First, about twenty soldiers, only one-half of whom were on foot; the other half being borne, incredible as it may seem, each in a chair on the back of a single Indian, while those who marched had consigned their heaviest armor and their arquebuses into the hands of attendant slaves, who were each pricked on at will by the pike of the soldier behind them.

“The men are mad to let their ordnance out of their hands.”

“Oh, sir, an Indian will pray to an arquebus not to shoot him; he sure their artillery is safe enough,” said Yeo.

“Look at the proud villains,” whispered another, “to make dumb beasts of human creatures like that!”

“Ten shot,” counted the business-like Amyas, “and ten pikes; Will can tackle them up above.”

Last of this troop came some inferior officer, also in his chair, who, as he went slowly up the hill, with his face turned toward the gang which followed, drew every other second the cigar from his lips, to inspirit them with those pious ejaculations to the various objects of his worship, divine, human, anatomic, wooden and textile, which earned for the pious Spaniards of the sixteenth century the uncharitable imputation of being at once the most fetish-ridden idolaters and the most abominable swearers of all Europeans.

“The blasphemous dog!” said Yeo, fumbling at his bow-string, as if he longed to send an arrow through him. But Amyas had hardly laid his finger on the impatient veteran’s arm, when another procession followed, which made them forget all else.

A sad and hideous sight it was: yet one too common even then in those remoter districts, where the humane edicts were disregarded which the prayers of Dominican friars (to their everlasting honor be it spoken) had wrung from the Spanish sovereigns, and which the legislation of that most wise, virtuous, and heroic Inquisitor (paradoxical as the words may seem), Pedro de la Gasca, had carried into effect in Peru,—futile and tardy alleviations of cruelties and miseries unexampled in the history of Christendom, or perhaps on earth, save in the conquests of Sennacherib and Zingis Khan. But on the frontiers, where negroes were imported to endure the toil which was found fatal to the Indian, and all Indian tribes convicted (or suspected) of cannibalism were hunted down for the salvation of their souls and the enslavement of their bodies, such scenes as these were still too common; and, indeed, if we are to judge from Humboldt’s impartial account, were not very much amended even at the close of the last century, in those much- boasted Jesuit missions in which (as many of them as existed anywhere but on paper) military tyranny was superadded to monastic, and the Gospel preached with fire and sword, almost as shamelessly as by the first Conquistadores.

A line of Indians, Negroes, and Zambos, naked, emaciated, scarred with whips and fetters, and chained together by their left wrists, toiled upwards, panting and perspiring under the burden of a basket held up by a strap which passed across their foreheads. Yeo’s sneer was but too just; there were not only old men and youths among them, but women; slender young girls, mothers with children, running at their knee; and, at the sight, a low murmur of indignation rose from the ambushed Englishmen, worthy of the free and righteous hearts of those days, when Raleigh could appeal to man and God, on the ground of a common humanity, in behalf of the outraged heathens of the New World; when Englishmen still knew that man was man, and that the instinct of freedom was the righteous voice of God; ere the hapless seventeenth century had brutalized them also, by bestowing on them, amid a hundred other bad legacies, the fatal gift of negro-slaves.

But the first forty, so Amyas counted, bore on their backs a burden which made all, perhaps, but him and Yeo, forget even the wretches who bore it. Each basket contained a square package of carefully corded hide; the look whereof friend Amyas knew full well.

“What’s in they, captain?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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