of the caciques. This so enraged the people of Puna that they sprang to arms and assailed the Spanish camp. Though the odds were greatly against the Spaniards, they made up in arms and discipline what they lacked in numbers.
Estevan was a little apart from the others, and in a moment was surrounded by lowling and screeching foes. He drew his sword and fought as best he could; but would have been soon overpowered, had not a horseman, with lance in rest, bore down on the group, scattering them like chaff before a whirlwind. Pizarro, at the head of the cavalry, put the Indians to rout, and then gave his attention to landing his forces at Tumbez. This port was but a few leagues distant, and he crossed over with his main force in the ships, leaving a few men to transport the baggage and military stores in balsas.
The first balsa that landed, some distance ahead of the others, was surrounded by the natives, and the three persons on it taken into the woods and brained with war-clubs. The second balsa was in command of Estevan, with seven men guarding Pizarro's wardrobe. It was also assailed the moment it touched the shore.
Pizarro, with a dozen mounted men, among whom was Nicosia, had landed a little lower down the beach. Estevan's party had four guns among them, and, as the savages advanced, they lighted their matches and fired a volley at them, bringing down two or three. The rest they attacked with pikes and battle-axes.
“Look! they are in danger, general!” cried Nicosia, as the report of matchlocks reached his ears.
“Santiago!” cried Pizarro, and away went the cavalry, Nicosia and Pizarro riding neck and neck. A broad tract of miry ground, overflowed at high tide, lay between the cavalry and the party threatened. The tide was out and the bottom soft and dangerous. With little regard for peril, however, the bold cavaliers spurred their horses into the slimy depths, and, with mud up to their saddle girths, plunged forward into the midst of the natives, who, terrified at the strange apparition, fled precipitately to the forest.
On reaching Tumbez the town was found deserted, the houses demolished, and almost wholly stripped of interior decorations of gold and ornaments. The soldiers were quite cast down over the disappointment. Instead of the fabulous . wealth of Tumbez, so graphically described to them by the natives, they found only barren walls and ruins.
While wandering about the city, Estevan suddenly met an old Indian who had a scroll of paper in his hand. He gave it to the young cavalier without a word and disappeared. Hastily unrolling the paper so mysteriously handed him, Estevan read as follows:
“Know, whoever you may be that may set foot in this country, that it contains more gold than there is iron in Biscay."
He took the paper to Pizarro, who caused it to be read to the soldiers. The document was evidently written by one of the Spaniards who had been left at the town on a former visit. The soldiers, however, treated it as a cunning device by the general to arouse their hopes.
“What do you think of the mysterious scroll, Nicosia ?” Estevan asked his mysterious friend.
“I believe every word it contains to be true.” he answered.