The Swineherd Who Wanted a Castle
O NCE upon a time, there lived in a little village in Spain a boy who tended pigs. He was a very ragged boy. His clothes were old and torn; he wore no cap, and he had never in all his life had on a pair of shoes. His food was even worse than his clothing. He ate nuts and grapes and stale crusts of bread, and sometimes he had cheese. But meat he could not have more than once a month. This was because the boy was very, very poor.
Now, it is not pleasant to tend pigs. They are such dirty animals, and they grunt and grunt and make ugly noises all the time. It is very disagreeable to sit all day and have nothing to do but to talk to filthy pigs, and see that they do not walk off into the woods and get lost. So the little Spanish boy hated his work and wished that he could get away.
The name of this little boy was Francisco Pizarro. I do not wish to pretend that he was a good boy, because he was not. He was a bad boy, and he grew up to be a wicked man; but one thing I must say for him, he was surely very brave. And perhaps he became bad because, as a boy, he did not have a good home nor any nice boys to play with.
Near where Francisco lived was a beautiful castle. It had big, light rooms, and long tables, and fine gilt chairs, and wonderful pictures, and everything that the heart could desire. Francisco had never seen the inside of this castle. There was a great wall all around it, and in this wall a big, strong gate that was locked every night. A soldier in a yellow-and-red coat stood at this gate, and of course he would not let the ragged little swineherd in. The young Francisco used to watch the old soldier as he pulled at his mustache, and sometimes, when the soldier wasn't looking, the boy pressed his head against the iron bars and looked into the garden. He could only see a little corner of the castle, but he saw the beautiful trees in the garden, and the soft, green grass and the fountain which seemed so cool in the hot afternoons.
It made Francisco very angry to see this beautiful garden and not be allowed to go into it. He complained to his mother, but she could not do anything, because it wasn't her castle, and she was as poor as Francisco. "You are only a swineherd," she said to him, "and swineherds cannot have castles; so stop thinking of the castle and go back to your pigs."
But Francisco did not stop thinking of the castle. He had seen in the garden a little boy of his own age, and he saw that the boy's clothes were made of fine, soft cloth, and that he had a lovely black feather in his cap. He remembered, too, that a kind old man, with a long white beard, had walked with this boy in the garden, and had taught him many things out of a great book. Poor Francisco had never been to school, and he had never had a teacher, like this boy with the fine clothes; but he wanted all the things that the little boy in the garden had, and he made up his mind that he would get them.
I told you before that Francisco was not a good boy, and so he did not ask himself whether it was right for him to want all these things. "I do not care," he said almost out loud; "I do not care what my mother says, or what the priest says, or anybody. Good or bad, right or wrong, I am going to get my castle." That will show you the sort of a boy Francisco really was.
Now, Francisco saw that it was no use to stay in his little village; there he would always be a swineherd. Every day he hated the pigs more and more. He hated them so much that he threw stones at them when they squealed. At last, with two other boys, he ran away. I think that Francisco and his two friends were a little afraid, at first, that their mothers would send after them and catch them. So they went away by night, and by the next morning they were far along the quiet road. Day after day they walked. They used to find chestnuts on the ground, and over the high, green hedges hung bunches of wild purple grapes that anybody might pick. The good country people were all as poor as poor could be; but they always gave the tired boys a bite of bread and a cup of goat's milk. Francisco was very happy. He was glad to be away from the dirty, squealing pigs, and he believed that every step he took brought him nearer to the castle he had dreamed of.
At last, the boys reached Seville. Now, Seville was a very large and beautiful city. There were fine houses and glorious palaces, like the castle that Francisco wanted, and women in beautiful dresses and men rode up and down the crowded streets on great black horses. It was all like Wonderland; and, as Francisco looked at everything—the streets, shops and people—his eyes almost popped out of his head.
But in this rich city of Seville, Francisco was poorer than ever before in all his life. Here in the great city nobody cared for the ragged boy, and there were no kind country people to give him bread and goat's milk. Yet, after a while, Francisco managed to make a little money, though even then he was still poor. Often he went to bed without supper, and his castle seemed to be as far away as ever.
Of all the things in the great city of Seville, Francisco liked the soldiers best. They seemed so big and brave in their beautiful uniforms, and the boy envied them and wished that he, too, could be a soldier. "It's a good way to get rich," he thought to himself. It was a good way in those times. Nowadays people don't get rich by killing each other; but in the olden days, to be a soldier was one of the best ways to get money and become great.
So Pizarro, who was now quite big and strong, became a soldier. A great war was being fought in Italy, and Pizarro was sent there with other Spanish soldiers to fight for his King. The young man was very brave. I think that, even then, he was cruel, but the Spaniards did not care about that, so long as he was only brave. So when he came back from the great war in Italy, everybody said "Pizarro is a very good soldier."
Now, in the meantime, Columbus had found America. I told you in another story, how the people in Spain were very glad over the news, and how everybody wanted to go to the wonderful new lands to make a fortune. Well, you may be sure that Pizarro wanted to go too; but for a long time he could not leave Spain. I cannot tell you why, because I do not know myself. Anyhow, he could not. But at last he got a chance, and with a band of other Spaniards went to the new country that Columbus had found.
By this time Pizarro was no longer a boy, nor even a young man; he was almost forty years of age. He had seen many lands and done many things; yet he was still poor, and it seemed to him as though the castle that he had dreamed of as a boy was as far away as ever.
Well, at first America was no better than Spain. Pizarro lived on a rich island, which was then named Hispaniola, but which is now called Cuba. There were many other Spaniards on the island, and these were all just as greedy and anxious to get rich as Pizarro. They were a very wicked set of men. All the bad things that a man can do they did; but above all, they were cruel to the poor Indians. They used to make the red men work for them day and night, and if the work was not enough, they beat the poor Indians until they died. I think that Pizarro was just as cruel as the rest; but in spite of his wickedness he did not get rich.
Now, after a while, when Pizarro was almost fifty years old, he went to a new country in America, where the Indians were very rich, and where there were very few Spaniards. This was the land of Darien, where Balboa had gone about ten years before. Here the friendly Indians had much gold and many beautiful jewels. They gave to Pizarro many precious stones and more gold than he had had in all his life; so the swineherd became rich at last.
But Pizarro was not satisfied even with these riches. The more he had, the more he wanted; so one day, when he heard of some islands in the great ocean to the West, where the Indians were very rich, he made up his mind to go to these islands and take the gold from these Indians. His men were very glad to go, so they got canoes and paddled out to where the islands lay. This was a very bold thing to do, because the sea was rough, and many times the canoes turned over and the soldiers were almost drowned.
At last they reached the island, and Pizarro, standing up in his canoe, saw the Indians crowding on the beach, with their bows and arrows in hand, ready to shoot the first Spaniard who landed. Now, Pizarro, though a wicked and greedy man, was very brave; so he told his soldiers to fire their guns. As soon as the Indians heard the guns of the Spaniards they were frightened, and after a little battle they ran away. Then Pizarro and his men landed on the sandy beach. Here they found many pearls, which they took, and when there were no more pearls on the island, they paddled back to their homes.
When Pizarro had sold these pearls he was very rich indeed. He had now enough money to buy his castle. It was really not exactly a castle, but a fine, big house in Darien, with fields around it and cattle, and a great many Indian servants to do whatever Pizarro wanted. You would think now that Pizarro would be satisfied, for he was a hundred times richer than the other little boy who used to live in the castle in the old, old days when Pizarro was only a swineherd.
But the greedy Pizarro was never satisfied. After a few years, he heard how the brave Cortez had conquered Mexico, and he heard, too, that Cortez had become even richer than he was. So Pizarro wanted to be as rich as Cortez, and he looked around for a new nation to conquer.
Now, at this time there was living in Peru, many hundreds of miles to the South, a great tribe of Indians called the Incas. They were not savages, but wise, kind people like the Aztecs of Mexico, whom Cortez had conquered. These Incas were very rich. They had wonderful gold and silver mines, and they owned so much gold and silver that they could cover walls with them; and they also had precious stones, green emeralds, red rubies, blue sapphires and beautiful, brilliant diamonds that glistened in the sun.
I could tell you many things about these curious people—how they prayed to the sun and the moon instead of to God; of the wonderful temples and palaces that they built; of their fine, hard roads cut through the mountains, and of the King's messengers, who ran along these roads, day and night, carrying news. I could tell you how all the people obeyed the Inca, who was King of the country; how they all worked for him, and how he gave them food and clothing and houses, so that no man in all the land was ever hungry or thirsty or cold.
Now, when Pizarro heard of these Incas, he thought to himself, "I will go up to Peru and fight with these people, and take away from them all their gold and silver and jewels and all their cities and palaces." I think that it was wicked of Pizarro to want to disturb these good, quiet people, and it seems to me that the man who had been a poor swineherd should have been satisfied with the money he had, and could have left the Incas alone.
But Pizarro was always greedy. He got together a little band of soldiers and started to go up to Peru. I say up, because Peru was high up among the mountains. Pizarro thought that it would be easy to find Peru; but things did not go as he had hoped. Nobody could tell him where the great country lay, and there were no maps to show him the way. By mistake, Pizarro and his little army landed on a lonely desert island in the Pacific Ocean. There were swamps and marshes on this island, and there was little to eat, and even the water was not good to drink. The men suffered from mosquitoes and great flies, that stung them so they could not sleep. And worse than all, there were poisonous snakes that bit the men so that they died. They suffered from hunger and thirst, and some fell sick and died. Pizarro sent back his ship for more men and more food, and I am sure he was glad when, after a few weeks, the white sails were seen again. The ship brought plenty of food; but the Governor of Darien, who was jealous of Pizarro, would not send any more soldiers. Instead, he sent word by the ship to Pizarro, saying, "Pizarro, you must come back to Darien."
Now, the men were only too glad to go back. They had suffered enough, and they did not want to be bitten and starved any more—no, not for a hundred Perus. "We will go home," they said, "as our Governor says." At first the bold Pizarro said nothing; then with the point of his sword he drew a sharp line in the sand.
"North of this line," he said, "is home; south of this line are Peru and glory and gold." And then he stepped across the line, meaning that he was going to Peru, even if he had to go alone. The soldiers all saw that Pizarro was a brave man, but none of them wanted to go with him. "We do not wish to be killed," they said to themselves. At last, the pilot of the ship, a brave, reckless fellow, with a long beard, named Luiz, crossed the line. "I go," he said, "wherever Pizarro leads." After that others followed. At last there were thirteen men across the line who were willing to go with Francisco Pizarro.
These brave men, I can tell you, had a pretty hard time before they reached Peru. They had to cross the sea on a raft, which is a very dangerous thing to do. But the Indians were kind to them and gave them food to eat, and when they got to Peru the Incas were even kinder. Now, Pizarro was not only greedy, but he was also very deceitful, and he made believe to the Incas that he was their friend; but all the time that he was taking their beautiful presents, he was learning about the country, so that he could come back in a little while with a bigger army and rob and murder them.
And, in a few years, Pizarro did come back with a big army. This time he had two hundred men and thirty horses and a great many guns. The Incas in all their lives had never seen a horse, and had never seen people killed with guns; so Pizarro knew that they would be very much frightened when they saw his men on horses, and saw the guns that killed with bullets. And they were afraid. Wherever Pizarro and his soldiers went, the Incas lost their courage. When they saw a man on a horse, they thought that it was all one animal, half man and half horse; and so frightened were they, that Pizarro came to one city that was quite empty, for all the people had run away in fear of the cruel Spaniards who were half men and half horses.
Yet I do not think that Pizarro would have conquered Peru if he had fought fair. There were so many soldiers among the Incas that they seemed to spring up everywhere; but Pizarro was very crafty, and he thought out a very clever, cruel plot. He made believe he was a friend to the Inca, who was the great King of all these people, and he invited him on a visit. Then when the Inca came to visit Pizarro, that wicked man had him arrested and cast into prison, and all the Indians who were with the Inca were killed or driven away.
Now, the Inca was a very brave young man, but he did not want to be killed. He knew that when he was dead, his soldiers would lose their courage. After a while, he noticed that Pizarro was very greedy for gold; so he said to him, "If you will let me go free, Pizarro, I will fill up this room with gold, and it will all be yours."
The greedy old Pizarro was very happy over this, for he always wanted gold. Now, I do not know why any man should want so very much gold, because you cannot eat it or drink it or wear it. But Pizarro was greedy, as greedy as any old man in all the world, and so he promised the Inca to let him go free if he filled up the room with gold. The Inca sent for his messengers, and day after day the servants of the Inca came carrying great heaps of gold. At last, after six months, the room was almost filled to the ceiling; but even then the treacherous Pizarro did not keep his word. He made believe that the Inca was trying to raise an army against the Spaniards (which I think he would have had a right to do if he wanted to, for, after all, the country belonged to him and not to the cruel Spaniards); so, instead of letting the brave Inca go home, as he had promised, the cruel Pizarro told him he must die, and the very same day he had the Inca put to death.
After that, the greedy, deceitful Pizarro got more gold, and more gold, and always more and more and more. Wherever he went he made the people give him money. He really ruled the country, although he pretended to the Indians that he did not, and he ruled it very cruelly indeed, and every day he became richer.
But after all, the money he got did not do him any good. He was now one of the richest men in all the world. But nobody loved him, and I think that in his secret heart Pizarro was not very happy. Every day the savage old man became more greedy and more wicked and more cruel, until not only did the Indians fear him and hate him, but the Spaniards hated him even more. There was a man named Almagro, who had once been his friend; but Pizarro cheated him, too, and then murdered him. Well, at last, one day, the son of this Almagro, a young man named Diego, went to Pizarro's palace with some of his friends. "You have killed my father," cried Diego; "now it is your turn." The cruel old Pizarro, though he was seventy years old, fought bravely to the end; but he was stabbed over and over again, and at last he fell dead at the feet of Diego.
And thus ended the life of the brave, wicked Pizarro, the swineherd who wanted a castle. He became one of the richest men in all the world and conquered a nation; yet sometimes I think he would have been happier if he had always remained till the end of his days a poor swineherd.