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Title: Hernando Cortez - Makers of History
Author: Abbott, John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot), 1805-1877
Language: English
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 Makers of History

 Hernando Cortez





 Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand
 eight hundred and fifty-six, by


 in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the Southern District
 of New York.

 Copyright, 1884, by SUSAN ABBOT MEAD.


The career of Hernando Cortez is one of the most wild and adventurous
recorded in the annals of fact or fiction, and yet all the prominent
events in his wondrous history are well authenticated. All _truth_
carries with itself an important moral. The writer, in this narrative,
has simply attempted to give a vivid idea of the adventures of
Cortez and his companions in the Conquest of Mexico. There are many
inferences of vast moment to which the recital leads. These are so
obvious that they need not be pointed out by the writer.

A small portion of this volume has appeared in Harper's Magazine, in
an article furnished by the writer upon the Conquest of Mexico.


 Chapter                                                    Page

    I. THE DISCOVERY OF MEXICO                               13

   II. EARLY LIFE OF CORTEZ                                  28

  III. THE VOYAGE TO MEXICO                                  57

   IV. FOUNDING A COLONY                                     84

    V. THE TLASCALANS SUBJUGATED                            117

   VI. THE MARCH TO MEXICO                                  150

  VII. THE METROPOLIS INVADED                               184

 VIII. BATTLE OF THE DISMAL NIGHT                           214

   IX. THE CAPITAL BESIEGED AND CAPTURED                    246

    X. THE CONQUEST CONSUMMATED                             281

   XI. THE EXPEDITION TO HONDURAS                           305

  XII. THE LAST DAYS OF CORTEZ                              330



 AMERICA DISCOVERED                                          16

 CORTEZ TAKING LEAVE OF THE GOVERNOR                         47

 CUBA                                                        52



 OF MONTEZUMA                                                94

 ROUTE OF CORTEZ                                            105

 DESTROYING THE IDOLS AT ZEMPOALLA                          120

 MASSACRE IN CHOLULA                                        161

 FIRST VIEW OF THE MEXICAN CAPITAL                          168

 THE MEETING OF CORTEZ AND MONTEZUMA                        177

 THE CITY OF MEXICO                                         190

 THE FALL OF MONTEZUMA                                      222

 THE BATTLE UPON THE CAUSEWAY                               232

 THE CAPTURE OF GUATEMOZIN                                  260




The shore of America in 1492.--Doubt and alarm.--A light appears.--He
watches the light.--The shore is seen.--The Spaniards land and are
hospitably received.--Mexico is discovered.--Arts and sciences of the
Mexicans.--The mines of precious metals.--Code of laws.--Punishments.
--Slavery.--Military glory.--Mexican mythology.--The three states of
existence.--Infant baptism.--Worship.--The temples and altars.--Mode
of offering sacrifice.--City of Mexico.--Montezuma.--Civilization of
the inhabitants.--The Governor of Cuba resolves to subjugate the
country.--Motives for carrying on conquests.--Hernando Cortez.

Three hundred and fifty years ago the ocean which washes the shores of
America was one vast and silent solitude. No ship plowed its waves; no
sail whitened its surface. On the 11th of October, 1492, three small
vessels might have been seen invading, for the first time, these
hitherto unknown waters. They were as specks on the bosom of infinity.
The sky above, the ocean beneath, gave no promise of any land. Three
hundred adventurers were in these ships. Ten weeks had already passed
since they saw the hills of the Old World sink beneath the horizon.

For weary days and weeks they had strained their eyes looking toward
the west, hoping to see the mountains of the New World rising in the
distance. The illustrious adventurer, Christopher Columbus, who guided
these frail barks, inspired by science and by faith, doubted not that
a world would ere long emerge before him from the apparently boundless
waters. But the blue sky still overarched them, and the heaving ocean
still extended in all directions its unbroken and interminable

Discouragement and alarm now pervaded nearly all hearts, and there was
a general clamor for return to the shores of Europe. Christopher
Columbus, sublime in the confidence with which his exalted nature
inspired him, was still firm and undaunted in his purpose.


The night of the 11th of October darkened over these lonely
adventurers. The stars came out in all the brilliance of tropical
splendor. A fresh breeze drove the ships with increasing speed over
the billows, and cooled, as with balmy zephyrs, brows heated through
the day by the blaze of a meridian sun. Columbus could not sleep.
He stood upon the deck of his ship, silent and sad, yet indomitable
in energy, gazing with intense and unintermitted watch into the
dusky distance. It was near midnight. Suddenly he saw a light, as
of a torch, far off in the horizon. His heart throbbed with an
irrepressible tumult of excitement. Was it a meteor, or was it a light
from the long-wished-for land? It disappeared, and all again was
dark. But suddenly again it gleamed forth, feeble and dim in the
distance, yet distinct. Soon again the exciting ray was quenched, and
nothing disturbed the dark and sombre outline of the sea. The long
hours of the night to Columbus seemed interminable as he waited
impatiently for the dawn. But even before any light was seen in the
east, the dim outline of land appeared in indisputable distinctness
before the eyes of the entranced, the now immortalized navigator. A
cannon--the signal of the discovery--rolled its peal over the ocean,
announcing to the two vessels in the rear the joyful tidings. A shout,
excited by the heart's intensest emotions, rose over the waves, and
with tears, with prayers, and embraces, these enthusiastic men
accepted the discovery of the New World.

The bright autumnal morning dawned in richest glory, presenting to
them a scene as of a celestial paradise. The luxuriance of tropical
vegetation bloomed in all its novelty around them. The inhabitants,
many of them in the simple and innocent costume of Eden before
the fall, crowded the shore, gazing with attitude and gesture of
astonishment upon the strange phenomena of the ships. The adventurers
landed, and were received upon the island of San Salvador as angels
from heaven by the peaceful and friendly natives. Bitterly has the
hospitality been requited. After cruising around for some time among
the beautiful islands of the New World, Columbus returned to Spain to
astonish Europe with the tidings of his discovery. He had been absent
but seven months.

A quarter of a century passed away, during which all the adventurers
of Europe were busy exploring these newly-discovered islands and
continents. Various colonies were established in the fertile valleys
of these sunny climes, and upon the hill-sides which emerged, in the
utmost magnificence of vegetation, from the bosom of the Caribbean
Sea. The eastern coast of North America had been during this time
surveyed from Labrador to Florida. The bark of the navigator had
discovered nearly all the islands of the West Indies, and had crept
along the winding shores of the Isthmus of Darien, and of the South
American continent as far as the River La Plata. Bold explorers,
guided by intelligence received from the Indians, had even penetrated
the interior of the isthmus, and from the summit of the central
mountain barrier had gazed with delight upon the placid waves of the
Pacific. But the vast indentation of the Mexican Gulf, sweeping far
away in an apparently interminable circuit to the west, had not yet
been penetrated. The field for romantic adventure which these
unexplored realms presented could not, however, long escape the eye of
that chivalrous age.

Some exploring expeditions were soon fitted out from Cuba, and the
shores of Mexico were discovered. Here every thing exhibited the
traces of a far higher civilization than had hitherto been witnessed
in the New World. There were villages, and even large cities, thickly
planted throughout the country. Temples and other buildings, imposing
in massive architecture, were reared of stone and lime. Armies, laws,
and a symbolical form of writing indicated a very considerable advance
in the arts and the energies of civilization. Many of the arts were
cultivated. Cloth was made of cotton, and of skins nicely prepared.
Astronomy was sufficiently understood for the accurate measurement of
time in the divisions of the solar year. It is indeed a wonder, as yet
unexplained, where these children of the New World acquired so
philosophical an acquaintance with the movements of the heavenly
bodies. Agriculture was practiced with much scientific skill, and a
system of irrigation introduced, from which many a New England farmer
might learn many a profitable lesson. Mines of gold, silver, lead, and
copper were worked. Many articles of utility and of exquisite beauty
were fabricated from these metals. Iron, the ore of which must pass
through so many processes before it is prepared for use, was unknown
to them. The Spanish goldsmiths, admiring the exquisite workmanship of
the gold and silver ornaments of the Mexicans, bowed to their

Fairs were held in the great market-places of the principal cities
every fifth day, where buyers and sellers in vast numbers thronged.
They had public schools, courts of justice, a class of nobles, and a
powerful monarch. The territory embraced by this wonderful kingdom was
twice as large as the whole of New England.

The code of laws adopted by this strange people was very severe. They
seemed to cherish but little regard for human life, and the almost
universal punishment for crime was death. This bloody code secured a
very effective police. Adultery, thieving, removing landmarks,
altering measures, defrauding a ward of property, intemperance, and
even idleness, with spendthrift habits, were punished pitilessly with
death. The public mind was so accustomed to this, that death lost a
portion of its solemnity. The rites of marriage were very formally
enacted, and very rigidly adhered to.

Prisoners taken in war were invariably slain upon their religious
altars in sacrifice to their gods. Slavery existed among them, but not
hereditary. No one could be born a slave. The poor sometimes sold
their children. The system existed in its mildest possible form, as
there was no distinction of race between the master and the slave.

Military glory was held in high repute. Fanaticism lent all its
allurements to inspire the soldier. Large armies were trained to very
considerable military discipline. Death upon the battle-field was a
sure passport to the most sunny and brilliant realms of the heavenly
world. The soldiers wore coats of mail of wadded cotton, which neither
arrow nor javelin could easily penetrate. The chiefs wore over these
burnished plates of silver and of gold. Silver helmets, also, often
glittered upon the head. Hospitals were established for the sick and
the wounded.

Their religious system was an incongruous compound of beauty and of
deformity--of gentleness and of ferocity. They believed in one supreme
God, the Great Spirit, with several hundred inferior deities. The god
of war was a very demon. The god of the air was a refined deity, whose
altars were embellished with fruits and flowers, and upon whose ear
the warbling of birds and the most plaintive strains of vocal melody
vibrated sweetly.

There were, in their imaginations, three states of existence in the
future world. The good, and especially those, of whatever character,
who fell upon the field of battle, soared to the sun, and floated in
aerial grace and beauty among the clouds, in peace and joy, never to
be disturbed. The worthless, indifferent sort of people, neither good
nor bad, found perhaps a congenial home in the monotony of a listless
and almost lifeless immortality, devoid of joy or grief. The wicked
were imprisoned in everlasting darkness, where they could do no
farther harm.

It is an extraordinary fact that the rite of infant baptism existed
among them. This fact is attested by the Spanish historians, who
witnessed it with their own eyes, and who have recorded the truly
Christian prayers offered on the occasion. As the infants were
sprinkled with water, God was implored to wash them from original sin,
and to create them anew. Many of their prayers dimly reflected those
pure and ennobling sentiments which shine so brilliantly in the word
of God.

Their worship must have been a costly one, as the most majestic
temples were reared, and an army of priests was supported. One single
temple in the metropolis had five thousand priests attached to its
service. The whole business of youthful instruction was confided to
the priests. They received confession, and possessed the power of

The temples were generally pyramidal structures of enormous magnitude.
Upon the broad area of their summits an altar was erected, where human
victims, usually prisoners taken in war, were offered in sacrifice.
These awful ceremonies were conducted with the most imposing pomp of
music, banners, and military and ecclesiastical processions. The
victim offered in sacrifice was bound immovably to the stone altar.
The officiating priest, with a sharp instrument constructed of
flint-like lava, cut open his breast, and tore out the warm and
palpitating heart. This bloody sacrifice was presented in devout
offering to the god. At times, in the case of prisoners taken in war,
the most horrid tortures were practiced before the bloody rite was
terminated. When the gods seemed to frown, in dearth, or pestilence,
or famine, large numbers of children were frequently offered in
sacrifice. Thus the temples of Mexico were ever clotted with blood.
Still more revolting is the well-authenticated fact that the body of
the wretched victim thus sacrificed was often served up as a banquet,
and was eaten with every accompaniment of festive rejoicing. It is
estimated that from thirty to fifty thousand thus perished every year
upon the altars of ancient Mexico. One of the great objects of their
wars was to obtain victims for their gods.

The population of this vast empire is not known. It must have
consisted, however, of several millions. The city of Mexico, situated
on islands in the bosom of a lake in the centre of a spacious and
magnificent valley of the interior, about two hundred miles from the
coast, was the metropolis of the realm.

Montezuma was king--an aristocratic king, surrounded by nobles, upon
whom he conferred all the honors and emoluments of the state. His
palace was very magnificent. He was served from plates and goblets of
silver and gold. Six hundred feudatory nobles composed his daily
retinue, paying him the most obsequious homage, and expecting the same
from those beneath themselves. Montezuma claimed to be lord of the
whole world, and exacted tribute from all whom his arm could reach.
His triumphant legions had invaded and subjugated many adjacent
states, as this _Roman empire_ of the New World extended in all
directions its powerful sway.

It will thus be seen that the kingdom of Mexico, in point of
civilization, was about on an equality with the Chinese empire of the
present day. Its inhabitants were very decidedly elevated above the
wandering hordes of North America.

Montezuma had heard of the arrival, in the islands of the Caribbean
Sea, of the strangers from another hemisphere. He had heard of their
appalling power, their aggressions, and their pitiless cruelty. Wisely
he resolved to exclude these dangerous visitors from his shores. As
exploring expeditions entered his bays and rivers, they were fiercely
attacked and driven away. These expeditions, however, brought back to
Cuba most alluring accounts of the rich empire of Mexico and of its
golden opulence.

The Governor of Cuba now resolved to fit out an expedition
sufficiently powerful to subjugate their country, and make it one of
the vassals of Spain. It was a dark period of the world. Human rights
were but feebly discerned. Superstition reigned over hearts and
consciences with a fearfully despotic sway. Acts, upon which would now
fall the reproach of unmitigated villainy, were then performed with
prayers and thanksgivings honestly offered. We shall but tell the
impartial story of the wondrous career of Cortez in the subjugation of
this empire. God, the searcher of all hearts, can alone unravel the
mazes of conscientiousness and depravity, and award the just meed of
approval and condemnation.

Many good motives were certainly united with those more questionable
which inspired this enterprise. It was a matter of national ambition
to promote geographical discoveries, to enlarge the realms of
commerce, and to extend the boundaries of human knowledge by
investigating the arts and the sciences of other nations. The
Christian religion--Heaven's greatest boon to man--was destined, by
the clear announcements of prophecy, to fill the world; and it was
deemed the duty of the Church to extend these triumphs in all possible
ways. The importance of the end to be attained, it was thought, would
sanctify even the instrumentality of violence and blood. Wealth and
honors were among the earthly rewards promised to the faithful.

Allowances must be made for the darkness of the age. It is by very
slow and painful steps that the human mind has attained to even its
present unsteady position in regard to civil and religious rights.

The Governor of Cuba, Velasquez, looked earnestly for a man to head
this important enterprise. He found just the man for the occasion in
Hernando Cortez--a fearless, energetic Spanish adventurer, then
residing upon the island of Cuba. His early life will be found in the
next chapter.



Village of Medellin.--Early character of Cortez.--Hernando sent to
Salamanca.--Life at the university.--He turns soldier.--Expedition to
Hispaniola.--His early love, and unfortunate consequences attending
it.--He arrives at Hispaniola.--Patronage of the governor.--Life at
Hispaniola.--Cortez's courage.--The island of Cuba.--The new governor.
--The filibustering expedition.--Resistance.--Hatuey condemned to
death.--His conversation.--The colony.--The conspiracy.--Cortez
imprisoned.--He flees to a church.--Arrest and escape.--Cortez is
pardoned.--His marriage.--Voyage of discovery.--Discoveries.--
Disasters.--Reports from Yucatan.--Another expedition.--It arrives
at Mexico.--Accounts from Montezuma.--The golden hatchets.--Reports
carried to Spain.--Cortez obtains a commission.--His enthusiasm.--
Mission and means.--The governor alarmed.--Attempt to deprive Cortez
of the command.--The squadron sails.--Cortez and the governor.--St.
Jago and Trinidad.--The standard.--Providential gifts.--Orders to
arrest Cortez.--His speech.--The result.--Cortez writes to Velasquez.
--The squadron proceeds to Cape Antonio.--The armament.--Personal
appearance of Cortez.--The eve of departure.--The harangue.--Result
of the speech.--The squadron sails.

In the interior of Spain, in the midst of the sombre mountains whose
confluent streams compose the waters of the Guadiana, there reposes
the little village or hamlet of Medellin. A more secluded spot it
would be difficult to find. Three hundred and seventy years ago, in
the year 1485, Hernando Cortez was born in this place. His ancestors
had enjoyed wealth and rank. The family was now poor, but proud of the
Castilian blood which flowed in their veins. The father of Hernando
was a captain in the army--a man of honorable character. Of his mother
but little is known.

Not much has been transmitted to our day respecting the childhood
of this extraordinary man. It is reported that he early developed
a passion for wild adventure; that he was idle and wayward; frank,
fearless, and generous; that he loved to explore the streams and
to climb the cliffs of his mountainous home, and that he ever
appeared reckless of danger. He was popular with his companions, for
warm-heartedness and magnanimity were prominent in his character.

His father, though struggling with poverty, cherished ambitious views
for his son, and sent him to the celebrated university of Salamanca
for an education. He wished Hernando to avoid the perils and
temptations of the camp, and to enter the honorable profession of the
law. Hernando reluctantly obeyed the wishes of his father, and went
to the university. But he scorned restraint. He despised all the
employments of industry, and study was his especial abhorrence. Two
years were worse than wasted in the university. Young Cortez was both
indolent and dissipated. In all the feats of mischief he was the
ringleader, and his books were entirely neglected. He received
many censures, and was on the point of being expelled, when his
disappointed father withdrew the wayward boy from the halls of the
university, and took him home.

Hernando was now sixteen years of age. There was nothing for him to do
in the seclusion of his native village but to indulge in idleness.
This he did with great diligence. He rode horses; he hunted and
fished; he learned the art of the swordsman and played the soldier.
Hot blood glowed in his veins, and he became genteelly dissolute; his
pride would never allow him to stoop to vulgarity. The father was
grief-stricken by the misconduct of his son, and at last consented to
gratify the passion which inspired him to become a soldier.

At seventeen years of age the martial boy enlisted in an expedition,
under Gonsalvo de Cordova, to assist the Italians against the French.
Young Cortez, to his bitter disappointment, just as the expedition
started, was taken seriously sick, and was obliged to be left behind.
Soon after this, one of his relatives was appointed, by the Spanish
crown, governor of St. Domingo, now called Hayti, but then called
Hispaniola, or Little Spain. This opening to scenes and adventures in
the New World was attractive to the young cavalier in the highest
possible degree. It was, indeed, an enterprise which might worthily
arouse the enthusiasm of any mind. A large fleet was equipped to
convey nearly three thousand settlers to found a colony beneath the
sunny skies and under the orange groves of the tropics. Life there
seemed the elysium of the indolent man. Young Cortez now rejoiced
heartily over his previous disappointment. His whole soul was
engrossed in the contemplation of the wild and romantic adventures in
which he expected to luxuriate. It is not to be supposed that a lad of
such a temperament should, at the age of seventeen, be a stranger to
the passion of love. There was a young lady in his native village for
whom he had formed a strong youthful attachment. He resolved, with his
accustomed ardor and recklessness, to secure an interview with his
lady-love, where parting words and pledges should not be witnessed by
prudent relatives.

One dark night, just before the squadron sailed, the ardent lover
climbed a mouldering wall to reach the window of the young lady's
chamber. In the obscurity he slipped and fell, and some heavy stones
from the crumbling wall fell upon him. He was conveyed to his bed,
severely wounded and helpless. The fleet sailed, and the young man,
almost insane with disappointment and chagrin, was left upon his bed
of pain.

At length he recovered. His father secured for him a passage to join
the colonists in another ship. He, with exultation, left Medellin,
hastened to the sea-shore, where he embarked, and after an unusually
adventurous and perilous voyage, he gazed with delight upon the
tropical vegetation and the new scenes of life of Hispaniola. It was
the year 1504. Cortez was then nineteen years of age.

The young adventurer, immediately upon landing, proceeded to the house
of his relative, Governor Ovando. The governor happened to be absent,
but his secretary received the young man very cordially.

"I have no doubt," said he to Hernando, "that you will receive a
liberal grant of land to cultivate."

"I come to get gold," Hernando replied, haughtily, "not to till the
soil like a peasant."

Ovando, on his return, took his young relative under his patronage,
and assigned to him posts of profit and honor. Still Cortez was very
restless. His impatient spirit wearied of the routine of daily duty,
and his imagination was ever busy in the domain of wild adventure.

Two Spaniards upon the island of Hispaniola about this time planned an
expedition for exploring the main land, to make discoveries and to
select spots for future settlements. Cortez eagerly joined the
enterprise, but again was he doomed to disappointment. Just before the
vessels sailed he was seized by a fever, and laid prostrate upon his
bed. Probably his life was thus saved. Nearly all who embarked on this
enterprise perished by storm, disease, and the poisoned arrows of the

Seven years passed away, during which Cortez led an idle and
voluptuous life, ever ready for any daring adventure which might
offer, and miserably attempting to beguile the weariness of provincial
life with guilty amours. He accepted a plantation from the governor,
which was cultivated by slaves. His purse was thus ever well filled.
Not unfrequently he became involved in duels, and he bore upon his
body until death many scars received in these encounters. Military
expeditions were not unfrequently sent out to quell the insurrections
to which the natives of the island were goaded by the injustice and
the cruelty of the Spaniards.

Cortez was always an eager volunteer for such service. His courage and
imperturbable self-possession made him an invaluable co-operator in
every enterprise of danger. He thus became acquainted with all the
artifices of Indian warfare, and inured himself to the toil and
privations of forest life.

In the year 1492 the magnificent island of Cuba, but a few leagues
from Hispaniola, had been discovered by Columbus. As he approached the
land, the grandeur of the mountains, the wide sweep of the valleys,
the stately forests, the noble rivers, the bold promontories and
headlands, melting away in the blue of the hazy distance, impressed
him with unbounded admiration. As he sailed up one of the beautiful
rivers of crystal clearness, fringed with flowers, and aromatic
shrubs, and tropical fruits, while the overhanging trees were vocal
with the melody of birds of every variety of song and plumage,
enraptured he exclaimed,

"Cuba! It is the most beautiful island that eyes ever beheld. It is an
elysium. One could live there forever."

The natives of the favored land were amiable and friendly. The
Spaniards did not for several years encroach upon their rights, and no
Spanish colony was established upon their enchanting shores. It was
now the year 1511. Nineteen years had elapsed since the discovery of
the island. Ovando had been recalled, and Diego Columbus, the son of
Christopher, had been appointed, in his stead, governor of Hispaniola.
He took the title of Viceroy, and assumed all the splendors of
royalty. Diego Columbus devoutly decided that it was manifest destiny
that Cuba should belong to Spain. He organized a _filibustering_
expedition to wrest from the natives their beautiful island. The
command of the expedition was intrusted to Don Velasquez, a bold
adventurer, of much notoriety, from Spain, who had been residing for
many years at Hispaniola, and who had been lieutenant under Governor
Ovando. A foray of this kind would, of course, excite the patriotic
zeal of every vagabond. Cortez was one of the first to hasten to the
standard of Velasquez. The natives of the island, unarmed and
voluptuous, made hardly the shadow of resistance, and three hundred
Spanish adventurers, with but a slight struggle, took possession of
this magnificent domain. The reputation and ability of Cortez gave him
a prominent position in this adventure.

One brave and patriotic Indian chief, who had fled from the outrages
perpetrated at Hispaniola, urged the Cubans to repel the invaders.
Though unable to rouse in a mass the peace-loving islanders, he
gathered a small band around him, and valiantly contended to resist
the landing. His efforts were quite unavailing. Gunpowder soon
triumphed. The Indians were speedily put to flight, and the chieftain
Hatuey was taken prisoner.

Velasquez ignobly and cruelly condemned the heroic patriot to be
burned alive; but religiously the fanatic invader wished, though he
burned the body, to save the soul. A priest was appointed to labor for
the conversion of the victim.

"If you will embrace our religion," said the priest, "as soon as the
fire has consumed your body, you will enter heaven, and be happy there

"Are there Spaniards," inquired Hatuey, "in that happy place of which
you speak?"

"Yes," replied the priest; "such as are holy."

"Then I will not go there!" Hatuey energetically rejoined. "I will
never go to a place where I shall meet one of that cruel people."

The poor Indian was burned to ashes. The natives gazed upon the
spectacle with horror. They were appalled, and ventured to make no
farther resistance to their terrible conquerors.

Such is Spain's title-deed to the island of Cuba. God has not smiled
upon regions thus infamously won. May the United States take warning
that all her possessions may be honorably acquired. "God helps," says
blind unbelief, "the heavy battalions;" but experience has fully
proved that "the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to
the strong."

One or two colonies were soon established upon the conquered island.
They grew very rapidly. Velasquez was appointed governor; Cortez was
his secretary.

Many families were enticed from Spain by the charms of this most
beautiful of the isles of the ocean. A gentleman came from old Castile
with four beautiful daughters. Velasquez became attached to one;
Cortez trifled grievously with the affections of another. The governor
reproached him for his infamous conduct. The proud spirit of Cortez
could not brook reproof, and he entered into a conspiracy to proffer
complaints against the governor, and to secure his removal. It was a
bold and a perilous undertaking.

Cortez prepared to embark in an open boat, and push out fearlessly but
secretly into the open sea, to make a voyage of nearly sixty miles to
Hispaniola. There he was to enter his complaints to Diego Columbus.
The conspiracy was detected upon the eve of its execution. Cortez was
arrested, manacled, thrown into prison, and was, after trial,
sentenced to death for treason. He, however, succeeded in breaking
his fetters, forced open his prison window, and dropped himself down,
in the darkness of the night, from the second story, and escaped to
the sanctuary of a neighboring church. Such a sanctuary, in that day,
could not be violated.

A guard was secreted to watch him. He remained in the church for
several days. But at length impatience triumphed over prudence, and,
as he attempted one night to escape, he was again arrested, more
strongly chained, and was placed on board a ship to be sent to
Hispaniola for execution.

The code of Spanish law was in that day a bloody one. Spanish
governors were almost unlimited despots. Cortez was not willing to go
to Hispaniola with the cord of a convicted traitor about his neck.
With extraordinary fortitude, he drew his feet, mangling them sadly,
through the irons which shackled them. Creeping cautiously upon deck,
he let himself down softly into the water, swam to the shore, and,
half dead with pain and exhaustion, attained again the sanctuary of
the church.

He now consented to marry the young lady with whose affections and
reputation he had so cruelly trifled. The family, of course, espoused
his cause. The governor, who was the lover of her sister, regarded
this as the _amende honorable_, and again received the hot-blooded
cavalier to his confidence. Thus this black and threatening cloud
suddenly disappeared, and sunshine and calm succeeded the storm.
Cortez returned to his estates with his bride a wiser, and perhaps a
better man, from the severe discipline through which he had passed.
Catalina Suarez, whom he married, was an amiable and beautiful lady of
very estimable character. She eventually quite won the love of her
wayward and fickle husband.

"I lived as happily with her," said the haughty Castilian, "as if she
had been the daughter of a duchess."

Velasquez, like every other Spanish governor at that time, was
ambitious of extending his dominions. In the year 1517, a number of
restless spirits, under his patronage, resolved to sail upon a voyage
of discovery and conquest.

Three vessels were fitted out for this adventure. One hundred and ten
men embarked in the enterprise, under the command of Francisco
Hernandez, of Cordova. Velasquez directed them to land upon some
neighboring islands, and seize a number of inhabitants, and make
slaves of them, to pay the cost of the expedition. "But when the
proposal," says one of the party, "was made known to the soldiers, we
to a man refused it, saying that it was not just, nor did God or the
king permit that free men should be made slaves. That our expedition,"
the same writer continues, "might be conducted on proper principles,
we persuaded a clergyman to accompany us." In fervent prayer,
commending themselves to God and the Virgin, they unfurled their
sails, and steered resolutely toward the setting sun. They discovered
the island of Cozumel and the vast promontory of Yucatan.[A] The
expedition, however, encountered many disasters. The natives assailed
them fiercely. At length the shattered ships returned, having lost
seventy men, and bringing with them quite a number bleeding and dying.
Cordova died of his wounds ten days after arriving at Havana.

[Footnote A: _Yuca_ is the Indian name of the plant used for bread.
The heap of earth in which it is planted is called _tule_. The two
words repeated together made Yucatul, or Yucatan as it was expressed
by the Spaniards.--_Bernal Diaz_, p. 10.]

The tidings, however, of the magnificent discovery, and the fabulous
report that the country was rich in gold, incited Velasquez to fit
out a second expedition of four ships, under the command of Juan
de Grijalva. Two hundred and forty adventurers embarked in the
enterprise. On the 5th day of April, 1518, after having devoutly
partaken of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, the anchors were
lifted, and the little squadron sailed from the port of Matanzas.
Eight days brought them to Cozumel. They then passed over to the
continent, and coasted along the shore for many leagues to the north
and west. They made frequent attempts to land and open intercourse
with the natives, but they were invariably attacked with the utmost
determination. Though the Spaniards were generally victorious in these
conflicts, they lost several men, and very many were sorely wounded.
At length they arrived upon the coast of Mexico, and landed at the
point now called St. Juan de Ulua. Here they were kindly received by
the natives, and acquired considerable gold in exchange for glass
beads. They also obtained vague information of the great monarch
Montezuma, and of the extent and power of his realms. Greatly elated
with this success, Grijalva sent one of his vessels back to Cuba with
specimens of the gold, and with most glowing accounts of the grandeur,
wealth, and power of the newly-discovered empire of Mexico. To their
extreme delight, the voyagers found that the natives had hatchets
apparently of solid burnished gold. The excitement was intense on
board the ships. Six hundred of these hatchets were eagerly bought.
At length the expedition returned to Cuba. The six hundred golden
hatchets were triumphantly displayed, when, to the unutterable chagrin
of their possessors, they proved to be but copper. The disappointed
adventurers were overwhelmed with ridicule. "There was much laughter,"
says Diaz, who accompanied the expedition, "when the six hundred
hatchets were produced and assayed."

The tidings of the discovery of Mexico spread, however, like wildfire
over the island of Cuba. Every bosom which could be moved by avarice
or by the love of adventure was intensely excited. Velasquez promptly
dispatched the welcome intelligence to Spain, and immediately
commenced fitting out another expedition upon a scale of grandeur
hitherto unattempted. No one heard these tidings with such a thrill
of emotion as Hernando Cortez. Though enjoying a rich estate, his
extravagance had involved him in debt and distress. To retrieve his
ruined fortunes, and to gratify his insatiable love of adventure, he
resolved to leave no efforts untried to secure for himself the command
of the expedition.

He bribed some of the powerful friends of the governor to advocate
his cause, promising them a rich share of the booty which he hoped to
obtain. He also offered to contribute largely of his own wealth to fit
out the naval armament.

It was manifest to all that there could not be a man better adapted
to fill such a post than Hernando Cortez. The governor was well
instructed in his energy, capacity, and courage. But he feared these
traits of character. He wished for a man who would act as his agent,
who would be submissive to his authority, and who would transfer the
glory of successful achievement to his name. But Cortez was a man to
lead, not to be led. The governor hesitated. At last he yielded to
the powerful considerations which were pressed upon him, and publicly
announced Cortez as captain general of the armada.

As soon as Cortez received this commission, all the glowing enthusiasm
and tremendous energy of his nature were roused and concentrated upon
this one magnificent object. His whole character seemed suddenly to
experience a total change. He became serious, earnest, thoughtful.
Mighty destinies were in his hands. Deeds were to be accomplished at
which the world was to marvel. Strange as it may seem, for the heart
of man is an inexplicable enigma, religion, perhaps we should say
religious fanaticism, mingled the elements of her mystic power in the
motives which inspired the soul of this extraordinary man. He was to
march the apostle of Christianity to overthrow the idols in the halls
of Montezuma, and there to rear the cross of Christ. It was his
heavenly mission to convert the benighted Indians to the religion of
Jesus. With the energies of fire and sword, misery and blood, horses
rushing to the charge and death-dealing artillery, he was to lead back
the wandering victims of darkness and sin to those paths of piety
which guide to heaven.

Such was Hernando Cortez. Let Philosophy explain the enigma as she
may, no intelligent man will venture the assertion that Cortez was
a hypocrite. He was a frank, fearless, deluded enthusiast.

Governor Velasquez soon became alarmed in view of the independent
energy with which Cortez pressed forward the enterprise. It was quite
evident that the bold adventurer would regard no instructions, and
that, having acquired wealth and fame, he would, with his commanding
genius, become a formidable rival. Velasquez therefore determined,
before it should be too late, to deprive Cortez of the command. But it
was already too late. The energetic captain received from a friend an
intimation of his peril. With the decision which marked his character,
he that very night, though the vessels were not prepared for sea, and
the complement of men was not yet mustered, resolved secretly to weigh

The moment the sun went down he called upon his officers and informed
them of his purpose. Every man was instantly and silently in motion.
At midnight the little squadron, with all on board, dropped down the
bay. Intelligence was promptly conveyed to the governor of this sudden
and unexpected departure. Mounting his horse, he galloped to a point
of the shore which commanded a view of the fleet at anchor in the
roadstead. Cortez, from the deck of his ship, saw the governor upon
the beach surrounded by his retinue. He entered a boat and was rowed
near to the shore. The governor reproached Cortez bitterly for his

"Pardon me," said the captain, courteously; "time presses, and there
are some things which should be done before they are even thought of."

Then, with Castilian grace, waving an adieu to the governor, he
returned to his ship. The anchors were immediately raised, the sails
spread, and the little fleet, the renown of whose extraordinary
achievements was to fill the world, was wafted from the harbor of St.
Jago, and soon disappeared in the distant horizon of the sea.

St. Jago was then the capital of Cuba. Cortez directed his course to
Mocaca, about thirty miles distant. Hastily collecting such additional
stores as the place would afford, he again weighed anchor and
proceeded to Trinidad. This was an important town on the southern
shore of the island. Here he landed, raised his banner, and, with
alluring promises, invited volunteers to join the expedition. He
marshaled and drilled his men, collected military supplies, and, more
than all, by the charms of his daily intercourse secured the
enthusiastic devotion of his followers.


His men were armed with cross-bows and muskets, and he had several
small cannon. Jackets, thickly wadded with cotton, were provided as
coats of mail for the soldiers, which were a great protection against
the missiles of the natives. Neither arrow nor javelin could pierce
them. A black velvet banner, embroidered with gold, and emblazoned
with a cross, bore the characteristic device,

     "Let us follow the cross. Under this sign, with faith, we

Beneath such a standard did these stern men march upon an expedition
of wanton aggression, crime, and woe.

A trading vessel appeared off the coast, laden with provisions and
valuable merchandise. It was a providential gift of exactly that which
the adventurers needed. Cortez, with gratitude to God, seized both
ship and cargo, and by his peculiar powers of moral suasion induced
the captain and most of the crew to enlist in his service. Another
ship made its appearance; it was a renewed token of God's kindness to
his servants; it was received with alacrity. Whatever remonstrances
the owners might raise were drowned in thanksgivings and praises.
Every movement of the expedition was inspired by the fanatical spirit
of the Crusades.

Cortez now, with his force much strengthened, sailed around the
western point of the island to Havana. With renewed diligence, he here
resumed his labor of beating up recruits and of augmenting his stores.
Governor Velasquez, informed of his arrival at this port, dispatched
orders to Pedro Barba, commander at Havana, to arrest Cortez and seize
the fleet. But it was much easier to issue this order than to execute
it. Cortez was now too strong to be apprehended by any force which
Barba had at his command. Cortez received from a friend an intimation
of the order for his arrest which had been received from the governor.

He assembled his bold followers around him; made a rousing speech,
full of eloquence and of the peculiar piety then in vogue; painted in
glowing colors the wealth and the renown opening before them in the
vast realms of Mexico; and then portrayed, with biting sarcasm, the
jealousy and the meanness of Velasquez, who wished to deprive him of
the command of the enterprise.

[Illustration: MAP OF CUBA.]

The speech was convincing. His tumultuary followers threw up their
hats and filled the air with acclamations. They declared that they
would acknowledge Cortez, and Cortez only, as their leader; that
they would follow him wherever he might guide; that they would defend
him with their lives, and that they would wreak unsparing vengeance
upon any enemies who should attempt to molest him in his glorious
career. This was the efficient reply which Cortez made to the order
for his arrest.

The reply was not lost upon Barba. He perceived that it would be folly
to attempt to execute the command of the governor. He wrote to him
accordingly, stating the impracticability of the attempt. In fact,
Barba had no disposition to arrest Cortez. He had become strongly
attached to the bold and earnest captain. Cortez himself also wrote
a very courteous letter to the governor, with studied politeness
informing him that, with the blessing of God, he should sail the next
day, and assuring the governor of eternal devotion to his interest. As
there was some danger that Velasquez might send from St. Jago a force
sufficiently strong to cause some embarrassment, the little squadron
the next morning weighed anchor and proceeded to Cape Antonio, an
appointed place of rendezvous on the extreme western termination of
the island.

Here Cortez completed his preparations and collected all the force he
desired. He had now eleven vessels. The largest was of but one hundred
tons. Three were of but seventy tons, and the rest were open barks.
His whole force consisted of one hundred and ten seamen, five hundred
and fifty-three soldiers, two hundred Indians, and a few Indian
women for menial service. His regular soldiers consisted of sixteen
horsemen, thirty musketeers, and thirty-two cross-bowmen. He had also,
as the most formidable part of his armament, fourteen pieces of
artillery, with an ample supply of ammunition. All the soldiers,
excepting the musketeers and the bowmen, were armed simply with swords
and spears. Sixteen horses formed also an exceedingly important part
of the physical force of the army. This noble animal had never yet
been seen on the continent of America. With great difficulty, a few
had been transported across the ocean from Spain. With such a force
this enthusiastic adventurer undertook the subjugation of a nation of
many millions.

Cortez was now thirty-three years of age. He was a handsome,
well-formed man, of medium stature, of pale, intellectual features,
with a piercing, dark eye, and frank and winning manners. He was
temperate, indifferent respecting all personal comforts, and reckless
of hardship and peril. He fully appreciated the influence of dress,
and ever appeared in the rich garb of a Spanish gentleman. He was
courtly yet frank in his manners, and possessed a peculiar power of
attracting to his person all who approached him.

On the eve of his departure from Cape Antonio, he again assembled his
followers around him, and thus harangued them:

"The enterprise in which you are engaged will fill the world with your
renown. I am leading you to countries more vast and opulent than
European eyes have ever yet beheld. It is a glorious prize which I
present to you. But this prize can only be won by hardship and toil.
Great deeds are only achieved by great exertions. Glory is never
the reward of sloth. I have labored hard and staked my all on this
undertaking, for I love that renown which is the noblest recompense
of man.

"Do you covet riches more? Be true to me, and I will make you masters
of wealth of which you have never dreamed. You are few in numbers, but
be strong in resolution, and doubt not that the Almighty, who has
never deserted the Spaniard in his contest with the infidel, will
shield you, though encompassed by enemies. Your cause is just. You are
to fight under the banner of the cross. Onward, then, with alacrity.
Gloriously terminate the work so auspiciously begun."

This speech was received with tumultuous cheers. Mass was then
celebrated by the ecclesiastics who accompanied the fleet, and with
many religious ceremonies the squadron was placed under the protection
of St. Peter. The anchors were raised, the sails were spread, and a
favoring breeze pressed them rapidly over the waves toward the setting
sun. It was the 18th of February, 1519.



The voyage.--They reach the island of Cozumel.--Treasures seized.--The
island and its inhabitants.--Exploring parties to the main land.--
Missionary labors.--The first mass.--Miraculous conversions.--Return
of the exploring party.--Arrival of Aguilar.--History of Aguilar's
life at Yucatan.--Escape and capture.--Guerrero takes to savage
life.--Escape.--Guerrero remains with the savages.--Squadron again
sails.--They enter the Tabasco.--They ascend the river.--Landing
postponed.--Encampment.--Preparation for the conflict.--The reception.
--The battle.--The charge.--Victory.--March to Tabasco.--Possession
taken of the town.--Gathering of the natives.--The two armies
meet.--The conflict.--The cavalry charge.--Terror of the natives.--The
fight.--Estimates of the number killed.--The declaration.--The natives
submissive.--The new religion.--St. Mary of Victory.--Motives which
actuated the adventurers.--Christian instruction.--Principle and
practice.--The altar.--Devotions.--Baptism.--The presents.--Marina.
--Indulgences.--Character of Marina.--Her career.--Her devotion to
Cortez.--Departure from Tabasco.--Blessings left behind.--They coast
along the shore.--Arrival at San Juan de Ulua.

Light and variable winds retarded the progress of the squadron as it
was headed in a southwesterly direction toward the shores of Yucatan.
A terrible tempest succeeded, and the ships were driven wildly before
the storm. But after the lapse of about a week, as the storm abated,
they were cheered by the sight of land. The mountains of the island of
Cozumel rose towering before them. This large island is separated from
the main land of Yucatan by a channel of from twelve to thirty miles
in width.

When the natives saw the ships approaching, they fled from the shores
in terror. Such a fleet must have, indeed, presented to the artless
inhabitants an appalling spectacle. The squadron cast anchor in a
spacious bay, and those who first arrived were the first to land. The
captain of one of the vessels, with some of his crew, entered one of
the native temples, and, seeing the idol decorated with gold, seized
the treasure promptly as lawful prize, and also captured two or three
of the natives. Cortez was indignant at conduct so rash and impolitic.
He severely rebuked the over-zealous captain, ordered the ornaments to
be replaced, and liberated the captives and loaded them with presents.
He thus appeased the fears of the natives, and induced them to return
to their dwellings. They soon became quite reconciled to the
strangers, and opened with them a lucrative traffic. The island was
not very fertile, and was thinly inhabited; but the natives had large
and comfortable houses, built of stone cemented with mortar. There
were several spacious temples, with lofty towers, constructed of the
same durable materials. The adventurers were also exceedingly
surprised to find in the court-yard of one of the temples an idol in
the form of a massive stone cross. It was erected in honor of the god
of rain. It is, indeed, a curious question, and one which probably
will never be answered, how the natives of this new world obtained
those apparently shadowy ideas of Christianity. They certainly
performed the rite of baptism. The cross was one of their idols. They
also believed in original sin, which was to be in some way removed by
sprinkling an infant with water.

Cortez remained upon this island about a fortnight. During this time
all his energies were engrossed in accomplishing the great object of
his mission. He sent two vessels to the main land to make inquiries
about some Spaniards, who, it was reported, had been shipwrecked upon
the coast, and were still lingering in captivity. The captain in
command of this expedition was instructed to return within eight days.
Several parties were also sent in various directions to explore the
island thoroughly and ascertain its resources.

But one of the most important objects, in the estimation of Cortez, to
be accomplished, was the conversion of the natives to the Catholic
religion. He had with him several ecclesiastics--men whose sincerity
no candid man can doubt. The Indians were assembled, and urged,
through an interpreter, to abandon their idols and turn to the living
God. The simple natives understood but little of the harangue, except
the injunction to destroy their idols. At this suggestion they were
horror-stricken. They assured Cortez that were they to harm or insult
their gods, destruction in every awful form would immediately
overwhelm them.

The bold warrior wielded bold arguments. His logic was truly
military. With his mailed cavaliers he made a prompt onslaught upon
the idols, hewed them down, smashed them to pieces, and tumbled the
dishonored and mutilated fragments into the streets. He then
constructed a Christian altar, reared a cross and an image of the holy
Virgin and the holy child, and mass, with all its pomp of robes, and
chants, and incense, was for the first time performed in the temples
of Yucatan.


The natives were at first overwhelmed with grief and terror as they
gazed upon their prostrate deities. But no earthquake shook the
island; no lightning sped its angry bolt; no thunder broke down the
skies. The sun still shone tranquilly, and ocean, earth, and sky
smiled untroubled. The natives ceased to fear gods who could not
protect themselves, and without farther argument consented to exchange
their ungainly idols for the far prettier idols of the strangers. The
heart of Cortez throbbed with enthusiasm and pride as he contemplated
his great and glorious achievement--an achievement, in his view,
unparalleled by the miracles of Peter or of Paul. In one short
fortnight he had converted these islanders from the service of Satan,
and had won them to that faith which would secure their eternal
salvation. The fanatic sincerity with which this deed was accomplished
does not redeem it from the sublimity of absurdity. Faith, said these
mailed theologians, saves the soul; and these pagans have now turned
from their idols to the living God. It is true that man is saved by
faith, but it is that faith which _works by love_.

In the mean time the parties returned from the exploration of the
island, and Orday brought back his two ships from the main land. He
was unsuccessful in his attempts to find the shipwrecked Spaniards.
Cortez had now been at Cozumel a fortnight. As he was on the point of
taking his departure, a frail canoe was seen crossing the strait, with
three men in it, apparently Indians, and entirely naked. As soon as
the canoe landed, one of the men ran frantically to the Spaniards and
informed them that he was a Christian and a countryman. His name was

Seven years ago, the vessel in which he was sailing from Darien to
Hispaniola foundered in a gale. The ship's company, twenty in number,
took to the boats. For thirteen days they were driven about at the
mercy of the winds and currents. Seven perished miserably from hunger
and thirst. The rest reached the barbarian shores of Yucatan. The
natives seized them as captives, guarded them carefully, but fed them
abundantly with the choicest food, and inflicted upon them no
sufferings, and required of them no toil. Their treatment was an
enigma which was soon dreadfully explained.

One day four of these captives who were in the best condition were
selected, sacrificed upon the bloody altars of the idols, and their
cooked flesh served up for a cannibal repast. The howlings of the
savages over the midnight orgies of this horrible entertainment fell
dismally upon the ears of the miserable survivors. In their despair
they succeeded in escaping, and fled to the mountain forests. Here
they wandered for a time in the endurance of awful sufferings. At
length they were again taken captive by the cacique or chief of
another province. He spared their lives, but made them menial slaves.
Their masters were merciless and exacting in the extreme. Under this
rigorous treatment all died but two--Aguilar, a priest, and Guerrero,
a sailor. The sailor, having no scruples of any kind, and being ready
to conform himself to all customs, gradually acquired the good will
of the savages. He obtained renown as a warrior; identified himself
entirely with the natives; tattooed his face; slit his ears, his lips,
and his nose, for those dangling ornaments which ever accompany a
barbarian taste, and took to him a native wife.

Aguilar, however, was a man of more cultivation and refinement. He
cherished his self-respect, and, resisting all enticements to marry an
Indian maiden, was true to the vows of celibacy which his priestly
profession imposed. Curious stories are related of the temptations to
which the natives exposed him. Weary years lingered along, presenting
no opportunity for escape. Cortez at last arrived at Cozumel. Some
Indians carried the tidings into the interior. Aguilar received this
intelligence with transport, and yet with trembling. He, however,
succeeded in reaching the coast, accompanied by two friendly natives.
He found upon the beach a stranded canoe, half buried in the sand.
Embarking in this with his two companions, they paddled themselves
across the strait, at that place twelve miles wide, to the island. The
frail boat was seen by the party of Cortez upon the surface of the
sea. As soon as Aguilar landed he dropped upon his knees, and with
streaming eyes gave thanks to God for his escape.

His companion in captivity refused to accompany him. "Brother
Aguilar," said he, after a moment's thought, "I am married. I have
three sons, and am a cacique and captain in the wars. My face is
tattooed and my ears bored. What would the Spaniards think of me
should I now go among them?" All Aguilar's entreaties for him to leave
were unavailing.

Aguilar appears to have been truly a good man. As he had acquired a
perfect acquaintance with the language of the natives, and with their
manners and customs, Cortez received him as a heaven-sent acquisition
to his enterprise.

On the 4th of March the squadron again set sail, and, crossing the
narrow strait, approached the shores of the continent. Sailing
directly north some hundred miles, hugging the coast of Yucatan,
Cortez doubled Cape Catoche, and turning his prow to the west, boldly
pressed forward into those unknown waters which seemed to extend
interminably before him. The shores were densely covered with the
luxuriant foliage of the tropics, and in many a bay and on many a
headland could be discerned the thronged dwellings of the natives.

After sailing west about two hundred miles, they found the coast again
turning abruptly to the south. Following the line of the land some
three hundred miles farther, they came to the broad mouth of the River
Tabasco, which Grijalva had entered, and which Cortez was seeking. A
sand-bar at the mouth of the river prevented the heavily-loaded
vessels from passing. Cortez, therefore, cast anchor, and taking a
strong and well-armed party in the boats, ascended the shallow stream.

A forest of majestic trees, with underwood dense and impervious, lined
the banks. The naked forms of the natives were seen gliding among the
foliage, following, in rapidly-accumulating numbers, the advance of
the boats, and evincing, by tone and gesture, any thing but a friendly
spirit. At last, arriving at an opening in the forest, where a smooth
and grassy meadow extended with gradual ascent from the stream, the
boats drew near the shore, and Cortez, through his interpreter
Aguilar, asked permission to land, avowing his friendly intentions.
The prompt answer was the clash of weapons and shouts of defiance.

Upon this Cortez decided to postpone a forcible landing until the
morning, and retired to a small island in the river which was
uninhabited. He here encamped for the night, establishing a vigilant
line of sentinels to guard against surprise.

In the early dawn of the next morning the party were assembled for
prayers and for the celebration of mass. They then, with new zeal and
courage, entered their boats, and ascended the glassy, forest-fringed
stream, upon which the morning sun shone brightly. Bird-songs filled
the air, and hardly a breath of wind moved the leaves, glittering in
the brilliant sunlight, as these bronzed men of iron sinews moved
sternly on to the demoniac deeds of war. The natives, in preparation
for the conflict, had been all the night rallying their forces. The
shore was lined with their war-canoes, and the banks were covered with
Indian troops drawn up in martial array. Gorgeous plumes decorated
their persons, and the rays of the sun were reflected from their
polished weapons. As soon as the Spanish boats appeared, the vast army
of the natives raised shouts of defiance, and the ear was almost
deafened with the clangor of their trumpets and drums.

The battle soon commenced. The sky was almost darkened by the shower
of arrows thrown by those upon the land. The warriors in the canoes
fought fiercely with their javelins. The conflict was bloody, but
short. Native valor could avail but little against European discipline
and art. The spears, stones, and arrows of the natives fell almost
harmless upon the helmets and shields of the Spaniards; but the
bullets from the guns of the invaders swept like hail-stones through
the crowded ranks of the natives, unimpeded by their frail weapons of
defense. Cortez himself headed a charge which broke resistlessly into
the hostile ranks. Appalled by the terrific thunder and lightning of
the musketry, the Indians soon scattered and fled, leaving the ground
covered with their slain.

Cortez now reviewed his troops in triumph upon the shore. He found
that fourteen were wounded, but none slain. To attend to the wounded
and to rest his exhausted men, he again encamped. The bloodstained
banner of the cross, which they had so signally dishonored, floated
proudly over their intrenchments. Prayers were offered and mass
celebrated in honor of the victory achieved by Christian arms against
idolaters. The next morning the Spaniards marched unresisted to
Tabasco, the capital of the province, a large town upon the river,
but a few miles above the place where the invaders had effected a
landing. The inhabitants, men, women, and children, fled from the
place in dismay.

Cortez took possession of the town in the name of the King of Spain.
But the whole surrounding region was now aroused. The natives, in
numbers which could not be counted, gathered in the vicinity of
Tabasco, and organized their forces anew, to repel, if possible, the
terrible foe. They were assembled on the great plain of Ceutla. Cortez
had anticipated this, and was also gathering his strength for a
decisive battle. He sent to the ships for six pieces of cannon, his
whole cavalry of sixteen horses, and every available man. A few only
were left to guard the vessels. This powerful re-enforcement soon
arrived. Thus strengthened, his whole army was called together to
celebrate the solemnities of mass, and to implore the blessing of God
in extending the triumphs of the cross over the kingdom of Satan. Thus
they marched forth, with powder, and ball, and neighing steeds, to the
merciless slaughter of those brave men who were fighting for their
country and their homes.

The Spaniards now advanced to meet their foes. It was a lovely
morning, the 25th of March. The natives, in point of civilization,
raised far above the condition of savages, had large fields in a high
state of cultivation, waving with the rich vegetation of the tropics.
After a march of three or four miles through a country cultivated like
a garden, they arrived at the ground occupied by the native army. The
lines of their encampments were so extended and yet so crowded that
the Spaniards estimated their numbers at over forty thousand. To meet
them in the strife Cortez had but six hundred men. But his terrible
engines of destruction made his force more powerful than theirs. The
natives were ready for the battle. They greeted their assailants with
a war-whoop, which rose in thunder tones over the plain, and showered
upon them volleys of arrows, sling-stones, and javelins. At this first
discharge, seventy Spaniards were wounded and one was slain. The
conflict soon raged with all imaginable horrors. The natives fought
with the courage of desperation. They seemed even regardless of the
death-dealing muskets. And when the terrible cannon, with its awful
roar, opened huge gaps in their ranks, manfully they closed up, and
with new vigor pressed the onset. The odds were so fearful that for
some time it seemed quite doubtful on which side victory would rest.

Cortez, heading his cavalry, swept around the plain, and, by a
circuitous route, came unperceived upon the rear of the tumultuous
foe. The sixteen horsemen, clad in steel, urging their horses to their
utmost speed, with loud shouts and sabres gleaming in the air, plunged
into the midst of the throng. Their keen-edged swords fell on the
right hand and on the left upon the almost naked bodies of the
natives. At the same moment, the energies of musketry and artillery
were plied with murderous carnage.


The natives had never seen a horse before. They thought the rider and
the steed one animal. As these terrific monsters, half human, half
beast, came bounding into their midst, cutting down and trampling
beneath iron hoofs all who stood in the way, while at the same time
the appalling roar of the cannonade seemed to shake the very hills,
the scene became too awful for mortal courage to endure. The whole
mighty mass, in uncontrollable dismay, fled from the presence of foes
of such demoniac aspect and energy. The slaughter of these poor
Indians was so awful that some of the Spaniards extravagantly
estimated the number left dead upon the field at thirty thousand.
Though many of the Spaniards were wounded, but two were killed.

Cortez immediately assembled his army under a grove upon the field of
battle to give thanks to God for the victory. The pomp and pageantry
of war gave place to the pomp and pageantry of the Church. Canonical
robes and banners fluttered in the breeze, processions marched, the
smoke of incense floated in the air, and mass, with all its imposing
solemnities, was celebrated in the midst of prayers and thanksgivings.

    "Then," says Diaz, "after dressing our wounds with the fat of
    Indians whom we found dead thereabout, and having placed good
    guards round our post, we ate our supper and went to our

Under the placable influence of these devotions, the conqueror sent
word to the vanquished that he would now _forgive them_ if they would
submit unconditionally to his authority. But he declared that if they
refused this, he would ride over the land, and put every thing in it,
man, woman, and child, to the sword.

The spirit of resistance was utterly crushed. The natives immediately
sent a delegation to him laden with presents. To impress these
embassadors still more deeply with a sense of his power, he exhibited
before them the martial evolutions of his cavalry, and showed them the
effects of his artillery as the balls were sped crashing through the
trees of the forest. The natives were now effectually conquered, and
looked upon the Spaniards as beings of supernatural powers, wielding
the terrors of thunder and lightning, and whom no mortal energies
could resist.

They had become as little children. This Cortez thought a very
suitable frame of mind to secure their conversion. He recommended that
they should cast down their idols, and accept instead the gods of
papal Rome. The recommendation of Cortez was potent over the now
pliant natives. They made no opposition while the soldiers, whose
hands were hardly yet washed of the blood of their relatives, hewed
down their images. With very imposing ceremonies, the religion of the
conquerors was instituted in the temples of Yucatan, and, in honor of
the Virgin Mary, the name of Tabasco was changed into St. Mary of

In all this tremendous crime there was apparently no hypocrisy. Human
motives will seldom bear rigid scrutiny. Man's best deeds are tainted.
Cortez was very sincere in his desire to overthrow the abominable
system of idolatry prevailing among the natives. He perhaps truly
thought that these violent measures were necessary to accomplish this
object, and that Christianity, thus introduced, would prove an
inestimable blessing. We may abhor his conduct, while we can still
make generous allowances for the darkness of his mind and of the age
in which he lived. It requires infinite wisdom to adjust the balance
of human deeds.

Two of the Catholic ecclesiastics, Olmedo and Diaz, were probably
unaffected Christians, truly desiring the spiritual renovation of the
Indians. They felt deeply the worth of the soul, and did all they
could rightly to instruct these unhappy and deeply-wronged natives.
They sincerely pitied their sufferings, but deemed it wise that the
right eye should be plucked out, and that the right arm should be cut
off, rather than that the soul should perish. It is a consoling
thought, that "like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord
pitieth them that fear Him; for he knoweth our frame, he remembereth
that we are dust." The natives were assembled in their temples; they
came together in immense multitudes. The priests, through their
interpreter, Aguilar, endeavored to instruct them in the pure
doctrines and the sublime mysteries of Christianity. If the natives
perceived a marked difference between these precepts and the awful
carnage on the field of Ceutla, it was not the first time that
principles and practice have been found discordant.

A grand religious ceremony was instituted to commemorate the
conversion of the nation. The whole army took a part in the
solemnities of the occasion, with all the martial and ecclesiastical
pomp which their situation could furnish. The natives in countless
multitudes joined the procession, and gazed with astonishment upon the
scene. Advancing to the principal pyramidal temple of Tabasco, which
was an enormous structure, with a vast area upon its summit, they
wound around its sides in the ascent. Upon this lofty platform,
beneath the unclouded sun, with thousands of Indians crowding the
region around to witness the strange spectacle, a Christian altar was
reared, the images of the Savior and of the Virgin were erected, and
mass was celebrated. Clouds of incense rose into the still air, and
the rich voices of the Spanish soldiers swelled the solemn chant. It
must have been an impressive scene. There must have been some there
into whose eye the tear of devotion gushed. If there were in that
throng--all of whom have long since gone to judgment--one single
broken and contrite heart, that was an offering which God could
accept. Father Olmedo preached upon the occasion "many good things
touching our holy faith." Twenty Indian girls who had been given to
the Spanish captains for wives were baptized.

Cortez having thus, in the course of a week, annexed the whole of
these new provinces of unknown extent to Spain, and having converted
the natives to Christianity, prepared for his departure. The natives,
among their propitiatory offerings, had presented to Cortez, as we
have mentioned, twenty young and beautiful females whom they had
captured from hostile tribes, or who in other ways had become their
slaves. Cortez distributed these unenlightened maidens among his
captains, having first selected one of the youngest and most beautiful
of them, Marina, for his wife. Cortez had a worthy spouse upon his
plantation at Cuba. No civil or religious rites sanctioned this
unhallowed union; and he was sufficiently instructed to know that he
was sinning against the laws of both God and man; but the conscience
of this extraordinary adventurer had become involved in labyrinths
utterly inexplicable. He seemed to judge that he was doing so much for
the cause of Holy Mother Church that his own private sins were of
little comparative moment. His many good deeds, he appeared to think,
purchased ample indulgence.

But Marina was a noble woman. The relation which she sustained to
Cortez did no violence to her instincts or to her conscience. She
had never been instructed in the school of Christ. Polygamy was the
religion of her land. She deemed herself the honored wife of Cortez,
and dreamed not of wrong. Marina was in all respects an extraordinary
woman. Nature had done much for her. In person she was exceedingly
beautiful. She had winning manners, and a warm and loving heart.
Her mind was of a superior order. She very quickly mastered the
difficulties of the Castilian tongue, and thus spoke three languages
with native fluency--the Mexican, the Yucatanese, and the Spanish. "I
am more happy," said she one day, "in being the wife of my lord and
master Cortez, and of having a son by him, than if I had been
sovereign of all of New Spain."

Her career had been eventful in the extreme. She was the daughter of a
rich and powerful cacique, who was tributary to the Emperor of Mexico.
Her father died during her infancy, and her mother married again. A
son by her new husband gradually estranged the affections of the
unnatural mother from her daughter. These feelings increased, till
she regarded the child with deep dislike, and secretly gave her away
to some slave-drivers, circulating the report that the child was dead.
The slave-merchants brought her from her distant home, where the
language of Mexico was her native tongue, and sold her to one of the
chiefs of Tabasco. Here she acquired the language of Yucatan.

There was much in the energy, magnanimity, fearlessness, and glowing
temperament of Cortez to rouse a woman's love. Marina became devotedly
attached to him. She watched over his interests with a zeal which
never slumbered; and when she became the mother of his son, still more
tender ties bound her to the conqueror of her race. In subsequent
scenes of difficulty and danger, her acquaintance with the native
language, manners, and customs made her an invaluable acquisition to
the expedition.

After a few days spent at Tabasco, the hour for departure came. The
boats, decorated with the banner of the cross, and with palm leaves,
the symbols of happiness and peace, floated down the beautiful river
to the squadron riding at anchor at its mouth. Again spreading the
sails, and catching a favorable breeze, the adventurers were wafted
rejoicingly on toward the shores of Mexico. The newly-converted
natives were left to meditate upon the instructions which they had
received--to count the graves of the slain--to heal, as they could,
the gory wounds and splintered bones of their friends, still writhing
in anguish, and to wail the funeral dirge in the desolate homes of the
widow and the orphan. Seldom, in the history of the world, has such a
whirlwind of woe so suddenly burst upon any people. How long they
continued to cherish a religion introduced by such harbingers we are
not informed.

The sun shone brightly on the broad Mexican Gulf, and zephyrs laden
with fragrance from the luxuriant shores swelled the flowing sheets.
As the fleet crept along the land, the temples and houses of the
natives, and their waving fields of grain, were distinctly visible
from the decks. Many a promontory and headland was covered with
multitudes of tawny figures, decorated with all the attractions of
barbarian splendor, gazing upon the fearful phenomena of the passing
ships. Cortez continued his course several hundred miles, sweeping
around the shores of this magnificent gulf, until he arrived at the
island of San Juan de Ulua. He was seeking this spot, which Grijalva
had visited, and here he dropped his anchors in one of the harbors of
the empire of Mexico.



The fleet anchors.--Arrival of the canoes.--The two chiefs.--The
legend.--The presents.--The interview.--The government of the
empire.--Cortez lands.--Scene on the shore.--Visit of Governor
Teutile.--Cortez's speech.--Teutile's uneasiness.--His reply.--
Embassadors to be sent to Montezuma.--Picture writing.--Military
review.--The manoeuvres.--Terror of the natives.--Departure of the
runners.--Police regulations.--Kindness of the natives.--Arrival
of the embassy.--Message from Montezuma.--Chagrin of Cortez.--
Disaffection in the camp.--Second message from Montezuma.--The
Ave Maria.--Curiosity of the natives.--The sermon.--Presentation
of the crucifix.--Desertion of the huts.--The mutiny.--Shrewdness.
--The mutineers outwitted.--Success of the scheme.--Enthusiasm.--
Council elected for the new colony.--Appearance of Cortez before
the assembly.--The address.--Cortez lays down his commission.--He
is induced to take it up again.--Remonstrance.--Mode of reasoning.
--Envoys of Zempoalla.--Prospect of civil war.--Resolve to establish
a colony at Quiabislan.--Beauties of the country, and refinement of
the inhabitants.--Reception at Zempoalla.--Cortez offers his
services.--Wrongs of the Totonacs.--Help implored.--Applause of the
natives.--Erection of fortifications.--Building the town.--The lords
from Montezuma.--Consternation of the Totonacs.--The penalty.--
Cortez's orders.--Power of Montezuma.--The Mexican lords arrested.
--Perfidy of Cortez.--The lords are liberated.--Villa Rica de la
Vera Cruz.--Embassy from Montezuma.--He adopts a conciliatory
policy.--Amazement of the Totonacs.

It was a beautiful afternoon in April when the fleet sailed
majestically into the Mexican bay. Earth, sea, and sky smiled
serenely, and all the elements of trouble were lulled into repose. As
the ships glided over the smooth waters to their sheltered anchorage,
a scene, as of enchantment, opened around the voyagers. In the
distance, on grassy slopes, and in the midst of luxuriant groves, the
villages and rural dwellings of the natives were thickly scattered.
The shores were covered with an eager multitude, contemplating with
wonder and awe the sublime spectacle of the fleet.

Hardly were the anchors dropped ere two canoes shot from the shore,
filled with natives. The ship in which Cortez sailed was more imposing
than the rest, and the banner of Spain floated proudly from its
topmast. The Mexicans steered promptly for this vessel, and, with the
most confiding frankness, ascended its sides. Two of the persons in
these boats were men of high distinction in the Mexican empire. As
Marina understood their language perfectly, and the liberated Spanish
captive Aguilar was thoroughly acquainted with the language of the
Tabascans, there was no difficulty in the interchange of ideas. One of
these men was the governor of the province in which Cortez had landed;
the other was commander-in-chief of all the military forces in that
province. It has been mentioned that Grijalva had previously landed at
this spot, and given it the name of San Juan de Ulua. The Mexicans had
thus some knowledge of the formidable strangers who were invading the
New World, and in various ways tidings, for now the quarter of a
century, had been reaching their ears of the appalling power of this
new race.

Perhaps to this fact is to be attributed the general and discouraging
impression which then prevailed, that a fearful calamity which nothing
could avert was impending over the nation; that it was the decree of
destiny that a strange race, coming from the rising of the sun, should
overwhelm and desolate their country.

The two chiefs brought Cortez a present of bread, fruit, fowls,
flowers, and golden ornaments. The interview was conducted by the
interchange of the most formal social ceremonies of Mexico and of
Spain. Cortez invited his guests to remain and dine. The communication
between them was necessarily slow, as Marina interpreted their speech
to Aguilar, and Aguilar to Cortez. The Spanish commander, however,
thus ascertained the most important facts which he wished to know
respecting the great empire of Mexico. He learned that two hundred
miles in the interior was situated the capital of the empire, and
that a monarch named Montezuma, beloved and revered by his subjects,
reigned over the extended realm. The country was divided into
provinces, over each of which a governor presided. The province in
which Cortez had landed was under the sway of Governor Teutile, who
resided about twenty miles in the interior.

Cortez, though uninvited, immediately, with great energy and boldness,
landed his whole force upon the beach. He constructed a fortified
camp, and planted his heavy artillery upon the surrounding hillocks
to sweep all the approaches. Characteristically it is recorded that,
having posted their artillery, they _raised an altar_, and not till
after that was done did they erect barracks for themselves. The
friendly natives aided the Spaniards in building huts, brought them
presents of flowers and food, and entered into an active traffic, in
which both parties exulted in the great bargains which they made. Thus
the Mexicans warmed the vipers who were fatally to sting them.

It was indeed a novel scene, worthy of the pencil of the painter,
which that beach presented day after day. Men, women, and children,
boys and girls, in all the variety of barbaric costume, thronged the
encampment. Mexicans and Spaniards mingled merrily in all the peaceful
and joyful confusion of a fair. The rumor of the strange visitors
spread far and wide, and each day increasing multitudes were

The intelligence was speedily communicated to Governor Teutile. With
a numerous retinue, he set out from his palace to visit his uninvited
guests, and to ascertain their object and purposes. The governor
entered the Spanish camp accompanied by the commander-in-chief of all
the provincial forces. Each party vied in the external demonstrations
of respect and friendship. The eyes of the Spaniards glistened with
avarice as Teutile spread before Cortez many valuable ornaments of
massive silver and gold, wrought in exquisite workmanship. The sight
inflamed them with more intense desires to penetrate a country where
such treasures could be obtained. After a splendid repast given by the
Spaniards, Cortez said to his visitors,

"I am the subject of Charles V., the most powerful monarch in the
world. My sovereign has heard of the greatness and the glory of
Montezuma, the Emperor of Mexico. I am sent to his court to convey the
respects of my sovereign, to offer suitable presents, and to confer
with him upon matters of great moment. It is therefore my desire to
proceed immediately to the capital, to accomplish the purposes of my

Teutile could not conceal the uneasiness with which he heard this
avowal. He knew that Montezuma and all the most intelligent men of the
nation contemplated with dread the power and the encroachments of the
Europeans, now so firmly established on the islands of the Caribbean
Sea. With embarrassment he replied,

"I hear with pleasure of the magnificence of your sovereign. Our
monarch is not less glorious. No earthly king can surpass him in
wealth or goodness. You have been but a few days in these realms,
and yet you are impatient to be admitted, without delay, into the
presence of Montezuma. Our king will doubtless hear with pleasure from
your sovereign, and receive his embassador honorably. But it will be
first necessary to inform him of your arrival, that he may communicate
to you his royal pleasure."

Cortez was exceedingly annoyed by this delay. Deeming it, however,
important to secure the friendship of the Mexicans, he consented to
wait until the return of the couriers who were immediately to be sent
to Montezuma. The natives were not acquainted with the alphabet, but
they had in use a sort of _picture writing_, delineating upon fine
cotton cloth pictures of scenes which they wished to represent.
Teutile requested that his painters might be permitted to take a
sketch of the Spaniards and their equipage. Consent being obtained,
the painters commenced their work, which they executed with remarkable
rapidity and skill. The fleet in the harbor, the encampment upon the
shore, the muskets, the artillery, the horses, all were delineated
true to life. They were so accurate in the figures and portraits of
Cortez and his leading companions that the Spaniards immediately
recognized them.

When Cortez observed this remarkable skill, that he might impress
Montezuma the more deeply with a sense of his power, he ordered his
whole force to be assembled for a military review. The trumpets pealed
forth the martial summons which the well-drilled bands so perfectly
understood. The troops instantly formed in order of battle. Infantry,
artillery, cavalry, all were at their posts. The most intricate and
beautiful manoeuvres were performed. Martial music contributed its
thrilling charms; banners floated in the breeze; helmets, cuirasses,
swords, and polished muskets gleamed in the rays of the unclouded sun.
Mounted horsemen bounded over the plain in the terrific charge, and
the artillerymen, with rapid evolutions, moved to and fro, dragging
over the sands their lumbering yet mysterious engines of destruction,
whose awful roar and terrific power the Mexicans had not yet
witnessed. It was a gorgeous spectacle even to eyes accustomed to
such scenes. The Mexicans, in countless thousands, gazed upon it in
silent amazement. But when, at the close, Cortez placed his cannon
in battery, and ordered a simultaneous discharge, aiming the
heavily-shotted guns into the dense forest, the bewilderment of the
poor natives passed away into unspeakable terror. They saw the
lightning flash, they heard the roar, louder than the heaviest
thunders. As the iron storm was shot through the forest, the limbs
of the gigantic trees came crashing to the ground. Dense volumes of
sulphurous smoke enveloped them. Even the boldest turned pale, and
the timid shrieked and fled.

Cortez was much pleased in seeing how deeply he had impressed his
visitors with a sense of his power. The painters made a very accurate
delineation of the whole scene to be transmitted to Montezuma. They
then, with much ceremony, departed.

The police regulations of Mexico were in some respects in advance of
that which then prevailed in Europe. For the rapid transmission of
intelligence from the remotest bounds of the empire to the capital,
well-trained runners were posted, at suitable stations, all along the
principal roads. Each man had a short stage, which he passed over with
great rapidity, and communicated his message, verbal or written in the
picture language, to a fresh runner. Burdens and governmental officers
were also rapidly transmitted, in a sort of palanquin, in the same
way, from post to post, by relays of men.

A week passed while Cortez remained impatiently in his encampment
awaiting an answer to the message sent to Montezuma. The friendly
natives, in the mean time, supplied the Spaniards with every thing
they could need. By the command of the governor, Teutile, more than a
thousand huts of branches of trees and of cotton matting were reared
in the vicinity of the encampment for the accommodation of the
Mexicans, who, without recompense, were abundantly supplying the table
of Cortez and of his troops.


On the eighth day an embassy arrived at the camp from the Mexican
capital. Two nobles of the court, accompanied by a retinue of a
hundred _men of burden_, laden with magnificent gifts from Montezuma,
presented themselves before the pavilion of Cortez. The embassadors
saluted the Spanish chieftain with the greatest reverence, bowing
before him, and surrounding him with clouds of incense, which arose
from waving censers borne by their attendants. The presents which they
brought, in silver, in gold, in works of art, utility, and beauty,
excited the rapture and the amazement of the Spaniards. There were
specimens of workmanship in the precious metals which no artists in
Europe could rival. A Spanish helmet which had been sent to Montezuma
was returned filled with grains of pure gold. These costly gifts were
opened before Cortez in lavish abundance, and they gave indications of
opulence hitherto undreamed of. After they had been sufficiently
examined and admired, one of the embassadors very courteously said,

"Our master is happy to send these tokens of his respect to the King
of Spain. He regrets that he can not enjoy an interview with the
Spaniards. But the distance of his capital is too great, and the
perils of the journey are too imminent to allow of this pleasure. The
strangers are therefore requested to return to their own homes with
these proofs of the friendly feelings of Montezuma."

Cortez was much chagrined. He earnestly, however, renewed his
application for permission to visit the emperor. But the embassadors,
as they retired, assured him that another application would be
unavailing. They, however, took a few meagre presents of shirts and
toys, which alone remained to Cortez, and departed on their journey
of two hundred miles, with the reiterated and still more earnest
application from Cortez for permission to visit the emperor. It was
now evident that the Mexicans had received instructions from the
court, and that all were anxious that the Spaniards should leave the
country. Though the natives manifested no hostility, they immediately
became cold and reserved, and ceased to supply the camp with food.
With the Spaniards the charm of novelty was over. Insects annoyed
them. They were blistered by the rays of a meridian sun, reflected
from the burning sands of the beach. Sickness entered the camp, and
thirty died. Disaffection began to manifest itself, and some were
anxious to return to Cuba.

But the treasures which had been received from Montezuma, so rich and
so abundant, inspired Cortez and his gold-loving companions with the
most intense desire to penetrate an empire of so much opulence. They,
however, waited patiently ten days, when the embassadors again
returned. As before, they came laden with truly imperial gifts. The
gold alone of the ornaments which they brought was valued by the
Spaniards at more than fifty thousand dollars. The message from
Montezuma was, however, still more peremptory than the first. He
declared that he could not permit the Spaniards to approach his
capital. Cortez, though excessively vexed, endeavored to smother the
outward expression of his irritation. He gave the embassadors a
courteous response, but, turning to his officers, he said,

"This is truly a rich and a powerful prince. Yet it shall go hard but
we will one day pay him a visit in his capital."

    "At this moment," says Diaz, "the bell tolled for the Ave
    Maria, and all of us fell upon our knees before the holy
    cross. The Mexican noblemen being very inquisitive to know
    the meaning of this, Cortez hinted to the reverend father
    Olmedo the propriety of a sermon, such as should convey to
    them the truths of our holy faith. Father Olmedo accordingly
    preached, like an excellent theologian which he was,
    explaining the mysteries of the cross, at the sight of which
    the evil beings they worshiped as gods fled away. These
    subjects, and much more, he dilated upon. It was perfectly
    explained to the Mexicans and understood by them, and they
    promised to relate all they had seen and heard to their
    sovereign. He also declared to them that among the principal
    objects of our mission thither were those of putting a stop
    to human sacrifices, injustices, and idolatrous worship; and
    then, presenting them with an image of our Holy Virgin, with
    her son in her arms, he desired them to take it with them, to
    venerate it, and to plant crosses similar to that before them
    in their temples."

The embassadors again retired with dignity and with courtesy, yet with
reserve indicative of deep displeasure at the pertinacity of the
Spaniards. That night every hut of the natives was abandoned. When the
morning sun arose, silence and solitude reigned upon the spot which
had so recently witnessed the life and the clamor of an innumerable
multitude. Cortez and his companions were left alone. The long hours
of the tropical day passed slowly, and no native approached the
encampment. No food was to be obtained. Not only was all friendly
intercourse thus suspended, but the Spaniards had much reason to fear
that preparations were making for an assault. The murmuring in the
camp increased. Two parties were formed: one party were in favor of
returning to Cuba, affirming that it was madness to think of the
subjugation by force of arms of so mighty an empire with so feeble an
armament. One of the generals, Diego de Ordaz, was deputed by the
disaffected to communicate these sentiments to Cortez, and to assure
him that it was the general voice of the army.

The shrewdness of this extraordinary man was peculiarly conspicuous
in this crisis. He promptly, and apparently with cordiality, assented
to their views, and began to make arrangements to relinquish the
enterprise. Orders were issued to commence the re-embarkation.

While thus dissimulating, he roused his friends to effort, and
secretly employed all his powers to excite a mutiny in the camp
against a return. Every motive was plied to stimulate the bold and the
avaricious to persevere in an undertaking where glory and wealth held
out such attractions. His emissaries were completely successful. The
whole camp was in a ferment. Before the sun went down, a large party
of the soldiers surrounded his tent, as in open mutiny. They declared
that, having entered upon a majestic enterprise, it was poltroonery to
abandon it upon the first aspect of danger; that they were determined
to persevere, and that, if Cortez wished to return with the cowards to
Cuba, they would instantly choose another general to guide them in the
career of glory upon which they had entered.

Cortez was delighted with the success of his stratagem. He, however,
affected surprise, and declared that his orders for re-embarking were
issued from the persuasion that the troops wished to return; that,
to gratify them, he had been willing to sacrifice his own private
judgment. He assured the mutineers that it afforded him the highest
gratification to find that they were true Castilians, with minds
elevated to the accomplishment of heroic deeds. He affirmed that
before such strong arms and bold hearts all peril would vanish.
The applause with which this speech was greeted was so long and
enthusiastic that even the murmurers were soon induced to join the
acclamations. Thus adroitly Cortez again enthroned himself as the
undisputed chieftain of an enthusiastic band.

He decided immediately to establish a settlement on the sea-coast as
the nucleus of a colony. From that point as the basis of operations,
he would, with the terrors of artillery and cavalry, boldly penetrate
the interior. He assembled the principal officers of the army, and by
their suffrages elected the magistrates and a council for the new
colony. He skillfully so arranged it that all the magistrates chosen
were his warm partisans.

The council assembled for the organization of the government. As soon
as the assembly was convened, Cortez asked permission to enter it.
Bowing with the most profound respect before the new government thus
organized, that he might set an example of the most humble and
submissive obedience, he addressed them in the following terms:

"By the establishment of the colony and the organization of the
colonial government, this august tribunal is henceforth invested
with supreme jurisdiction, and is clothed with the authority, and
represents the person of the sovereign. I accordingly present myself
before you with the same dutiful fidelity as if I were addressing my
royal master. The safety of this colony, threatened by the hostility
of a mighty empire, depends upon the subordination and discipline
preserved among the troops. But my right to command is derived from a
commission granted by the Governor of Cuba. As that commission has
been long since revoked, my right to command may well be questioned.
It is of the utmost importance, in the present condition of affairs,
that the commander-in-chief should not act upon a dubious title. There
is now required the most implicit obedience to orders, and the army
can not act with efficiency if it has any occasion to dispute the
powers of its general.

"Moved by these considerations, I now resign into your hands, as the
representatives of the sovereign, all my authority. As you alone have
the right to choose, and the power to confer full jurisdiction, upon
you it devolves to choose some one, in the king's name, to guide the
army in its future operations. For my own part, such is my zeal in the
service in which we are engaged, that I would most cheerfully take up
a pike with the same hand which lays down the general's truncheon, and
convince my fellow-soldiers that, though accustomed to command, I have
not forgotten how to obey."

Thus saying, he laid his commission from Velasquez upon the table, and
after kissing his truncheon, delivered it to the chief magistrate and
withdrew. This was consummate acting. The succeeding steps were all
previously arranged. He was immediately elected, by unanimous
suffrage, chief justice of the colony, and captain general of the
army. His commission was ordered to be made out in the name of Charles
V. of Spain, and was to continue in force until the royal pleasure
should be farther known. The troops were immediately assembled and
informed of the resolve. They ratified it with unbounded applause.
The air resounded with acclamations, and all vowed obedience, even to
death, to the authority of Cortez. Thus adroitly this bold adventurer
shook off his dependence upon Velasquez, and assumed the dignity of an
independent governor, responsible only to his sovereign.

There were a few adherents of Velasquez who remonstrated against these
unprecedented measures. Cortez, with characteristic energy, seized
them and placed them in imprisonment, loaded with chains, on board one
of the ships. This rigor overawed and silenced the rest. Cortez,
however, soon succeeded, by flattering attentions and by gifts, in
securing a cordial reconciliation with his opponents. He was now
strong in undisputed authority.

In the midst of these events, one day five Indians of rank came, in
rather a mysterious manner, to the camp, and solicited an interview
with Cortez. They represented themselves as envoys from the chief of
Zempoalla, a large town at no great distance. This chief reigned over
the powerful nation of Totonacs. His people had been conquered by
Montezuma, and annexed to the Mexican empire. They were restive under
the yoke, and would gladly avail themselves of an alliance with the
Spaniards to regain their independence.

Cortez listened eagerly to this statement. It presented just the
opportunity which he desired. He saw at once that by exciting civil
war, and arraying one portion of the empire against another, he might
accomplish his ends. He also judged that, in an empire so vast, there
must be other provinces where disaffection could be excited. He
therefore received these envoys most graciously, and promised very
soon to visit their metropolis.

The spot where Cortez had landed was not a good location for the
establishment of a city. A party was sent along the coast to seek a
better harbor for the ships and a more eligible site for the city. At
the expiration of twelve days the party returned, having discovered a
fine harbor and fertile soil at a little village called Quiabislan,
about forty miles to the northward. This village was fortunately but
a few miles distant from Zempoalla. Most of the heavy guns were
re-embarked, and the fleet was ordered to coast along the shore to the
appointed rendezvous at Quiabislan. Then, heading his troops, he set
out on a bold march across the country to meet his fleet, arranging to
pass through Zempoalla by the way.

[Illustration: MAP _SHOWING THE_ ROUTE OF CORTEZ from Cozumel I. to

The beauty of the country through which they marched entranced the
hearts even of these stern warriors. They were never weary of
expressing their delight in view of the terrestrial paradise which
they had discovered. When the Spaniards had arrived within three miles
of Zempoalla, a delegation met them from the city, accompanied by a
vast concourse of men and women. The adventurers were greeted with
courteous words, and gifts of gold, and fruits, and flowers. The
natives possessed many attractions of person, and their frank and
friendly manners were peculiarly winning. A singular degree of mental
refinement was to be seen in their passionate love of flowers, with
which they adorned their persons, and which bloomed, in the utmost
profusion, around their dwellings. Cortez and his steed were almost
covered with wreaths and garlands of roses, woven by the fair hands
of his newly-found friends.

The Spaniards were quite amazed in entering the city of Zempoalla.
They found a beautiful town, with streets perfectly clean--for they
had no beasts of burden--lined with spacious stone houses, and shaded
with ornamental trees. These paved streets were kept almost as
free from litter as a parlor floor, and they were thronged with,
apparently, a refined and happy people. A tropical sun, whose rays
were tempered by the ocean breeze, fell warmly upon them during all
the months of the year. Soil of astonishing fertility supplied them
abundantly with food, while a genial climate invited them to
indulgence and repose. At first glance it would seem that the doom of
Adam's fall had not yet reached the dwellings of Zempoalla. A few
hours' residence in the city, however, conclusively proved that here,
as elsewhere, man is born to mourn.

As Cortez entered the gates of the city, he was met and welcomed with
great pomp by the cacique of Zempoalla. He was excessively corpulent,
but very polite and highly polished in his manners. Marina and Aguilar
acted as interpreters.

"I am come," said Cortez, "from the ends of the earth. I serve a
monarch who is powerful, and whose goodness equals his power. He has
sent me hither, that I may give some account of the inhabitants of
this part of the world. He has commanded me to do good to all men, and
particularly to aid the oppressed and to punish their oppressors. To
you, Lord of Zempoalla, I offer my services. Whatever you may command,
I and my troops will cheerfully perform."

The cacique of Zempoalla replied,

"Gracious stranger, I can not sufficiently commend your benevolence,
and none can stand more in need of it. You see before you a man
wearied out with unmerited wrongs. I and my people are crushed and
trodden under foot by the most tyrannical power upon earth. We were
once an independent and a happy people, but the prosperity of the
Totonacs is now destroyed. The power of our nobles is gone. We are
robbed of the produce of our fields. Our sons are torn from us for
sacrifices, and our daughters for slaves.

"The Mexicans are our conquerors and oppressors. They heap these
calamities upon us, robbing us of our substance, and despoiling us
of our children. In the pride of aggression, they have marched from
conquest to conquest, till they gather tribute from every land. And
now, mighty warrior, we implore of thy strength and kindness that thou
wouldst enable us to resist these tyrants, and deliver us from their

Cortez warily replied: "I will gladly aid you, but let us not be rash.
I will dwell with you a while, and whenever I shall see a suitable
occasion to punish your enemies and to relieve you from their
impositions, you may rely upon my aid to humble their pride and

The rugged army of Cortez then advanced through the streets of
Zempoalla to the spacious court-yard of the temple assigned for their
accommodation. As in solid column, with floating banners and bugle
notes, they paraded the streets, headed by the cavalry of sixteen
horses, animals the Totonacs had never seen before, and followed by
the lumbering artillery--instruments, in the eyes of the Totonacs, of
supernatural power--which, with thunder roar, sped lightning bolts,
the natives gazed with admiration upon the imposing spectacle, and the
air resounded with their applause.

The next morning Cortez, with most of his army, continued his march
some twelve miles farther to meet his fleet at Quiabislan. The cacique
hospitably sent with him four hundred _men of burden_ to convey his
baggage. The spot which had been selected as the site of the new town,
which was to be the capital of the Spanish colony, met the approbation
of Cortez. He immediately commenced erecting huts and surrounding the
town with fortifications of sufficient strength to resist any assault
from the natives. Every man in the army, the officers as well as the
soldiers, engaged laboriously in this work. No one toiled in this
enterprise with more patient endurance than the extraordinary
commander of this extraordinary band. The Totonacs from Zempoalla and
Quiabislan, encouraged by their caciques, also lent their aid to the
enterprise with hearty good will. Thousands of hands were thus
employed; provisions flowed into the camp in all abundance, and the
works proceeded with great rapidity. The vicinity was densely
populated, and large numbers of the listless natives, women and
children, were attracted to the spot to witness the busy scene, so
novel and so exciting.

But such proceedings could not escape the vigilance of the officers of
Montezuma. In the midst of this state of things, suddenly one day a
strange commotion was witnessed in the crowd, and the natives, both
people and chiefs, gave indications of great terror. Five strangers
appeared--tall, imposing men, with bouquets of flowers in their hands,
and followed by obsequious attendants. Haughtily these strangers
passed through the place, looking sternly upon the Spaniards, without
deigning to address them either by a word or a gesture. They were
lords from the court of Montezuma. Their power was invincible and
terrible. They had witnessed with their own eyes these rebellious
indications of the subjects of Mexico. The chiefs of the Totonacs
turned pale with consternation. All this was explained to Cortez by

The Totonac chiefs were imperiously summoned to appear immediately
before the lords of Montezuma. Like terrified children they obeyed.
Soon they returned, trembling, to Cortez, and informed him that the
Mexican lords were indignant at the support which they had afforded
the Spaniards, contrary to the express will of their emperor, and that
they demanded as the penalty twenty young men and twenty young women
of the Totonacs, to be offered in sacrifice to their gods.

Cortez assumed an air of indignation and of authority as he eagerly
availed himself of this opportunity of promoting an open rupture
between the Totonacs and the Mexicans. He declared that he would never
consent to any such abominable practices of heathenism. He haughtily
commanded the Totonac chiefs immediately to arrest the lords of
Montezuma, and throw them into prison. The poor chiefs were appalled
beyond measure at the very idea of an act so irrevocable and so
unpardonable. They had long been accustomed to consider Montezuma as
possessing power which nothing on earth could resist. Montezuma swayed
the sceptre of a Cæsar, and bold indeed must he be who would venture
to brave his wrath.

But, on the other hand, they had already offended beyond hope of
pardon by entertaining the intruders contrary to the positive command
of their sovereign. Twenty of their sons and daughters were to bleed
upon the altars of sacrifice. Their only hope was now in Cortez.
Should he abandon them, they were ruined hopelessly. They deemed it
possible that, with the thunder and the lightning at his command, he
might be able to set at defiance that mighty Mexican power which had
hitherto been found invincible.

In this dreadful dilemma, they yielded to the inexorable demand of
Cortez, and tremblingly arrested the Mexican lords. The Rubicon was
now passed. The Totonacs were from that moment the abject slaves of
Cortez. Their only protection from the most awful doom was in his
strong arm, and their persons, their property, their all, were
entirely at his disposal.

Cortez then condescended to perform a deed of cunning and of perfidy
which has left a stain upon his character which never can be washed
away. In the night he ordered one of his people secretly to assist two
of the Mexican lords in their escape. They were privately brought into
his presence. With guileful words, which ought to have blistered his
tongue, he declared that they, by their arrest, had received insult
and outrage from the Totonacs, which he sincerely regretted, and would
gladly have prevented. He assured them of the great pleasure which it
afforded him to aid them in their escape. He promised to do every
thing in his power to secure the release of the others, and wished
them to return to the court of their monarch, and assure him of the
friendly spirit of the Spaniards, of which this act was to be a
conspicuous proof. He then sent six strong rowers to convey them
secretly in a boat beyond the reach of pursuit. The next morning, in
the same guileful way, all the rest were liberated, and sent with a
similar message to the court of Montezuma.

Such was the treachery with which Cortez rewarded his faithful allies.
With perfidy so detestable, he endeavored to foment civil discord in
the empire of Montezuma, pretending to be himself the friend of each
of the parties whose hostility he had excited, and ready to espouse
either side which might appear most available for the promotion of his
ambitious plans. History has no language too severe to condemn an
action so utterly abominable. It is treason to virtue to speak mildly
of atrocious crime.

Cortez named the infant city he was erecting The Rich City of the True
Cross, _Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz_. "The two principles of avarice
and enthusiasm," says Robertson, "which prompted the Spaniards in all
their enterprises in the New World, seem to have concurred in
suggesting the name which Cortez bestowed on his infant settlement."
This city was a few miles north of the present city of Vera Cruz.

While Cortez was busily employed in laying the foundations of his
colony, and gathering around him native aid in preparation for a march
into the interior, another embassy from the court of Montezuma
appeared in the busy streets of Vera Cruz. The Mexican emperor,
alarmed by the tidings he received of the persistent boldness of the
Spaniards, and of their appalling and supernatural power, deemed it
wise to accept the courtesy which had been offered him in the
liberation of his imprisoned lords, and to adopt a conciliatory
policy. The Totonacs were amazed by this evidence that even the mighty
Montezuma was overawed by the power of the Spaniards. This greatly
increased their veneration for their European allies.



Exultation of the Totonacs.--The eight maidens and their baptism.
--Endeavors to induce the acceptance of Christianity.--The result.
--Fanaticism of the Spaniards.--Destruction of the idols.--Dismay
of the Indians.--Celebration of mass.--The harangue.--The change.
--Emotions of the natives.--They accept the new idols.--Cortez's
embarrassment respecting his commission.--The letter.--Anticipations
of wealth.--Presents.--Embassadors sent to the king.--Punishment of
the conspirators.--Disturbing developments.--Destruction of the
fleet.--Indignation of the soldiers.--Cortez wins the approval of his
men.--Preparations for the journey.--The departure and march to
Mexico.--Arrival of a strange vessel.--Capture of prisoners.--The
stratagem.--The re-enforcement.--They arrive at Jalapa.--Naulinco.
--Erection of the cross.--Ascent of the Cordilleras.--The city of
Tlatlanquitepec.--Indications of idolatry.--A cold reception.--
Cortez's mission.--His commands, and their refusal to obey.--Advice
of Father Olmedo.--Arrival at Xalacingo.--Friendly treatment.--
Embassadors to the Tlascalan capital.--They are seized, but escape.
--The Spaniards determine to force a passage.--The attack.--The
Tlascalans forced to retire.--Destruction of the provisions.--The
sacrament.--Chivalry of the barbarians.--A supply of provisions.--
Encounter the enemy.--Confession.--Release of the captive chiefs.
--Tlascalan mode of making peace.--Cortez prepares for battle.--The
battle.--Courage of the enemy.--The natives vanquished.--Surprise
at the small losses of the Spaniards.--Courage of the Spaniards
accounted for.--The midnight foray.--The Tlascalans sue for peace.
--Cruel treatment of the embassadors.--The Tlascalans subdued.--Speech
of the commander-in-chief.--They march to the city of Tlascala.--
Appearance of the city.--Treatment of the vanquished natives.--Peril
of Cortez's army.--Murmurs dispelled.--Population of the city.

The Totonacs were now exceedingly exultant. They were unwearied in
extolling their allies, and in proclaiming their future independence
of their Mexican conquerors. They urged other neighboring provinces to
join them, and become the vassals of the omnipotent Spaniards. They
raised a strong army, which they placed under the command of Cortez to
obey his bidding. To strengthen the bonds of alliance, the cacique of
Zempoalla selected eight of the most beautiful maidens of his country,
all of the first families, to be united in marriage to the Spanish
generals. Cortez courteously but decisively informed the chief that,
before such union could be consummated, these maidens must all
renounce idolatry and be baptized. The Totonacs, without much apparent
reluctance, yielded. Emboldened by this success, Cortez now made very
strenuous efforts to induce the chief and all the tribe to abandon
their idols and the cruel rites of heathenism, and to accept in their
stead the symbols of Christianity.

But upon this point the cacique was inflexible. "We honor your
friendship, noble Cortez," he firmly replied, "and we are grateful to
you for the generous interest you take in our welfare; but the gods
are greater than man. Earthly benefactors are but the ministers of
their favor. Gratitude to the gods is our first duty. Health, plenty,
all blessings are from their bounty. We dread their anger more than
the displeasure of the mightiest of men. Should we offend them,
inevitable destruction will overwhelm me and my people."

Cortez was provoked by such obstinacy. He was incapable of
appreciating the nobility of these sentiments, and of perceiving that
such minds needed but instruction to lead them to reverence the true
God. The sincere idolater, who worships according to the little
knowledge he has, is immeasurably elevated, in dignity of character,
above the mere nominal Christian, who knows the true God, and yet
disregards him. But Cortez, inspired by fanatic zeal, treated these
men, who deserved tender consideration, with insult and contempt.
He resolved recklessly to demolish their idols, and to compel the
Totonacs to receive in exchange the images of Rome.


He immediately assembled his soldiers, and thus addressed them:
"Soldiers! We are Spaniards. We inherit from our ancestors the love of
our holy faith. Let us prostrate these vile images. Let us plant the
cross, and call the heathen to the feet of that holy symbol. Heaven
will never smile upon our enterprise if we countenance the atrocities
of heathenism. For my part, I am resolved that these pagan idols shall
be destroyed this very hour, even if it cost me my life."

The fanaticism of the Spaniards was now effectually roused. In solid
column, a strong division marched toward one of the most imposing of
the Totonac temples. The alarm spread wildly through the thronged
streets of Zempoalla. The whole population seized their arms to defend
their gods. A scene of fearful confusion ensued. Firmly the inflexible
Spaniards strode on. Fifty men ascended the winding stairs to the
summit of the pyramidal temple, tore down the massive wooden idols,
and tumbled them into the streets. They then collected the mutilated
fragments, and burned them to ashes. The Indians looked on in dismay,
with tears and groans.

The heathen temple was then emptied, swept, and garnished. The Totonac
chiefs, and the priests clotted with the blood of their brutal
sacrifices, now docile as children, obeyed obsequiously the demands of
the haughty reformer. He ordered these unenlightened pagan priests to
have their heads shorn, to be dressed in the white robes of the
Catholic priesthood, and, with lighted candles in their hands, they
were constrained to assist in performing the rites of the papal
Church. An image of the Virgin was installed in the shrine which had
been polluted by all the horrid orgies of pagan abominations. Mass was
celebrated upon the altar where human hearts, gory and quivering, had
for ages been offered in awful sacrifice. The prayers and the chants
of Christianity ascended from the spot where idolaters had slain their
victims and implored vengeance upon their foes.

Cortez then himself earnestly and eloquently harangued the people,
assuring them that henceforth the Spaniards and the Totonacs were
Christian brothers, and that under the protection of the Holy Virgin,
the mother of Christ, they would both certainly be blessed.

Violent as were these deeds, it is undeniable that they ushered in a
blessed change. The very lowest and most corrupt form of Christianity
is infinitely superior to the most refined creations of paganism.
The natives gradually recovered from their terror. They gazed
with admiration upon the pageant of the mass, with its gorgeous
accompaniments of incense, music, embroidered robes, and solemn
processions. The Spanish historians who witnessed the scene record
that many of the Indians were so overcome with pious emotion, in thus
beholding, for the first time, the mysteries of Christianity, that
they freely wept. No more resistance was made. The Totonacs, thus
easily converted, apparently with cheerfulness exchanged the bloody
and hideous idols of Mexico for the more attractive and more merciful
idols of Rome. Let not this remark be attributed to want of candor;
for no one can deny that, to these uninstructed natives, it was merely
an exchange of idols.

Cortez had now been in Mexico nearly three months. Every moment
had been occupied in the accomplishment of objects which he deemed
of fundamental importance. He was, however, evidently somewhat
embarrassed respecting the validity of his title to command. It was
at least doubtful whether the king would recognize the authority of a
colony established in so novel a manner. Cortez also well knew that
Velasquez would apply to his sovereign for redress for the injuries
which he had received. The danger was by no means small that, by the
command of the king, Cortez would be degraded and punished as a
usurper of power.

Before commencing his march into the interior, he deemed it of the
utmost importance to take every possible precaution against this
danger. He influenced the magistrates of Vera Cruz to address a letter
to the Spanish sovereign in justification of the course which had been
pursued, and to implore the king to ratify what had been done in his
name, and to confirm Cortez in the supreme command. Cortez also wrote
himself a long and labored letter to the Emperor Charles V., full of
protestations of loyalty and of zeal for the wealth and the renown of
the Spanish court. To add weight to his letter, it was accompanied by
as rich treasures from the New World as he had thus far been able to
accumulate. Such was the ascendency which this extraordinary man had
attained over the minds of his associates, and so confident were they
in their anticipations of boundless wealth, that all the soldiers,
without a murmur, at the suggestion of Cortez, relinquished their part
of the public treasure, that the whole might be sent to the king. Two
of the chief magistrates of the colony, Portocarrero and Montejo, were
sent in one of the two vessels which were fitted out to Spain to
convey these letters and presents. They were directed not to stop at
the island of Cuba, lest they should be detained by Velasquez. Ere
they embarked, mass was celebrated and prayers were offered for a
prosperous voyage. It was now the month of July, 1519.

Just after the vessels had sailed, Cortez was much disturbed by
a dangerous conspiracy which broke out in the camp. Some of the
disaffected, who had been silenced, but not reconciled, with great
secresy matured a plan for seizing one of the brigantines and making
their escape to Cuba. The conspirators had actually gone on board the
vessel, and were ready to weigh the anchor and spread the sails, when
one of the number repented of his treachery, and disclosed the plot to

The stern chieftain immediately went himself on board the vessel. The
crime was too palpable to be denied. He ordered all to be seized and
brought on shore. Cortez resolved to punish with a severity which
should intimidate against any renewal of a similar attempt. The two
ringleaders were immediately put to death. The pilot had one of his
feet cut off. Two of the sailors received two hundred lashes. The rest
were spared.

It is recorded that Cortez, as he was ratifying this sentence, gave a
deep sigh, and exclaimed,

"How happy is he who is not able to write, and is thereby prevented
from signing the death-warrants of men!"

But this development of disaffection disturbed Cortez exceedingly. He
was about to march two hundred miles into the interior. It would be
necessary to leave a garrison at Vera Cruz. The fleet would be lying
idly at anchor in the harbor. A more successful attempt might be made
during his absence; and Velasquez, informed thus of his position,
might easily send, from the powerful colony of Cuba, a force
sufficient to take possession of Vera Cruz, and thus leave Cortez in
the interior but a desperate adventurer, wandering in the midst of
hostile nations. In this emergence, he came to the decision, of
almost unparalleled boldness, to _destroy the fleet_! He would thus
place himself in a distant land, with but five hundred men, hopelessly
cut off from all retreat, and exposed to assault from exasperated
nations numbering many millions.

This plan was no sooner conceived than executed. He assembled his
principal friends privately, and informed them of his determination.

"We shall thus," said he, "gain all the sailors for soldiers, and the
men, having no possibility of escape, must either conquer or die."

While most of the soldiers were employed at Zempoalla, the ships were
dismantled of every movable article, and they were then scuttled
and sunk. In a few hours the majestic ocean rose and fell in silent
solitude where the fleet had so proudly floated. One small vessel
only was left.

When the soldiers heard of this desperate deed, they were struck with
consternation. They were apparently now forever separated from friends
and home. In case of disaster, escape was impossible and destruction
sure. Murmurs of indignation, loud and deep, began to rise against
Cortez. He immediately gathered his troops around him, and, by his
peculiar tact, soothed their anger, and won them to approval of his
course. They at once saw that murmurs would now be of no avail; that
their destiny was henceforth entirely dependent upon their obedience
to their leader. It was evident to all that the least insubordination,
in the position of peril in which they were placed, would lead to
inevitable ruin. Cortez closed his speech with the following forcible

"As for me, I have chosen my part. I will remain here while there is
one to bear me company. If there be any so craven as to shrink from
sharing the danger of our glorious enterprise, let them go home. There
is still one vessel left. Let them take that and return to Cuba. They
can tell there how they have deserted their commander and their
comrades, and can wait patiently till we return, loaded with the
treasures of the Mexicans."

These excitable men were roused to enthusiasm by this speech. One
general shout arose, "To Mexico! to Mexico!" Cortez now made vigorous
preparations for his march, uninvited and even forbidden, to the
capital of Montezuma. All was alacrity in the camp, and the Totonac
allies were as zealous in their preparations as were the Spaniards.

On the 15th of August, 1519, commenced this ever-memorable march. The
force of Cortez consisted of four hundred Spaniards, fifteen horses,
and seven pieces of artillery. The small remainder of his troops, some
being sick or otherwise disabled, were left in garrison at Vera Cruz.
The cacique of the Totonacs also furnished him with an army of two
thousand three hundred men. Of these, two hundred were what were
called _men of burden_, trained to carry heavy loads and to perform
all arduous labor. These men were invaluable in carrying the luggage
and in dragging the heavy artillery. Cortez assembled his forces at
Zempoalla. At the moment of their departure, he called all the
Spaniards around him, and addressed them in a devout speech.

"The blessed Savior," said he, "will give us victory. We have now no
other security than the favor of God and our own stout hearts."

The morning was serene and cloudless when the army commenced its
march, which led to scenes of unparalleled cruelty and of blood. Just
as the advance guard was leaving, a messenger brought the intelligence
that a strange vessel was seen cruising off the coast near Vera Cruz.
Cortez was alarmed, being apprehensive that it was some ship
belonging to a fleet sent against him by Velasquez. He immediately set
off with a small party of horse toward the shore. A boat left the
vessel and landed four men. Cortez seized them, and learned that this
ship was sent with two others, conveying two hundred and seventy
soldiers. The Governor of Jamaica having learned of the expedition of
Cortez, had sent this embassy to take possession of the country, and
to inform Cortez that, by a royal commission from the sovereign, the
Governor of Jamaica was entitled to have authority over the whole
coast. Cortez impressed the men as soldiers, and sent them to be added
to his army. Hoping to get a few more, he hid, with his guard, for
a whole night behind some sand-hills, expecting that others might
land to look for their lost comrades. Being disappointed in this
expectation, he resorted to a stratagem to lure others on shore. Four
of his men were dressed in the clothes of the prisoners, and sent to
the coast to make signals. A boat was soon seen making for the shore;
but, as soon as three had landed, some suspicion excited the fears of
the rest, and they pushed off from the beach. The three were, however,
instantly secured, and were immediately sent to join their companions
in the ranks. Cortez thus obtained an important re-enforcement of
seven Spaniards.

Delaying no longer, the whole army was speedily on the march. For two
days they moved gayly along through an enchanting country of luxuriant
foliage, waving grain, flowers, and perfume. They encountered no
opposition. Indian villages were thickly scattered around, and scenery
of surpassing magnificence and loveliness was continually opening
before their eyes. On the evening of the second day they arrived
at the beautiful town of Jalapa, which was filled with the rural
residences of the wealthy natives, and whose elevated site commanded a
prospect in which the beautiful and the sublime were most lavishly

Still continuing their march through a well-settled country, as they
ascended the gradual slope of the Cordilleras, on the fourth day they
arrived at Naulinco. This was a large and populous town, containing
many massive temples, whose altars were ever crimsoned with human
gore. The adventurers were received here, however, with great
kindness. The sight of these heathen temples inspired Cortez, as
usual, with intense zeal to convert the natives to Christianity. Time
pressed, and it was not safe to indulge in delay. The Indians were
bewildered rather than instructed by the exhortations of the Spanish
priests. They, however, consented that Cortez should rear a large
cross in the centre of their market-place as a memorial of his visit.
The enthusiastic Spaniard devoutly hoped that the sight of the cross
alone would excite the devotion of the natives.

They had now ascended far up the gentle ascent of the Cordilleras, and
were entering the defiles of the mountains. Here they encountered
rugged paths, and fierce storms of wind and sleet. A weary march
of three days brought them to the high and extended table-land so
characteristic of this country, seven thousand feet above the level
of the sea. Here they found a fertile and flowery savanna extending
before them for many leagues. The country was highly cultivated, and
luxuriantly adorned with hedges, with groves, with waving fields of
maize, and with picturesque towns and villages. God did indeed seem to
smile upon these reckless adventurers. Thus far their march had been
as a delightful holiday excursion.

They soon arrived at Tlatlanquitepec. It was even more populous and
improving in its architecture than Zempoalla. The stone houses were
spacious and comfortable. Thirteen massive temples testified to the
religious fervor of the people. But here they witnessed the most
appalling indications of the horrid atrocities of pagan idolatry. They
found, piled in order, as they judged, one hundred thousand skulls of
human victims who had been offered in sacrifice to their gods.[B]
There was a Mexican garrison stationed in this place, but not
sufficiently strong to resist the invaders. They, however, gave Cortez
a very cold reception, and endeavored to discourage him from advancing
by glowing descriptions of the wealth and power of the monarch whose
displeasure he was incurring. These developments, however, rather
incited anew the zeal of the Spaniards. Cortez, with commendable zeal,
again made vigorous but unavailing efforts to induce these benighted
pagans to renounce their cruel and bloodstained idols, and accept the
religion of Jesus. Poorly as Cortez was instructed in the doctrines
and the precepts of the Gospel, Christianity, even as darkly
discerned by his mind, was infinitely superior to the sanguinary
religious rites of these idolaters.

[Footnote B: "Near some temples were laid numbers of human skeletons,
so arranged that they could be counted with ease and certainty. I am
convinced, from my own observation, that there were above a hundred
thousand. I repeat it, I am sure that there were more than a hundred
thousand."--_Bernal Diaz_, p. 91.]

"We come," said he, firmly, to the chiefs and the principal personages
of the town, "from a distant country, to warn the great Montezuma to
desist from human sacrifices, and all outrages upon his own vassals or
his neighbors, and to require from him submission to our monarch; and
I now require you, all who hear me, to renounce your human sacrifices,
cannibal feasts, and other abominable practices, for such is the
command of our Lord God, whom we adore, who gives us life and death,
and who is to raise us up to heaven."

The natives, however, clung to the debasing faith of their fathers.
The zeal of Cortez was roused. He regarded the hideous idols as
representatives of devils, whom it was right, with any violence, to
overthrow. He was just about ordering an onslaught upon the temples
with sword and hatchet, when the prudent Father Olmedo dissuaded him.

"By introducing our religion thus violently," said this truly good
man, "we shall but expose the sacred symbol of the cross and the image
of the Blessed Virgin to insult as soon as we shall have departed. We
must wait till we can instruct their dark minds, so that from the
heart they may embrace our faith."

And here let us record the full and the cordial admission, that the
Roman Catholic Church, notwithstanding its corruptions, has sent out
into the wilds of heathenism as devoted Christians as the world has
ever seen.

After a rest in this city of five days, the route was again commenced.
The road wound picturesquely along the banks of a broad and tranquil
stream, fringed with an unbroken line of Indian villages. Some twenty
leagues of travel brought them to the large town of Xalacingo. Here
they met with friendly treatment. They were now on the frontiers of a
very powerful nation, called the Tlascalans, who, by their fierce and
warlike habits, had thus far succeeded in resisting the aggressions of
the Mexicans. The whole nation was organized into a camp, and thus,
though many bloody battles had been fought, the Tlascalans maintained
their independence.

Cortez was quite sanguine that he should be able to form an alliance
with this people. He therefore decided to rest his army for a few
days, while an embassy should be sent to the Tlascalan capital to
solicit permission to pass through their country, and gently to
intimate an alliance. Four Zempoallans of lofty rank were selected as
embassadors. In accordance with the custom of the country, they were
dressed in official costume, with flowing mantles, and each bearing
arrows tipped with _white_ feathers, the symbol of peace.

But the Tlascalans had heard of the arrival of the Spaniards upon the
coast, of their ships, "armed with thunder and clad with wings," of
their fearful war-horses, and of their weapons of destruction of
almost supernatural power. They had also heard of the violence with
which they had assailed the gods of the country. The principal lords
had already assembled in debate to decide upon the course to be
pursued should these formidable strangers approach their territory. It
was determined to oppose them with all the energies of artifice and of
force. The embassadors were accordingly seized and imprisoned, and
preparations were made to sacrifice them to their gods. They, however,
fortunately made their escape and returned to Cortez.

The Spanish chieftain, disappointed but not intimidated by this
result, made prompt arrangements to force his way through the
Tlascalan territory. Waving the sacred banner of the Church before his
troops, he exclaimed,

"Spaniards! follow boldly the standard of the Holy Cross. Through this
we shall conquer."

"On! on!" was the enthusiastic response of the soldiers. "In God alone
we place our trust."

The march of a few miles brought them to an extended wall of solid
masonry, built, like the great wall of China, to protect the territory
of the Tlascalans from invasion. Though the entrance gate was so
constructed that a small army stationed there might have made very
powerful resistance, for some reason the Tlascalan force had been
withdrawn. The army boldly pressed in, and advanced rapidly, yet using
all caution to guard against an ambuscade. They had not proceeded far,
however, before they met a large force of the Indians, who attacked
them with the utmost fury, and with a degree of military skill and
discipline which greatly surprised the Spaniards. Two of the horses
were killed, and several of the Spaniards wounded. For a time the
situation of the invaders was very precarious; but Cortez soon
brought up the artillery, and opened a destructive fire upon the
unprotected foe. The thunder of the guns, which the Tlascalans had
never heard before, and the horrid carnage of the grape-shot sweeping
through their ranks, compelled the warlike natives at last, though
slowly and sullenly, to retire. There was, however, no confusion in
their retreat. They retired in good order, ever presenting a bold
front to their pursuers. Cortez estimated the number of the enemy
engaged in this battle at six thousand.

The retiring Tlascalans took with them or destroyed all the provisions
which the country afforded; but, notwithstanding this, "their dogs,"
one of the historians of the expedition records, "which we caught when
they returned to their habitations at night, afforded us a very good

It was now the end of September. The army of Cortez had been gradually
increased by recruits from among the natives to three thousand.
Immediately after this first battle with the Tlascalans, the whole
army was assembled to offer thanks to God for the victory, and to
implore his continued protection. The soldiers, with the fresh blood
of the Tlascalans hardly washed from their hands, partook of the
sacrament of the Lord's Supper according to the rites of the Roman
Catholic Church.

The army now marched in close order. The Totonac allies, as well
as the Spaniards, were drilled to perfect discipline, and all were
inspired with intense zeal. With characteristic caution Cortez
chose every night his place of halting, and with great vigilance
fortified his encampment. There was something truly chivalrous in
the magnanimity displayed by these barbarians. They seemed to scorn
the idea of taking their enemies by surprise, but always sent them
fair warning when they intended to make an attack. They had now the
impression that the Spaniards had left their own country because it
did not furnish sufficient food for them. They therefore sent to their
camp an abundant supply of poultry and corn, saying, "Eat plentifully.
We disdain to attack a foe enfeebled by hunger. It would be an insult
to our gods to offer them starved victims; neither do we wish to feed
on emaciated bodies." We have before mentioned that it was the horrid
custom of this people to offer as sacrifices to their gods prisoners
taken in war, and then to banquet in savage orgies over the remains.

As Cortez moved cautiously on, adopting every precaution to guard
against surprise, he suddenly emerged from a valley upon a widespread
plain. Here he again encountered the enemy, drawn up in battle array,
in numbers apparently overwhelming. It was now evening. As it was
understood that the Tlascalans never attacked by night, considering it
dishonorable warfare, the Spaniards pitched their tents, having posted
sentinels to watch the foe with the utmost vigilance. The morning was
to usher in a dreadful battle, with fearful odds against the invaders.
Two chiefs who had been taken prisoners in the late battle stated that
the force of the Tlascalans consisted of five divisions of ten
thousand men each. Each division had its own uniform and banner, and
was under the command of its appropriate chief. It was a solemn hour
in the Spanish camp. "When all this was communicated to us," says
Diaz, "being but mortal, and, like all others, fearing death, we
prepared for battle by confessing to our reverend fathers, who were
occupied during that whole night in that holy office."

Cortez released his captive chiefs, and sent them with an amicable
message to their countrymen, stating that he asked only an unmolested
passage through their country to Mexico, but sternly declaring, "If
this proposition be refused, I will enter your capital as a conqueror.
I will turn every house. I will put every inhabitant to the sword." An
answer was returned of the most implacable defiance. "We will make
peace," said the Tlascalans, "by devouring your bodies, and offering
your hearts and your blood in sacrifice to our gods."

The morning of the 5th of September dawned cloudless and brilliant
upon the two armies encamped upon the high table-lands of the
Cordilleras. At an early hour the Spanish bugles roused the sleeping
host. The wounded men, even, resumed their place in the ranks, so
great was the peril. Cortez addressed a few inspiriting words to the
troops, and placed himself at their head. Just as the sun was rising
he put his army in motion. Soon they arrived in sight of the
Tlascalans. The interminable host filled a vast plain, six miles
square, with their thronging multitudes. The native warriors, in bands
skillfully posted, were decorated with the highest appliances of
barbaric pomp. As the experienced eye of Cortez ranged over their
dense ranks, he estimated their numbers at more than one hundred
thousand. Their weapons were slings, arrows, javelins, clubs, and rude
wooden swords, sharpened with teeth of flint.

The moment the Spaniards appeared, the Tlascalans, uttering hideous
yells, and filling the air with all the inconceivable clamor of their
military bands, rushed upon them like the on-rolling surges of the
ocean. The first discharge from the native army of stones, arrows, and
darts was so tremendous as to darken the sky like a thick cloud.
Notwithstanding the armor worn by the Spaniards was impervious to
arrow or javelin, many were wounded.

But soon the cannon was unmasked, and opened its terrific roar. Ball
and grape-shot swept through the dense ranks of the natives, mowing
down, in hideous mutilation, whole platoons at a discharge. The
courage displayed by the Tlascalans was amazing. It has never been
surpassed. Though hardly able, with their feeble weapons, to injure
their adversaries, regardless of death, they filled up the gaps which
the cannon opened in their ranks, and all the day long continued the
unequal fight.

Immense multitudes of the dead now covered the field, and many of the
chiefs were slain. Every horse was wounded; seventy Spaniards were
severely injured; one was dead, and nearly all were more or less
bruised. But the artillery and the musketry were still plied with
awful carnage. The commander-in-chief of the native army, finding
it in vain to contend against these new and apparently unearthly
weapons, at last ordered a retreat. The natives retired in as highly
disciplined array as would have been displayed by French or Austrian
troops. The victors, exhausted and bleeding, were glad to throw
themselves upon the gory grass of the battle-field for repose. The
cold wind at night, from the mountain glaciers, swept the bleak plain,
and the soldiers shivered in their houseless beds. They did not sleep,
however, until, in a body, they had returned thanks to the God of
peace and love for their glorious victory. "It truly seemed," said
Cortez, devoutly, "that God fought on our side."

It appears almost incredible that, in such a conflict, the Spanish
army should have received so little injury. But Cortez made no account
of any amount of loss on the part of his native allies. The Spaniards
only he thought of, and they were protected with the utmost care.
Their artillery and musketry kept the natives at a distance, and
their helmets and coats of mail no native weapon could easily
penetrate. Their danger was consequently so small that we can not
give them credit for quite so much heroism as they have claimed. The
enterprise, in its commencement, was bold in the extreme; but it is
easy to be fearless when experience proves that there is but little
peril to be encountered. They fought one hundred thousand men for a
whole day, and lost _one man_!

As night enveloped in its folds the bloodstained hosts, the untiring
Cortez, having buried his dead, that his loss might not be perceived
by the enemy, sallied forth with the horse and a hundred foot, and
four hundred of the native allies, and with fire and sword devastated
six villages of a hundred houses each, taking four hundred prisoners,
including men and women. Before daybreak he returned from this wild
foray to the camp.

During the night the Tlascalans had been receiving re-enforcements,
and when the first dawn of morning appeared, more than one hundred and
forty-nine thousand natives, according to the estimate of Cortez, made
a rush upon the camp. After a battle of four hours they were again
compelled to retreat. "As we carried the banner of the cross," says
Cortez, "and fought for our faith, God, in his glorious providence,
gave us a great victory."

Night again came. Again this indomitable man of iron sinews marched
forth in the darkness, with his horse, one hundred Spanish infantry,
and a large party of his allies, and set three thousand houses in
flames, encountering no opposition, burning out only the women and
children and the unarmed inhabitants. Cortez treated all the prisoners
he took very kindly, and liberated them with presents. This humanity
amazed the natives, who were accustomed to a procedure so very

The Tlascalans were now much disheartened, and were inclined to peace.
But they were quite at a loss to know how to approach the terrible
foe. After much deliberation, they sent an embassage, composed of
fifty of their most prominent men, bearing rich presents. Cortez
suspected them of being spies. With cruelty, which will ever be an
ineffaceable stigma upon his name, he ordered them all to be arrested,
and their hands to be cut off. Thus awfully mutilated, these unhappy
men were sent back to the Tlascalan camp with the defiant message,

"The Tlascalans may come by day or by night; the Spaniards are ready
for them."

Cortez himself relates this act of atrocious cruelty. Nothing can be
said in its extenuation. There was even no _proof_, but only suspicion
that they were spies. It is, indeed, not at all probable that, if such
were the intention, fifty of the most prominent men of the nation
would have been selected. It is, however, certain, that after this all
farther idea of resistance was abandoned. The commander-in-chief of
the Tlascalan army, with a numerous retinue, entered the Spanish camp
with proffers of submission. This brave and proud chieftain, subdued
by the terrors of the resistless engines of war worked by the
Spaniards, addressed Cortez in the following language, which will
command universal respect and sympathy.

"I loved my country," said he, "and wished to preserve its
independence. We have been beaten. I hope that you will use your
victory with moderation, and not trample upon our liberties. In the
name of the nation, I now tender obedience to the Spaniards. We will
be as faithful in peace as we have been bold in war."

Cortez received this submission with great secret satisfaction, for
his men, worn down with fatigue, were beginning loudly to murmur. A
cordial peace was soon concluded. The Tlascalans were the inveterate
foes of the Mexicans, and had long been fighting against them. They
yielded themselves as vassals to the King of Spain, and engaged to
assist Cortez in all his enterprises. The two armies, which had
recently met in such fierce and terrible encounter, now mingled
together as friends and brothers. In one vast united band they marched
toward the great city of Tlascala, and entered the capital in triumph.

It was, indeed, a large and magnificent city; more populous, and
of more imposing architecture, Cortez asserts, than the celebrated
Moorish capital, Granada, in old Spain. An immense throng flocked from
the gates of the city to meet the troops. The roofs of the houses were
covered with spectators. Wild music, from semi-barbarian voices and
bands, filled the air. Plumed warriors hurried to and fro, and shouts
of welcome seemed to rend the skies, as these hardy adventurers slowly
defiled through the crowded gates and streets of the city. The police
regulations were extraordinarily effective, repressing all disorder.
The Spaniards were surprised to find barbers' shops, and also baths
both for hot and cold water.

The submission of the Tlascalans was sincere and entire. They were
convinced that the Spaniards were beings of a superior order whom it
was in vain to resist. Cortez treated the vanquished natives with
great courtesy and kindness. He took the Tlascalan republic under his
protection, and promised to defend them from every foe.

The peril of Cortez at this juncture had been very great. The
difficulty of obtaining sufficient food for his army, while ever on
the march, called into requisition his utmost sagacity and exertions.
No man of ordinary character could have surmounted this difficulty.
Fatigue and exposure had placed many on the sick-list, and there were
no hospital wagons to convey them along. Fifty-five Spaniards had died
on the way. Cortez himself was seriously indisposed. Every night one
half of the army kept up a vigilant watch, while all the rest slept on
their arms. And Diaz records that they had no salve to dress their
wounds but what was composed of the fat of the Indians whom they had
slain. Whenever the enemy was defeated, he retired only to reappear in
increasing numbers. Under these circumstances, it is not strange that
many of the soldiers had thought of their homes, and that loud murmurs
had been uttered. But this sudden peace dispelled all discontent. In
the abundance and the repose of the great city of Tlascala, all past
toil and hardship were forgotten.

Cortez, in his letter to the emperor, stated that so populous was
Tlascala, that he presumed as many as thirty thousand persons appeared
daily in the market-place of the city buying and selling. The
population of the province he estimated at five hundred thousand.



Prudence of Cortez.--Enthusiasm of the natives.--Alarm of Montezuma.
--The embassy to Cortez.--Cortez's answer.--Conversion of the
natives.--The five maidens.--Cortez declines the gift.--Presentation
of the image.--The compromise.--Indignation on both sides.--Father
Olmedo dissuades him from his purpose.--The protest.--The prisons
emptied of the victims.--Baptism of the brides.--Montezuma invites
Cortez to his capital.--Zeal of the Tlascalans.--The city of Cholula.
--Arrival.--They decline admitting the Tlascalans.--Rumors of
treachery.--Marina discovers a plot.--Cortez resents the treachery
of the natives.--The massacre.--Destruction of Cholula.--Proclamation
offering pardon.--Appointment of the new cacique.--Public thanksgivings.
--Statement of Mr. Thompson.--Cortez resumes his march toward Mexico.
--Terror of Montezuma.--Cortez's message to the monarch.--His
answer.--Appearance of discontent.--Arrival at Ithualco.--View from
the heights.--Cortez resolves to continue his march.--Description of
the valley of Mexico.--Vacillation of Montezuma.--Offers from
Montezuma.--Satisfaction of Cortez.--His answer.--Arrival at
Amaquemecan.--Profuse hospitality.--Ayotzingo.--Lake Chalco.--
Cuitlahuac.--Immense crowd.--They enter Iztapalapan.--Appearance
of the city.--Reception of Cortez.--The procession.--The causeway.
--Arrival of the Emperor.--Appearance of Montezuma.--Meeting of the
emperor and the marauder.--Cortez conducted to his quarters.--His
accommodations.--Size and comfort of the mansion.--Vigilance of
Cortez.--Presents to Cortez.--The conference.--The tradition.
--Montezuma urged to accept the Christian faith.--The argument.
--Achievements of the Spaniards.

Cortez remained in Tlascala twenty days, to refresh his troops, and
to cement his alliance with his new friends. He was all this time
very diligent in making the most minute inquiries respecting the
condition of the Mexican empire, and in preparing for every emergence
which could arise in the continuance of his march. Bold as he was,
his prudence equaled his boldness, and he left nothing willingly to
the decisions of chance. The Tlascalans hated virulently their
ancient foes the Mexicans, and with that fickleness of character,
ever conspicuous in the uninformed multitude, became fond even to
adulation of the Spaniards. With great enthusiasm they embarked in the
enterprise of joining the expedition against Montezuma. All the forces
of the republic were promptly raised, and placed under the command of

Montezuma was informed of all these proceedings, and was greatly
alarmed. He feared that a prophetic doom was about to descend upon
him, and this apprehension wilted all his wonted energies. Thus
influenced, he sent an embassy, consisting of five of the most
conspicuous nobles of his empire, accompanied by a retinue of two
hundred attendants, to visit the Spanish camp. _Men of burden_ were
laden down with rich presents for Cortez. The gold alone of the gifts
was estimated at over fifty thousand dollars. Montezuma weakly hoped
by these gifts to induce Cortez to arrest his steps. The embassadors
were instructed to urge him, by all possible considerations, not to
attempt to approach the Mexican capital.

Cortez returned an answer replete with expressions of Castilian
courtesy, but declaring that he must obey the commands of his
sovereign, which required him to visit the metropolis of the great

But, in the midst of all these cares, Cortez did not forget his great
mission of converting the natives to Christianity. This subject was
ever prominent in his mind, and immediately upon his entrance into the
city he commenced, through his interpreters, urging the chiefs to
abandon their cruel idolatry. He argued with them himself, and called
into requisition all the persuasive eloquence of good Father Olmedo.

The chiefs brought five maidens, all noble born, and of selected
beauty. These girls were beautifully dressed, and each attended by
a slave. Xicotenga, the cacique of the nation, presented his own
daughter to Cortez, and requested him to assign the rest to his
officers. Cortez firmly, yet courteously declined the gift, saying,

"If you wish that we should intermarry with you, you must first
renounce your idolatrous worship and adore our God. He will then bless
you in this life, and after death he will receive you to heaven to
enjoy eternal happiness; but if you persist in the worship of your
idols, which are devils, you will be drawn by them to their infernal
pit, there to burn eternally in flames of fire."

He then presented to them "a beauteous image of Our Lady, with her
precious Son in her arms," and attempted to explain to them the
mystery of the incarnation, and the potency of the mediatorship of
the Virgin.

"The God of the Christians," the Tlascalans replied, "must be great
and good. We will give him a place with our gods, who are also great
and good. Our god grants us victory over our enemies. Our goddess
preserves us from inundations of the river. Should we forsake their
worship, the most dreadful punishment would overwhelm us."

Cortez could admit of no such compromise; and he urged the destruction
of the idols with so much zeal and importunity, that at last the
Tlascalans became angry, and declared that on no account whatever
would they abandon the gods of their fathers. Cortez now, in his turn,
was roused to virtuous indignation, and he resolved that, happen what
might, the true God should be honored by the swift destruction of
these idols of the heathen. Encouraged by the success of his violent
measures at Zempoalla, he was on the point of ordering the soldiers to
make an onslaught on the gods of the Tlascalans, which would probably
have so roused the warlike and exasperated natives as to have led to
the entire destruction of his army in the narrow streets of the
thronged capital, when the judicious and kind-hearted Father
Olmedo dissuaded him from the rash enterprise. With true Christian
philosophy, he plead that forced conversion was no conversion at all;
that God's reign was only over willing minds and in the heart.
"Religion," said this truly good man, "can not be propagated by the
sword. Patient instruction must enlighten the understanding, and
pious example captivate the affections, before men can be induced to
abandon error and embrace the truth." It is truly refreshing to meet
with these noble ideas of toleration spoken by a Spanish monk in that
dark age. Let such a fact promote, not indifference to true and
undefiled religion, but a generous charity.[C]

[Footnote C: "When Reverend Father Olmedo, who was a wise and
good theologian, heard this, being averse to forced conversions,
notwithstanding it had been done in Zempoalla, he advised Cortez to
urge it no farther at present. He also observed that the destruction
of their idols was a fruitless violence if the principle was not
eradicated from their minds by arguments, as they would find other
idols to continue their worship to elsewhere."]

Cortez reluctantly yielded to these remonstrances of an ecclesiastic
whose wisdom and virtue he was compelled to respect. The manifest
pressure of circumstances also undoubtedly had their influence. But
this ardent reformer could not yield without entering his protest.

"We can not," he said, "I admit, change the heart, but we can demolish
these abominable idols, clamoring for their hecatombs of human
victims, and we can introduce in their stead the blessed Virgin and
her blessed child. Will not this be a humane change? And, because we
can not do the whole, shall we refuse to do a part?"

Upon one point, however, Cortez was inflexible, and to this the
Tlascalans, by way of compromise, assented. He insisted that the
prisons should be entirely emptied of victims destined for sacrifice.
There were in the temples many poor wretches fattening for these
horrid orgies. A promise was also exacted from the Tlascalans that
they would hereafter desist from these heathen practices; but no
sooner had the tramp of the Spaniards ceased to echo through the
streets of Tlascala, than the prisons were again filled with victims,
and human blood, in new torrents, crimsoned their altars.

One of the temples was also cleared out, and an altar being erected,
it was converted into a Christian church. Here the young ladies
destined as brides for the Spanish soldiers were baptized, their
friends presenting no objections. The daughter of Xicotenga received
the Christian name of Louisa. Cortez took her by the hand, and
gracefully presented her to one of his captains, Alvarado, telling her
father that that officer was his brother. The cacique expressed entire
satisfaction at this arrangement. All were baptized and received
Christian names. Many of the descendants of this beautiful and amiable
Indian maiden may now be found among the grandees of Spain.

Montezuma, on the return of his embassadors, finding that no argument
could dissuade Cortez, and fearing by opposition to provoke the
hostility of an enemy who wielded such supernatural thunders, now
decided to change his policy, and by cordiality to endeavor to win his
friendship. He accordingly sent another embassy, with still richer
presents, inviting Cortez to his capital, and assuring him of a warm
welcome. He entreated him, however, not to enter into any alliance
with the Tlascalans, the most fierce and unrelenting foes of the
Mexican empire.

The time had now arrived for Cortez to resume his march. The zeal of
the Tlascalans to accompany him was so great that, according to his
representation, he might have taken with him one hundred thousand
volunteers. He, however, considered this force too unwieldy, and
accepted of but six thousand picked troops. This, however, was a
strong re-enforcement, and Cortez now rode proudly at the head of a
regular army which could bid defiance to all opposition.

Eighteen miles from Tlascala was situated the city of Cholula, and
this city was but sixty-four miles east of the renowned Mexican
metropolis. Cholula was a city whose population was estimated at one
hundred thousand. As it belonged to Mexico, the bitterest animosity
existed between its inhabitants and those of Tlascala. Cortez was
warned by his new allies not to enter the city, as he might depend
upon encountering treachery there; but the Spanish general considered
himself now too strong to turn aside from any danger.

As the Spanish army approached the city, a procession came out to meet
them, with banners, and bands of music, and censers smoking with
incense. Numerous nobles and priests headed the procession. They
received Cortez and the Zempoallans with every demonstration of
friendship, but declined admitting their inveterate enemies, the
Tlascalans, within their walls. Cortez accordingly ordered these
allies to encamp upon the plain before the city, while he, with
the rest of the army, marched with great military pomp into the
metropolis, which was resounding with acclamations.

He found a beautiful city, with wide, neatly-arranged streets and
handsome dwellings. It was the sacred city of the Mexicans. Many
gorgeous temples lined the streets, and one of extraordinary grandeur
was the most renowned sanctuary of the empire. It is alleged by some,
and denied by others, that the Mexicans had invited the Spaniards into
the holy city, hoping by the aid of the gods to effect their entire
destruction. The Tlascalans, who were encamped outside of the city,
affirmed that the women and children of the principal inhabitants were
leaving the city by night. They also declared that a large body of
Mexican troops were concealed near the town. Two of the Tlascalans,
who had entered the city in disguise, declared that some of the
streets were barricaded, and that others were undermined, and but
slightly covered over, as traps for the horses. They also reported
that six children had recently been sacrificed in the chief temple,
which was a certain indication that some great military enterprise was
on foot. Cortez, however, did not place much reliance upon this
testimony from the Tlascalans. He was well aware that they would be
glad, in any way, to bring down destruction on Cholula.

But more reliable testimony came from the amiable Marina. She had won
the love of one of the noble ladies of the city. This woman, wishing
to save Marina from destruction, informed her that a plot was in
progress for the inevitable ruin of her friends. According to her
account, deep pits were dug and concealed in the streets, stones
carried to the tops of the houses and the temples, and that Mexican
troops were secretly drawing near. The fatal hour was at hand, and
escape impossible.

The energy of Cortez was now roused. Quietly he drew up the Spanish
and Zempoallan troops, armed to the teeth, in the heart of the city.
He sent a secret order to the Tlascalans to approach, and, at a given
signal, to fall upon the surprised and unarmed Cholulans, and cut them
down without mercy. He then, upon a friendly pretext, sent for the
magistrates of the city and all the principal nobles. They were
immediately assembled, and the signal for massacre was given.

The poor natives, taken entirely by surprise, rushed in dismay this
way and that, encountering death at every corner. The Tlascalans, like
hungry wolves, swept through the streets, glutting themselves with
blood. It was with them the carnival of insatiable revenge. The
dwellings were sacked piteously, and the city every where kindled
into flame. Women and children were seized by the merciless Tlascalans
to grace their triumph, and to bleed upon their altars of human
sacrifice. For two days this horrid scene continued. At last, from
exhaustion, the carnage ceased. The city was reduced to smouldering
ruins, and pools of blood and mutilated carcases polluted the streets.
The wail of the wretched survivors, homeless and friendless, rose to
the ear of Heaven more dismal than the piercing shriek of anguish
which is silenced by death. The argument with which Cortez defends
this outrage is very laconic:

"Had I not done this to them, they would have done the same to me."

[Illustration: MASSACRE IN CHOLULA.]

Such is war--congenial employment only for fiends. It is Satan's work,
and can be efficiently prosecuted only by Satan's instruments. Six
thousand Cholulans were slain in this awful massacre. The Spaniards
were now sufficiently avenged. Cortez issued a proclamation offering
pardon to all who had escaped the massacre, and inviting them to
return to their smouldering homes. Slowly they returned, women and
children, from the mountains where they had fled; some, who had
feigned death, crept from beneath the bodies of the slain, and
others emerged from hiding-places in their devastated dwellings. The
cacique of the Cholulans had been killed in the general slaughter.
Cortez appointed a brother of the late cacique to rule over the city,
and, in apparently a sincere proclamation, informed the bereaved and
miserable survivors that it was with the greatest sorrow that he
had found himself compelled by their treachery to this terrible
punishment. The Tlascalans, glutted with the blood of their ancient
foes, were compelled to surrender all their prisoners, for Cortez
would allow of no human sacrifices.

Cortez thought that the natives were now in a very suitable frame of
mind for his peculiar kind of conversion. They were truly very pliant.
No resistance was offered to the Spanish soldiers as they tumbled the
idols out of the temples, and reared in their stead the cross and the
image of the Virgin. Public thanksgivings were then offered to God in
the purified temples of the heathen for the victory he had vouchsafed,
and mass was celebrated by the whole army.

In the year 1842, Hon. Waddy Thompson passed over the plain where once
stood the city of Cholula. He thus describes it:

     "The great city of Cholula was situated about six miles from
     the present city of Puebla. It was here the terrible
     slaughter was committed which has left the deepest stain
     upon the otherwise glorious and wonderful character of
     Cortez. Not a vestige--literally none--not a brick or a
     stone standing upon another, remains of this immense city
     except the great pyramid, which still stands in gloomy and
     solitary grandeur in the vast plain which surrounds it, and
     there it will stand forever. This pyramid is built of
     unburned bricks. Its dimensions, as given by Humboldt, are,
     base, 1440 feet; present height, 177; area on the summit,
     45,210 square feet. A Catholic chapel now crowns the summit
     of this immense mound, the sides of which are covered with
     grass and small trees. As seen for miles along the road, an
     artificial mountain, standing in the solitude of a vast
     plain, it is a most imposing and beautiful object."

After the delay of a fortnight, Cortez resumed his march toward
the capital of Mexico, which was now distant from him but twenty
leagues. It was now the 29th of October. The tidings of the horrible
retribution which had fallen upon Cholula spread far and wide, and
it accomplished its end in preventing any farther manifestations
of hostility. City after city, appalled by this exhibition of the
vengeance of those foes who wielded the thunder and the lightning
of heaven, and who, with the dreadful war-horse, could overtake the
swiftest foe, sent in the most humble messages of submission, with
accompanying presents, to propitiate the favor of the terrible

Montezuma, as he was informed of the fate of Cholula, turned pale upon
his throne, and trembled in every fibre. He dreaded unspeakably to
have the Spaniards enter his capital, and yet he dared not undertake
to oppose them. Cortez sent embassadors before him to the capital with
the following message to Montezuma:

"The Cholulans have asserted that Montezuma instigated their
treachery. I will not believe it. Montezuma is a great and a powerful
sovereign; he would make war in the open field, and not by cowardly
stratagem. The Spaniards, however, are ready for any warfare, secret
or open."

This was bold defiance. Montezuma superstitiously read in it the
decree of fate announcing his doom. He returned an answer solemnly
declaring that he had no part in the guilt of the Cholulans, and
renewedly inviting Cortez to visit his city.

The country through which the adventurers passed became increasingly
populous, luxuriant, and beautiful. They were continually met
by embassies from the different cities on or near their route,
endeavoring to propitiate their favor by protestations of allegiance
and gifts of gold. They also perceived many indications of discontent
with the reign of Montezuma, which encouraged Cortez greatly in his
expectation of being able to overturn the empire, by availing himself
of the alienation existing in its constituent parts. Multitudes of the
disaffected joined the army of Cortez, where they were all warmly
welcomed. "Thus," says Clavigero, "the farther the Spaniards advanced
into the country, the more they continued to increase their forces;
like a rivulet which, by the accession of other streams, swells in its
course into a large river."


For several days they toiled resolutely along, "recommending," says
Diaz, "our souls to the Lord Jesus Christ, who had brought us through
our past dangers," until, from the heights of Ithualco, they looked
down over the majestic, the enchanting valley of Mexico. A more
perfectly lovely scene has rarely greeted human eyes. In the far
distance could be discerned, through the transparent atmosphere,
the dim blue outline of the mountains by which the almost boundless
basin of Mexico was girdled. Forests and rivers, orchards and lakes,
cultivated fields and beautiful villages adorned the landscape. The
magnificent city of Mexico was situated, in queenly splendor, upon
islands in the bosom of a series of lakes more than a hundred miles
in length. Innumerable towns, with their lofty temples, and white,
picturesque dwellings, fringed the margin of the crystal waters. The
circumference of the valley girdled by the mountains was nearly two
hundred miles.

The Spaniards gazed upon the enchanting scene with amazement, and many
of them with alarm. They saw indications of civilization and of power
far beyond what they had anticipated. Cortez, however, relying upon
the efficiency of gunpowder, and also deeming himself invincible while
the sacred banner of the cross waved over his army, marched boldly on.
The love of plunder was a latent motive omnipotent in his soul, and he
saw undreamed of wealth lavishly spread before him. Though Cortez was,
at this period of his life, a stranger to the sordid vice of avarice,
he coveted intensely boundless wealth, to be profusely distributed in
advancing his great plans.[D]

[Footnote D: Hon. Waddy Thompson thus describes the appearance of the
great valley of Mexico at the present time. "The road passes within
about twenty miles of the mountain of Pococatapetl, the highest point
of the territory of Mexico; but the brightness of the atmosphere, and
a tropical sun shining upon the snow with which it is always covered,
makes the distance seem very much shorter--not, indeed, more than one
or two miles. In descending the mountain, at about the distance of
twenty-five miles the first glimpse is caught of the city and valley
of Mexico. No description can convey to the reader any adequate
idea of the effect upon one who, for the first time, beholds that
magnificent prospect. With what feelings must Cortez have regarded
it when he first saw it from the top of the mountain between the
snow-covered volcanoes of Pococatapetl and Iztaccihuatl, a short
distance to the left of where the road now runs! The valley was not
then, as it is now, for the greater part a barren waste, but was
studded all over with the homes of men, containing more than forty
cities, besides towns and villages without number. Never has such a
vision burst upon the eyes of mortal man since that upon which the
seer of old looked down from Pisgah."]

Montezuma was continually vacillating as to the course to be pursued.
At one hour he would resolve to marshal his armies, and fall, if fall
he must, gloriously, amid the ruins of his empire. The next hour
timidity would be in the ascendant, and a new embassy would be sent
to Cortez, with courteous speeches and costly gifts. The unhappy
monarch, in his despair, had gone to one of the most sacred of the
sanctuaries of the empire to mourn and to pray. Here he passed eight
days in the performance of all the humiliating and penitential rites
of his religion. But each day Cortez drew nearer, and the crowds
accumulating around him increased.

The spirit of Montezuma was now so crushed that he sent an embassy to
Cortez offering him four loads of gold for himself, and one for each
of his captains, and he also promised to pay a yearly tribute to
the King of Spain, if the dreaded conqueror would turn back. This
messenger met the Spanish army upon the heights of Ithualco, as they
were gazing with admiration upon the goodly land spread out before
them. Cortez listened with much secret satisfaction to this messenger,
as an indication of the weakness and the fear of the great monarch.
Returning the laconic answer, "I must see Montezuma, and deliver to
him personally the message of the emperor my master," he more eagerly
pressed on his way.

Montezuma received this response as the doom decreed to him by fate.
"Of what avail," the unhappy monarch is reported to have said, "is
resistance, when the gods have declared themselves against us? Yet I
mourn most for the old and infirm, the women and children, too feeble
to fight or to fly. For myself and the brave men around me, we must
bare our breasts to the storm, and meet it as we may."

The Spaniards had now arrived at the city of Amaquemecan. They
were received by the principal inhabitants of the place with an
ostentatious display of courtesy and friendship. Two very large
stone buildings were provided for their accommodation. This profuse
hospitality was excited by terror. After resting here two days, Cortez
resumed his march. Their path still led through smiling villages and
fields of maize, and through gardens blooming with gorgeous flowers,
which the natives cultivated with religious and almost passionate

At last they arrived at Ayotzingo--the Venice of the New World--an
important town, built on wooden piles in the waters of Lake Chalco.
Gondolas of every variety of color, and of graceful structure, glided
through the liquid streets. The main body of the Spanish army encamped
outside of the city. A vast concourse of the natives flocked to
the camp. Cortez became suspicious of premeditated treachery, and
fifteen or twenty of the natives were heartlessly shot down, as an
intimidation. The terrified Indians did not venture to resent this
cruel requital of their hospitality.

After remaining here two days, the march was again resumed along the
southern shores of Lake Chalco. Clusters of villages, embowered in
luxuriant foliage, and crimson with flowers, fringed the lake. The
waters were covered with the light boats of the natives, gliding in
every direction. At last they came to a narrow dike or causeway, five
miles long, and so narrow that but two or three horsemen could ride
abreast. In the middle of this causeway, which separated Lake Chalco
from Lake Xochicalco, was built the town of Cuitlahuac, which Cortez
described as the most beautiful he had yet seen. Before the mansions
of the principal inhabitants there were lawns ornamented with trees
and shrubbery. Temples and lofty towers rose in much majesty of
architecture. Floating gardens were constructed on the lake, and
innumerable boats, plied by the strong arms of the native rowers,
almost covered the placid waters. As the Spaniards marched along this
narrow causeway, the crowd became so immense that Cortez was obliged
to resort to threats of violence to force his way. The place was so
very favorable for the natives to make an assault, that Cortez
conducted the march with the utmost possible vigilance, and commanded
the Indians not to come near his ranks unless they chose to be
regarded as enemies. The adventurers were, however, received in
Cuitlahuac with the utmost kindness, and all their wants were
abundantly supplied.

When they had crossed the narrow causeway, and had arrived on the
other side of the lake, they entered the city of Iztapalapan, which
contained, according to their estimate, about fifteen thousand houses.
The city was in the near vicinity of the capital. The natives, with
refinement and taste not yet equaled by the money-making millions of
North America, had allotted land in the centre of the city for a vast
public garden, blooming with flowers of every variety of splendor. A
large aviary was filled with birds of gorgeous plumage and sweet song.
A stone reservoir, of ample dimensions, contained water to irrigate
the grounds, and it was also abundantly stored with fish. Many of the
chiefs of the neighboring cities had assembled here to meet Cortez.
They received him with courtesy, with hospitality, but with reserve.
He was now but a few miles from the renowned metropolis of Montezuma,
and the turrets of the lofty temples of idolatry which embellished the
capital glittered in the sunlight before him.

Another night passed away, and, as another morning dawned, the Spanish
army was again on the march. It was the 8th of November, 1519. When
they drew near the city, they were first met by a procession of a
thousand of the principal inhabitants, adorned with waving plumes, and
clad in finely-embroidered mantles. They announced that their renowned
Emperor Montezuma was advancing to welcome the strangers. They were
now upon the causeway which led from the main land to the island city.
The long and narrow way was thronged with crowds which could not be
numbered, while on each side the lake was darkened with boats. Soon
the glittering train of the emperor appeared in the distance.

Montezuma was accompanied by the highest possible pomp of
semi-barbarian etiquette and splendor. He was seated in a gorgeous
palanquin, waving with plumes and glittering with gold, and was borne
on the shoulders of four noblemen. Three officers, each holding a
golden rod, walked before him. Others supported over his head, by
four posts, to shelter him from the sun, a canopy of beautiful
workmanship, richly embellished with green feathers, and gold,
and precious gems. The monarch wore upon his head a golden crown,
surmounted by a rich head-dress of plumes. A mantle, richly
embroidered with the most costly ornaments, was folded gracefully upon
his shoulders. Buskins, fringed with gold, fitted closely to his legs,
and the soles of his shoes were of gold. He was tall, well formed, and
a peculiarly handsome man.

As the monarch drew near, Cortez dismounted, and advanced on foot to
meet him. At the same time Montezuma alighted from his palanquin, and,
leaning upon the arms of two of the highest members of his court, with
great dignity approached his dreaded guest. His attendants in the mean
time spread before their monarch rich carpets, that his sacred feet
might not come in contact with the ground. An expression of anxiety
and of deep melancholy overspread the countenance of the sovereign.


The Mexican emperor and the Spanish marauder met in the interchange of
all Mexican and Castilian courtesies. After the exchange of a few
words, the whole blended cortège marched through the immense crowd,
which opened before them, and entered the imperial city. "Who,"
exclaims Diaz, "could count the number of men, women, and children
which thronged the streets, the canals, and terraces on the tops of
the houses on that day? The whole of what I saw on this occasion is
so strongly imprinted on my memory that it appears to me as if it had
happened only yesterday. Glory to our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave us
courage to venture upon such dangers, and brought us safely through

Montezuma himself conducted Cortez to the quarters which he had
prepared for his reception in the heart of the metropolis. With
refinement of politeness which would have done honor to the court
of Louis XIV., he said, on retiring,

"You are now, with your brothers, in your own house. Refresh
yourselves after your fatigue, and be happy until I return."

The spot assigned to the Spaniards was an immense palace, or, rather,
range of mansions, in the very centre of the metropolis, erected by
the father of Montezuma. The buildings inclosed an immense court-yard.
The whole was surrounded by a strong stone wall, surmounted with
towers for defense and ornament. Cortez could not have constructed
for himself a more admirable citadel for the accomplishment of his
ambitious and violent purposes. The apartment assigned to the Spanish
chieftain was tapestried with the finest embroidered cotton. The rooms
and courts were so large as to afford ample accommodations for the
whole Spanish army.

    "This edifice was so large," writes one of the historians of
    that day, "that both the Spaniards and their allies, who,
    together with the women and the servants whom they brought
    with them, exceeded seven thousand in number, were lodged
    in it. Every where there was the greatest cleanliness and
    neatness. Almost all the chambers had beds of mats, of
    rushes, and of palm, according to the custom of the people,
    and other mats, in a round form, for pillows. They had
    coverlets of fine cotton, and chairs made of single pieces of
    wood. Some of the chambers were also carpeted with mats, and
    the walls were hung with tapestry beautifully colored."

Cortez, with vigilance which never slept, immediately fortified his
quarters, so as to guard against any possible surprise. Artillery was
planted to sweep every avenue. Sentinels were posted at important
points, with orders to observe the same diligence by night and by day
as if they were in the midst of hostile armies. A large division of
the troops was always on guard, prepared for every possible emergency.

In the evening, Montezuma returned, with great pomp, to visit his
terrible guests, and to inquire if they were provided with every thing
which could promote their comfort. He brought with him presents of
great value for Cortez and his officers, and also for each one of the
privates in the Spanish camp. A long conference ensued, during which
Montezuma betrayed his apprehension that the Spaniards were the
conquerors indicated by tradition and prophecy as decreed to overthrow
the Mexican power. Cortez artfully endeavored to frame his reply so as
to encourage this illusion. He expatiated at great length upon the
wealth and the resistless power of the emperor whom he served. "My
master wishes," said he, "to alter certain laws and customs in this
kingdom, and particularly to present to you a religion far superior to
the bloody creed of Mexico." He then, with great earnestness, unfolded
to the respectful monarch the principal doctrines of Christianity--the
one living and true God--the advent of the Savior, his atonement, and
salvation through faith in him--the rites of baptism and of the Lord's
Supper--the eternal rewards of the righteous, and the unending woes of
the wicked. To these remarks Cortez added an indignant remonstrance
against the abomination of human sacrifices, and of eating the flesh
of the wretched victims. By way of application to this sermon, which
was truthful in its main sentiments, and unquestionably sincere, this
most singular of missionaries called out the artillery. We would
not speak lightly of sacred things in stating the fact that Cortez
considered gunpowder as one of the most important of the means of
grace. He judged that the thunder of his cannon, reverberating through
the streets of the astounded capital, would exert a salutary influence
upon the minds of the natives, and produce that pliancy of spirit,
that child-like humility, so essential both to voluntary and
involuntary conversion. The most important truth and the most
revolting falsehood here bewilderingly meet and blend.

The sun had now gone down, and the short twilight was fading away
into the darkness of the night, when, at a given signal, every cannon
was discharged. The awful roar rolled through the streets of the
metropolis, and froze the hearts of the people with terror. Were these
strange beings, they inquired among themselves, who thus wielded the
heaviest thunders of heaven, gods or demons? Volley after volley, in
appalling peals, burst from the city, and resounded over the silent
lake. Dense volumes of suffocating smoke, scarcely moved by the
tranquil air, settled down upon the streets. Silence ensued. The voice
of Cortez had been heard in tones never to be forgotten. The stars
came out in the serene sky, and a brilliant tropical night enveloped
in its folds the fearless Spaniard and the trembling Mexican.

It was the night of the 8th of November. But seven months had elapsed
since the Spaniards landed in the country. The whole Spanish force,
exclusive of the natives whom they had induced to join them, consisted
of but four hundred and fifty men. They were now two hundred miles
from the coast, in the very heart of an empire numbering many
millions, and by sagacity, courage, and cruelty, they had succeeded in
bringing both monarch and people into almost entire submission to
their sway. The genius of romance can narrate few tales more



The ride through Tenochtitlan.--Visit to the market-place.--The
pyramidal temple.--View from the summit.--The gong.--Indignation of
Cortez.--The chapel.--General appearance of the city.--Apprehension
from the natives.--The Tlascalans anxious for war.--The trap.--
Situation of the city.--Cortez determines to seize Montezuma.--The
pretext.--Engagement at Vera Cruz.--Cortez demands atonement.--
Montezuma declares his innocence.--Montezuma called upon to surrender
himself a prisoner.--Montezuma conveyed to the Spanish quarters.--The
body-guard.--Qualpopoca arrested.--Condemned to be burned alive.--
Atrocious insult to Montezuma.--Execution of the victims.--Cortez the
emperor.--The Spanish commission.--Contributions exacted.--Discontent
of the soldiers.--Building of the brigantines.--Indignation of
Cacamatzin.--His arrest and imprisonment.--Acknowledgment of
vassalage.--Indignation of the nobles.--Cortez determines to overthrow
the system of idolatry.--Opposition.--Indications of trouble.--
Hardships endured.--Alarming intelligence.--An armament sent after
Cortez.--Surrender of Vera Cruz demanded.--The envoy sent to Cortez.
--Montezuma elated.--Preparations for war.--Terms of accommodation.
--Cortez marches on Narvaez.--The storm.--Narvaez's army seeks
shelter.--The harangue and the attack.--Narvaez made prisoner.--The
surrender.--Artfulness of Cortez.--The insurrection in the metropolis.
--Disaffection of the inhabitants.--They arrive at the causeway.--
Cause of the insurrection.--Displeasure of Cortez.--His insolent
manner.--Diaz's record.--Motives for the attack.--The massacre
intended to prevent insurrection.

The next morning, Cortez, with a showy retinue of horsemen, prancing
through streets upon which hoof had never before trodden, called upon
the emperor. The streets were lined, and the roofs of the houses
crowded with multitudes gazing upon the amazing spectacle. The Spanish
chieftain was kindly received by the emperor, and three days were
appointed to introduce him to all the objects of interest in the
capital. Tenochtitlan was the native name by which the imperial city
was then known.

They first visited the great public square or market-place. An
immense concourse was here assembled, engaged in peaceful traffic.
Three judges sat in state at the end of the square, to settle all
difficulties. A numerous body of police, ever moving through the
crowd, prevented all riot or confusion. Though there were many other
minor market-places scattered through the city, this was the principal

Cortez then expressed the wish that he might be conducted to the great
pyramidal temple, which reared its lofty structure from the heart of
the city. The summit of the pyramid was an extended plain, where
several hundred priests could officiate in sacrifice. The corners of
the area were ornamented with towers. One hundred and fourteen steps
led to the summit of the temple. Several large altars stood here,
besmeared with the blood of human sacrifices, and there was also a
hideous image of a dragon polluted with gore.

From this towering eminence the whole adjacent country lay spread out
before the eye of Cortez in surpassing loveliness. Gardens, groves,
villages, waving fields of grain, and the wide expanse of the placid
lakes, covered with boats gliding rapidly over the mirrored waters,
presented a scene of beauty which excited the enthusiasm of Cortez to
the highest pitch. They then entered the sanctuaries of the temple,
where human hearts were smoking, and almost throbbing, upon the altars
before the revolting images of their gods. On the summit of the
temple there was an enormous drum or gong, which was struck when the
miserable victim was shrieking beneath the knife of sacrifice. Its
doleful tones, it was said, floating over the still waters of the
lake, could be heard at the distance of many miles.

From these sickening scenes Cortez turned away in disgust, and
exclaimed indignantly to Montezuma,

"How can you, wise and powerful as you are, put trust in such
representatives of the devil? Why do you allow your people to be
butchered before these abominable idols? Let me place here the cross,
and the image of the blessed Virgin and of her Son, and the influence
of these detestable idols will soon vanish."

Montezuma, shocked by words which he deemed so blasphemous, and
dreading the swift vengeance of the gods, hurried his irreverent guest

"Go," said he, "go hence, I entreat you, while I remain to appease, if
possible, the wrath of the gods whom you have so dreadfully provoked."

But these scenes aroused anew the religious zeal of Cortez and his
companions. As they returned to their lodgings, they immediately
converted one of the halls of their residence into a Christian chapel.
Here the rites of the Roman Catholic Church were introduced, and the
whole army of Cortez, with soldierly devotion, attended mass every
day. Good Father Olmedo, with perhaps a clouded intellect, but with
that recognition of the universal brotherhood of man which sincere
piety ever confers, prayed fervently for God's blessing upon his frail
children of every name and nation.

The Spaniards estimated the population of the city at about five
hundred thousand. The streets were very regularly laid out at right
angles. Many of them were wide, and lined with shade-trees. The houses
of the common people were small but comfortable cottages, built of
reeds or of bricks baked in the sun. The dwellings of the nobles and
of the more wealthy inhabitants were strongly-built mansions of stone,
very extensive on the ground floor, though generally but one story
high. They were inclosed in gardens blooming with flowers. Fountains
of cool water, conveyed through earthen pipes, played in the
court-yards. The police regulations were unsurpassed by those of any
city in Europe. A thousand persons were continually employed in
sweeping and watering the streets. So clean were the well-cemented
pavements kept, that "a man could walk through the streets," says one
of the Spanish historians, "with as little danger of soiling his feet
as his hands."

Day after day was passed in the interchange of visits, and in the
careful examination by Cortez of the strength and the resources of
the city. He had now been a week in the capital, and the question
naturally arose, What is next to be done? He was, indeed, perplexed to
decide this question. Montezuma treated him with such extraordinary
hospitality, supplying all his wants, and leaving him at perfect
liberty, that it was difficult for one, who laid any claim whatever to
a conscience, to find occasion to pick a quarrel. To remain inactive,
merely enjoying the luxury of a most hospitable entertainment, was not
only accomplishing nothing, but was also enervating the army. It was
also to be apprehended that the Mexicans would gradually regain their
courage as they counted the small number of the invaders, and fall
upon them with resistless power.

The Tlascalans, who had rioted in blood at Cholula, seemed anxious for
a renewal of that scene of awful butchery in the streets of Mexico.
They assured Cortez that he had every thing to fear from the treachery
of Montezuma; that he had lured them into the city but to inclose
them in a trap; that the drawbridges of the causeways need but be
removed, and escape for the Spaniards would be impossible. They
assured him that the Mexican priests had counseled Montezuma, in the
name of the gods, to admit the strangers into the capital that he
might cut them off at a blow. It was obvious, even to the meanest
soldier, that all this might be true, and that they were in reality
in a trap from which it would be exceedingly difficult to extricate
themselves, should the Mexicans manifest any resolute hostility.

On the east the island city had no connection with the main land, and
could only be approached over the broad waters of the lake by canoes.
On the west the city was entered by an artificial causeway, built of
earth and stone, a mile and a half in length, and but thirty feet
in breadth. A similar causeway on the northwest, three miles long,
connected the city with the main land. There was another causeway on
the south, six miles long. There were many openings along these
causeways, through which the waters of the lake flowed unimpeded.
These openings were bridged over by means of timber. The destruction
of these bridges, which might be accomplished at any hour, would
render an escape for the Spaniards almost impossible.

[Illustration: CITY OF MEXICO.]

In this dilemma, the bold Spaniard adopted the audacious yet
characteristic plan of seizing Montezuma, who was regarded with almost
religious adoration by his subjects, and holding him as a hostage. The
following occurrence furnished Cortez with a plausible pretext to pick
a quarrel.

We have before mentioned that the Totonacs, wishing to escape from
the subjection of the Mexicans, had acknowledged themselves vassals of
the King of Spain. When the officers of Montezuma attempted, as usual,
to collect the taxes, the Totonacs refused payment. Force was resorted
to, and a conflict arose. The colony at Vera Cruz immediately sent
some soldiers to aid their allies, headed by Escalente, the commander
of the Spanish garrison. In the engagement which ensued, Escalente and
seven of his men were mortally wounded, one horse was killed, and one
Spaniard taken captive, who soon, however, died of his wounds. Still
the Spaniards, with their Totonac allies, were victorious, and
repelled the Mexicans with much slaughter. The vanquished party cut
off the head of their unfortunate prisoner, and carried it in triumph
to several cities, to show that their foes were not invulnerable.

With alacrity Cortez availed himself of this event. He immediately
repaired to the palace of Montezuma, and, with bitter reproaches,
accused him of treacherously ordering an assault upon the Spaniards
who had been left at Vera Cruz. Sternly the pitiless Spaniard demanded
reparation for the loss, and atonement for the insult. Montezuma,
confounded at this unexpected accusation, earnestly declared that the
order had not been issued by him, but that the distant officer had
acted on his own responsibility, without consulting the sovereign.
Ungenerously he added that, in proof of his innocence, he would
immediately command the offending officer, Qualpopoca, and his
accomplices, to be brought prisoners to Mexico, and to be delivered
to Cortez for any punishment which the Spaniards might decree.

Cortez now feigned a relenting mood, and declared that he could not
himself doubt the word of the emperor, but that something more was
requisite to appease the rage of his followers. "Nothing," said he,
"can satisfy them of your sincerity and of your honorable intentions,
unless you will leave your palace, and take up your abode in the
Spanish quarters. This will pacify my men, and they will honor you
there as becomes a great monarch."

When Marina interpreted this strange proposal, Montezuma was for a
moment so struck with amazement as to be almost bereft of speech. His
cheek was flushed with shame and rage, and then the hectic glow passed
away into deadly paleness. His ancient spirit was for a moment
revived, and he exclaimed, indignantly,

"When did ever a monarch suffer himself to be tamely led to a prison?
Even were I willing to debase myself in so vile a manner, would not my
people immediately arm themselves to set me free?"

One of the impetuous attendants of Cortez, as the altercation
continued, exclaimed, grasping his sword,

"Why waste time in vain? Let us either seize him instantly or stab him
to the heart."

Montezuma, though he did not understand his words, observed the
threatening voice and the fierce gesture, and, turning to the amiable
interpretress, Marina, inquired what he said.

"Sire," she replied, with her characteristic mildness and tact, "as
your subject, I desire your happiness; but as the confidante of those
men, I know their secrets, and am acquainted with their character. If
you yield to their wishes, you will be treated with all the honor due
to your royal person; but if you persist in your refusal, your life
will be in danger."

Montezuma, reading in these events, as he supposed, but the decrees of
fate, now yielded. He called his officers, and informed them of his
decision. Though they were plunged into utter consternation by the
intelligence, they did not venture to question his will. The imperial
palanquin was brought, and the humiliated emperor was conveyed,
followed by a mourning crowd, to the Spanish quarters. Montezuma
endeavored to appease them, and to prevent any act of violence, by
assuring the people that it was his own pleasure to go and reside with
his friends. He was now so thoroughly convinced of the resistless
power of the Spaniards, and that he was swept along by the decrees of
fate, that he dreaded any movement of resistance on the part of his

[Footnote E: Bernal Diaz says, "It having been decided that we should
seize the person of the king, we passed the whole of the preceding
night in praying to our Lord that he would be pleased to guide us, so
that what we were going to do should redound to his holy service."]

He was magnificently imprisoned. His own servants were permitted to
attend him, and he continued to administer the government as if he
had been in his own palace. All the forms of courtly etiquette were
scrupulously observed in approaching his person. Ostensibly to confer
upon him greater honor, a body-guard of stern Spanish veterans was
appointed for his protection. This body-guard, with all external
demonstrations of obsequiousness, watched him by night and by day,
rendering escape impossible.

This violence, however, was but the beginning of the humiliation and
anguish imposed upon the unhappy monarch. The governor, Qualpopoca,
who had ventured to resist the Spaniards, was brought a captive to the
capital, with his son and fifteen of the principal officers who had
served under him. They were immediately surrendered to Cortez, that he
might determine their crime and their punishment. Qualpopoca was put
to the torture. He avowed, in his intolerable agony, that he had only
obeyed the orders of his sovereign. Cortez, who wished to impress the
Mexicans with the idea that it was the greatest of all conceivable
crimes to cause the death of a Spaniard, determined to inflict upon
them a punishment which should appal every beholder. They were all
doomed to be burned alive in the great market-place of the city.
To allow no time for any resistance to be organized, they were
immediately led out for execution. In the royal arsenals there was an
immense amount of arrows, spears, javelins, and other wooden martial
weapons, which had been collected for the defense of the city. These
the soldiers gathered, thus disarming the population, and heaped them
up in an immense funeral pile.

While these atrocities were in preparation, Cortez entered the
presence of his captive, Montezuma, and sternly accused him of being
an accomplice in the death of the Spaniards. He then pitilessly
ordered the soldiers who accompanied him to bind upon the hands and
the feet of the monarch the iron manacles of a felon. It was one
of the most cruel insults which could have been inflicted upon
fallen majesty. Montezuma was speechless with horror, and his
attendants, who regarded the person of their sovereign with religious
veneration, wailed and wept. The shackles being adjusted, Cortez
turned abruptly upon his heel, leaving the monarch in the endurance
of this ignominious punishment, and went out to attend to the
execution of the victims, who were already bound to the stake.

The cruel fires were then kindled. The flames crackled, and rose in
fierce, devouring billows around the sufferers. The stern soldiery
stood, with musketry and artillery loaded and primed, ready to repel
any attempts at rescue. Thousands of Mexicans, with no time for
consideration, gazed with awe upon the appalling spectacle; and the
Indian chieftains, without a struggle or an audible groan, were burned
to ashes. The dreadful execution being terminated, and the blood of
the Spaniards being thus avenged by the degradation of the sovereign
and the death of his officers, Cortez returned to Montezuma, and
ordered the fetters to be struck from his limbs.

Step after step of violence succeeded, until Montezuma was humbled to
the dust. The fearful rigor with which Cortez had punished even the
slightest attempt to resist the Spaniards overawed the nation. Cortez
was now virtually the Emperor of Mexico. The general laws and customs
of the nation remained unchanged; but Cortez issued his commands
through Montezuma, and the mandates of the imprisoned sovereign were
submissively obeyed. With great skill, the Spanish adventurer availed
himself of these new powers. He sent a Spanish commission, by the
authority and under the protection of Montezuma, to explore the
empire--to ascertain its strength and its weakness, its wealth and its
resources. These officers went to nearly all the provinces, and, by
their arrogant display of power, endeavored to intimidate the natives,
and to prepare them for entire subjection to Spain.

Mexican officers, whose fidelity Cortez suspected, were degraded, and
their places supplied by others whose influence he had secured. A
general contribution of gold was exacted throughout the whole Mexican
territories for the benefit of the conquerors.

A large sum was thus collected. One fifth of this was laid aside
for his majesty, the King of Spain. Another fifth was claimed by
Cortez. The remaining portion was so greatly absorbed to defray the
innumerable expenses of the expedition, that only about one hundred
crowns fell to the lot of each soldier. This excited discontent so
deep and loud that Cortez was compelled to attempt to pacify his men
by a public address.

"He called us together," says Diaz, "and in a long set speech, gave us
a great many honeyed words, which he had an extraordinary facility of
doing, wondering how we could be so solicitous about a little paltry
gold when the whole country would soon be ours, with all its rich
mines, wherewith there was enough to make us great lords and princes,
and I know not what."

Cortez was cautious as well as bold. To prepare for a retreat in case
of necessity, should the Mexicans seize their arms and break down
their bridges, he wished, without exciting the suspicions of the
natives, to build some vessels which would command the lake. He
accomplished this with his usual address. In conversation with
Montezuma, he gave the monarch such glowing accounts of floating
palaces, which would glide rapidly over the water without oars, as to
excite the intense curiosity of his captive. Montezuma expressed a
strong desire to see these wonderful fabrics. Cortez, under the
pretext of gratifying this desire, very obligingly consented to build
two brigantines. The resources of the empire were immediately placed
at the disposal of Cortez. A multitude of men were sent to the forest
to cut down ship-timber and draw it to the lake. Several hundred _men
of burden_ were dispatched to Vera Cruz to transport naval stores from
that place to Mexico. Aided by so many strong arms, the Spanish
carpenters soon succeeded in constructing two vessels, which amused
the monarch and his people, and which afforded the Spaniards an
invaluable resource in the hour of danger.

But the insolent bearing of the Spaniards had now become to many quite
unendurable. Cacamatzin, the chief of the powerful city of Tezcuco,
at the farther extremity of the lake, was a nephew of Montezuma. He
was a bold man, and his indignation, in view of the pusillanimity of
his uncle, at last overleaped his prudence. He began to assemble an
army to make war upon the Spaniards. The Mexicans began to rally
around their new leader. The indications were alarming to Cortez, and
even Montezuma became apprehensive that he might lose his crown, for
it was reported that Cacamatzin, regarding his uncle as degraded
and a captive, intended to seize the reins of empire. Under these
circumstances, Cortez and Montezuma acted in perfect harmony against
their common foe. After several unsuccessful stratagems to get
possession of the person of the bold chieftain, Montezuma sent some of
his nobles, who secretly seized him, and brought him a prisoner to the
capital, where he was thrust into prison. A partisan of Cortez was
sent to take the place of Cacamatzin as governor of the province of
Tezcuco. Thus this danger was averted.

Cortez still felt much solicitude concerning the judgment of the King
of Spain respecting his bold assumption of authority. He well knew
that Velasquez, the governor of Cuba, whose dominion he had so
recklessly renounced, would report the proceedings to the court at
Madrid, sustained by all the influence he could command. To conciliate
his sovereign, and to bribe him to indulgence, he extorted from the
weeping, spirit-crushed sovereign of Mexico an acknowledgment of
vassalage to the King of Spain. This humiliating deed was invested
with much imposing pomp. All the nobles and lords were assembled in a
large hall in the Spanish quarters. The poor monarch wept bitterly,
and his voice often broke with emotion as he tremblingly said,

"I speak as the gods direct. Our prophets have told us that a new race
is to come to supplant our own. The hour has arrived. The sceptre
passes from my hands by the decrees of fate which no one can resist. I
now surrender to the King of the East my power and allegiance, and
promise to pay to him an annual tribute."

A general outburst of amazement and indignation from the nobles
followed this address. Cortez, apprehensive that he might have
proceeded a little too far, endeavored to appease the rising agitation
by the assurance that his master had no intention to deprive Montezuma
of his regal power, or to make any innovations upon the manners and
the laws of the Mexicans. The act of submission and homage was,
however, executed with all the formalities which Cortez saw fit to
prescribe. The nobles retired, exasperated to the highest degree, and
burning with desires for vengeance.

Encouraged by these wonderful successes, and by the tame submission of
the monarch, Cortez resolved upon the entire overthrow, by violence if
necessary, of the whole system of idolatry, and to introduce Catholic
Christianity in its stead. He had often, with the most importunate
zeal, urged Montezuma to renounce his false gods and to embrace the
Christian faith. But superstition was too firmly enthroned in the
heart of the Mexican monarch to be easily supplanted. To every thing
but this the monarch was ready to yield; but every proposition to
renounce his gods he rejected with horror. Cortez at length firmly
ordered his soldiers to march to the temples and sweep them clean of
every vestige of paganism. This roused the priests. They seized their
arms, and the alarm was spread rapidly through the streets of the
city. Vast multitudes, grasping such weapons as they could get,
assembled around the temples, resolved to brave every peril in defense
of their religion. Matters assumed an aspect so threatening, that,
for the first time, Cortez found it necessary to draw back. He
contented himself with simply ejecting the gods from one of the
shrines, and in erecting in their stead an image of the Virgin.

There were now many indications of approaching trouble. The natives
were greatly provoked, and it was evident that they were watching
for a favorable opportunity to rise against their invaders. Cortez
practiced the most sleepless vigilance. Diaz speaks thus of the
hardships he and his comrades endured:

    "During the nine months that we remained in Mexico, every
    man, without any distinction between officers and soldiers,
    slept on his arms, in his quilted jacket and gorget. They lay
    on mats or straw spread on the floor, and each was obliged to
    hold himself as alert as if he had been on guard. This became
    so habitual to me, that even now, in my advanced age, I
    always sleep in my clothes, and never in any bed."

Just in this crisis alarming intelligence was received from the
commander of the garrison at Vera Cruz. One of the ships of the
delegation sent to Spain, of which we have previously spoken, had,
contrary to the orders of Cortez, stopped at Cuba. In this way the
indignant governor, Velasquez, learned that Cortez had renounced all
connection with him, and had set up an independent colony. His anger
was roused to the utmost, and he resolved upon summary vengeance. It
so happened that Velasquez had just received from his sovereign the
appointment of governor _for life_, and was authorized to prosecute
discoveries in Mexico with very extensive and exclusive privileges and

He immediately fitted out an armament consisting of nineteen ships,
with eighty horsemen, fourteen hundred soldiers, and twenty pieces of
cannon. This was, in that day, a formidable force. The commandant,
Narvaez, was ordered to seize Cortez and his principal officers, and
send them in chains to Cuba. He was then, in the name of Velasquez,
to prosecute the discovery and the conquest of the country.

After a prosperous voyage, the fleet cast anchor in the Bay of St.
Juan de Ulua, and the soldiers were landed. Narvaez then sent a
summons to the governor of Vera Cruz to surrender. Sandoval, the
commandant, however, being zealously attached to Cortez, seized the
envoy and his attendants, and sent them in chains to the capital,
with intelligence of the impending peril. Cortez, with his wonted
sagacity, received them as friends, ordered their chains to be struck
off, condemned the severity of Sandoval, and loaded them with caresses
and presents. He thus won their confidence, and drew from them all the
particulars of the force, and the intentions of the expedition. Cortez
had great cause for alarm when he learned that Narvaez was instructed
to espouse the cause of Montezuma; to assure the Mexican monarch that
the violence which he had suffered was unauthorized by the King of
Spain, and that he was ready to assist Montezuma and his subjects in
repelling the invaders from the capital. From peril so imminent no
ordinary man could have extricated himself. Narvaez was already on the
march, and the natives, enraged against Cortez, were in great numbers
joining the standard of the new-comers. Already emissaries from the
camp of Narvaez had reached the capital, and had communicated to
Montezuma, through the nobles, intelligence that Narvaez was marching
to his relief. Montezuma was overjoyed, and his nobles were elated
with hope, as they secretly collected arms and marshaled their forces
for battle.

Cortez immediately dispatched Father Olmedo to meet Narvaez to propose
terms of accommodation. He was fully aware that no such terms as he
proposed could be acceded to; but Olmedo and his attendants were
enjoined, as the main but secret object of their mission, to do every
thing they could, by presents, caresses, promises, and glowing
descriptions of the greatness of Cortez, his power, and the glory
opening before him, to induce the officers and soldiers of Narvaez to
abandon his standard, and range themselves under the banner of Cortez.

At the same time, Cortez, leaving one hundred and fifty men, under
Alvarado, to guard the fortified camp in the metropolis, set out by
forced marches, with the rest of his force, to fall unexpectedly upon
Narvaez. His strength did not exceed two hundred and fifty men. In a
great emergency like this, the natives could not be trusted. As Cortez
drew near his foe, he found that Narvaez was encamped upon a great
plain in the vicinity of Zempoalla. A terrible tempest arose. Black
clouds darkened the sky, and the rain fell in floods. The soldiers of
Narvaez, drenched through and through by the unceasing torrents,
demanded to be led to the shelter of the houses in Zempoalla. They
deemed it impossible that any foe could approach in such a storm; but
the storm, in all its pitiless fury, was the very re-enforcement which
Cortez and his men desired. Black midnight came, and the careering
tempest swept the deluged streets of Zempoalla, driving even the
sentinels to seek shelter.

Cortez gathered his little band around him, and roused them, by a
vigorous harangue, for an immediate attack. The odds were fearful.
Cortez had but two hundred and fifty men. Narvaez had fifteen hundred,
with nineteen pieces of artillery and eighty horsemen. Giving the
soldiers for their countersign the inspiring words, "The Holy Spirit,"
they rushed through the darkness and the raging storm upon the
unsuspecting foe. They first directed their energies for the capture
of the artillery. The party who made this attack was headed by
Pizarro, "an active lad," says Diaz, "whose name, however, was at that
time as little known as that of Peru." The guns were seized, after
a short and not a very sanguinary struggle. They then, without a
moment's delay, turned upon the horsemen. But the sleeping foe was now
effectually aroused. A short scene of consternation, clamor, horror,
and blood ensued. The companions of Cortez fought with the energies of
despair. To them, defeat was certain death. The soldiers of Narvaez
were bewildered. Many of them, even before the battle, were half
disposed to abandon Narvaez and join the standard of Cortez, of whose
renown they had heard such glowing accounts. Taken by a midnight
surprise, they fought manfully for a time. But at length, in the hot
and tumultuary fight, a spear pierced the cheek of Narvaez, and tore
out one of his eyes. He was struck down and made a prisoner. This led
to an immediate surrender. The genius of Cortez had most signally
triumphed. Though many were wounded in this conflict, but two men on
the side of Cortez were killed, and fifteen of the party of Narvaez.

The artful conqueror loaded the vanquished with favors, and soon
succeeded in winning nearly all of them to engage in his service. With
enthusiasm these new recruits, thus singularly gained, rallied around
him, eager to march in the paths of glory to which such a leader could
guide them.

This achievement was hardly accomplished ere a new peril menaced the
victorious Spaniard. An express arrived from the Mexican metropolis
with the intelligence that the Mexicans had risen in arms; that they
had attacked the Spaniards in their quarters, and had killed several,
and had wounded more; that they had also seized the two brigantines,
destroyed the magazine of provisions, and that the whole garrison was
in imminent danger of destruction.

Immediately collecting his whole force, now greatly augmented by the
accession of the vanquished troops of Narvaez, with their cavalry and
artillery, Cortez hastened back from Zempoalla to the rescue of
his beleaguered camp. His army now, with his strangely acquired
re-enforcement, amounted to over a thousand infantry and a hundred
cavalry, besides several thousands of the natives, whom he recruited
from his allies, the Totonacs.

The danger was so imminent that his troops were urged to the utmost
possible rapidity of march. At Tlascala, two thousand of those fierce
warriors joined him; but as he advanced into the territory of
Montezuma, he met every where the evidences of strong disaffection to
his cause. The nobles avoided his camp. The inhabitants of cities and
villages retired at his approach. No food was brought to him. The
natives made no attempt to oppose a force so resistless, but they left
before him a path of silence and solitude.

When the Spaniards arrived at the causeway which led to the city, they
found, to their surprise, that the Mexicans had not destroyed the
bridges, but throughout the whole length of this narrow passage no
person was to be seen. No one welcomed or opposed. Fiercely those
stern men strode on, over the causeway and through the now deserted
streets, till they entered into the encampment of their comrades.

The insurrection had been suddenly excited by an atrocious massacre
on the part of Alvarado. This leader, a brave soldier, but destitute
either of tact or judgment, suspected, or pretended to suspect, that
the Mexican nobles were conspiring to attack him. One of their
religious festivals was at hand, when all the principal nobles of the
empire were to be assembled in the performance of the rites of their
religion, in the court-yard of the great temple. Suddenly Alvarado
came upon them, when they were thus unarmed and unsuspicious,
and, cutting them off from every avenue of escape, with musketry,
artillery, and the keen sabres of his horsemen, mercilessly hewed
them down. Nearly six hundred of the flower of the Mexican nobility
were massacred. Though Cortez was very indignant with his lieutenant
when he heard this story from his lips, and exclaimed, "Your conduct
has been that of a madman," he was still enraged with the Mexicans for
venturing to attack his garrison, and declared that they should feel
the weight of Spanish vengeance.

In his displeasure, he refused to call upon Montezuma. Elated by the
success with which he had thus far triumphed over all obstacles, and
deeming the forces he now had under his command sufficient to sweep,
like chaff before the whirlwind, any armies which the natives could
raise, he gave free utterance to expressions of contempt for both
prince and people. There had been a tacit truce between the two
parties for a few days, and had Cortez disavowed the conduct of his
subaltern, and pursued conciliatory measures, it is possible that the
natives might again have been appeased. The insolent tone he assumed,
and his loud menace of vengeance, aroused the natives anew, and they
grasped their arms with a degree of determination and ferocity never
manifested before.

Bernal Diaz in the following terms records this event:

     "Cortez asked Alvarado for what reason he fell upon the
     natives while they were dancing and holding a festival in
     honor of their gods. To this Alvarado replied that it was in
     order to be beforehand with them, having had intelligence of
     their hostile intentions toward him from two of their own
     nobility and a priest. Cortez then asked of him if it was
     true that they had requested of him permission to hold their
     festival. The other replied that it was so, and that it was
     in order to take them by surprise, and to punish and terrify
     them, so as to prevent their making war upon the Spaniards,
     that he had determined to fall on them by anticipation. At
     hearing this avowal, Cortez was highly enraged. He censured
     the conduct of Alvarado in the strongest terms, and in this
     temper left him.

     "Some say that it was avarice which tempted Alvarado to make
     this attack, in order to pillage the Indians of the golden
     ornaments which they wore at their festival. I never heard
     any just reason for the assertion; nor do I believe any such
     thing, although it is so represented by Bartholome de las
     Casas. For my part, I am convinced that his intention in
     falling on them at that time was in order to strike terror
     into them, and prevent their insurrection, according to the
     saying that the first attack is half the battle."



Augmented forces of Cortez.--The reconnaissance.--Success of the
Mexicans.--The conflict continued.--Troops of Narvaez begin to
murmur.--The sally.--Cortez obliged to retreat.--The conflagration.
--The desperate situation.--The appeal to Montezuma.--He is induced
to interpose.--The dawn of the morning.--Attention of the natives.
--Address of Montezuma.--He is wounded.--He refuses nourishment.
--His death.--Raging of the battle.--The two Mexican nobles.--Escape
of Cortez.--Night and its scenes.--Endeavors to intimidate the
natives.--Their heroism.--Defiance.--Cortez resolves to leave the
city.--The moving towers.--The retreat.--The onset.--Arrival at the
canal.--Imminent peril.--Filling the breach.--Slow advance.--The
storm.--The causeway.--Multitude of the enemy.--Fury of the attack.
--Noche triste.--Separation of the Spaniards.--March to the rescue.
--Destruction of a part of the army.--Sorrow of Cortez.--They flee
to a temple.--Condition of the party.--March over the mountains.
--Value of the horses.--Courage of Cortez.--Shouts of defiance.--
Appearance of the enemy.--Apprehensions of Cortez.--The attack.--
Superstition of the Mexicans.--The capture of the standard.--The
natives flee.--Arrival at Tlascala.--Enmity of the Tlascalans against
the Mexicans.--New disasters.--New designs of Cortez.--Efforts to
collect recruits.--Preparations for building ships.--Remonstrance of
his companions.--The foray.--Plunder.--The Governor of Cuba sends
ships to Vera Cruz.--Expedition from the Governor of Jamaica.--
Collection of arms.--Equipping the fleet.--The vessels baptized.

The force which Cortez now had under his command, if we take into
consideration the efficiency of European discipline and of European
weapons of warfare, was truly formidable. In the stone buildings which
protected and encircled his encampment, he could marshal, in battle
array, twelve hundred Spaniards and eight thousand native allies; but
they were nearly destitute of provisions, and the natives were rapidly
assembling from all quarters in countless numbers. Cortez sent four
hundred men out into the streets to reconnoitre. They had hardly
emerged from the walls of their fortress before they were assailed
with shouts of vengeance, and a storm of arrows and javelins fell upon
them. Phrenzied multitudes thronged the streets and the house-tops,
and from the roofs and the summits of the temples, stones and all
similar missiles were poured down upon the heads of the Spaniards.
With great difficulty this strong detachment fought their way back to
their fortified quarters, having lost twenty-three in killed, and a
large number being wounded.

This success greatly emboldened the Mexicans, and in locust legions
they pressed upon the Spanish quarters, rending the air with their
unearthly shouts, and darkening the sky with their missiles. The
artillery was immediately brought to bear upon them, and every volley
opened immense gaps in their ranks; but the places of the dead were
instantly occupied by others, and there seemed to be no end to their
numbers. Never did mortal men display more bravery than these
exasperated Mexicans exhibited, struggling for their homes and their
rights. Twice they came very near forcing an entrance over the walls
into the Spanish quarters. Had they succeeded, in a hand to hand fight
numbers must have triumphed, and the Spaniards must have been
inevitably destroyed; but the batteries of the Spaniards mowed down
the assailants like grass before the scythe, and the Mexicans were
driven from the walls. All the day long the conflict was continued,
and late into the night. The ground was covered with the dead when
darkness stopped the carnage.

The soldiers of Narvaez, unaccustomed to such scenes, and appalled by
the fury and the number of their enemies, began to murmur loudly. They
had been promised the spoils of an empire which they were assured was
already conquered; instead of this, they found themselves in the
utmost peril, exposed to a conflict with a vigorous and exasperated
enemy, surrounding them with numbers which could not be counted.
Bitterly they execrated their own folly in allowing themselves to be
thus deluded; but their murmurs could now be of no avail. The only
hope for the Spaniards was in united and indomitable courage.

The energies of Cortez increased with the difficulties which
surrounded him. During the night he selected a strong force of picked
men to make a vigorous sally in the morning. To nerve them to higher
daring, he resolved to head the perilous enterprise himself. He
availed himself of all his knowledge of Indian warfare, and of all the
advantages which European military art could furnish. In the early
dawn, these troops, in solid column, rushed from the gates of their
fortress; but the foe, greatly augmented by the fresh troops which had
been pouring in during the night, were ready to receive him. Both
parties fought with ferocity which has never been surpassed. Cortez,
to his inexpressible chagrin, found himself compelled to retire before
the natives, who, in numbers perfectly amazing, were crowding upon

Most of the streets were traversed by canals. The bridges were broken
down, and the Spaniards, thus arrested in their progress and crowded
together, were overwhelmed with stones and arrows from the house-tops.
Cortez set fire to the houses every where along his line of march.
Though the walls of many of these buildings were of stone, the flames
ran eagerly through the dry and combustible interior, and leaped from
roof to roof. A wide and wasting conflagration soon swept horribly
through the doomed city, adding to the misery of the bloody strife.
All the day long the battle raged. The streets were strewn with the
bodies of the dead, and crimsoned with gore. The natives cheerfully
sacrificed a hundred of their own lives to take the life of one of
their foes. The Spaniards were, however, at length driven back behind
their walls, leaving twelve of their number dead in the streets, and
having sixty severely wounded.

Another night darkened over the bloodstained and smouldering city.
The Spaniards, exhausted by the interminable conflict, still stood
fiercely behind their ramparts. The natives, in continually increasing
numbers, surrounded them, filling the night air with shrieks
of defiance and rage. Cortez had displayed personally the most
extraordinary heroism during the protracted strife. His situation now
seemed desperate. Though many thousands of the Mexicans had been
slaughtered during the day, recruits flocked in so rapidly that their
numbers remained undiminished. Cortez had received a severe wound in
his hand which caused him intense anguish. His soldiers could hardly
stand from their exhaustion. Many had been slain, and nearly all were
wounded. The maddened roar of countless thousands of the fiercest
warriors surging around their bulwarks almost deafened the ear. Every
moment it was apprehended that the walls would be scaled, and the
inundation pour in resistlessly upon them.

In this extremity Cortez decided to appeal to his captive Montezuma,
and try the effect of his interposition to soothe or overawe his
subjects. Assuming the tone of humanity, he affected to deplore the
awful carnage which had taken place. He affirmed that the city must
inevitably be destroyed entirely, and the inhabitants generally
slaughtered, unless they could be induced to lay down their arms.
Montezuma, from one of the towers of the Spanish fortress, had
watched, with a throbbing heart and flooded eyes, the progress of the
fight as the flames swept through the streets, and destruction, like
a scythe, mowed down his subjects. The amiable, beloved, perplexed
sovereign was thus induced, though with much hesitation, to interpose.
He was adored by his people; but he believed that the Spaniards were
enthroned by the voice of destiny, and that resistance would but
involve the nation in a more bloody ruin.

Another morning dawned upon the combatants. In its earliest light the
battle was again renewed with increasing fury. No pen can describe
the tumult of this wild war. The yell of countless thousands of
assailants, the clang of their trumpets, gongs, and drums, the clash
of arms, the rattle of musketry, and the roar of artillery, presented
a scene which had never before found a parallel in the New World.

Suddenly all the tumult was hushed as the venerated emperor, dressed
in his imperial robes, appeared upon the walls, and waved his hand to
command the attention of his subjects. At the sight of their beloved
sovereign silence almost instantaneously prevailed, all bowed their
heads in reverence, and many prostrated themselves upon the ground.
Montezuma earnestly entreated them to cease from the conflict,
assuring them that the Spaniards would retire from the city if the
Mexicans would lay down their arms.

"The war will soon be over," a Mexican shouted from the crowd, "for we
have all sworn that not a Spaniard shall leave the city alive."

[Illustration: THE FALL OF MONTEZUMA.]

As Montezuma continued his urgency, pleading for the detested
Spaniards, the natives for a few moments longer continued to listen
patiently. But gradually a sullen murmur, like a rising breeze,
began to spread through the ranks. Reproaches and threats succeeded.
Indignation now overtopped all barriers, and a shower of stones and
arrows suddenly fell upon the unhappy monarch. Cortez had taken the
precaution to send a body-guard upon the wall with Montezuma, with
bucklers for his protection; but so sudden and unexpected was the
assault, that two arrows pierced his body, and a stone, striking him
on the temple, felled him senseless to the ground before they could
raise their shields. This was the last drop in the cup of bitterness
which Montezuma was doomed to drain. The wounded monarch was conveyed
to his apartment, crushed in spirit, and utterly broken-hearted.
Finally, resolved no longer to live, he tore the bandages from his
wounds, and refused all nourishment. Silent, and brooding over his
terrible calamities, he lingered, the picture of dejection and woe,
for a few days, until he died.

In the mean time the battle was resumed with all its fury. Throughout
the day it raged with the most intense ferocity. The Mexicans took
possession of a high tower which commanded the Spanish quarters. It
was necessary to dislodge them at any sacrifice. A detachment of
chosen men was three times repulsed in its desperate assault. Cortez,
aware that the safety of the army depended upon the result, ordered a
buckler to be bound to his arm, as he could not grasp it with his
wounded hand, and placed himself at the head of the attacking column.
Animated by his voice and example, the Spaniards forced their way up
the steps of the temple, driving the Mexicans before them. Having
reached the spacious platform on the summit, a terrible strife
ensued. Two young Mexican nobles resolved to effect the destruction of
Cortez by the sacrifice of their own lives. They seized him, dragged
him to the battlements, and threw themselves over while clinging to
his person, that they might thus dash him also upon the pavement
beneath. But Cortez, by his wonderful strength and agility, shook them
off, and thus broke from their grasp, though they both perished. The
victorious Spaniards then set fire to the tower. Other sorties were
made during the day, and the wretched city was as the crater of a
volcano of flame and blood. The energies of both parties seemed to
redouble with despair.

At last another night spread its veil over the infuriated combatants.
In its darkest watches, the indomitable Cortez made a sortie at the
head of a strong band, and set three hundred buildings in flames. The
lurid fire, crackling to the skies, illumined the tranquil lake, and
gleamed portentously upon the most distant villages in the vast
mountain-girdled valley. The tumult of the midnight assault, the
shrieks of the women and children, and the groans of the wounded and
the dying, blended dismally with the roar of the conflagration.

Cortez now summoned the Mexican chiefs to a parley. He stood upon the
wall. The beautiful Marina, as interpreter, stood at his side. The
native chiefs were upon the ground before him. The inflexible Spanish
commander endeavored to intimidate his determined foes by threats.

"If you do not immediately submit," said he, "I will lay the whole
city in ashes, and every man, woman, and child shall be put to the

They answered defiantly,

"The bridges are broken down, and you can not escape. You have better
weapons of war than we, but we have greater numbers. If we offer a
thousand lives for one, we will continue the battle till you are all

Saying this, they gave a signal, and a storm of arrows and
javelins pierced the air, and fell into the beleaguered fortress.
Notwithstanding the bold tone assumed by Cortez, the Spaniards were
in great dismay. It was manifest to all that their destruction was
certain unless they could cut their way through the enemy, and escape
from the city. The extraordinary energies of this iron fanatic still
remained unshaken. Calmly he reflected upon his position, examined
his resources, and formed his plans. The Mexicans had barricaded the
streets, and had broken down the causeways, to prevent, if possible,
the escape of their foes. But there was no longer any alternative for
Cortez. Destruction was certain unless he could effect his escape. He
decided to make the desperate attempt at midnight. He immediately
constructed moving towers, to be pushed through the streets on wheels,
at the head of his columns, under the protection of which his soldiers
could force their way, and make every bullet accomplish its mission. A
platform on the top could be let down, affording a bridge to the roofs
of the houses, thus placing the Spaniards on a level with their
assailants. The sides of the towers were amply strong to repel darts
and arrows. Thus protected from all harm, the sharpshooters could
sweep the streets and the house-tops.

At midnight the retreat was commenced in three divisions. Sandoval led
the van, Alvarado the rear. Cortez took command of the centre, where
he placed the distinguished prisoners, among whom were a son and
daughter of Montezuma, and several of the high nobles. He also carried
with his division the artillery, the baggage, and a portable bridge,
ingeniously constructed of timber, to be laid over the breaches in the
causeway. In profound silence the army issued from their quarters, and
marched firmly along through the smouldering and gory streets.

For a little time they advanced unmolested; but the Mexicans were
watching their movements, and were silently making dispositions for a
tremendous onset. Suddenly the shout of an innumerable multitude and
the clash of arms rose fearfully in the dark night air, and from every
quarter the natives came rushing on, and stones, javelins, darts, and
arrows rattled like hail-stones upon helmet and buckler. Every inch of
the way was now contested. The progress of the Spaniards, though slow,
was resistless, the cannon and the musketry sweeping down all

At last they arrived at one of the numerous canals which every where
intersected the city. The bridge was destroyed, and the deep waters
flowing from the lake cut off all retreat. The wooden bridge, prepared
for such an emergence, was thrown across the chasm. The head of the
Spanish column fought its way over successfully; but, unfortunately,
the weight of the artillery and of the dense throng wedged the
timbers so fast into the stones that all their efforts could not
again remove them. Their peril was growing every moment more imminent,
as the roused natives were thronging to every point where the retiring
foe could be assailed. They were thus compelled to leave the bridge
behind them.

Advancing precipitately, the Spaniards soon arrived at a second
breach. Here they found themselves hemmed in on all sides, and they
had no means of bridging the gap; but, planting their cannon so as to
hold the natives at bay, every available hand was employed in filling
the chasm with stones and timbers torn from the demolished and
smouldering dwellings. The labor was difficult and perilous, for they
were incessantly assailed by the most pelting storm of the missiles of

For two days this terrific conflict raged. Seven breaches in the
canals they were compelled thus to bridge with stones and timbers torn
from the adjacent streets; but the Spaniards still slowly advanced,
triumphing with difficulty over every obstacle which the natives could
interpose. Though they thus sternly fought their way along, trampling
beneath them the mutilated bodies of the dying and of the dead, at
the close of the second day they found their foes more numerous and
their situation more desperate than ever.

As the gloom of night again descended, a deeper, heavier gloom rested
upon all in the heart of the Spanish camp. A wailing storm arose of
wind and rain, and nature mourned and wept as if in sympathy with the
woes of man. Availing themselves of the darkness and of the uproar of
the midnight tempest, though weary, faint, and bleeding, they urged
their steps along the war-scathed streets, for a time strangely
encountering no opposition. But when they reached the long causeway,
nearly two miles in length and but thirty feet wide, by which alone
they could reach the land, a yell of exultation suddenly rose from the
black and storm-lashed waters of the lake, loud as the heaviest
thunders. The whole lake, on both sides of the causeway, seemed alive
with the boats of the natives, and the Spaniards were immediately
assailed by the swarming multitudes, who, in the fierce and maddened
strife, set all danger at defiance.

War never exhibited a more demoniac aspect. The natives opposed their
advance, crowded their rear, and clambered up the sides of the
causeway, attacking the foe on each flank with indescribable fury.
Fresh warriors instantly rushed into the place where their comrades
had fallen, and those in the rear of the tumultuous mass crowded their
companions in the front ranks resistlessly upon the compact enemy.

There were three chasms in the causeway broken by the Mexicans which
the Spaniards were compelled to bridge in the darkness and the storm,
and while assailed by an innumerable and almost an invisible foe.
Imagination can not compass the horrors of that night. _Noche
triste_, dismal night, is the name by which it has ever since been
distinguished. In the awful confusion, military skill and discipline
were of but little avail. The Spaniards could with difficulty
distinguish friend from foe, and ere long they were nearly all quite
swept away by the torrent rushing so resistlessly upon them.


Cortez succeeded in keeping about a hundred men around him, and, using
the bodies of the dead to aid him in bridging two chasms, he at length
reached the main land. The horrid clamor still rose from the darkness
of the causeway as his companions, left behind, were struggling in
desperation with the multitudes who inclosed them. Cortez heroically,
with every man in his little band still able to fight, marched back
to their rescue. A few succeeded in breaking through the enemy, and
joined him. Multitudes were struck down or hurled into the lake; but
dreadful was the anguish of Cortez as he heard, piercing through the
clamor, the cries for help of his companions who were seized by the
natives as captives, and who were being borne away to be offered in
sacrifice to their gods. The few who escaped, exhausted and bleeding,
clung together for the remainder of the night near the village of
Tacuba, where the causeway reached the main land.

When the first gray of the lurid morning dawned, the whole length of
the causeway was seen covered with the bodies of the slain. The chasms
were clogged up with fragments of artillery, baggage-wagons, dead
horses, and the corpses of Spaniards and natives. The features of the
dead were distorted by all the hateful passions of the strife. A few
only had escaped. Nearly all the horses, all the cannon, all the
plundered treasure, and all the baggage-wagons, were either sunk in
the lake, or were floating in fragments upon its surface. The storm
had passed away, and the placid waters were blackened with the
war-canoes of the natives. Not even a musket remained to the
Spaniards. Bernal Diaz records that in this bloody night eight hundred
and seventy of the Spaniards perished. More than four thousand of
their allies were also slain.

As Cortez gazed upon the feeble band of mangled and bleeding soldiers
which now alone remained to him, even his stern heart was moved, and
he bowed his head and wept bitterly. We can not regret that some drops
of retributive woe were wrung from the heart of that guilty conqueror.
He had overwhelmed a benighted nation with misery. Under the divine
government, such a crime can not go unpunished, and the penalty must
descend either in this life or in that which is to come.

But this was no time to indulge in grief. It was necessary immediately
to find some shelter for the wearied troops. The Mexicans were
preparing to renew the attack, and the inhabitants of Tacuba were
assembling in arms. At a little distance, on a rising ground, Cortez
discovered a large stone temple. He immediately took possession
of it, and here found not only temporary shelter, but, fortunately,
provisions for his almost famished troops. Here, for a day, the
Spaniards beat off the foe who incessantly assailed them.

"And God only knows," says Cortez, "the toil and fatigue with which it
was accomplished; for of twenty-four horses that remained to us, there
was not one that could move briskly, nor a horseman able to raise his
arm, nor a foot-soldier unhurt who could make any effort."

They were now on the western side of the lake. It was necessary to
pass around the northern shore of this vast expanse of water, as the
country was there thinly populated, and they would be consequently
less liable to attack. The road led a distance of nearly a hundred
miles over mountains and through marshes to the eastern shore. From
there, a march of more than sixty-four miles was necessary before they
could reach the territory of Tlascala, which was the first point where
they could hope for any relief.

Under the guidance of a Tlascalan soldier, the despairing band
commenced its march. They advanced the first day and night but nine
miles, fighting incessantly all the way. For six days, with hardly any
respite, they continued their retreat. Their only food they gathered
as they hurried along, of berries, roots, and green corn. They were
continually assailed by the indefatigable foe; but with their few
remaining horses, their steel swords, and the energies which European
civilization confers, they beat off their assailants and continued
their flight. As the horses were needed to beat off the swarming foe,
the sick and wounded were compelled to hobble along, as they could, on
crutches. "Next to God," says Cortez, "our greatest security was in
our horses." One horse was killed. The Spaniards eagerly devoured his
flesh, "not leaving," says Cortez, "even his skin, or any other part
of him, so great were our necessities."

Cortez, who promptly recovered from his momentary weakness, manifested
the utmost sereneness and imperturbability of spirit, shared every
hardship of the soldiers, and maintained their confidence in him by
surpassing all in the gallantry and the magnanimity of his courage.

Exhausted and wounded as they were, it required the toilsome journey
of a week to reach the mountain summits which encircle the great
valley of Mexico. As they approached the defiles of these mountains,
parties of the enemy were seen here and there in increasing numbers.
The natives shouted to them from a distance insults, defiance, and
threats. Marina, who fortunately escaped the massacre of the _dismal
night_, remarked that they often, in exultant tones, exclaimed,

"Hurry along, robbers, hurry along; you will soon meet with the
vengeance due to your crimes."

The significance of this threat was soon made manifest. As the
Spaniards were emerging from a narrow pass among the cliffs of the
mountains, they came suddenly upon an extended plain. Here, to their
amazement, they found an enormous army of the natives filling the
whole expanse, and apparently cutting off all possibility of farther
retreat. The sight was sufficient to appal the most dauntless heart.
The whole plain, as far as the eye could extend, seemed as a living
ocean of armed men, with its crested billows of banners, and gleaming
spears, and helmets, and plumes. Even the heart of Cortez for a moment
sank within him as his practiced eye told him that there were two
hundred thousand warriors there in battle array, through whose serried
ranks he must cut his bloody path or perish. To all the Spaniards it
seemed certain that their last hour had now tolled; but each man
resolved to sell his life as dearly as possible.

Cortez immediately assembled his band around him, and invigorated
them with a forcible harangue. He assured them that there was no
possible hope but in the energies of despair; but that, with those
energies, they might confidently expect God's blessing, for they were
his servants, his missionaries, endeavoring to overthrow the idols of
the heathen, and to introduce the religion of the cross. In solid
column, with their long spears bristling in all directions, and clad
in coats of mail which protected a great part of their bodies from
both arrow and spear, they plunged desperately into the dense masses
of the enemy. Wherever this solid body of iron men directed its
course, the tumultuous throng of the foe was pierced and dashed aside,
as the stormy billows of the ocean yield to the careering steamer. The
marvelous incidents of this fight would occupy pages. The onset of the
Spaniards was so fierce that the natives could present no effectual
resistance; but as the Indians were compelled to retire from the front
of the assailing column, they closed up with shouts of vengeance and
with redoubled fury upon the flanks and the rear. Cortez had heard
that the superstition of the Mexicans was such that the fate of a
battle depended upon the imperial banner, which was most carefully
guarded in the centre of the army. If that were taken, the natives
deemed themselves forsaken by their gods, and in dismay would break
and fly. In the distance, for there was no smoke of artillery to
darken this field of battle, he saw this standard proudly waving in
the breeze. With impetuosity which crushed down all opposition, he
pushed toward it. The standard-bearers were stricken down and pinned
to the earth with lances. Cortez, with his own hand, seized the sacred
banner, and as he waved it aloft his soldiers raised a simultaneous
shout of triumph.

The natives, with cries of rage, grief, and despair, in the wildest
tumult, broke and fled to the mountains. Their gods had abandoned
them. The victory of the Spaniards was complete. They record, though
doubtless with exaggeration, for they had no leisure to stop and count
the slain, that twenty thousand of their enemies were left dead upon
that bloody field. With new alacrity the victors now pressed on, and
the next day entered the territory of the Tlascalans.

Here they were received with the greatest kindness. The enmity of the
Tlascalans against the Mexicans was so inveterate, and their desire
to avenge the death of their countrymen so intense, that they still
clung tenaciously to the Spanish alliance, with the hope that new
resources might arrive which would enable the Spaniards to retrieve
their fallen fortunes.

In the hospitable city of Tlascala Cortez allowed his shattered
battalions that repose which was now so indispensable. Nearly all his
men were suffering severely from sickness, fatigue, and wounds. But
here the Spanish chieftain learned of new disasters which had befallen
him. A detachment of Spanish soldiers, who were marching from
Zempoalla to the capital as a re-enforcement, had been cut off by the
natives and entirely destroyed. A small party, who had been sent to
convey some treasures from Tlascala to Vera Cruz, had also been
surprised and destroyed among the mountains. When the life of every
Spaniard was of so much importance, these were, indeed, terrible
additional calamities.

The companions of Cortez were now thoroughly disheartened, and were
anxious to return to Vera Cruz, send a vessel to Cuba for some
transports, and abandon the enterprise; but the indomitable warrior,
though lying upon the bed in a raging fever, and while a surgeon was
cutting off two of his mutilated and inflamed fingers, and raising a
portion of the bone of his skull, which had been splintered by the
club of a native, was forming his plans to return to Mexico and
reconquer what he had lost. The resources at his command still
appeared to him sufficient to form a nucleus around which to assemble
a new army. The garrison at Vera Cruz, with its artillery and military
stores, still remained unimpaired; the Tlascalans and Zempoallans
continued firm in their alliance; and he still could assemble,
notwithstanding his losses, as large a force as accompanied him in his
first march into Mexico. He therefore resolved to make vigorous and
prompt preparations to prosecute his enterprise anew. He wrote to his
sovereign an account of the disasters he had encountered, saying, "I
can not believe that the good and merciful God will thus suffer his
cause to perish among the heathen."

With great energy and sagacity he aroused himself for this new effort.
He made special exertions to secure the cordial co-operation of the
Tlascalan chiefs, by distributing among them the rich spoil taken in
his last battle. He dispatched four ships, selected from the fleet
captured from Narvaez, to Hispaniola and Jamaica, to collect recruits
and supplies. That he might secure the command of the lake, he
prepared, with the ready aid of the Tlascalans, materials for building
twelve vessels, to be conveyed in pieces by the _men of burden_ to the
lake, there to be put together and launched upon the waters.

The companions of Cortez had, however, by far too vivid a recollection
of the horrors of the _dismal night_ to participate in the zeal of
their commander. Murmurs against the enterprise grew louder and
louder, until the camp was almost in a state of mutiny. They
assembled, and appointed a delegation to wait upon their commander,
and remonstrate against another attempt, with his broken battalions,
to subjugate so powerful an empire. Respectfully, but firmly, they
demanded to be taken back to Cuba. All the arguments and entreaties of
Cortez were of no avail to change their minds or to allay their

We have before mentioned that a detachment of soldiers from Vera Cruz
had been cut off by the natives. The assailing force was from one of
the Mexican provinces in the vicinity of Tlascala, called Tepeaca. The
soldiers, without much unwillingness, consented to march to their
region, and chastise them for the deed. The enterprise would be
attended with but little danger, and promised a large amount of booty.
It was now the month of August. Cortez headed the expedition, and in
the foray of a few weeks, after an enormous slaughter of the
Tepeacans, reduced the province to subjection, and returned to
Tlascala laden with plunder. Another foray was soon undertaken, and
then another. Thus, for five months, while he was collecting recruits
and accumulating supplies, he adroitly kept his men employed in
various military expeditions till they again became accustomed to
victory, and were ready to enter upon a wider field of glory, which
should open before them more brilliant prospects for wealth. Fortune,
it is said, helps those who help themselves. This inflexibility of
purpose and untiring energy on the part of Cortez, was accompanied by
what is usually termed the gifts of peculiarly good fortune.

The Governor of Cuba, unaware of the disaster which had befallen
Narvaez, sent two ships after him with a supply of men and military
stores. These vessels were decoyed into the harbor of Vera Cruz, the
stores seized, and the men were easily induced to enter into the
service of Cortez.

The Governor of Jamaica fitted out an expedition of three ships to
prosecute an expedition of discovery and conquest. They were very
unfortunate, and, after many disasters, these ships, their crews being
almost in a famishing state, cast anchor at Vera Cruz. They listened
eagerly to the brilliant prospects which Cortez held out to them, and
enlisted under his banner. At the same time, it also happened that a
ship arrived from Spain, fitted out by some private merchants with
military stores, and other articles for traffic among the natives.
Cortez immediately purchased the cargo, and induced the crew to follow
the example of the others, and join his army. At last, the agents he
sent to Hispaniola and Jamaica returned, with two hundred soldiers,
eighty horses, two battering-cannon, and a considerable supply of
ammunition and muskets. Cortez had in these various ways now collected
about him eight hundred and eighteen foot-soldiers, eighty-six
horsemen, three battering-cannon, and fifteen field-pieces.

He established his head-quarters at Tepeaca, on a small river which
ran into the lake. The iron, the planks, the timber, the masts, the
cordage, and the materials necessary to construct and equip a fleet
of thirteen brigantines, were to be carried a distance of sixty miles,
over rough roads, on the shoulders of men. Eight thousand _men of
burden_ were furnished by the Tlascalans for this work. Tepeaca was
two miles from the shore of the lake, and the rivulet upon which it
was situated was shallow. A large number of natives were employed for
two months in deepening the channel, that the vessels might be floated
down. Though the Mexicans made many attacks while the brigantines were
being built, they were invariably repulsed. At length the fleet was
finished, and the whole army was drawn up to witness, with all the
accompaniments of religious and military pomp, the launching of the
ships. Each vessel received a baptismal name and a blessing from
Father Olmedo. They glided smoothly down the river, and were wafted
out upon the lake, a fleet amply strong to set all the power of the
Mexicans at defiance. A general shout of joy burst from the lips of
the Spaniards and Tlascalans as they observed the triumphant success
of this measure. All despondency now disappeared, and, sanguine of
success, the whole army was eager again to march to the assault of the



Preparations for defense.--Cuitlahua.--Pestilence.--Guatemozin.--The
brigantines.--The fleet is attacked.--The Spanish victorious.--Dismay
of the Mexicans.--Cortez's skill.--The siege continued.--Obstinate
resistance.--Sortie by the Mexicans.--Preparations for sacrifice.
--Torturing the captives.--The sacrifice.--The Mexicans are elated
by their victory.--Shrewdness of Cortez.--His allies.--Progress of
the siege.--The allies in the city.--Sufferings of the Mexicans.--The
public square.--Affairs in the Mexican camp.--A desperate resolve.
--Pursuit.--The monarch captured.--His dignity.--Guatemozin's
fortitude.--Pretended magnanimity of Cortez.--The Mexicans surrender.
--Loss of the Spanish.--Appearance of the captured city.--Piety of
Cortez.--Searching for the treasures.--The native allies.--Their
carousals.--Spanish revelries and religious celebrations.--An
entertainment.--The plant of Noah.--Father Olmedo.--Religious
ceremonies.--Discontent.--Clamors of the army.--Cortez yields.--
Guatemozin's tortures.--Cortez rescues him.--The divers.--Nature
of the Mexican empire.--The various Mexican governments yield to
Cortez.--Perplexity of Cortez.--His treason.--Velasquez.--Cortez's
labors.--His dispatches.--An extract.--Cortez's address to the
nobles.--Ciquacoacin's reply.--He departs.--Loss of the Mexicans.
--Fifty thousand killed.--Cannonading the city.--The musketry.--
Capture of Guatemozin.--His behavior.--Anniversary of the capture
of Mexico.

While Cortez was thus vigorously preparing to renew the assault
upon the city of Mexico, the Mexicans were no less busy in their
preparations for defense. Upon the death of Montezuma, the crown
passed to his more warlike brother Cuitlahua. By his energies the
Spaniards had been driven from the metropolis, and he immediately,
with great vigor, fortified the city anew, and recruited and drilled
his armies, now familiar with the weapons of European warfare. He sent
an embassy to the Tlascalans, urging alliance against a common foe,
and endeavoring to incite them to rise and crush the Spaniards,
who, without their alliance, would have been entirely helpless. The
sagacity of Cortez, however, baffled these efforts, and he succeeded
in binding the Tlascalans to him by still stronger ties.

Among other woes, the Spaniards had introduced the small-pox into
Mexico. The terrible curse now swept like a blast of destruction
through the land. The natives perished by thousands. Many cities and
villages were almost depopulated. The fearful pestilence reached the
Mexican capital, and the emperor, Cuitlahua, soon fell a victim to its

Guatemozin, the son-in-law of Montezuma, was then, by the unanimous
acclaim of his countrymen, placed upon the throne. He was a young man
of high reputation for ability and force of character, and proved
himself the worthy leader of his nation in this dreadful crisis of
its fate. Guatemozin assembled all his forces in the capital, as the
strongest point upon which they could stand upon their defense.

Cortez decided to make the assault by three divisions of the army,
each marching over one of the causeways. Sandoval was to command
on the north, Alvarado on the west, and Olid on the south. Cortez
reserved to himself the command of the brigantines, which were to
sweep the lakes, and drive the war-canoes of the natives from the
causeways. Each brigantine was manned with twenty-five Spaniards,
and armed with a cannon, whose shot would make fearful havoc among
the frail and crowded canoes of the Mexicans.

Guatemozin immediately foresaw how much he had to dread from this
fleet, and decided that, at every hazard, he must attempt its
destruction. He accordingly assembled an enormous mass of canoes,
hoping by numbers to overpower the enemy. The day was calm; not a
ripple disturbed the glassy surface of the water, when a fleet of
canoes, in numbers which could not be counted, pushed out boldly
into the lake to assail the brigantines lying at anchor.

But just then, to the great joy of the Spaniards and to the dismay of
the Mexicans, a fresh and favorable breeze arose, which would drive
the brigantines resistlessly through the swarm of fragile boats which
were approaching them. The sails were instantly spread, the cannon
were loaded almost to the muzzle, and the work of death began. The
heavy vessels crushed the canoes, overturned them, drove them one upon
another in indescribable confusion, while the merciless shot pierced
bones, and nerves, and sinews, and the surface of the lake was covered
with the mutilated bodies of the dying and of the dead. The water was
red with blood, and in a short time the fleet was destroyed; but few
of the boats escaped. The Mexicans, from their house-tops, gazed with
dismay upon this awful scene of carnage, and were oppressed with
fearful forebodings that no degree of courage and no superiority of
numbers could avail them against the terrible engines of destruction
which European skill had framed.

Cortez was now completely master of the lake. He formed his
brigantines into three divisions, to cover the assailants on the three
causeways and to protect them from any attack by canoes. He thus also
preserved communication, prompt and effective, between the different
divisions of his army. The military skill displayed by Cortez in all
these arrangements is of the highest kind. The conquest of Mexico was
not achieved by accident, but by sagacity, persevering energy, and
patient toil almost unparalleled.

The siege was now prosecuted with the most determined vigor. The
approaches were made along the three causeways. The natives had broken
down the bridges and reared a succession of formidable barricades, and
as they were driven from one by the irresistible force of artillery,
they retired, with firmness worthy of admiration, to the next, there
to maintain their post to the last possible moment. The brigantines
approached the sides of the causeways and opened a destructive fire
upon the valiant defenders, where the Spaniards were exposed to no
danger in return. Thus for nearly three months, by day and by night,
on the land and on the water, the bloody strife was continued.

Cortez was astonished at the obstinacy and efficiency of the
resistance effected by the besieged. Gradually, however, the besiegers
advanced, carefully filling up behind them the gaps in the causeway,
that they might easily, if necessary, effect a retreat. They were
taught the necessity of this precaution by a terrible repulse which
they at one time encountered. Guatemozin, with a quick military eye,
perceiving that the causeway occupied by one of the divisions of the
Spaniards was impassable behind the Spaniards from trenches unfilled,
and broken bridges, and the ruins of barricades, ordered the Mexican
troops to retire, to lure the Spaniards forward. He then collected an
enormous force, dispatching some in canoes along shallows which the
brigantines could not approach, and then, at a signal from the great
alarm drum on the summit of the temple, whose doleful tones could be
heard for miles, the whole mass, with frantic rage, stimulated by
hope, rushed upon the foe. The sudden assault, so impetuous, and
sustained by such vast numbers, was quite successful. The Spaniards
were driven back in confusion, horsemen and infantry crowding upon
each other, till multitudes were forced, pell-mell, horses, and
cannon, and men, into the chasms. Here the natives, in their light
canoes, fell furiously upon them. More than twenty Spaniards were
killed outright, and forty, mangled and bleeding, fell alive into the
hands of the victors. There was no possible escape for the captives
from their doom. They were to be sacrificed to the gods.

This was an awful reverse, and the Spaniards were horror-stricken in
contemplating the fate of their captured comrades. The capital was
that night illuminated with great brilliance, and the splendor of the
great pyramidal temple, blazing with innumerable torches, gleamed far
and wide over the lake. It was an awful spectacle to the Spaniards,
for they well knew the scenes which were transpiring on that lofty
altar of idolatry. The preparations for the sacrifice could be
distinctly seen, and the movements of the sacrificial priests. The
white bodies of the victims could also be clearly discerned as they
were stripped naked for the torture and the knife; and when the awful
torture was applied, the shrieks of the wretched sufferers pierced the
still night air, and penetrated the camp of the Spaniards. They
listened appalled to those cries of agony, imagining that they could
distinguish each victim by the sound of his voice.

This awful scene is thus described by Diaz:

    "On a sudden, our ears were struck by the horrific sound of
    the great drum, the timbrels, horns, and trumpets on the
    temple. We all directed our eyes thither, and, shocking to
    relate, saw our unfortunate countrymen driven by blows to the
    place where they were to be sacrificed, which bloody ceremony
    was accompanied by the dismal sound of all the instruments
    of the temple. We perceived that when they had brought the
    wretched victims to the flat summit of the body of the
    temple, they put plumes upon their heads, and made them dance
    before their accursed idols. When they had done this, they
    laid them upon their backs on the stone used for the purpose,
    where they cut out their hearts alive, and having presented
    them, yet palpitating, to their gods, they drew the bodies
    down the steps by the feet, where they were taken by others
    of their priests. Let the reader think what were our
    sensations on this occasion. O heavenly God! said we to
    ourselves, do not suffer us to be sacrificed by these
    wretches. Do not suffer us to die so cruel a death. And then,
    how shocking a reflection, that we were unable to relieve our
    poor friends, who were thus murdered before our eyes."

This victory elated the Mexicans exceedingly. They cut off the heads
of the sacrificed Spaniards, and sent them to the adjacent provinces,
to prove that their gods, now appeased by this signal offering of
blood, had abandoned the enemy. The priests sent the assurance far
and wide that victory was now certain, as the oracles had returned
the response that in eight days the detested enemy should be
entirely destroyed. This prediction exerted a great influence upon
a superstitious people. Many of the natives who had joined Cortez
deserted his cause, and even the Tlascalans began to waver. The
prudence and shrewdness of Cortez again met the danger and averted it.
For eight days he made no advance, but merely stood on the defensive.
The predicted time having expired, he said, "You see that the gods
have deceived the Mexicans. They have espoused our cause."

The fickle people immediately returned to their stations, and others
joined them, so that Cortez, according to his own account, now found
himself at the head of one hundred and fifty thousand Indians. Gomara
and Herrera assert that there were not less than two hundred thousand.
The number of defenders in the Mexican capital can not with accuracy
be ascertained. It is estimated, however, from various considerations,
that there must have been at least two hundred thousand.

The Spaniards, in this sanguinary and protracted siege, often suffered
severely for want of food. With apparent reluctance, the historians
of the expedition record that their Indian auxiliaries found quite an
abundant supply for themselves in the bodies of their enemies. Some of
them were rather ashamed to acknowledge that their auxiliaries were
inveterate cannibals. Cortez, however, alludes to their horrible
repasts quite in a tone of indifference.

With greater caution the Spaniards now advanced, fortifying every
point they gained, and preparing a smooth and unobstructed road in
their rear. Their progress was exceedingly slow, and it was necessary
to adopt every possible precaution against an enemy who had manifested
such unexpected audacity and skill. As the Spaniards pushed forward,
the Mexicans, contesting every inch of the way, sullenly retired,
rearing barricade after barricade, and digging ditch behind ditch. But
artillery and European science were sure, in the end, to triumph.
Gradually the three divisions of the army forced their way across the
causeways, and entered the streets of the city. But here the defense
was, if possible, still more determined and sanguinary. Every street
was a guarded defile, where every obstacle was interposed which
Mexican military skill could devise. Every house was a fortress, from
whose battlemented roof and loop-holed windows a shower of stones,
arrows, and javelins fell upon the besiegers. As the Spaniards gained
ground, step by step, they leveled every house, and left entire ruin
and desolation behind them.

Day after day and week after week of this unparalleled siege lingered
along, every hour of which almost was a battle. The Mexicans fell in
incredible numbers. The horrors of pestilence and famine in the
pent-up city were soon added to the awful carnage and misery of war.

The brigantines swept the lake, cutting off nearly all supplies by
water for the valiant yet starving defenders, while the armies on the
causeways completely invested the city by land. Wan and haggard,
these unhappy victims of European aggression, even when all hope of
successful resistance had expired, heroically resolved to perish to
the last man, and to bury themselves beneath the ruins of their city.

Even the heart of Cortez was touched with the almost unearthly misery
he was inflicting upon an unoffending people. Again and again he sent
to Guatemozin demanding capitulation; but the proud Mexican monarch
rejected every overture with indignation and scorn. At length the
three divisions of the army, from their three different points of
attack, penetrated the city so far as to meet at the great public
square. The whole western portion of the city was now in the power of
the besiegers. The starving and dying defenders were shut up in a
small section of less than one fourth of the capital.

The Spaniards, now sure of success, pressed the siege with new ardor.
Their forces had met, and were combined in the great square. The
avenues connecting with the country were all open before them, so that
they could freely go and come. The lake was swept by the brigantines,
and, though a swift canoe could occasionally shoot along the shore,
the natives could not venture, in the face of such a force, to cross
the wide expanse of water. Affairs in the Mexican camp were now in the
very darkest state of misery and gloom.

The Mexicans regarded their monarch with superstitious veneration.
Upon his life all their destinies were suspended. His voice was
omnipotent with the people. After long deliberation, the desperate
resolve was adopted to send Guatemozin in a canoe across the broad
waters of the lake, which like an ocean swept around the city, to the
eastern shore. But Cortez, ever on the alert, anticipated this
movement, and ordered the brigantines to maintain the most vigilant
watch. The Mexicans, to deceive Cortez, sent an embassy to him to
confer upon terms of capitulation. They hoped thus to engage his
attention so that Guatemozin could escape unperceived, and, having
roused all the distant provinces, who would spring to arms at his
voice, could make an assault upon the rear of the foe.

Sandoval was now placed in command of the brigantines. He observed one
morning several canoes, crowded with people and plied by strong
rowers, shoot from the city, and direct their course across the lake
toward the eastern shore. The signal was instantly given for pursuit.
Unfortunately for the Mexicans, a favorable breeze sprang up, and one
of the brigantines soon drew near the largest boat. The cannon was
loaded, and heavily shotted and aimed. The gunner stood ready with
his lighted torch. In another moment the fatal discharge would have
strewed the lake with the fragments of the boat and the mangled bodies
of the slain. The Mexicans, regardless of their own lives, but
intensely anxious for the safety of their sovereign, dropped their
oars, and holding up their hands beseechingly, with cries and tears,
besought the Spaniards not to fire, exclaiming that the emperor was


Eagerly the precious prize was seized. The heroic Guatemozin with
dignity surrendered himself into the hands of his victors, asking
no favor for himself, but simply requesting that no insult might be
offered to the empress or his children, who were in the boat with him.
With much exultation, the captive monarch, who was but twenty-four
years of age, was conveyed to the shore, and conducted into the
presence of Cortez. Guatemozin retained his fortitude unshaken.
Looking firmly upon his conqueror, he said, loftily,

"I have done what became a monarch. I have defended my people to the
last extremity. Nothing now remains for me but to die. Take this
dagger," he continued, placing his hand upon the one which Cortez wore
at his side, "and plunge it into my bosom, and thus end a life which
is henceforth useless."

Cortez well knew how to act the part of magnanimity. He was by
instinct a man of princely manners. Castilian grace and dignity ever
shone pre-eminent in his movements. He endeavored to console his
vanquished foe, whose bold defense commanded his respect.

"You are not my captive," said he, "but the prisoner of the greatest
monarch of Europe. From his great clemency, you may hope not only that
you may be restored to liberty, but that you may again be placed upon
the throne which you have so valiantly defended."

Guatemozin had no confidence in the word of Cortez. He knew well the
perfidy and the treachery which had marked every step of the invader's
march thus far. Proudly disdaining to manifest any concern for his own
fate, he plead only that Cortez would be merciful to his suffering
people. The conqueror promised compassion if Guatemozin would command
their instant surrender. This was promptly done, and the command was
instantly obeyed. The Mexicans lost all heart as soon as they learned
that their monarch was a prisoner. Cortez immediately took possession
of the small portion of the city which still remained undestroyed.

Thus terminated this memorable siege, one of the most remarkable which
has been recorded in the horrid annals of war. It had continued for
seventy-five days of almost incessant conflict. Almost every hour the
fiercest battle raged, as step by step the assailants, with the utmost
effort and difficulty, crowded back the valiant defenders. No less
than one hundred and fifty thousand Mexicans perished in this awful
and atrocious siege. The Spaniards, who wished to make their loss
appear as small as possible, admit that one hundred of the Spanish
soldiers fell, and many thousands of their allies.

Nearly the whole capital was now but a mass of blackened and
smouldering ruins. Its numerous squares, streets, and courts, but
recently so beautiful in their neat order, and their embellishments
of shrubbery and flowers, were now clotted with blood and covered
with the mangled bodies of the slain. The sight was hideous even to
those accustomed to all the revolting scenes which demoniac war ever
brings in its train.

The ground was covered with the dead. Among the putrefying heaps some
wretches were seen, wounded, bleeding, and crawling about in advanced
stages of those loathsome diseases produced by famine and misery.

The air was so polluted with the masses of the dead, decaying beneath
the rays of a tropical sun, that Cortez was compelled to withdraw his
army from the city that the dead might be removed and the streets
purified. For three days and three nights the causeways were thronged
by endless processions of the natives bearing the mouldering corpses
from the city. But the Spaniards were insensible to the woes which
they had inflicted upon others in their exultation over their great
victory. They had conquered the enemy. The capital was in their hands,
and they had now but to collect the boundless treasures which they
supposed were accumulated in the halls of Montezuma. It was on
Tuesday, the 13th of August, 1521, that the conflict ceased. The
mighty empire of Mexico on that day perished, and there remained in
its stead but a colony of Spain.

On the very day of the capture Cortez searched every spot where
treasure could be found, and having collected every thing of value,
returned to his camp, "giving thanks," he says, "to our Lord for so
signal a reward and so desirable a victory as he has granted us." He
continued for three or four days searching eagerly for spoils, amid
all the scenes of horror presented by the devastated city. All the
gold and silver which were found were melted down, and one fifth was
set apart for the King of Spain, while the rest was divided among the
Spaniards according to their rank and services.

"Among the spoils obtained in the city," says Cortez, in his dispatch
to Charles V., "were many shields of gold, plumes, panaches, and other
articles of so wonderful a character, that language will not convey an
idea of them, nor could a correct conception be formed of their rare
excellence without seeing them."

Still the booty which was gained fell far short of the expectation
of the victors. The heroic Guatemozin, when the hope of successful
defense had expired, determined that the conquerors should not
be enriched by the treasures of the empire. A vast amount was
consequently sent out in boats, and sunk to the bottom of the lake.
For a short time, however, exultation in view of their great
victory caused both the commander and his soldiers to forget their
disappointment; love of glory for a moment triumphed over avarice.

The native allies had been but tools in the hand of Cortez to
subjugate the Mexicans. The deluded natives had thus also subjugated
themselves. They were now powerless, and the bond-servants of the
Spaniards. Cortez allowed them to sack the few remaining dwellings
of the smouldering capital, and to load themselves with such articles
as might seem valuable to semi-barbarian eyes, but which would have
no cash value in Spain. With this share of the plunder they were
satisfied, and their camp resounded with revelry as those fierce
warriors, with songs and dances, exulted over the downfall of their
ancient foes. Cortez thanked them for their assistance, praised them
for their valor, and told them that they might now go home. They went
home, soon to find that it was to them home no more. The stranger
possessed their country, and they and their children were his slaves.

In the Spanish camp the victory was honored by a double celebration.
The first was purely worldly, and religion was held entirely in
abeyance. Bonfires blazed. Deep into the night the drunken revelry
resounded over the lake, until Father Olmedo remonstrated against such
godless wassail.

The next day was appropriated to the religious celebration. The whole
army was formed into a procession. The image of the peaceful Virgin
was decorated with tattered, blackened, and bloodstained banners,
beneath which the Christians had so successfully struggled against the
heathen. With hymns and chants, and in the repetition of creeds and
prayers, this piratic band of fanatics, crimson with the blood of
the innocent, moved to an appointed sanctuary, where Father Olmedo
preached an impressive sermon, and solemnized the ordinance of the
mass. The sacrament was administered to Cortez and his captains, and,
with the imposing accompaniments of martial music and pealing
artillery, thanksgivings were offered to God.

Bernal Diaz gives the following quaint and graphic account of these

    "After having returned thanks to God, Cortez determined to
    celebrate his success by a festival in Cuyoacan. A vessel had
    arrived at Villa Rica with a cargo of wine, and hogs had been
    provided from the island of Cuba. To this entertainment he
    invited all the officers of his army, and also the soldiers
    of estimation. All things being prepared, on the day
    appointed we waited on our general.

     "When we came to sit down to dinner, there were not tables
     for one half of us. This brought on great confusion among
     the company, and, indeed, for many reasons, it would have
     been much better let alone. The _plant of Noah_ was the
     cause of many fooleries and worse things. It made some leap
     over the tables who afterward could not go out at the doors,
     and many rolled down the steps. The private soldiers swore
     they would buy horses with golden harness. The cross-bowmen
     would use none but golden arrows. All were to have their
     fortunes made.

     "When the tables were taken away, the soldiers danced in
     their armor with the ladies, as many of them as there were,
     but the disproportion in numbers was very great. This scene
     was truly ridiculous. I will not mention the names; suffice
     it to say, a fair field was open for satire. Father Olmedo
     thought what he observed at the feast and in the dances too
     scandalous, and complained to Sandoval. The latter directly
     told Cortez how the reverend father was scolding and

     "Cortez, discreet in all his actions, immediately went to
     Father Olmedo, and, affecting to disapprove of the whole
     affair, requested that he would order a solemn mass and
     thanksgiving, and preach a sermon to the soldiers of the
     moral and religious duties. Father Olmedo was highly pleased
     at this, thinking it had originated spontaneously from
     Cortez, and not knowing that the hint had been given him
     by Sandoval. Accordingly, the crucifixes and the image of
     Our Lady were borne in solemn procession, with drums and
     standards. The Litany was sung during the ceremony. Father
     Olmedo preached and administered the sacrament, and we
     returned thanks to God for our victory."

But now came the hour for discontent and murmuring. The excitement was
over, the din of arms was hushed, the beautiful city was entirely
destroyed, and two hundred thousand of the wretched inhabitants, whose
only crime against the Spaniards was that they defended their wives,
their children, and their homes, were festering in the grave. In
counting up their gains, these guilty men found that the whole sum
amounted to but about one hundred and twenty thousand dollars. Their
grievous disappointment vented itself in loud complainings, and was
soon turned into rage. They accused Guatemozin of having secreted the
treasure which had been hoarded up, and demanded that he should be put
to the torture to compel him to disclose the place of concealment.
Cortez, for a time, firmly refused to yield to this atrocious demand;
but the clamor of the disaffected grew louder and louder, until at
last Cortez was accused of being in agreement with Guatemozin, that he
might appropriate to his own use the secreted treasure.

Thus goaded, Cortez infamously consented that the unhappy captive
monarch should be put to the torture. The cacique of Tacuba, the
companion of Guatemozin, and his highest officer, was put to the
torture with him. A hot fire was kindled, and the feet of the wretched
victims, drenched in oil, were exposed to the burning coals.
Guatemozin had nothing to reveal. He could merely assert that the
treasures of the city were thrown into the lake. With extraordinary
fortitude he endured the agony, adding additional lustre to a name
already ennobled by the heroism with which he conducted the defense.
His companion died upon this bed of agony. In the extremity of his
torment, he turned an imploring eye toward the king. Guatemozin, it is
recorded, observing his look, replied, "Am I, then, reposing upon a
bed of flowers?" Cortez, who had reluctantly yielded to this atrocity,
at last interposed, and rescued the imperial sufferer. Cortez has much
to answer for before the bar of this world's judgment. For many of
his criminal acts some apology may be framed, but for the torture of
Guatemozin he stands condemned without excuse. No voice will plead his
cause. Cortez seemed to be fully aware that it was not a creditable
story for him to tell, and in his dispatches to the King of Spain he
made no allusion to the event.

It was a grievous disappointment to Cortez that so little treasure was
obtained, for his ambition was roused to send immense sums to the
Spanish court, that he might purchase high favor with his monarch by
thus proving the wealth and grandeur of the kingdom he had subjugated.
Cortez himself accompanied a party of practiced divers upon the lake,
and long and anxiously conducted the search; but the divers invariably
returned from the oozy bottom of the lake empty-handed: no treasure
could be found.

It has before been mentioned that the empire of Mexico consisted of a
conglomeration of once independent nations, which had been in various
ways annexed to the mammoth empire. It was somewhat like Austria,
having many Hungarys and Polands ripe for revolt. Cortez had adroitly
availed himself of these disaffections in accomplishing his wonderful
conquest. The Zempoallans and Tlascalans augmented his ranks with
fierce warriors nearly two hundred thousand in number. There were many
provinces of the empire on the north and the west which as yet no
European foot had ever entered. It was a question whether these remote
provinces would band together in hostility to the Spaniards, and thus
indefinitely protract the conflict, or whether, seeing the capital in
ruins and their monarch a captive, they would admit the hopelessness
of the strife, and yield to their conquerors.

Far and wide, through the valleys and over the mountains, the tidings
of the annihilation of the Mexican army was borne by the Indian
runners, awakening consternation every where in view of the resistless
power of the victors. Some, however, who were restive under the
Mexican yoke, were not unwilling to exchange masters. To the
great relief and joy of Cortez, day after day, envoys flocked
to his presence from powerful nations to proffer allegiance and
implore clemency. Cortez received them all with great courtesy
and hospitality, and took not a little pleasure in witnessing the
amazement with which these embassadors contemplated the power, to
them supernatural, which the Spaniards wielded. The brigantines
spread their sails and plowed their way, with speed which no canoe
could equal, over the foamy waters of the lake. The cavalry wheeled
and charged in all those prompt and orderly evolutions to which
the war-horse can be trained. And when the heavy artillery uttered
its roar, and shivered the distant rock with its thunder-bolt, the
envoys, amazed, bewildered, and appalled, were prepared to make any
concessions rather than incur the displeasure of such fearful foes.

The power of Cortez was now unquestioned, and Mexico was in the dust
before him. Still, the conqueror was in great perplexity respecting
the light in which his conduct was viewed in the court of his stern
monarch, Charles V. While engaged in the slaughter of two or three
hundred thousand people, while overrunning nations and establishing
new governments, he was acting not only without authority from his
government, but in direct opposition to its commands. Velasquez, the
governor of Cuba, was invested with authority by the voice of the
emperor, and yet Cortez had set his power at defiance. By the
command of the emperor, expeditions had been fitted out to prosecute
discoveries and to acquire dominion in Mexico, and yet Cortez had
audaciously made war upon these bands marching under the banner of
Spain. He had slain many, taken the rest prisoners, and constrained
them, by bribes and menaces, to join his marauding army. Cortez well
knew that this was treason, and that he was liable to answer for it
with his life. He well knew that Velasquez, mortified and exasperated,
had made bitter complaints against him at court, and that there was
no one there effectually to plead his cause.

Under these circumstances, Cortez awaited with much solicitude the
next arrival from Spain. In the mean time, he made every possible
effort to transmit gold and silver to the Spanish monarch, and with
untiring zeal urged his discoveries, that he might ennoble himself and
win the gratitude of his sovereign by adding to the wealth, the
dominion, and the fame of his native kingdom. Wishing to assume that
he was acting humbly as the servant of his king, he sent him, in the
form of dispatches, a minute account of all his movements.

As a specimen of these dispatches, the reader will peruse with
interest the following account of the last two days of the siege. This
dispatch is dated from the _City of Cuyoacan_ (_Mexico_), _May 15th,
1522_. This city was on the main land, at the end of one of the
causeways which led to the island capital. The letter is thus humbly

     "Most high and potent Prince; most catholic and invincible
     Emperor, King, and Lord."

This narrative of the siege is so minute as to occupy one hundred and
fifty closely-printed octavo pages, and gives a circumstantial account
of the proceedings of each day. The closing paragraphs only are here
extracted. The narrative which Cortez gives sometimes differs, in
unimportant particulars, from that recorded by other historians of
the campaign, who were eyewitnesses of the scenes which they

     "As soon as it was day, I caused our whole force to be in
     readiness, and the heavy guns to be brought out. The day
     before, I had ordered Pedro de Alvarado to wait for me in
     the square of the market-place, and not to attack the enemy
     until I arrived. Being all assembled, and the brigantines
     drawn up ready for action on the right of the houses
     situated on the water, where the enemy were stationed, I
     directed that when they heard the discharge of a musket, the
     land force should enter the small part of the city that
     remained to be taken, and drive the enemy toward the water,
     where the brigantines lay. I enjoined much upon them to look
     for Guatemozin, and endeavor to take him alive, as in that
     case the war would cease. I then ascended a terrace, and,
     before the combat began, addressed some of the nobles whom I
     knew, asking them for what reason their sovereign refused to
     come to me when they were reduced to such extremities,
     adding that there was no good cause why they should all
     perish, and that they should go and call him, and have no

     "Two of the principal nobles then went to call the emperor.
     After a short time they returned, accompanied by one of the
     most considerable of their personages, Ciquacoacin, a
     captain and governor over them all, by whose counsels the
     whole affairs of the war were conducted. I received him with
     great kindness, that he might feel perfectly secure and free
     from apprehensions. At last he said that 'the emperor would
     by no means come into my presence, preferring rather to die;
     that his determination grieved him much, but that I must do
     whatever I desired.' When I saw that this was his settled
     purpose, I told the noble messenger to return to his
     friends, and prepare for the renewal of the war, which I was
     resolved to continue until their destruction was complete.
     So he departed.

     "More than five hours had been spent in these conferences,
     during which time many of the inhabitants were crowded
     together upon piles of the dead; some were on the water, and
     others were seen swimming about or drowning in the part of
     the lake where the canoes were lying, which was of
     considerable extent. Indeed, so excessive were the
     sufferings of the people, that no one could imagine how they
     were able to sustain them; and an immense multitude of men,
     women, and children were compelled to seek refuge with us,
     many of whom, in their eagerness to reach us, threw
     themselves into the water, and were drowned among the mass
     of dead bodies. It appeared that the number of persons who
     had perished, either from drinking salt water, from famine
     or pestilence, amounted altogether to more than fifty
     thousand souls.

     "In order to conceal their necessitous condition from our
     knowledge, the bodies of the dead were not thrown into the
     water, lest the brigantines should come in contact with
     them, nor were they taken away from the places where they
     had died, lest we should see them about the city; but in
     those streets where they had perished we found heaps of dead
     bodies so frequent, that a person passing could not avoid
     stepping upon them; and when the people of the city flocked
     toward us, I caused Spaniards to be stationed through all
     the streets to prevent our allies from destroying the
     wretched persons who came out in such multitudes. I also
     charged the captains of our allies to forbid, by all means
     in their power, the slaughter of these fugitives; yet all my
     precautions were insufficient to prevent it, and that day
     more than fifteen thousand lost their lives. At the same
     time, the better classes and the warriors of the city were
     pent up within narrow limits, confined to a few terraces and
     houses, or sought refuge on the water; but no concealment
     prevented our seeing their miserable condition and weakness
     with sufficient clearness.

     "As the evening approached and no sign of their surrender
     appeared, I ordered the two pieces of ordnance to be leveled
     toward the enemy, to try their effect in causing them to
     yield; but they suffered greater injury when full license
     was given to the allies to attack them than from the cannon,
     although the latter did them some mischief. As this was of
     little avail, I ordered the musketry to be fired. When a
     certain angular space, where they were crowded together, was
     gained, and some of the people thrown into the water, those
     that remained there yielded themselves prisoners without a

     "In the mean time, the brigantines suddenly entered that
     part of the lake, and broke through the midst of the fleet
     of canoes, the warriors who were in them not daring to make
     any resistance. It pleased God that the captain of a
     brigantine, named Garci Holguin, came up behind a canoe in
     which there seemed to be persons of distinction; and when
     the archers, who were stationed in the bow of the
     brigantine, took aim at those in the canoe, they made a
     signal that the emperor was there, that the men might not
     discharge their arrows. Instantly our people leaped into the
     canoe, and seized in it Guatemozin and the Lord of Tacuba,
     together with other distinguished persons who accompanied
     the emperor.

     "Immediately after this occurrence, Garci Holguin, the
     captain, delivered to me, on a terrace adjoining the lake,
     where I was standing, Guatemozin, with other noble
     prisoners. As I, without showing any asperity of manner,
     bade him sit down, he came up to me and said, in his own

     "'That he had done all that was incumbent on him in defense
     of himself and his people, until he was reduced to his
     present condition; that now I might do with him as I
     pleased.' He then laid his hand on a poniard that I wore,
     telling me to strike him to the heart.

     "I spoke encouragingly to him, and bade him have no fears.
     Thus, the emperor being taken a prisoner, the war ceased at
     this point, which it pleased God our Lord to bring to a
     conclusion on Tuesday, St. Hippolytus's day, the thirteenth
     of August, 1521; so that from the day in which the city was
     first invested, the 3d of May in that year, until it was
     taken, seventy-five days had elapsed, during which time your
     majesty will see what labors, dangers, and calamities your
     subjects endured, and their deeds afford the best evidence
     how much they exposed their lives."

For three hundred years, while Mexico remained under Spanish rule, the
anniversary of this victory was regularly celebrated with all the
accompaniments of national rejoicing.



Discovery of the Pacific.--Cortez's elation.--Cortez's dispatch.--He
sends to take possession of the coast.--The exploring parties.--
Release of the captives.--Rebuilding the city.--Power of Cortez.
--Progress of affairs in Spain.--Warrant against Cortez.--The
commissioner.--His reception.--Tapia's weak points.--His return.--
Cortez's dispatch.--Cortez's account of the arrival of Tapia.--Cortez
unable to visit Tapia.--Father Urrea dispatched to Vera Cruz.--Cortez
prepares to go to Vera Cruz, but is dissuaded.--Embassadors to Tapia.
--Delay asked.--Departure of Tapia.--Advice respecting Tapia.--Reasons
for not sending letters by him.--Insurrection.--Punishment.--Severe
chastisement.--Nuno de Guzman.--Influence at court.--Charges against
Cortez.--Cortez's defense to the charges against him.--Defense
triumphant.--Cortez appointed governor.--His powers.--Letter from the
emperor.--Depression of his enemies.--Unfair dealings.--Escape from
remonstrants.--Expedition to Zapoteca.--Great peril.--They abandon the
scheme.--Progress of the new city.--Cortez's palace.--Religious
zeal.--Catholic priests.--Approach to the metropolis.--Reception by
Cortez.--Success of the missionaries.--Colonies.--Arrival of Donna
Catalina.--Death of Catalina.--Suspicions of murder.

With zeal and energy which never slept, Cortez fitted out several
expeditions to explore the country, to study its geography, and to
ascertain its resources. One party, ascending the heights of the
Cordilleras, gazed with delight upon the placid expanse of the Pacific
Ocean, and, descending the western declivity, planted the cross upon
the sandy shores of that hitherto unknown sea. Cortez was exceedingly
elated with this discovery, for he considered it another bribe with
which to purchase the favor of his sovereign. He immediately made
arrangements for establishing a colony on the Pacific shores, and
ordered four vessels to be built to prosecute farther discoveries. He
lost no time in transmitting to the emperor the tidings of this great

     "I have received, most powerful sire," he wrote, "some
     account of another sea to the south, and learned that at two
     or three points it was twelve, thirteen, and fourteen days'
     journey from this city. The information gave me much
     pleasure, for it appeared to me that the discovery would
     prove a great and signal service to your majesty, especially
     as all who possess any knowledge or experience in navigation
     to the Indies have considered it certain that the discovery
     of the South Sea in these parts would bring to light many
     islands rich in gold, pearls, precious stones, and
     spiceries, together with many other unknown and choice
     productions. The same has been affirmed also by persons
     versed in learning and skilled in the science of
     cosmography. With such views, and a desire that I might
     render your majesty a distinguished and memorable service in
     this matter, I dispatched four Spaniards, two by one route
     and two by another, who, having obtained the necessary
     information as to the course they were to take, set out,
     accompanied by several of our allies as guides and
     companions. I ordered them not to stop until they had
     reached the sea, and when they had discovered it, to take
     actual and corporal possession in the name of your majesty.

     "One of these parties traveled about one hundred and thirty
     leagues, through many fine provinces, without encountering
     any obstacles, and arrived at the sea, of which they took
     possession, and, in token thereof, set up crosses along the
     coast. After some days they returned with an account of
     their discovery, and informed me very particularly
     concerning it. They brought with them several of the natives
     from that quarter, together with good specimens of gold from
     the mines found in the provinces through which they passed,
     which, with other specimens, I now send to your majesty.

     "The other party were absent somewhat longer, for they took
     a different course, and traveled one hundred and fifty
     leagues before they reached the sea, of which they also took
     possession, and brought me a full account of the coast, with
     some of the natives of the country. I received the strangers
     in both parties graciously, and having informed them of the
     great power of your majesty, and made them some presents, I
     suffered them to depart on their return to their own
     country, and they went away much gratified.

     "In my former relation, most catholic sire, I informed your
     majesty that, at the time when the Indians defeated me, and
     first drove us out of the city of Tenochtitlan, all the
     provinces subject to that city rebelled against your majesty
     and made war upon us; and your majesty will see, by this
     relation, how we have reduced to your royal service most of
     the provinces that proved rebellious.

     "As the city," he continues, "of Tenochtitlan was a place of
     great celebrity and distinction, and ever memorable, it
     appeared to me that it would be well to build another town
     upon its ruins. I therefore distributed the ground among the
     proposed inhabitants, and appointed alcaldes and regidores
     in the name of your majesty, according to the custom of your
     realms; and while the houses were going up, we determined to
     abide in the city of Cuyoacan, where we at present are. It
     is now four or five months since the rebuilding of the city
     was commenced, and it is already very handsome. Your majesty
     may be assured that it will go on increasing to such a
     degree that, as it was formerly the capital and mistress of
     all these provinces, it will still be so hereafter. It is
     built so far and will be completed in such a manner as to
     render the Spaniards strong and secure, greatly superior to
     the natives, and wholly unassailable by them."

The power of Cortez was now unlimited. The whole native population
were virtually his slaves. He had the address to secure the friendly
co-operation of the principal chiefs, and the Indians, in any numbers
which he required, were driven by them to their reluctant toil. The
Spaniards assumed the office of overseers, while the natives performed
all the menial and painful labor. Timber was cut and dragged by the
_men of burden_ from the adjacent forests, and from the ruins of
Tenochtitlan the new and beautiful city of Mexico rose as by magic.

Charles V., King of Spain and Emperor of Germany, was overwhelmed by
the cares of his enormous empire. The scenes transpiring far away in
the wilderness of the New World, important as they were, could claim
but a small share of his attention. Velasquez succeeded in gaining
very influential friends at court, and plied all his energies, with
untiring diligence, to secure the disgrace of Cortez. Pride, ambition,
and revenge alike inspired him to work, if possible, the ruin of the
bold adventurer who had set his power at defiance. The sovereign was
at this time in Germany, and the reins of government in Spain were
temporarily placed in the hands of Adrian, who had been private tutor
of the emperor.

Influenced by the coadjutors of Velasquez, Adrian issued a warrant,
signed at Burgos on the 11th of April, 1521, which, after
recapitulating the offenses of which Cortez had been guilty against
the majesty of the Spanish government, appointed a commissioner to
repair to Mexico, seize the person of Cortez, suspend him from his
functions, sequestrate his property, and bring him to trial upon the
weighty charges contained in the indictment.

The accomplishment of a task so difficult required a man of consummate
tact and energy; but, unfortunately, the agent selected was totally
unqualified for his task. Christoval de Tapia, the appointed
commissioner, was a feeble, fussy old man, a government inspector of
metals in Saint Domingo. He landed at Vera Cruz in December, with
his commission in his hand. The authorities there, quite devoted to
Cortez, and fully aware that in his fall their fortunes must also
decay, threw every obstacle in their power in the path of Tapia.
They disputed his credentials, and, by innumerable embarrassments,
prevented him from entering the interior.

Cortez, on the other hand, while cordially accepting this important
co-operation on the part of his friends, the more valuable since it
did not involve him in any responsibility, wrote to Tapia a letter
full of expressions of courtesy, and of veneration for the authority
of the emperor. The imbecile old man soon became entangled in a
labyrinth of diplomacy from which he knew not how to extricate
himself. He had not sufficient force of character to cut the tangled
threads. It is said that every one has his weak point. Love of money
was the great frailty of Tapia. United with this there was great
timidity of character. Cortez, with his accustomed tact, discovered
the peculiarities of the man, and, with his habitual adroitness,
assailed him where his armor was weak. The old man's fears were
assailed with threats, and his avarice was approached by bribes, and
he very soon capitulated. Re-embarking in his ship, he returned to
Hispaniola, leaving Cortez in undisputed authority.

This affair alarmed Cortez exceedingly. The account which he himself
gives of it in his dispatch to the emperor is so curious and
characteristic of the man, that we must give it in his own words. The
dispatch itself will be more interesting and valuable than any
narrative we might give of the event. Upon the departure of Tapia,
Cortez immediately sent deputies to the emperor with a glowing
account of his new discoveries and conquests, with many rich gifts,
and the promise of immense future contributions. He gave, as it were
incidentally, an account of the mission of Tapia, explained with great
naïveté the reasons of its failure, and implored anew that he might be
intrusted with the government of the wide realms which his skill and
the valor of his followers had attached to the Spanish crown.

     "While engaged in this business," he writes, "I received
     accounts from Vera Cruz of the arrival at that port of a
     ship, in which came Christoval de Tapia, smelting inspector
     in the island of Hispaniola. The next day I had a letter
     from him, informing me that the object of his coming to the
     country was to assume the government of it by your majesty's
     command, and that he had brought with him his royal
     commission, which he should nowhere exhibit until he saw us,
     but hoped this would be soon. As, however, the horses he had
     brought were affected by the voyage, he was not able to set
     out immediately, and begged that we would direct how the
     interview should take place, whether by his coming here, or
     by my going to the sea-coast.

     "As soon as I had received his letter, I answered it, saying
     that I was much pleased with his arrival; that no one could
     come provided with an order from his majesty to assume the
     government of these parts with whom I should be better
     pleased, both on account of the acquaintance that existed
     between us, and the neighborly intercourse we had enjoyed
     together in the island of Hispaniola.

     "Tranquillity not being firmly established in this quarter,
     and any novelty being likely to estrange the natives, I
     begged Father Urrea, who has been present in all my labors,
     and who knew well the situation of affairs to the present
     moment, and by whose coming your majesty's service has been
     promoted, and ourselves benefited by his spiritual teachings
     and counsels, to undertake the task of meeting the said
     Tapia, and of examining the orders of your majesty. Since he
     knew better than any one what the royal interests, as well
     as those of this country, required, I requested that he
     would give such directions to the said Tapia as he deemed
     most proper, from which he knew I would not deviate in the
     least degree.

     "I made this request in the presence of your majesty's
     treasurer, who joined his solicitations to mine. He
     accordingly departed for the town of Vera Cruz, where the
     said Tapia was; and in order that suitable attentions might
     be paid to the inspector, either in the town or wherever
     they should meet, I dispatched with the father two or three
     respectable persons from my companions, and when they had
     gone I waited the issue. In the mean time, I employed myself
     in regulating the affairs of my command, and in such a way
     as best to promote your majesty's interests, and the peace
     and security of these parts.

     "In ten or twelve days after, the magistrate and municipal
     authority of Vera Cruz wrote me that the said Tapia had
     exhibited the orders of your majesty, and of your governors
     acting in the royal name, which they had treated with all
     suitable reverence; but that as to the execution of the
     orders, they had answered that, since the most of the
     government were with me, having been concerned in the siege
     of the city, they should be informed of them, and in the
     mean time they would do whatever the service of your majesty
     and the good of the country required. This answer, they
     added, was received by the said Tapia with great
     displeasure, and he had since attempted some scandalous

     "Although this answer occasioned me some regret, I answered
     them, and begged and entreated that they would look chiefly
     to the service of your majesty, and endeavor to content the
     said Tapia, giving him no occasion for making a disturbance;
     and that I was about going to meet him, and to comply with
     whatever your majesty commanded, and the most your service

     "As I was now preparing to depart, the members of the
     council entreated me, with many protestations, not to go, as
     all this province of Mexico, having been but a short time
     reduced, might revolt in my absence, whence much injury
     would be done to your majesty's service, and great
     disturbance caused in the country. They also urged many
     other arguments and reasons why it was inexpedient for me to
     leave the city at present; and added that they, with the
     authority of the council, would go to Vera Cruz, where the
     said Tapia resided, examine the orders of your majesty, and
     perform all that the royal service demanded. As it seemed so
     essential to our safety that the said councilors should go,
     I wrote by them to Tapia informing him of what had passed,
     and that I had authorized Gonsalvo de Sandoval, Diego de
     Soto, and Diego de Valdenebro, who were then in the town of
     Vera Cruz, jointly with the council of Vera Cruz and the
     members of the other town councils, to see and perform
     whatever the service of your majesty and the good of the
     country required.

     "When they reached the place where the said Tapia was, who
     had already set out on his journey to this city, accompanied
     by Father Pedro, they requested him to return, and all went
     together to the city of Zempoalla, where Christoval de Tapia
     presented your majesty's orders, which all received with the
     respect due to your majesty. In regard to their execution,
     they said that they asked some delay of your majesty as
     demanded by the royal interests, for causes and reasons
     contained in their petition, and more fully set forth
     therein. After some other acts and proceedings between the
     inspector Tapia and the deputies, he embarked in his own
     ship, as he had been requested to do, since from his
     remaining, and having published that he had come as governor
     and captain of these parts, there would have been

     "The coming of the said Tapia, and his want of knowledge
     respecting the country and its inhabitants, had already
     excited sedition, and his stay would have led to serious
     evils if God had not interposed to prevent it. Much greater
     service would have been rendered to your majesty if, while
     he was in the island of Hispaniola, instead of coming
     hither, he had first advised with your majesty. The said
     Tapia had been often advised by the admiral, judges, and
     other officials of your majesty residing in the island of
     Hispaniola not to come into these parts until your majesty
     had first been informed of all that had taken place here,
     and on this account they had prohibited his coming under
     certain penalties, which prohibition, however, by means in
     his power, looking more at his individual interest than the
     service of your majesty, he had succeeded in getting

     "I have prepared this account of every thing in relation to
     this matter for your majesty, because, when the said Tapia
     departed, neither the deputies nor myself drew up any
     statement, as he would not have been a suitable bearer of
     our letters; and also that your majesty may see and believe
     that, by not receiving the said Tapia, your majesty was well
     served, as will be more fully established whenever it shall
     be necessary."

While thus engaged, Cortez received intelligence that the province of
Panuco was in a state of insurrection. As most of his captains were
absent on various expeditions, he promptly placed himself at the head
of a force of one hundred and thirty horsemen, two hundred and fifty
infantry, and ten thousand Mexicans, and marched to inflict such
punishment upon the rebels as should intimidate all others from a
similar attempt.

The two hostile bodies soon met. According to the estimate of the
Spaniards, the number of the enemy amounted to above seventy thousand
warriors. "But it was God's will," the historian records, "that we
should obtain a victory, with such a slaughter of the rebels as
deprived them of all thought of making any head for the present."
Cortez ravaged the country, mercilessly crushing all who offered the
slightest resistance. Having thus quenched in blood the flickering
flame of independence, he returned victorious to the metropolis.

Here he was informed that some of the inhabitants of the neighboring
mountains had manifested a restive spirit, and had caused disturbance
in other peaceable districts. Sternly he marched to chastise them. The
punishment was prompt and severe; thousands were shot down, and their
chiefs were hanged. "They were punished," says Diaz, "with fire and
sword; and greater misfortunes befell them when Nuno de Guzman came to
be their governor, for he made them all slaves, and sold them in the

The father of Cortez, who was in Spain, and who was a man of much
elevation of character, now came forward to aid his son with his
influence at court. Implacable enemies were intriguing against the
bold Spanish adventurer in the court of Charles V., who had returned
from his long absence in Germany, and was now at Madrid. Don Martin
Cortez had secured the co-operation of a powerful nobleman, the Duke
of Bejar. The young monarch, bewildered by the accusations which were
brought against Cortez on the one hand, and by the defense which was
urged upon the other, referred the whole matter to a commission
specially appointed to investigate the subject. The charges which were
brought against him were serious and very strongly sustained by

     1. He had seized rebelliously, and finally destroyed, the
     fleet intrusted to him by Governor Velasquez, whose
     authority he was bound to obey.

     2. He had usurped powers in contempt of the authority of his
     lawful sovereign.

     3. He had made war upon Narvaez, who had been sent with full
     authority to supersede him, and had slain many of his
     companions. He had also refused to receive Tapia, though he
     was invested with the authority of the crown.

     4. He had cruelly, and in dishonor of the Spanish name, put
     Guatemozin to the torture.

     5. He had remitted but a small part of the treasures
     obtained to the crown, squandering vast sums in schemes to
     promote his own aggrandizement.

     6. His whole system of procedure was one of violence,
     extortion, and cruelty.

It was urged in defense,

     1. Two thirds of the cost of the expedition, nominally
     fitted out by Velasquez, were defrayed by Cortez.

     2. The interests of the crown required that colonies should
     be established in Mexico. Velasquez was invested with power
     to traffic only, not to found colonies; consequently,
     Cortez, in the discharge of his duty, was bound to establish
     colonies, and to send to the crown for the ratification of
     the deed, as he had done.

     3. It was the wish of Cortez to meet Narvaez amicably; but
     that commander, assuming a hostile attitude, had compelled
     Cortez to do the same. The treatment of Tapia was defended
     as in the dispatch which Cortez had transmitted to the

     4. The torture of Guatemozin was declared to have been, not
     the act of Cortez, but of one of his officers, who was
     driven to it by the clamors of the soldiers.

     5. It was clearly proved that Cortez had transmitted more
     than one fifth of the treasure obtained to the crown. It was
     also pretty conclusively proved that his administration was,
     in general, characterized by far-reaching sagacity.

The defense was triumphant. Cortez was acquitted, his acts were
confirmed, and he was appointed _governor_, _captain-general_, _and
chief justice_ of the immense empire which he had subjugated. The
power with which he was invested was vast--almost unlimited. He was
authorized to appoint to all offices, civil and military. He could
also banish from the country any persons whose conduct should be
displeasing to him. A large salary was conferred upon him, that he
might maintain the splendor becoming his rank. His officers were
richly rewarded. The emperor even condescended to write a letter to
the little army in Mexico with his own hand, applauding the heroism of
the soldiers and the grandeur of their chieftain. This was one of the
greatest of the victories of Cortez. The depression of his enemies was
equal to his own elation. Velasquez was crushed by the blow. He
survived the tidings through a few months of gloom, and then sank into
the grave, the only refuge for those weary of the world.

When the envoys arrived in Mexico with the decision of the court, they
were received with universal rejoicing. Every soldier of Cortez felt
that his fortune was now made. But their intrepid commander was not
the man for repose. New discoveries were to be urged, new tribes
subjugated, and far-distant regions explored. Murmurs loud and deep
soon ascended from the disaffected, who now wished to repose from toil
in the enjoyment of their wealth and honors. Here is a specimen of
their complaints:

     "I will now relate," says Diaz, "what Cortez did, which I
     call very unfair. All those who were the dependents of great
     men, who flattered him and told him pleasing things, he
     loaded with favors. Not that I blame him for being
     generous, for there was enough for all; but I say that he
     ought to have first considered those who served his majesty,
     and whose valor and blood made him what he was. But it is
     useless detailing our misfortunes, and how he treated us
     like vassals, and how we were obliged to take to our old
     trade of expeditions and battles; for, though he forgot us
     in his distribution of property, he never failed to call
     upon us when he wanted our assistance. When we went to the
     general with the request that he would give us some part of
     the property which his majesty had ordered that we should
     receive, he told us, and swore to it, that he would provide
     for us all, and not do as he had done, for which he was very
     sorry. As if we were to be satisfied with promises and
     smooth words!"

Cortez had a very effectual way of escaping from such remonstrants. He
immediately dispatched such men as were troublesome on some important
expedition, where all their energies of mind and body would be
engrossed in surmounting the difficulties which they would be called
to encounter. A man by the name of Rangel, who had some considerable
influence, was complaining bitterly. Cortez immediately decided that
the distant province of the Zapotecans was in a threatening attitude,
and needed looking after. They were a fierce people, dwelling among
almost inaccessible cliffs, where no horse could climb and no
artillery be dragged. From such an enterprise it was little probable
that the troublesome man would ever return. He was consequently
honored with the command of the expedition. For apparently the same
reason, Bernal Diaz, whose complaints we have just read, was appointed
to accompany the detachment.

The forlorn party entered boldly the defiles of the mountains, and
wading through marshes, and struggling through ravines, and clambering
over rocks, with the utmost difficulty and peril penetrated the savage
region. The natives, nimble as the chamois, leaped from crag to crag,
whistling an insulting defiance with a peculiarly shrill note, with
which every rock seemed vocal. Stones were showered down upon them,
and immense rocks, torn from their beds, leaped crashing over their
path. Their peril soon became great, and it was so evidently
impossible to accomplish any important result, that they abandoned the
expedition, nearly all wounded, and many having been killed.

During the period of four years Cortez devoted himself with untiring
zeal to the promotion of the interests of the colony. The new city of
Mexico rose rapidly, with widened streets and with many buildings of
much architectural beauty. Where the massive temple once stood,
dedicated to the war-god of the Aztecs, and whose altars were ever
polluted with human sacrifices, a majestic temple was reared for the
worship of the true God. Cortez erected for himself a gorgeous palace
fronting on the great square. It was built of hewn stone. All the
houses constructed for the Spaniards were massive stone buildings, so
built as to answer the double purpose of dwellings and fortresses.

The zeal of Cortez for the conversion of the natives continued
unabated. In addition to the spacious cathedral, where the imposing
rites of the Catholic Church were invested with all conceivable
splendor, thirty other churches were provided for the natives, who had
now become exceedingly pliant to the wishes of the conqueror. Father
Olmedo watched over the interests of religion with great purity of
purpose and with unwearied devotion until his death. Twelve Catholic
priests were sent from Spain. Benighted as they were in that dark age,
the piety of many of these men can hardly be questioned. Cortez
received them with great distinction. Immediately upon being informed
of their arrival at Vera Cruz, he ordered the road to Mexico to be put
in order, to render their journey easy, and houses to be furnished, at
proper distances, with refreshments for their accommodation. The
inhabitants of all the towns along their route were ordered to meet
them with processions and music, and all demonstrations of reverence
and joy. As they approached the metropolis, Cortez, at the head of a
brilliant cavalcade, which was followed by a vast procession bearing
crucifixes and lighted tapers, set out to receive them. The Catholic
missionaries appeared with bare feet and in the most humble garb.
Cortez dismounted, and, advancing to the principal father of the
fraternity, bent one knee to the ground in token of reverence, and
kissed his coarse and threadbare robe. The natives gazed with
amazement upon this act of humiliation on the part of their haughty
conqueror, and ever after regarded the priests with almost religious

When conversion consists in merely inducing men to conform to some
external ceremony, while the heart remains unchanged, it is easily
accomplished. The missionaries, with great zeal, embarked in the
enterprise of establishing the Catholic religion in every village of
the subjugated empire. They were eminently successful, and in a few
years almost every vestige of the ancient idolatry had disappeared
from Mexico.

Cortez did every thing in his power to induce the natives to return to
the capital. He introduced the mechanic arts of Europe, and all the
industrial implements of that higher civilization. The streets were
soon again thronged with a busy population, and the Indian and the
Spaniard, oblivious of past scenes of deadly strife, mingled together
promiscuously in peaceful and picturesque confusion.

Many colonies were established in different parts of the country, and
settlers were invited over from Old Spain by liberal grants of land,
and by many municipal privileges.

In the midst of these important transactions, while Cortez was living
quietly with the amiable Marina, who had borne him a son, a ship
arrived at Vera Cruz bringing Donna Catalina, the wife of the wayward
adventurer. This lady, accompanied by her brother, weary of the
solitude of her plantation, where she had now been left for many
years, came in search of her unfaithful spouse. Cortez made great
pretensions to religion. It was his crowning glory that he was the
defender of the faith. It would have been altogether too great a
scandal to have repudiated his faithful wife.

"Cortez," says Bernal Diaz, "was very sorry for their coming, but he
put the best face upon it, and received them with great pomp and
rejoicing." In three months from this time the unhappy Donna Catalina
died of an asthma. Her death was so evidently a relief to Cortez, and
so manifestly in accordance with his wishes, that many suspicions were
excited that she had fallen by the hand of violence. Though Cortez had
many enemies to accuse him of the murder of his wife, there is no
evidence whatever that he was guilty. Cortez had many and great
faults, but a crime of this nature seems to be quite foreign to his
character. The verdict of history in reference to this charge has been
very cordially _Not proven_.



The natives reduced to slavery.--Laws and institutions.--Colony
at Honduras.--Olid wrecked and taken prisoner.--Cortez starts for
Honduras.--Diaz's account.--The two captives.--Difficulties to
be encountered.--Marina married to Xamarillo.--Don Martin Cortez.
--Demonstrations of homage.--Complaints of Diaz.--Scarcity of
provisions.--Energy and forethought.--Construction of canoes.--The
slough.--Foraging parties.--The tangled wilderness.--The Indian
path.--The cannibal chiefs.--Their punishment.--Hostile attitude.
--The soldiers ravenous.--Influence of the priests.--Care for the
officers.--Plot against two chiefs.--The chiefs executed.--Their
heroism.--Opinions of the Spaniards.--Night wanderings.--Plenty and
want.--The terrible march.--New embarrassments.--Famine.--They reach
Taica.--Humility of Diaz.--Cortez finds there is no insurrection to
be quelled.--Exploring tour.--The brigantines.--Submission.--Present
to the king.--Disappointment of Cortez.--The dispatches.--Bad news.
--Reports of the death of Cortez.--Troubles in Spain.--The attempted
voyage.--Fruitless endeavors to recall his friends.--Commissions.--The
usurpers imprisoned.--Poor health of Cortez.--His return to Mexico.

The great object of the Spanish adventurers was to extort gold from
the natives. The proud cavaliers would not work, and the natives
were not willing to surrender the fruits of their toil to support
their haughty conquerors in splendor. Cortez consequently, though
reluctantly, doomed them to slavery. They were driven by the lash
to unpaid toil. It was an outrage defended only by the despotic
assumptions of avarice. The Tlascalans, however, in acknowledgment
of their services as allies of the Spaniards, were exempt from this
degradation. In all other parts the wretched natives toiled under
their task-masters, in the fields and in the mines, urged by the
sole stimulus of the lash. The country thus became impoverished
and beggared, and masters and slaves sank together.

Cortez had now reduced, in subjection to the crown of Spain, an extent
of country reaching along the Atlantic coast twelve hundred miles,
and extending fifteen hundred miles on the Pacific shore. With
energetic genius which has rarely been surpassed, the conqueror
established laws and institutions, many of them eminently wise, for
this vast realm.

Cortez had sent one of his captains, Christoval de Olid, to Honduras,
to found a Spanish colony there. This intrepid man, giddy with the
possession of vast power, and encouraged by the success with which
Cortez had thrown off his dependence upon Velasquez, determined to
imitate his example, and assert independence of all authority save
that of the Spanish crown. But Cortez was the last man to allow _his_
authority to be thus trifled with. He immediately sent an expedition
under Francisco Las Casas, with five ships and a hundred veteran
Spanish soldiers, to arrest the disobedient officer. With pennants
flying, Las Casas sailed from Vera Cruz, and was rapidly borne by
prosperous gales around the immense promontory of Yucatan, a voyage of
nearly two thousand miles, to the bay in Honduras named the Triumph
of the Cross, where Olid had established his post. Olid opposed his
landing, but, as many of his soldiers chanced to be absent in the
interior he could present no effectual resistance.

After a short battle, Olid, hoping for the speedy return of his absent
forces, applied for a truce. Las Casas weakly consented; but that same
night a tempest arose which wrecked all his ships, and thirty of the
crew perished in the waves. Las Casas and all of the remainder of his
party, drenched and exhausted, were taken prisoners. Olid exulted
greatly in this unanticipated good fortune; and, considering his foe
utterly powerless, released the men upon their taking the oath of
allegiance to him, and retained Las Casas surrounded with the
courtesies of friendly and hospitable captivity. After a time,
however, Las Casas succeeded in forming a conspiracy, and Olid was
seized and beheaded.

Cortez had heard of the wreck of the ships. No other tidings reached
him. But disaster ever added strength to his energies. Vigorously he
fitted out another expedition, and headed it himself. Leaving a strong
garrison to guard the city of Mexico, and appointing two confidential
officers to act as deputies during his absence, he prepared to march
across the country, a perilous journey of five hundred leagues,
through a wilderness of mountains, rivers, lakes, and forests. Unknown
and doubtless hostile tribes peopled the whole region. It was one of
the boldest of the many bold adventures of this extraordinary man. He
has given a minute narrative of the march in a dispatch to Charles V.
Bernal Diaz also, who accompanied the expedition, has given an
interesting yet gossiping recital of all its wild adventures.

It was on the 12th of October, 1524, that Cortez commenced his march
almost due south from the city of Mexico. His force consisted, when he
started from Mexico, of about one hundred Spanish horsemen and fifty
infantry, together with about three thousand Mexican soldiers.
Apprehending that Guatemozin and the cacique of Tacuba, from their
strong influence over the natives, might excite disturbance during his
absence, he took them as captives with him. Several Catholic priests
were taken to conduct the services of religion, and to convert the
heathen tribes. The imperial retinue, for Cortez now moved with the
pomp of an emperor, was conducted on the grandest scale the time and
the occasion would admit. A large herd of swine followed the army a
day's journey in the rear. Most of the food, however, was to be
collected by the way.

By the aid of a rude map and Indian guides, Cortez designed to direct
his steps across the neck of the broad peninsula of Yucatan to the
head of the Bay of Honduras. For many days their path conducted along
a low and marshy country intersected by innumerable streams. Some
they were able to ford; over others their ingenious architects would
speedily throw a bridge. Occasionally they would arrive upon the banks
of a stream so wide and deep that many days would be employed in
rearing a structure over which they could pass. Cortez, in his letter
to Charles V., enumerating the difficulties encountered, states that
in a distance of one hundred miles he found it necessary to construct
no less than fifty bridges.

The amiable Marina accompanied Cortez on this expedition, since her
services were very essential as interpreter. But Cortez now, having
buried his lawful wife, and probably looking forward to some more
illustrious Spanish alliance which might strengthen his influence at
court, regarded Marina as an embarrassment. He therefore secured her
marriage with a Castilian knight, Don Juan Xamarillo. A handsome
estate was assigned to the newly-married couple in the native province
of Marina, through which the expedition passed on its way to Honduras.
We hear of Marina no more. Her son, Don Martin Cortez, aided by the
patronage of his powerful father, became one of the most prominent of
the grandees of his native land. He filled many posts of opulence
and honor. At last he was suspected of treason against the home
government, and was shamefully put to the torture in the Mexican

As Cortez and his army advanced day after day through provinces where
his renown was known, and where Spanish adventurers were established,
he was received with every possible demonstration of homage. Triumphal
arches crossed his path. Processions advanced to greet him. Provisions
were brought to him in abundance. Bonfires, with their brilliant
blaze, cheered the night, and festivities, arranged with all the
possible accompaniments of barbaric pomp, amused him by day. He
arrived at the banks of a wide, deep, and rapid river. To his great
gratification, he found that the natives had collected three hundred
canoes, fastened two and two, to ferry his army across. At this place
Bernal Diaz joined the expedition. Weary of the hardships of war, he
complains bitterly that he was compelled again to undergo the fatigues
of an arduous campaign.

     "The general ordered," he says, "all the settlers of
     Guacacualco who were fit for service to join his expedition.
     I have already mentioned how this colony was formed out of
     the most respectable hidalgos and ancient conquerors of the
     country, and now that we had reason to expect to be left in
     quiet possession of our hard-earned properties, our houses
     and farms, we were obliged to undertake a hostile expedition
     to the distance of fifteen hundred miles, and which took up
     the time of two and a half years; but we dared not say no,
     neither would it avail us. We therefore armed ourselves,
     and, mounting our horses, joined the expedition, making, in
     the whole, above two hundred and fifty veterans, of whom one
     hundred and thirty were cavalry, besides many Spaniards
     newly arrived from Europe."

But as they marched resolutely along, week after week, over mountains,
through morasses, and across rivers, the country became more wild and
savage, the natives more shy, and provisions less abundant. Several
days were often occupied in constructing a bridge to cross a river.
Scouts were sent out upon either wing of the army foraging for food.
The natives fled often from their villages, carrying their food with
them. Famine began to stare them in the face. Sickness diminished the
ranks, and emaciate men, haggard and way-worn, tottered painfully
along the rugged ways.

But the indefatigable energy and wonderful foresight of Cortez saved
the army. He seemed to have provided for every emergency which mortal
sagacity could anticipate. One day the starving army, almost in
despair, came to the banks of a large river. The broad current rolled
many leagues through a pathless wilderness, and emptied into the Gulf
of Mexico. The army, to its great surprise, found fifty large canoes
in a little sheltered bay, laden with provisions, and awaiting its
arrival. The river was the Tabasco. At its mouth there was an
important Spanish colony. Cortez had foreseen the want at that point,
and provided the timely supply.

After resting here for a few days to recruit, the army continued its
march, and soon came to a river so wide and deep that they could not
bridge it. Here they remained four days, while every skillful hand was
employed constructing canoes. It then required four days more for the
immense host to be paddled across in these frail barks. The horses
swam after the boats, led by halters. Upon the other side of the
river they entered upon a vast swamp, extending for many leagues,
and tangled by the dense growth of the tropics. They were three days
floundering through this dismal slough, the horses being most of the
time up to their girths in the morass.

From this gloomy region of reptiles, tormenting insects, and mire,
they emerged upon a fertile country, where they found an abundance of
Indian corn or maize. But the terrified inhabitants fled at their
approach. Foraging parties were, however, sent out to plunder the
villages of their stores. They did this efficiently, and the
encampment was again filled with plenty. After a halt of three days,
the soldiers, having replenished their knapsacks with parched corn,
again took up their line of march. Each man carried food for three
days. Some of the native chiefs, who had been enticed into the camp,
deceived them with the assurance that in three days they would arrive
at a large city, where they would find every needful supply. They soon
reached the banks of a broad river, deep and rapid. It required three
days to construct a bridge to cross it. The knapsacks were now empty.
They were hungry and faint, and there was no food to be obtained.
Painfully the famishing men toiled along another day, eating the
leaves of the trees, and digging up roots for food. Some poisonous
quality in this innutritious diet parched their lips and blistered
their tongues. To add to their despair, there was no longer any path,
and the dense underbrush, with tough vines and sharp thorns, impeded
their march and lacerated their flesh. The trees towered above them
with foliage impenetrable by the rays of the sun. They were wandering
through a dark and dismal wilderness, from which there was no apparent
outlet, compelled with sword and hatchet to cut every step of their
way through tangled shrubs.

Cortez, guided only by the compass and a rude Indian map, now
manifested for the first time deep concern. He could not conceal from
his companions the anxiety which oppressed him, for his army was
literally starving. He was overheard to say, "If we are left to
struggle another day through this wilderness, I know not what will
become of us."

Suddenly, to their great joy, they came upon an Indian path. This
soon conducted them to a village. The inhabitants had fled, but the
Spaniards found some granaries well supplied with corn. During this
terrible march of seven days, many perished by fatigue and hunger.
It was also discovered that some of the Mexican chiefs, in their
extremity, had seized some of the natives whom they encountered, and
had killed and eaten them. The bodies were baked, in accordance with
their cannibal customs, in ovens of heated stones under the ground.

     "Cortez," says Bernal Diaz, "severely reprehended all those
     concerned, and one of the reverend father Franciscans
     preached a holy and wise sermon on the occasion; after
     which, by way of example, the general caused one to be
     burned. Though all were equally guilty, yet, in the present
     circumstances, one example was judged sufficient."

After a few days' rest the army again resumed its march, but pioneers
were sent in advance to mark out the way. Their course now lay for
many leagues through a low country, abounding in lakes, and miasmatic
marshes, and sluggish rivers. The bayous and lagoons were so numerous
that most of the communication from city to city was by canoes. The
people at first assumed a hostile attitude, but soon, overawed by the
magnitude of the force of Cortez, they with great obsequiousness
furnished him with all required supplies. Still, it was an exceedingly
difficult region for the army to traverse. Many days were laboriously
employed in bridging the innumerable streams. One wide one delayed
them four days, and their provisions were entirely exhausted. Diaz, a
man of tact and energy, was sent with a strong party to forage for the
famished camp. He returned in the night with a hundred and thirty _men
of burden_ heavily laden with corn and fruit. The starving soldiers,
watching their return, rushed upon them like wolves; in a few moments,
every particle of food which they had brought was devoured. Cortez and
his officers came eagerly from their tents, but there was nothing left
for them.

But even in this strait, when the soldiers forgot entirely their
generals, and even refused to save any for them, they did not forget
their spiritual guides. Every soldier was anxious to share his portion
with the reverend fathers. It speaks well for these holy men that they
had secured such a hold upon the affections of these wild adventurers.
Though superstition doubtless had its influence, there must also have
been, on the part of the priests, much self-denial and devotion to
their duties. Diaz, apprehensive of the scene of plunder, had
concealed at a short distance in the rear a few loads for the
officers, which, he says, they went and got, with great gratitude,
when the soldiers were all asleep.

For eight weary days the army now toiled along, struggling against
hardships and hunger. Many were sick, many died, and not a few, in
despair, deserted their ranks, and endeavored to find their way back
to Mexico. Cortez, knowing full well the heroism of his two captives,
Guatemozin and the cacique of Tacuba, was now very apprehensive that
they might take advantage of his weakness, incite the natives to
revolt, and thus secure his destruction. The peril was so obvious
that it must have occurred to every mind. The Mexicans knew that the
Spaniards were now in their power, and the Spaniards could not deny

Under these circumstances, Guatemozin was accused of having entered
into a plot to assassinate the Spaniards, and then to return to Mexico
and rouse the whole native population to arms, and drive the invaders
from the country. There seems to have been but little proof to
substantiate the charge; but the undeniable fact that Guatemozin
could now do this, excited to the highest degree the anxiety of the
ever-wary Cortez. The stern conqueror, acting upon the principle that
the end justifies the means, resolved to escape from this peril by the
death of his imperial captive and the Tacuban lord. Cortez accused
them of the crime, and, notwithstanding their protestations of
innocence, ordered them both to be hung. A scaffold was immediately
erected, and the victims, attended by priests, were led out to their
execution. Both of these heroic men met their fate with dignity. As
the monarch stood upon the scaffold, at the moment of his doom he
turned to Cortez and said,

"I now find in what your false promises have ended. It would have been
better that I had fallen by my own hands than to have intrusted myself
in your power. Why do you thus unjustly take my life? May God demand
of you this innocent blood."

The Prince of Tacuba simply said, "I am happy to die by the side of my
lawful sovereign."

They were then both swung into the air, suspended from the branches of
a lofty tree by the road-side. There are many stains resting upon the
character of Cortez, and this is not among the least. Diaz records,
"Thus ended the lives of these two great men; and I also declare that
they suffered their deaths most undeservingly; and so it appeared to
us all, among whom there was but one opinion upon the subject, that it
was a most unjust and cruel sentence."

The march was now continued, but the gloom which ever accompanies
crime weighed heavily upon all minds. The Mexicans were indignant and
morose at the ignominious execution of their chiefs. The Spaniards
were in constant fear that they would rise against them. Even Cortez
looked haggard and wretched, and his companions thought that he was
tortured by the self-accusation that he was a murderer. Difficulties
were multiplied in his path. Famine stared his murmuring army in the
face. Sleep forsook his pillow. One night, bewildered and distracted,
he rose, and wandering in one of the heathen temples, fell over a
wall, a distance of twelve feet, bruising himself severely, and
cutting a deep gash in his head. Still they toiled along, occasionally
coming to towns where there were granaries and abundance, and again,
in a few days, as they could carry but few provisions with them,
finding themselves in a starving condition. Every variety of suffering
seemed to be allotted them. At one time they arrived upon a vast
plain, spreading out for leagues, as far as the eye could extend,
without a bush or shrub to intercept the sight. A tropical sun blazed
down upon the panting troops with blistering heat. Many deer, quite
tame, ranged these immense prairies. At another time they approached a
large lake of shallow water, and upon an island in its centre found a
populous town. The soldiers waded to the island through the clear
waters of the lake. They found fishes very abundant, and again had a
plentiful supply of food.

Thus far the weather had been fair; but now it changed, and a season
of drenching rains commenced. Still, the band, impelled by their
indomitable leader, pressed on. They now entered upon a very
extraordinary region, where for leagues they toiled through dismal
ravines, frowned upon by barren and craggy rocks. The ground was
covered with innumerable flint-stones, peculiarly hard and sharp,
which, like knives, pierced the feet of the men and the horses. In
this frightful march nearly every horse was wounded and lamed,
and eight perished. Many of the men also suffered severely. The
difficulty and suffering were so great, that upon emerging from this
rocky desert the army was assembled to return solemn thanks to God
for their escape.

But now they encountered new embarrassments. The streams, swollen
by the rains, came roaring in impetuous torrents from the mountains,
and the intervales and the wide-spreading meadows were flooded. One
stream, foaming through enormous precipices, emitted a roar which was
heard at the distance of six miles. It required three days to throw a
bridge across this raging mountain torrent. The natives took advantage
of this delay to flee from their homes, carrying with them all their
provisions. Again famine threatened the camp. This was, perhaps,
the darkest hour of the march. The horses were lame. The men were
bleeding, and way-worn, and gaunt. Death by starvation seemed
inevitable. "I own," says Diaz, "I never in my life felt my heart so
depressed as when I found nothing to be had for myself or my people."

Cortez, however, sent out some very efficient foraging parties in all
directions. Impelled by the energies of despair, the detachment
succeeded in obtaining food. This strengthened them until they
reached a large town called Taica, where they again rejoiced in
abundance. The rain still continued to fall in torrents, and the
soldiers, drenched by night and by day, toiled along through the mire.
Even Cortez lost his habitual placidity of temper and began to
complain. The vain and gossiping Diaz would not have his readers
unmindful of the eminent services he rendered in these emergencies.
With much affected humility he narrates his exploits.

     "Cortez," says he, "returned me thanks for my conduct. But I
     will drop this subject; for what is praise but emptiness and
     unprofitableness, and what advantage is it to me that people
     in Mexico should tell me what we endured, or that Cortez
     should say, when he wanted me to go on this last expedition,
     that, next to God, it was me on whom he placed his

They now arrived upon the banks of a river which led to the sea-coast.
At the mouth of this river Olid had established one of his important
settlements. A march of four days was required to reach the coast.
Cortez, who was entirely ignorant of the death of Olid, and of the
overthrow of his power, sent forward scouts to ascertain the state
of things, as it was his intention to fall upon Olid by surprise at
night. The army moved slowly down the stream, feeding miserably upon
nuts and roots. The scouts returned with the intelligence that there
were no enemies to be met; that the insurrection was entirely quelled,
and the colony, consisting of several scattered settlements, was in
perfect subjection to the authority of Cortez. It is difficult to
imagine the feelings with which this intelligence was received. Cortez
must have felt, at least for a few moments, exceedingly foolish. The
Herculean enterprise of a march of eighteen hundred miles through a
pathless wilderness, peopled with savage foes, where many hundreds of
his army had perished from fatigue and famine, and all had endured
inconceivable hardships, had been utterly fruitless. It had been what
is sometimes called a wild-goose chase, upon a scale of grandeur
rarely paralleled.

They soon arrived at a half-starved colony at the mouth of the river,
consisting of forty men and six women. The energies of Cortez were,
however, unabated. Foraging parties were sent out to plunder the
natives, which was done pitilessly, without any apparent compunctions
of conscience, as the hunters of wild honey destroy the bees and rob
the hives. Cortez himself set out with a strong party on an exploring
tour, and returned after an absence of twenty-six days, sorely wounded
in the face from a conflict which he had with the natives. If the
natives assumed any attitude of resistance, they were shot like
panthers and bears.

Here Cortez built two brigantines, and sailed along the coast some
three hundred miles to Truxillo. He established on the way, at Port
Cavallo, a colony, to which place he ordered a division of his army to
march. Others of the troops were to assemble at Naco, quite an
important town, where Olid had been executed. Cortez, upon his arrival
at Truxillo, which was the principal establishment of the colony in
Honduras, was received by the colonists with great distinction. The
Indians in the neighborhood were immediately assembled, and were urged
to acknowledge submission to the King of Spain, and to adopt the
Christian religion. With wonderful pliancy, they acceded to both
propositions. "The reverend fathers," says Diaz, "also preached to the
Indians many holy things very edifying to hear." From this place
Cortez sent a dispatch to the King of Spain, and also a valuable
present of gold, "taken," says Diaz, "in reality from his sideboard,
but in such a manner that it should appear to be the produce of this

Cortez, to his extreme disappointment, found the country poor. There
was no gold, and but little food. Worn down by anxiety and fatigue, he
was emaciated in the extreme, and was so exceedingly feeble that his
friends despaired of his life. Indeed, to Cortez, death seemed so
near, that, with forethought characteristic of this enthusiast, he had
made preparations for his burial.

One day, as Cortez, in the deepest dejection, was conversing with his
friends, a vessel was discerned in the distant horizon of the sea. The
ship had sailed from Havana, and brought to Cortez dispatches from
Mexico. He retired to his apartment to read them. As he intently
perused the documents, his friends in the antechamber heard him groan
aloud in anguish. The tidings were indeed appalling, and sufficient to
crush even the spirit of Cortez. For a whole day his distress was so
great that he did not leave his room. The next morning he called for
an ecclesiastic, confessed his sins, and ordered a mass. He then,
somewhat calmed by devotion, read to his friends the intelligence he
had received.

It was reported in Mexico that the whole party which had entered upon
the expedition to Honduras had perished. Consequently, all the
property of the adventurers had been sold at public auction. The
funeral service of Cortez had been celebrated with great pomp, a
large part of his immense property having been devoted to defray
the expenses. The deputies whom Cortez had left in charge of the
government had quarreled among themselves, and two strong parties
rising up, the colony had been distracted by civil war and bloodshed.
Every day there was fighting. The natives, encouraged by these
disorders, had revolted in three provinces. A force which had been
sent to quell the insurrection had been attacked and defeated.

The same dispatches also contained a letter from the father of Cortez,
informing him that his enemies were busy, and successful in their
intrigues in the court at Madrid, and that two very important colonies
in Mexico had been wrested from his command, and placed, by order of
the king, under the government of others.

Cortez decided to return immediately, but privately, to Mexico. His
enemies, who had usurped the government, had given out that he was
dead. Cortez was apprehensive that, were his return anticipated, he
would be waylaid and assassinated. He therefore made arrangements for
his friends to return by land, while he privately embarked for Vera
Cruz. A violent storm arose, with head winds, and the vessel, after
struggling a few days against the gale, was compelled, with shattered
rigging, to return to Truxillo. Again, after a few days, the vessel
weighed anchor, and again it was compelled to return. Cortez now,
in extreme debility of body and dejection of mind, was exceedingly
perplexed respecting his duty. "He ordered a solemn mass," says Diaz,
"and prayed fervently to the Holy Ghost to enlighten him as to his
future proceedings."

He now decided to remain in Truxillo, and to unite Honduras and
Nicaragua into a colony which, in extent and resources, would be
worthy of him. He dispatched messengers with all speed to overtake his
friends, who had undertaken to return by land, and recall them to
Truxillo. They, however, refused to return. Again another messenger
was dispatched to them by Cortez, with still more urgent entreaties.
To this they replied by a letter, stating very firmly that they had
suffered misfortunes enough already in following him, and that they
were determined to go back to Mexico. Sandoval, with a small retinue
on horseback, took this answer to Cortez. He was also commissioned to
do every thing in his power to persuade Cortez also to embark again
for Mexico.

Though thus forsaken, he still refused to leave Honduras. Weakened by
bodily sickness, which plunged him into the deepest melancholy, his
usual energies were dormant. He, however, sent a confidential servant,
named Orantes, with a commission to Generals Alvarado and Las Casas,
who had returned from Honduras to Mexico, to take charge of the
government and punish the usurpers. Orantes performed his mission
successfully. The people, hearing with joy that Cortez was safe,
rallied around the newly-appointed deputies, and the prominent
usurpers were seized and imprisoned in a timber cage. Cortez remained
in Honduras until he received intelligence that the disturbances in
Mexico were quelled. He now decided to leave the government of
Honduras in the hands of a lieutenant, and to return to Mexico. His
health, however, was so very feeble that he hardly expected to
survive the voyage. He therefore, before embarking, confessed his
sins, partook of the sacrament, and settled all his worldly affairs.

It was on the 25th of April, 1526, that the pale and emaciate
adventurer, accompanied by a few followers, embarked on board a
brigantine in the anchorage at Truxillo. The morning was serene and
cloudless, and a fresh breeze filled the unfurled sails. Rapidly the
low line of the shores of Honduras sank below the horizon, and Cortez
bade them adieu forever.



The party are obliged to put into Havana for repairs.--Triumphal march
to the capital.--Reception at Tezcuco.--Enemies at work.--Serious
charges.--The commissioner.--Offers of courtesy.--The banquet.--
Unfortunate effects.--Notice for complainants.--Leon's sudden death.
--Its cause.--Aguilar's administration.--He determines to return to
Spain.--Reception of the emperor.--Marquis of the Valley.--Captain
General.--Cortez's marriage.--Envy of the queen.--He embarks for
New Spain.--Effects of displeasing a queen.--Cortez's abode.--The
contrast.--He goes to Cuarnavaca.--Devotes himself to industrial
interests.--The expeditions and failures.--Cortez heads another
party.--Arrival at Santa Cruz.--The fleet returns.--Disasters.
--Discontent.--Search for the vessels.--The colonists eat too
voraciously.--Cortez resolves to replenish his resources.--Departure
for Spain.--Neglect and disappointment.--Letter to the emperor.--
Unavailing appeal.--The will.--His bequests.--An uneasy conscience.
--Removal to Castilleja.--Cortez's death.--His funeral.--The removal
of his remains.--Solemnities.--The monument erected over his remains.

For a few days a fair wind bore the voyagers rapidly forward over a
sunny sea. They had arrived nearly within sight of the Mexican shore,
when clouds blackened the sky, and a tropical tempest came howling
fiercely upon them. The light brigantine was driven before the gale
like a bubble, and, after being tossed for several days upon the angry
deep, the voyagers found themselves near the island of Cuba, and were
compelled to enter the harbor of Havana for repairs and supplies.

It was not until the 16th of May that they were enabled again to set
sail. After a voyage of eight days, Cortez landed near St. Juan de
Ulua. Here he assumed an incognito, and proceeded on foot fifteen
miles to Medellin. His aspect was so changed by sickness and dejection
that no one recognized him. Here he made himself known, and was
immediately received with the most enthusiastic demonstrations of joy.
He now pressed forward to the capital in truly a triumphal march. The
whole country was aroused, and processions, triumphal arches,
bonfires, and music, with the ringing of bells and the roaring of
cannon, greeted him all the way. The natives vied with the Spaniards
in the cordiality of their welcome and in the splendor of their

Arrangements were made to receive him at the capital with a triumphant
fête. He arrived at Tezcuco, on the borders of the lake, in the
evening, and there passed the night. It was now the lovely month of
June. The sun the next morning rose cloudless, and smiled upon a scene
of marvelous beauty, embellished by all the attractions of hills, and
valleys, and placid waters. The lake was alive with the decorated
boats of the natives, and the air was filled with the hum of peace and
joy. Smiles again flitted over the wan and pallid cheeks of Cortez as
the shouts of the multitude, blending with the clarion peals of the
trumpet, the chime of bells, and the thunders of artillery fell upon
his ear. He immediately repaired to the church publicly to return
thanks to God for all his mercies. He then retired to his magnificent
palace, and again assumed the responsibilities of government.

The enemies of Cortez were still indefatigable in the court of
Charles V., and they so multiplied and reiterated their charges that
the emperor deemed it expedient to order an investigation. He was
charged with withholding gold which belonged to the crown, of
secreting the treasures of Guatemozin, of defrauding the revenues by
false reports, and of surrounding himself with grandeur and power that
he might assert independence of Spain, and establish himself in
unlimited sovereignty.

A commissioner, Luis Ponce de Leon, was accordingly sent by the
emperor to assume the government of Mexico temporarily, and to bring
Cortez to trial. But a few weeks had passed after Cortez returned to
the capital before this messenger arrived. Cortez, surprised by his
sudden appearance, was greatly perplexed as to the course he should
pursue. The intelligence was communicated to him as he was performing
his devotions in the church of St. Francis. "He earnestly," says Diaz,
"prayed to the Lord to guide him as seemed best to his holy wisdom,
and, on coming out of the church, sent an express to bring him
information of all particulars."

After much painful deliberation, Cortez decided to receive the royal
commissioner with apparent courtesy and submission. He sent to him a
friendly message, wishing to know which of two roads he intended to
take on his approach to the capital, that he might be met and greeted
with suitable honors. The friends of Leon cautioned him to be on his
guard, for they assured him that Cortez would, if possible, secure his
assassination. Leon warily sent word that, fatigued by his voyage, he
should not immediately visit the capital, but should rest for a time.
Having dispatched this message, he immediately mounted his horse, and,
with his retinue, commenced his journey. The vigilant officers of
Cortez, however, met him at Iztapalapan. A sumptuous banquet was
prepared, and some delicious cheese-cakes were placed upon the table.
All who ate of the cheese-cakes were taken sick, and it was reported
far and wide that Cortez had attempted to poison Leon with arsenic.
There is no proof that Cortez was guilty. The circumstances alone, as
we have stated them, awakened suspicion. These suspicions were
fearfully increased by unfortunate events, to which we shall soon

Leon arrived in the city of Mexico, and in the presence of all the
civil and military officers produced his authority from the emperor,
Charles V., to assume the governorship of the colony, and to bring
Cortez to trial. The humbled and wretched conqueror kissed the
document in token of submission.

Leon now issued public notice that all who had complaints to bring
against the administration of Cortez should produce them. A host of
enemies--for all men in power must have enemies--immediately arose.
The court was flooded with accusations without number. Just as Leon
was opening the court to give a hearing to these charges, he was
seized with a sudden and a mysterious sickness. After lying in a state
of lethargy for four days, he died. In a lucid moment, he appointed an
officer named Aguilar, who had accompanied him from Castile, as his
successor. "What malignities and slanders," exclaims Diaz, "were now
circulated against Cortez by his enemies in Mexico!" The faithful
historian, however, affirms that Leon died of what is now called the
ship fever. Notwithstanding all these unfortunate appearances, it is
generally believed that Cortez was not abetting in his death.

Aguilar was a weak and infirm old man, so infirm that "he was obliged
to drink goat's milk, and to be suckled by a Castilian woman to keep
him alive." This decrepit septuagenarian could accomplish nothing, and
after a vacillating and utterly powerless administration of eight
months, during which time the influence of Cortez was continually
increasing, he died. The treasurer, Estrada, by the governor's
testament, was appointed his successor. The affairs of the colony were
now in a state of great confusion. These new governors were imbecile
men, totally incapable of command. The popular voice, in this
emergence, loudly called upon Cortez to assume the helm. Estrada,
alarmed by this, issued a decree ordering the instant expulsion of
Cortez from the city of Mexico. Cortez, thus persecuted, resolved to
return to Spain, and to plead for justice in the court of his
sovereign. At the same time, he received letters informing him of the
death of his father, and of the renewed activity of his enemies at

Purchasing two ships, he stored them with a great abundance of
provisions, and by a proclamation offered a free passage to any
Spaniard who could obtain permission from the governor to return to
Spain. After a voyage of forty days he landed on the shores of his
country, at the little port of Palos, in the month of December, 1527.
Cortez immediately sent an express to his majesty, informing him of
his arrival. In much state he traveled through Seville and Guadeloupe
to Madrid, winning golden opinions all the way by his courtly manners
and his profuse liberality.

Upon his arrival at Madrid, he was received by the emperor with great
courtesy. Cortez threw himself at the feet of his majesty, enumerated
the services he had performed, and vindicated himself from the
aspersions of his enemies. The monarch seemed satisfied, ordered him
to rise, and immediately conferred upon him the title of Marquis of
the Valley, with a rich estate to support the dignity. Cortez fell
sick, and the emperor honored him with a visit in person. Many other
marks of the royal favor Cortez received, which so encouraged him that
he began to assume haughty airs, and applied to the emperor that he
might be appointed governor of New Spain. The emperor was displeased,
declined giving him the appointment, and a coldness ensued. Cortez,
however, at length regained some favor, and obtained the title of
Captain General of New Spain, with permission to fit out two ships on
voyages of discovery to the south seas. He was also entitled to
receive, as proprietor, one twelfth of the lands he should discover,
and to rule over the countries he might colonize.

Cortez was now a man of wealth and renown. His manners were highly
imposing, his conversation was rich and impressive, and his favor at
court gave him a vast influence. His income amounted to about one
hundred and twenty thousand dollars a year. There was no family in
Spain which would not have felt honored by his alliance, and when he
sought the hand of the young, beautiful, and accomplished niece of the
Duke of Bejar, his addresses were eagerly accepted. The storm-worn yet
still handsome cavalier led to the altar his blushing bride so
glittering with brilliant jewels, cut by the exquisite workmanship of
the Aztecs, as to excite the envy even of the queen of Charles V.

Cortez soon became weary of a life of idleness and luxury, and longed
again for the stirring adventures of the New World. Early in the
spring of 1530, he again embarked, with his wife and mother, for New
Spain. With his characteristic zeal for the conversion of the natives,
he took with him twelve reverend fathers of the Church. After a short
tarry at Hispaniola, he landed at Vera Cruz on the 15th of July. As
it was feared that Cortez might interfere with the government of the
country, the Queen of Spain, who was quite displeased that the wife of
Cortez wore more brilliant jewels than she possessed, had issued an
edict prohibiting Cortez from approaching within thirty miles of the
Mexican capital. He accordingly established himself at one of his
country estates, on the eastern shores of the lake. His renown gave
him vast influence. From all parts of the country crowds flocked to
greet him. With regal pomp he received his multitudinous guests, and
his princely residence exhibited all the splendors of a court. Most of
the distinguished men of the city of Mexico crossed the lake to
Tezcuco to pay homage to the conqueror of Mexico. The governor was so
annoyed by the mortifying contrast presented by his own deserted
court, that he despotically imposed a fine upon such of the natives of
the city as should be found in Tezcuco, and, affecting to apprehend a
treasonable attack from Cortez, made ostentatious preparations for the
defense of the capital.

For a long time there was an incessant and petty conflict going on
between Cortez and the jealous government of the colony. At last,
Cortez became so annoyed by indignities which his haughty spirit
keenly felt, that he withdrew still farther from the capital, to the
city of Cuarnavaca, which was situated upon the southern slope of the
Cordilleras. This was the most beautiful and opulent portion of that
wide domain which the energy of Cortez had annexed to the Spanish
crown. Here the conqueror had erected for himself a magnificent palace
in the midst of his vast estates. The ruins of the princely mansion
still remain upon an eminence which commands a wide extent of
landscape of surpassing loveliness. Cortez devoted himself with
characteristic energy to promoting the agricultural and industrial
interests of the country. Thousands of hands were guided to the
culture of hemp and flax. Sugar-mills were reared, and gold and silver
mines were worked with great success. Cortez thus became greatly
enriched, but his adventurous spirit soon grew weary of these peaceful

In the year 1532, Cortez, at a large expense, fitted out an
expedition, consisting of two ships, to explore the Pacific Ocean in
search of new lands. The ships sailed from the port of Acapulco, but,
to the bitter disappointment of Cortez, the enterprise was entirely
unsuccessful. The crew mutinied, and took possession of one of the
ships, and the other probably foundered at sea, for it was never again
heard from.

But the Marquis of the Valley, with his indomitable spirit of energy
and perseverance, fitted out another expedition of two ships. This
adventure was as disastrous as the other. The two captains quarreled,
and took occasion of a storm to separate, and did not again join
company. The southern extremity of the great peninsula of California
was, however, discovered by one of the ships. Here, at a point which
they called Santa Cruz, a large part of the ship's company were
massacred by the savages. The storm-battered ships eventually
returned, having accomplished nothing.

Cortez, still undismayed, prepared for another attempt. He now,
however, resolved to take command of the ships himself. His celebrity
induced adventurers from all quarters to seek to join the expedition.
Three ships were launched upon the bay of Tehuantepec. Many men
crowded on board, with their families, to colonize the new lands which
should be discovered. More than twice as many adventurers as the ships
could carry thronged the port, eager to embark in the enterprise. In
the month of May, 1537, the squadron set sail upon the calm surface
of the Pacific, the decks being crowded with four hundred Spaniards
and three hundred slaves. About an equal number were left behind, to
be sent for as soon as the first party should be landed at the port of
their destination.

Sailing in a northwesterly direction, favorable winds drove them
rapidly across the vast Gulf of California until they arrived at Santa
Cruz, on the southern extremity of that majestic peninsula. A landing
was immediately effected, and the ships were sent back to Mexico to
bring the remaining colonists. Cortez did not take his wife with him,
but she was left in their princely mansion on the southern slope of
the Cordilleras. But disasters seemed to accumulate whenever Cortez
was not personally present. The ships were delayed by head winds and
by storms. The colonists at Santa Cruz, in consequence of this delay,
nearly perished of famine. Twenty-three died of privation and hunger.
At length, in the midst of general murmurings and despair, one of the
ships returned. It brought, however, but little relief, as the ships
which were loaded with provisions for the supply of the colonists were
still missing.

The discontent in the starving colony became so loud, that Cortez
himself took fifty soldiers and embarked in search of the missing
ships. With great care he cruised along the Mexican shore, and at last
found one stranded on the coast of Jalisco, and the other partially
wrecked upon some rocks. He, however, got them both off, repaired
them, and brought them, laden with provisions, to the half-famished
colony at Santa Cruz.

The imprudent colonists ate so voraciously that a fatal disease broke
out among them, which raged with the utmost virulence. Many died.
Cortez became weary of these scenes of woe. The expedition, in a
pecuniary point of view, had been a total failure, and it had secured
for the conqueror no additional renown. The Marchioness of the Valley,
the wife of Cortez, became so anxious at the long absence of her
husband, that she fitted out two ships to go in search of him. Ulloa,
who commanded these ships, was so fortunate as to trace Cortez to his
colony. Cortez not unwillingly yielded to the solicitations of his
wife and returned to Mexico. He was soon followed by the rest of the
wretched colonists, and thus disastrously terminated this expedition.

In these various enterprises, Cortez had expended from his private
property over three hundred thousand crowns, and had received nothing
in return. As he considered himself the servant of his sovereign, and
regarded these efforts as undertaken to promote the glory and the
opulence of Spain, he resolved to return to Castile, to replenish,
if possible, his exhausted resources from the treasury of the crown.
He had also sundry disputes with the authorities in Mexico which
he wished to refer to the arbitration of the emperor. He was a
disappointed and a melancholy man. His career had been one of violence
and of blood, and "his ill fortune," says Diaz, "is ascribed to the
curses with which he was loaded."

Taking with him his eldest son and heir, Don Martin, the child of
Donna Marina, then but eight years of age, and leaving behind him the
rest of his family, he embarked in 1540 again to return to his native
land. The emperor was absent, but Cortez was received by the court and
by the nation with the highest testimonials of respect. Courtesy was
lavished upon him, but he could obtain nothing more. For a year the
unhappy old man pleaded his cause, while daily the victim of hope
deferred. He might truly have said with Cardinal Wolsey,

     "Had I but served my God with half the zeal
     I served my king, he would not in mine age
     Have left me naked to mine enemies."

Cortez soon found himself neglected and avoided. His importunities
became irksome. Two or three years of disappointment and gloom passed
heavily away, when, in 1544, Cortez addressed a last and a touching
letter to the emperor.

"I had hoped," writes the world-weary old man, "that the toils of my
youth would have secured me repose in my old age. For forty years I
have lived with but little sleep, with bad food, and with weapons of
war continually at my side. I have endured all peril, and spent my
substance in exploring distant and unknown regions, that I might
spread abroad the name of my sovereign, and extend his sway over
powerful nations. This I have done without aid from home, and in
the face of those who thirsted for my blood. I am now aged, infirm,
and overwhelmed with debt." He concluded this affecting epistle by
beseeching the emperor to "order the Council of the Indies, with
the other tribunals which had cognizance of his suits, to come to a
decision, since I am too old to wander about like a vagrant, but ought
rather, during the brief remainder of my life, to remain at home and
settle my account with heaven, occupied with the concerns of my soul
rather than with my substance."

His appeal was unavailing. For three more weary years he lingered
about the court, hoping, in the midst of disappointments and
intermittent despair, to attain his ends. But at last all hope
expired, and the poor old man, with shattered health and a crushed
spirit, prepared to return to Mexico in gloom and obscurity to
die. He had proceeded as far as Seville, when, overcome by debility
and dejection, he could go no farther. It was soon apparent to all
that his last hour was at hand. The dying man, with mind still
vigorous, immediately executed his will. This long document is quite
characteristic of its author. He left nine children, five of whom were
born out of wedlock. He remembered them all affectionately in his
paternal bequests.

He founded a theological seminary at Cojuhacan, in one of the
provinces of Mexico, for the education of missionaries to preach the
Gospel among the natives. A convent of nuns he also established in the
same place, in the chapel of which he wished his remains to be
deposited. He also founded a hospital in the city of Mexico, to be
dedicated to Our Lady of the Conception.

In these solemn hours of approaching death, his conscience does not
appear to have disturbed him at all in reference to his wars of
invasion and conquest, and the enormous slaughter which they had
caused, but he was troubled in view of the _slavery_ to which they had
doomed the poor Mexicans. With dying hand he inscribes the following
remarkable lines:

     "It has long been a question whether one can conscientiously
     hold property in Indian slaves. Since this point has not yet
     been determined, I enjoin it on my son Martin and his heirs
     that they spare no pains to come to an exact knowledge of
     the truth, as a matter which concerns the conscience of each
     one of them no less than mine."

As the noise of the city disturbed the dying man, he was removed to
the neighboring village of Castilleja. His son, then but fifteen years
of age, watched over his venerated father, and nursed him with filial
affection. On the second day of December, fifteen hundred and
forty-seven, Cortez died, in the sixty-third year of his age. He was
buried with great pomp in the tomb of the Duke of Medina Sidonia at
Seville. A vast concourse of the inhabitants of the whole surrounding
country attended his funeral. Five years after his death, in
1562, his son Martin removed his remains to Mexico, and deposited
them, not at Cojuhacan, as Cortez had requested, but in a family vault
in the monastery at Tezcuco. Here the remains of Cortez reposed for
sixty-seven years. In 1629 the Mexican authorities decided to transfer
them to Mexico, to be deposited beneath the church of St. Francis. The
occasion was celebrated with all the accompaniments of religious and
military pomp. The bells tolled the funeral knell, and from muffled
drums and martial bands sublime requiems floated forth over the still
waters of the lake, as the mortal remains of Cortez were borne over
the long causeway, where he had displayed such superhuman energy
during the horrors of the _dismal night_.

Here the ashes of Cortez reposed undisturbed for one hundred and
sixty-five years, when the mouldering relics were again removed in
1794, and were more conspicuously enshrined in the Hospital of Our
Lady of the Conception, which Cortez had founded and endowed. A
crystal coffin, secured with bars of iron, inclosed the relics, over
which a costly and beautiful monument was reared.

                         THE END.


1. Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters' errors, and to
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3. The title page in the scans used to create this e-text incorrectly
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