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Title: Calavar - or The Knight of The Conquest, A Romance of Mexico
Author: Bird, Robert Montgomery, 1806-1854
Language: English
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CALAVAR

Or The Knight of the Conquest

A Romance of Mexico

by

ROBERT MONTGOMERY BIRD

Author of "Nick of the Woods," "The Infidel," Etc.


    Escucha pues, un rato, y diré cosas
    Estrañas y espantosas, poco á poco.

    GARCILASO DE LA VEGA.



Redfield
110 And 112 Nassau Street, New York.
Third Edition.

1854

Entered according to the act of Congress in the year 1834, by
Carey, Lea, & Blanchard, in the clerk's office of the district
court for the eastern district of Pennsylvania.



PREFACE TO THE NEW EDITION.


It is now thirteen years since the first publication of "Calavar,"
which, apart from the ordinary objects of an author, was written chiefly
with a view of illustrating what was deemed the most romantic and
poetical chapter in the history of the New World; but partly, also, with
the hope of calling the attention of Americans to a portion of the
continent which it required little political forecast to perceive must,
before many years, assume a new and particular interest to the people of
the United States. It was a part of the original design to prepare the
way for a history of Mexico, which the author meditated; a design which
was, however, soon abandoned. There was then little interest really felt
in Mexican affairs, which presented, as they have always done since the
first insurrection of Hidalgo, a scene of desperate confusion, not
calculated to elevate republican institutions in the opinions of the
world. Even the events in Texas had not, at that time, attracted much
attention. Mexico was, in the popular notion, regarded as a part of
_South_ America, the _alter ego_ almost of Peru,--beyond the world, and
the concerns of Americans. There was little thought, and less talk, of
"the halls of the Montezumas;" and the ancient Mexican history was left
to entertain school-boys, in the pages of Robertson.

"Calavar" effected its more important purpose, as far as could be
expected of a mere work of fiction. The revolution of Texas, which
dismembered from the mountain republic the finest and fairest portion of
her territory, attracted the eyes and speculations of the world; and
from that moment, Mexico has been an object of regard. The admirable
history of Prescott has rendered all readers familiar with the ancient
annals of the Conquest; and now, with an American army thundering at the
gates of the capital, and an American general resting his republican
limbs on the throne of Guatimozin and the Spanish Viceroys, it may be
believed that a more earnest and universal attention is directed towards
Mexico than was ever before bestowed, since the time when Cortes
conquered upon the same field of fame where Scott is now victorious.
There is, indeed, a remarkable parallel between the invasions of the two
great captains. There is the same route up the same difficult and lofty
mountains; the same city, in the same most magnificent of valleys, as
the object of attack; the same petty forces, and the same daring
intrepidity leading them against millions of enemies, fighting in the
heart of their own country; and finally, the same desperate fury of
unequal armies contending in mortal combat on the causeways and in the
streets of Mexico. We might say, perhaps, that there is the same purpose
of conquest: but we do not believe that the American people aim at, or
desire, the subjugation of Mexico.

"Calavar" was designed to describe the first campaign, or first year, of
Cortes in Mexico. It was written with an attempt at the strictest
historical accuracy compatible with the requisitions of romance; and as
it embraces, in a narrow compass, and--what was at least meant to be--a
popular form, a picture of the war of 1520, which so many will like to
contrast with that of 1847, the publishers have thought that its
revival, in a cheap edition, would prove acceptable to the reading
community. The republication has, indeed, been suggested and called for
by numerous persons desirous to obtain copies of the book, which has
been for some time out of print.

The revival of the romance might have furnished its author an
opportunity to remove many faults which, he is sensible, exist in it.
Long dialogues might have been contracted, heavy descriptions lightened
or expunged, and antiquated phraseology modernized, with undoubted
benefit. But, after a respectful consideration of all critical
suggestions, friendly or unfriendly, the author has not thought it of
consequence to attempt the improvement of a work of so trivial and
evanescent a character; and he accordingly commits it again to the world
precisely as it was first committed, with all its faults--would he could
say, its merits--unchanged; satisfied with any fate that may befall it,
or any reception it may meet, which should either imply its having given
some little pleasure, or imparted some little information, to its
readers.

R. M. B.

Philadelphia.



INTRODUCTION.


Nature, and the memory of strange deeds of renown have flung over the
valley of Mexico a charm more romantic than is attached to many of the
vales of the olden world for though historic association and the spell
of poetry have consecrated the borders of Leman and the laurel groves of
Tempe, and Providence has touched both with the finger of beauty, yet
does our fancy, in either, dwell upon objects which are not so much the
adjuvants of romance as of sentiment; in both, we gather food rather for
feeling than imagination,--we live over thoughts which are generated by
memory, and our conceptions are the reproductions of experience. But
poetry has added no plenary charm, history has cast no over-sufficient
light on the haunts of Montezuma; on the Valley of Lakes, though filled
with the hum of life, the mysteries of backward years are yet brooding;
and the marvels of human destiny are whispered to our ears, in the sigh
of every breeze,--in the rustling of every tree which it stirs on the
shore, and in the sound of every ripple it curls up on the lake. One
chapter only of its history (and that how full of marvels!) has been
written, or preserved; the rest is a blank: a single chain of
vicissitudes,--a few consecutive links in the concatenation of
events,--have escaped; the rest is a secret, strange, captivating, and
pregnant of possibilities. This is the proper field for romantic
musings.

So, at least, thought a traveller,--or, to speak more strictly, a
rambler, whose idle wanderings from place to place, directed by ennui
or whim, did not deserve the name of travels,--who sat, one pleasant
evening of October, 183-, on the hill of Chapoltepec, regarding the
spectacle which is disclosed from the summit of that fair promontory.

The hum of the city came faintly to his ear; the church-towers flung
their long shadows over the gardened roofs; the wildfowl flapped the
white wing over the distant sheets of water, which stretched, in a
chain, from Chalco to San Cristobal; the shouts of Indian boatmen were
heard, at a distance, on the canal of La Viga, and the dark forms of
others, trotting along the causeway that borders it, were seen returning
to their huts among the _Chinampas_. Quiet stole over the valley; the
lizard crept to his hole; the bat woke up in the ruined chambers of the
viceroy's palace, that crowns the hill of Chapoltepec, or started away
from his den among the leaves of those mossy, majestic, and indeed
colossal, cypresses, which, at its base, overshadow the graves of Aztec
kings and sultanas. At last, the vesper-bells sounded in the city, and
the sun stooped under the western hills, leaving his rays still
glittering, with such hues as are only seen in a land of mountains, on
the grand peaks of Popocatepetl and the White Woman, the farthest but
yet the noblest summits of all in that girdle of mountain magnificence,
which seems to shut out Mexico from the rest of the world.

As these bright tints faded into a mellow and harmonious lustre, casting
a sort of radiant obscurity over vale and mountain, lake and steeple,
the thoughts of the wanderer (for the romance of the spectacle and the
hour had pervaded his imagination,) crept back to the ages of antiquity
and to those mystic races of men, the earliest of the land, who had
built their cities and dug their graves in this Alpine paradise, now
possessed by a race of whom their world had not dreamed. He gazed and
mused, until fancy peopled the scene around him with spectral life, and
his spirit's eye was opened on spectacles never more to be revealed to
the corporeal organ. It opened on the day when the land was a
wilderness, shaking for the first time under the foot of a stranger; and
he beheld, as in a vision, the various emigrations and irruptions into
the vale, of men born in other climates. They came like the tides of
ocean, and, as such, passed away,--like shadows, and so departed; the
history of ages was compressed into the representation of a moment, and
an hundred generations, assembled together as one people, rushed by in
successive apparitions.

First, over the distant ridges of Nochistongo, there stole, or seemed to
steal, a multitude of men, worn with travel, yet bearing idols on their
backs, in whose honour, for now they had reached their land of promise,
they built huge pyramids, to outlive their gods and themselves; and,
scattering over the whole plain, covered it at once with cornfields and
cities. The historian (for this unknown race brought with it science as
well as religion,) sat him in the grove, to trace the pictured annals of
his age; the astronomer ascended to the tower, to observe the heavens,
and calculate the seasons, of the new land; while the multitude,
forgetting the austere climes of their nativity, sat down in peace and
joy, under the vines and fruit-trees that made their place of habitation
so beautiful. Thus they rested and multiplied, until the barbarians of
the hills,--the earlier races, and perhaps the aborigines of the
land,--descended to take counsel of their wisdom, and follow in the ways
of civilization. Then came a cloud, bringing a pestilence, in whose hot
breath the rivers vanished, the lakes turned to dust and the mountains
to volcanoes, the trees crackled and fell as before a conflagration, and
men lay scorched with the leaves, as thick and as dead, on the plain;
and the few who had strength to fly, betook themselves to the hills and
the seaside, to forget their miseries and their arts, and become
barbarians.--Thus began, and thus ended, in Mexico, the race of
_Toltecs_, the first and the most civilized of which Mexican
hieroglyphics,--the legacy of this buried people to their
successors,--have preserved the memory.

But the rains fell at last, the lakes filled, the forests grew; and
other tribes,--the _Chechemecs_ and _Acolhuacans_, with others, many in
number and strangers to each other,--coming from the same distant North,
but bringing not the civilization of the first pilgrims, sat in their
seats, and mingling together into one people, began, at last, after long
seasons of barbarism, to emerge from the gloom of ignorance, and acquire
the arts, and understand the destinies of man.

To these came, by the same trodden path, a herd of men, ruder than any
who had yet visited the southern valleys,--_Aztecs_ in family, but
called by their neighbours and foes, _Nahuatlacas_, or People of the
Lakes,--consisting of many tribes, the chief of which was that which
bore upon a throne of bulrushes an image of the god Mexitli, the
Destroyer, from whom, in its days of grandeur, it took its name. From
this crew of savages, the most benighted and blood-thirsty, and, at
first, the feeblest of all,--so base that history presents them as the
only nation of bondmen known to the region of Anahuac, and so sordid
that, in the festivals of religion, they could provide for their deity
only the poor offering of a knife and flower,--fated now to fight the
battles of their task-masters, and now condemned to knead the bread of
independence from the fetid plants and foul reptiles of the lake;--from
this herd of barbarians, grew, as it seemed, in a moment's space, the
vast, the powerful, and, in many respects, the magnificent empire of the
Montezumas. In his mind's eye, the stranger could perceive the salt
Tezcuco, restored to its ancient limits, beating again upon the porphyry
hill on which he sat, and the City of the Island, with her hundred
temples and her thousand towers, rising from the shadows, and heaving
again with the impulses of nascent civilization. It was at this moment,
when the travail of centuries was about to be recompensed, when the
carved statue, the work of many successive Pygmalions, was beginning to
breathe the breath, and feel the instincts of moral animation, that a
mysterious destiny trampled upon the little spark, and crushed to atoms
the body it was warming. From the eastern hills came the voice of the
Old World--the sound of the battle-trumpet; the smoke of artillery
rolled over the lake; and, in a moment more, the shout of conquest and
glory was answered by the groan of a dying nation.

As this revery ended in the brain of the stranger, and the conqueror and
the captive of the vision vanished away together, he began to contrast
in his mind the past condition of the new world with the present, and
particularly of those two portions, which, at the time of their
invasion, had outlived the barbarism of nature, and were teeming with
the evidences of incipient greatness. As for this fair valley of Mexico,
there was scarcely an object either of beauty or utility, the creation
of Christian wants or Christian taste, to be seen, for which his memory
could not trace a rival, or superior, which existed in the day of
paganism. The maize fields, the maguey plantations, the orchards and
flower-gardens, that beautify the plains and sweeping slopes,--these
were here, long ages ago, with the many villages that glisten among
them,--all indeed but the white church and steeple; the lakes which are
now noisome pools,--were they not lovelier when they covered the
pestilential fens, and when the rose-garden floated over their blue
surface? The long rows of trees marking the line of the great
_Calzadas_, or causeways, the approaches to Mezico, but poorly supply
the place of aboriginal groves, the haunts of the doe and the
centzontli, while the calzadas themselves, stretching along over bog and
morass, have entirely lost the charm they possessed, when washed, on
either side, by rolling surges; even the aqueducts, though they sprang
not from arch to arch, over the valley, as at the present time, were not
wanting; and where the church spires of the metropolis pierce the
heaven, the sacred tabernacles of the gods rose from the summits of
pyramids. The changes in the physical spectacle among the valleys of
Peru were perhaps not much greater; but what happy mutations in the
character and condition of man, what advance of knowledge and virtue,
had repaid the havoc and horror which were let loose, three hundred
years ago, on the lands of Montezuma and the Incas? The question was one
to which the rambler could not conceive an answer without pain.

'The ways of Providence,' he murmured, 'are indeed inscrutable; the
designs of Him who layeth the corner-stone and buildeth up the fabric of
destiny, unfathomable. Two mighty empires,--the only states which seemed
to be leading the new world to civilization,--were broken, and at an
expense of millions of lives, barbarously destroyed; and for what
purpose? to what good end? How much better or happier are the present
races of Peru and Mexico, than the past? Hope speaks in the breath of
fancy--time may, perhaps, teach us the lesson of mystery; and these
magnificent climates, now given up, a second time, to the sway of man in
his darkest mood,--to civilized savages and Christian pagans,--may be
made the seats of peace and wisdom; and perhaps, if mankind should again
descend into the gloom of the middle ages, their inhabitants will
preserve, as did the more barbarous nations in all previous
retrogressions, the brands from which to rekindle the torches of
knowledge, and thus be made the engines of the reclamation of a world.'

The traveller muttered the conclusion of his speculations aloud, and,
insensibly to himself, in the Spanish tongue, totally unconscious of the
presence of a second person, until made aware of it by a voice
exclaiming suddenly, as if in answer, and in the same language--

"Right! very right! _pecador de mi!_ sinner that I am, that _I_ should
not have thought it, for the honour of God and my country!"

The voice was sharp, abrupt, and eager, but very quavering. The stranger
turned, and perceived that the words came from a man dressed in a long
loose surtout or gown of black texture, none of the newest, with a hat
of Manilla grass, umbrageous as an oak-top. He looked old and infirm;
his person was very meager; his cheeks were of a mahogany hue, and
hollow, and the little hair that stirred over them in the evening
breeze, was of a sable silvered: his eyes were large, restless,
exceedingly bright, and irascible. He carried swinging in his hand,
without seeming to use it much, (for, in truth, his gait was too
irregular and capricious to admit such support,) a staff, to the head of
which was tied a bunch of flowers; and he bore under his arm, as they
seemed to the unpractised eye of the observer, a bundle of books, a
cluster of veritable quartos, so antique and worn, that the string
knotted round each, seemed necessary to keep together its dilapidated
pages. The whole air of the man was unique, but not mean; and the
traveller did not doubt, at the first glance, that he belonged to some
inferior order of ecclesiastics, and was perhaps the curate of a
neighbouring village.

"Right! you have said the truth!" he continued, regarding the traveller
eagerly, and, as the latter thought, with profound veneration; "I must
speak with you, very learned stranger, for I perceive you are a
philosopher. Very great thanks to you! may you live a thousand years! In
a single word, you have revealed the secret that has been the enigma of
a long life, made good the justice of heaven, and defended the fame of
my country. God be thanked! I am grateful to your wisdom: you speak like
a saint: you are a philosopher!"

The traveller stared with surprise on the speaker; but though thus moved
by the abruptness of the address, and somewhat inclined to doubt its
seriousness, there was something so unusual in the mode and quality of
the compliment as to mollify any indignation which he might have felt
rising in his breast.

"Father," said he, "reverend father--for I perceive you are one of the
clergy----"

"The poor licentiate, Cristobal Johualicahuatzin, curate of the parish
of San Pablo de Chinchaluca," interrupted the ecclesiastic meekly, and
in fact with the greatest humility.

"Then, indeed, very excellent and worthy father Cristobal," resumed the
stranger, courteously, "though I do not pretend to understand you----"

The padre raised his head; his meekness vanished; he eyed the traveller
with a sharp and indignant frown:

"_Gachupin!_" he cried; "you are a man with two souls: you are wise and
you are foolish, and you speak bad Spanish!--Why do you insult me?"

The stranger stared at his new acquaintance with fresh amazement.

"Insult you, father!" he exclaimed. "I declare to you, I have, this
moment, woke out of a revery; and I scarcely know what you have said or
what I have answered, or what you are saying and what I am answering. If
I have offended you, I ask your pardon."

"Enough! right!" said the curate, with an air of satisfaction; "you are
a philosopher; you are right. You were in a revery; you have done me no
wrong. I have intruded upon your musings,--I beg your pardon. I thank
you very heartily. You have instructed my ignorance, and appeased my
repining; you have taught me the answer to a vast and painful riddle;
and now I perceive why Providence hath given over my native land to
seeming ruin, and permitted it to become a place of dust and sand, of
dry-rot and death. The day of darkness shall come again,--it is coming;
man merges again into gloom, and now we fall into the age of stone, when
the hearts of men shall be as flint. This then shall be the valley of
resuscitation, after it is first _plenus ossibus_, full of skeletons, an
ossuary--a place of moral ossification. Here, then, shall the wind blow,
the voice sound, the spirit move, the bone unite to his bone, the sinew
come with the flesh, and light and knowledge, animating the mass into an
army, send it forth to conquer the world;--not as an army of flesh, with
drum and trump, sword and spear, banner and cannon, to kill and destroy,
to ravage and depopulate; but as a phalanx of angels, with healing on
their wings, to harmonize and enlighten, to pacify and adorn. Yes, you
have taught me this, excellent sage! and you shall know my gratitude:
for great joy is it to the child of Moteuczoma, to know there shall be
an end to this desolation, this anarchy, this horror!

    Vigilare metu exanimis, noctesque diesque
    Formidare:----

Came I into the world to watch in sorrow and fear for ever? _Hijo mio!_
give me thy hand; I love thee. The vale of Anahuac is not deformed for
nothing; Christian man has ruined it, but not for a long season!"

The Cura delivered this rhapsody with extreme animation; his eye
kindled, he spoke with a rapid and confused vehemence; and the stranger
began to doubt the stability of his understanding. He flung his bundle
to the earth, and grasped the hand of the philosopher, who, until this
moment, was ignorant of the depth of his own wisdom. While still in
perplexity, unable to comprehend the strange character, or indeed the
strange fancies to which he had given tongue, the padre looked around
him with complacency on the scene, over which a tropical moon was rising
to replace the luminary of day, and continued, with a gravity which
puzzled as much as did his late vivacity,--

"It is very true; I regret it no longer, but it cannot be denied: The
cutting through yonder hill of Nochistongo has given the last blow in a
system of devastation; the canal of Huehuetoca has emptied the golden
pitcher of Moteuczoma. It has converted the valley into a desert, and
will depopulate it.--Men cannot live upon salt."

"A desert, father!"

"Hijo mio! do you pretend to deny it?" cried the Cura, picking up his
bundle, and thumping it with energy. "I aver, and I will prove it to
your satisfaction, out of these books, which--But hold! Are you a spy?
will you betray me? No; you are not of Mexico: the cameo on your breast
bears the device of stars, the symbol of intellectual as well as
political independence. I reverence that flag; I saw it, when your
envoy, attacked by an infuriated mob, in his house in yonder very city,
(I stole there in spite of them!) sprang upon the balcony, and waved it
abroad in the street. Frenzy vanished at the sight: it was the banner of
man's friend!--No! you are no fool with a free arm, a licentious tongue,
and a soul in chains. Therefore, you shall look into these pages,
concealed for years from the jealousy of misconstruction, and the penal
fires of intolerance; and they shall convince you, that this hollow of
the mountain, as it came from the hands of God, and as it was occupied
by the children of nature, was the loveliest of all the vales of the
earth; and that, since Christian man has laid upon it his innovating
finger, its beauty has vanished, its charm decayed; and it has become a
place fitting only for a den of thieves, a refuge for the snake and the
water-newt, the wild-hog and the vulture!"

"To my mind, father," said the American, no longer amazed at the
extravagant expressions of the ecclesiastic, for he was persuaded his
wits were disordered, "to my mind, it is still the most charming of
valleys; and were it not that the folly and madness of its inhabitants,
the contemptible ambition of its rulers, and the servile supineness of
its people,--in fine, the general disorganization of all its elements,
both social and political, have made it a sort of Pandemonium,--a spot
wherein splendour and grandeur (at least the possibilities and rudiments
of grandeur,) are mixed with all the causes of decline and perdition, I
should be fain to dream away my life on the borders of its blue lakes,
and under the shadow of its volcanic barriers."

"True, true, true! you have said it!" replied the curate, eagerly; "the
ambition of public men; the feverish servility of the people, forgetful
of themselves, of their own rights and interests, and ever anxious to
yoke themselves to the cars of demagogues, to the wires wherewith they
may be worked as puppets, and giving their blood to aggrandize
these--the natural enemies of order and justice, of reason and
tranquillity; is not this enough to demoralize and destroy? What people
is like mine? Wo for us! The bondmen of the old world wake from sleep
and live, while we, in the blessed light of sunshine, wrap the mantle
round our eyes, sleep, and perish! Revolution after revolution, frenzy
after frenzy! and what do we gain? By revolution, other nations are
liberated, but we, by revolution, are enslaved. 'Nil medium est'--is
there no happy mean?"

"It is true," said the American. "But let us not speak of this: it is
galling to be able to inveigh against folly without possessing the
medicament for its cure."

"Thou art an American of the North," said the Cura; "thy people are
wise, thy rulers are servants, and you are happy! Why, then, art thou
here? I thought thee a sage, but, I perceive, thou hast the rashness of
youth. Art thou here to learn to despise thine own institutions? Why
dost thou remain? the death-wind comes from the southern lakes"--(in
fact, at this moment, the breeze from the south, rising with the moon,
brought with it a mephitic odour, the effluvium of a bog, famous, even
in Aztec days, as the breath of pestilence;) "the death-wind breathes on
thee: even as this will infect thy blood, when it has entered into thy
nostrils, disordering thy body, until thou learnest to loathe all that
seems to thee now, in this scenery, to be so goodly and fair; so will
the gusts of anarchy, rising from a distempered republic, disease thy
imagination, until thou comest to be disgusted with the yet untainted
excellence of thine own institutions, because thou perceivest the evils
of their perversion. Arise, and begone; remain no longer with us; leave
this land, and bear with thee to thine own, these volumes,--the poor
remnants of another Sibylline library,--which will teach thee to
appreciate and preserve, even as thy soul's ransom, the pure and
admirable frame of government, which a beneficent power has suffered you
to enjoy."

"And what, then, are these?" demanded the traveller, curiously, laying
his hand on the bundle, "which can teach Americans to admire the beauty
of a republic, and yet are not given to thine own countrymen?"

"They are," said the curate, "the fruits of years of reflection and
toil, of deep research and profound speculation. They contain a history
of Mexico, which, when they were perfect, that is, before my
countrymen," (and here the Cura began to whisper, and look about him in
alarm, as if dreading the approach of listeners,)--"before my
countrymen were taught to fear them and to destroy, contained the
chronicles of the land, from the time that the Toltecas were exiled from
_Huehuetapallan_, more than twelve hundred years ago, down to the moment
when Augustin climbed up to the throne, which Hidalgo tore from the
Cachupins. A history wherein," continued the padre, with great
complacency, "I flatter myself, though Mexicans have found much to
detest, Americans will discover somewhat to approve."

"What is it," said the rambler, "which your people have found so
objectionable?"

"Listen," said the padre, "and you shall be informed. In me,"--here he
paused, and surveyed his acquaintance with as much majesty as he could
infuse into his wasted figure and hollow countenance,--"in me you behold
a descendant of Moteuczoma Xocojotzin."

"Moteuczoma what?" exclaimed the traveller.

"Are you so ignorant, then?" demanded the padre, in a heat, "that you
must be told who was Moteuczoma Xocojotzin, that is, _the younger_,--the
second of that name who reigned over Mexico?--the very magnificent and
unfortunate emperor so basely decoyed into captivity, so ruthlessly
oppressed and, as I may say, by a figure of speech, (for, literally, it
is not true) so truculently slain, by the illustrious Don Hernan Cortes,
the conqueror of Mexico? Perhaps you are also ignorant of the great
names of Tizoc, of Xocotzin, and of Ixtlilxochitl?"

"I have no doubt," replied the American, with courteous humility, "that
in the histories of Mexico, which I have ever delighted to read,--in the
books of De Solis, of Clavigero, of Bernal Diaz del Castillo, and
especially in that of Dr. Robertson,--I have met these illustrious
names; but you must allow, that, to one ignorant of the language, and of
the mode of pronouncing such conglomerated grunts, it must be extremely
difficult, if not wholly impossible, to rivet them in the memory."

The curate snatched up his bundle, and surveyed the stranger with a look
in which it was hard to tell whether anger or contempt bore the greater
sway.

"De Solis! Diaz! Clavigero! Robertson!" he at last exclaimed, irefully.
"_Basta! demasiado?_ What a _niño_, a little child, a _pobre Yankee_,
have I fallen upon! That I should waste my words on a man who studies
Mexican history out of the books of these jolterheads!"

The padre was about to depart, without bestowing another word on the
offender. The American was amused at the ready transition of the curate
from deep reverence to the most unbounded contempt. He was persuaded the
wits of the poor father were unsettled, and felt there was the greater
need to humour and appease him: and, besides, he was curious to discover
what would be the end of the adventure.

"Father," said he, with composure, "before you condemn me for acquiring
my little knowledge from these books, you should put it in my power to
read better."--The padre looked back.--"What information should be
expected from incompetent writers? from jolterheads? When I have perused
the histories of father Cristobal, it will then be _my_ fault, if I am
found ignorant of the names of his imperial ancestors."

"_Ay de mi!_" said the curate, striking his forehead; "why did I not
think of that before? _Santos santísimos!_ I am not so quick-witted as I
was before. I could forgive you more readily, had you not named to me
that infidel Scotchman, who calls the superb Moteuczoma a savage, and
all the Tlatoani, the great princes, and princesses, the people and all,
barbarians! But what more could you expect of a heretic? I forgive you,
my son--_you_ are a Christian?"

"A Christian, father; but not of the Catholic faith."

"You will be damned!" said the curate, hastily.

"A point of mere creed, perhaps I should say, mere form--"

"Say nothing about it; form or creed, ceremony or canon, you are in the
way to be lost. Open your ears, unbind your eyes--hear, see, and
believe!--Poor, miserable darkened creature! how can your heretical
understanding be made to conceive and profit by the great principles of
philosophy, when it is blind to the truths of religion?"

"Reverend padre," said the traveller, drily, "my people are a people of
heretics, and yours of Catholic believers. Which has better understood,
or better practised, the principles of the philosophy you affect to
admire?"

The padre smote his forehead a second time: "The sneer is, in this case,
just! The sin of the enlightened is greater than the crime of the
ignorant, and so is the punishment: the chosen people of God were
chastised with frequent bondage, and finally with expatriation and
entire dispersion, for crimes, which, in heathen nations, were punished
only with wars and famine. But let us not waste time in argument: as
babes may be made the organs of wisdom, so may heretics be suffered as
the instruments of worldly benefaction. What thou sayest, is true;
unbelievers as ye are, ye will comprehend and be instructed by truths,
which, in this land, would be misconceived and opposed; and from you may
the knowledge you gain, be reflected back on my own people. In these
books, which I commit to you for a great purpose, you will learn who
were those worthies of whom I spoke. You will perceive how
Ixtlilxochitl, the king of Tezcuco, was descended from the house that
gave birth to Moteuczoma. This illustrious name inherit I from my
mother. With its glory, it has conferred the penalty to be suspected,
opposed, and trampled. Three historians of the name, my ancestors, have
already written in vain; jealousy has locked up their works in darkness,
in the veil of manuscript; the privilege of chronicling and perverting
the history of the land is permitted only to Spaniards, to strangers, to
Gachupins. Twenty years since, and more, the books I composed, wherein
the truth was told, and the injustice of Spanish writers made manifest,
were condemned by ignorance and bigotry to such flames as consumed, at
Tezcuco, all the native chronicles of Anahuac. But what was written in
my books, was also recorded in the brain; fire could not be put to my
memory. Twenty years of secret labour have repaired the loss. Behold!
here is my history; I give it to you.--My enemies must be content with
the ashes!"

The padre rubbed his hands with exultation, as the traveller surveyed
the bundle.

"Why should you fear a similar fate for these volumes, now?" said the
latter. "Times are changed."

"The times, but not the people. Hide them, let no man see them; or the
pile will be kindled again; all will be lost--I cannot repair the loss a
second time, for now I am old! Five years have I borne them with me,
night and day, seeking for some one cunning and faithful, wise like
thyself, to whom to commit them. I have found thee; thou art the man; I
am satisfied: _buen provecho_, much good may they do you,--not you only,
but your people,--not your people alone, but the world! Affection for
country is love of mankind; true patriotism is philanthropy.--Five years
have I borne them with me, by night and by day."

"Really, I think that this betokened no great fear for their safety."

The padre laughed. "Though the Gachupin and the bigot would rob me of a
Spanish dissertation, yet neither would envy me the possession of a few
rolls of hieroglyphics."

As he spoke, he knelt upon the ground, untied the string that secured
one of the apparent volumes, and, beginning to unfold the MS., as one
would a very nicely secured traveller's map, displayed, in the
moonlight, a huge sheet of maguey paper, emblazoned in gaudy colours
with all kinds of inexplicable devices. As he exhibited his treasure, he
looked up for approbation to the American. The '_pobre Yankee_' surveyed
him with a humorous look:

"Father," said he, "you have succeeded to admiration, under this goodly
disguise, not only in concealing your wisdom from the penetration of
your countrymen, but, as I think, the whole world."

The padre raised his finger to his nose very significantly, saying, with
a chuckle of delight,--the delight of a diseased brain in the success of
its cunning,--

"This time, I knew I should throw dust in their eyes, even though they
might demand, for their satisfaction, to look into my work. You
perceive, that this volume, done up after the true manner of ancient
Mexican books, unrolls from either end. The first pages, and the last,
of each volume, contain duplicates of the first and the last chapters,
done in Mexican characters: the rest is in Spanish, and, I flatter
myself, in very choice Spanish. _Hoc ego rectè_--I knew what I was
about.--One does not smuggle diamonds in sausages, without stuffing in
some of the minced meat.--Here is the jewel!"

So saying, and spreading the sheet at its full length, so as to discover
his hidden records, the padre rose to his feet, and began to dance about
with exultation.

"And what am _I_ to do with these volumes?" said the traveller, after
pondering awhile over the manuscripts.

"What are you to do with them? Dios mio! are you so stupid? Take them,
hide them in your bosom, as you would the soul of some friend you were
smuggling into paradise. Leave this land forthwith, on any pretence;
bear them with you; translate them into your own tongue, and let them be
given to the world. If they do not, after they have received the seal of
your approbation, make their way back to this land, they will, at least,
serve some few of the many objects, for which they were written: they
will set the character of my great ancestors in its true light, and
teach the world to think justly of the unfortunate people from whom I
have the honour to be descended; and, in addition, they will open the
eyes of men to some of the specks of barbarism which yet sully their own
foreheads. As for my countrymen, were it even possible they could be
persuaded to spare these pages, and to read them, they would read them
in vain. They are a thousand years removed from civilization, and the
wisdom of this book would be to them as folly. The barbaric romance
which loiters about the brains even of European nations, is the pith and
medulla of a Mexican head. The poetry of bloodshed, the sentiment of
renown,--the first and last passion, and the true test, of the savage
state,--are not yet removed from us. We are not yet civilized up to the
point of seeing that reason reprobates, human happiness denounces, and
God abhors, the splendour of contention. Your own people--the happiest
and most favoured of modern days,--are, perhaps, not so backward."

The heretic sighed.--The padre went on, and with the smile of
generosity,--tying, at the same time, the string that secured the
volume, and knotting it again into the bundle.

"The profits which may accrue from the publication, I freely make over
to you, as some recompense for the trouble of translation, and the
danger you run in assuming the custody. Danger, I say,--heaven forbid I
should not acquaint you, that the discovery of these volumes on your
person, besides insuring their speedy and irretrievable destruction,
will expose you to punishment, perhaps to the flames which will be
kindled for them; and this the more readily, that you are an
unbeliever.--Pray, my son, listen to me; suffer me to convert you.
Alas! you shake your head!--What a pity, I am compelled to entrust this
great commission to a man who refuses to be a Christian!"

"Buen padre, let us say nothing about that: judge me not by the creed I
profess, but by the acts I perform. Let us despatch this business: the
moon is bright, but the air is raw and unwholesome. I would willingly do
your bidding, not doubting that the world will be greatly advantaged
thereby. But, father, here is the difficulty:--To do justice to your
composition, I should, myself, possess the skill of an author; but,
really, I feel my incompetency--I am no bookmaker."

"And am I?" said the descendant of Moteuczoma, indignantly; "I am an
historian!"

"I crave your pardon;--but _I_ am not."

"And who said you were?" demanded the historian, with contempt. "Do I
expect of you the qualifications or the labours of an historian? Do I
ask you to write a book? to rake for records in dusty closets and wormy
shelves? to decypher crabbed hands and mouldered prints? to wade through
the fathers of stupidity, until your brain turns to dough, and your eyes
to pots of glue? to gather materials with the labour of a pearl-diver,
and then to digest and arrange, to methodise and elucidate, with the
patient martyrdom of an almanac-maker? Who asks you this? Do I look for
a long head, an inspired brain? a wit, a genius? _Ni por sueño_,--by no
means. I ask you to read and render,--to translate;--to do the tailor's
office, and make my work a new coat! Any one can do this!"

"Father," said the traveller, "your arguments are unanswerable; do me
the favour to send, or to bring, your production to the city, to the
Calle----"

"Send! bring! _Se burla vm.?_" cried the padre, looking aghast. "Do you
want to ruin me? Know, that by the sentence of the archbishop and the
command of the viceroy, I am interdicted from the city: and know that I
would sooner put my soul into the keeping of a parrot, than my books
into the hands of a messenger!"

"A viceroy, did you say, father? It has been many long years since a
king's ape has played his delegated antics in Mexico. To please you,
however, I will bear the sacred treasure in my own hands; earnestly
desiring you, notwithstanding your fears, which are now groundless, and
the prohibition, which must be at this period invalid, to do me the
favour of a visit, in person, as soon as may suit your conveniency;
inasmuch as there are many things I esteem needful to be----"

The padre had seized on the hands of the speaker, in testimony of his
delight; but before the latter had concluded his discourse, he was
interrupted by a voice at a distance, calling, as it seemed, on the
Cura; for this worthy, starting with fear, and listening a moment,
suddenly took to his heels, and before the traveller could give vent to
his surprise, was hidden among the shadows of the cypress trees.

"May I die," said the philosopher, in no little embarrassment, "but this
lunatic Cura has left me to lug away his lucubrations,--his
hieroglyphical infants, for which I am to make new coats,--on my own
shoulders! Well! I can but carry them to the city, and seek some means
of restoring them to his friends, or commit them to a more fitting
depository. Pray heaven I meet no drunken Indian, or debauched soldado
on my way."

By great good fortune, he was able, in a few days, with the assistance
of a friendly Mexican, to solve the secret of the padre's confidence.

"You have seen him then?" said the excellent Señor Don Andres
Santa-Maria de Arcaboba, laughing heartily at the grave earnestness with
which his heretical friend inquired after the eccentric padre. "He
offered you his hieroglyphics? Ah, I perceive! No man passes scot-free
the crazy Cura. Ever his books in his hand, much praise with the offer,
and seven times seven maledictions when you refuse his bantlings."

"He _is_ crazy, then?"

"_Demonios!_ were you long finding it out? Ever since the old
archbishop burned his first heathenish volumes, he has done naught
but----"

"I beg your pardon.--Burn his books?--the old archbishop?--Pray
enlighten me a little on the subject of the good father's history.

"'Tis done in a moment," said Don Andres; "the only wonder is that he
did not himself give you the story; that being, commonly, the prelude to
his petition. The mother of Don Cristobal was an Indian _damisela_,
delighting in the euphonical cognomen of Ixtlilxochitl; a name, which, I
am told, belonged to some old pagan king or other, the Lord knows
who--as for myself, I know nothing about it. But this set the padre mad,
or, what's the same thing, it made him an historian.--'Tis a silly thing
to trouble one's noddle about the concerns of our granddads: let them
sleep! rest to their bones--_Asi sea!_--They made him a licenciado, and
then Cura of some hacienda or other, out among the hills--I know nothing
about it. He wrote a book, in which he proved that the old heathen
Montezuma, the great Cacique, was a saint, and Hernan Cortes, who
conquered the land, a sinner. It may be so--_Quien sabe?_ who knows? who
cares? This was before the revolution--that is, before the first: (we
have had five hundred since;--I never counted them.) Somehow, the
viceroy Vanegas took a dislike to the book, and so did the archbishop.
They set their heads together, got the good old fathers of the
Brotherhood--(We have no Brotherhood now,--neither religious nor social:
every man is his own brother, as the king says in the English play.--Did
you ever read Calderon?) They got the old fathers to vote it
dangerous,--I suppose, because they did not understand it. So they
burned it, and commanded Johualicahuatzin--(that's another Indian
king--so he calls himself.--His father was the Señor Marhojo, a creole,
a lieutenant in the viceroy's horse, a very worthy Christian, who was
hanged somewhere, for sedition. But Cristobal writes after his mother's
name, as being more royal.)--What was I saying? Oh, yes!--They ordered
the licentiate back to his hacienda. Then, what became of him, the lord
knows; I don't.--Then came Hidalgo, the valiant priest of Dolores, with
his raggamuffin patriots,--(I don't mean any reflection, being a patriot
myself, though no fighter; but Hidalgo had a horrid crew about him!)
Where was I? Oh, ay,--Hidalgo came to knock the city about our ears; and
Cristobal, being seized with a fit of blood-thirstiness, joins me the
gang. They say, he came with an old sabre of flint--I don't know the
name; it belonged to some king in the family. Then Calleja, whom they
made viceroy--the devil confound him! (He cut my uncle's throat, with
some fourteen thousand others, at Guanaxuato, one day, to save
powder.)--Calleja chased Hidalgo to Aculco, and, there, he beat him.
Cristobal's brother (he _had_ a brother, a very fine young fellow, a
patriot major;) was killed at Cristobal's side; Cristobal was knocked on
the head,--somebody said, with his own royal weapon:--I don't
know,--where's the difference? They broke his skull, and took him
prisoner. _Y pues?_ what then? Being a notorious crazy man, and very
savagely mauled, they did not hang him. Ever since, he has been madder
than ever. He writes histories, and, to save them from viceroys, (he
takes all our presidents for viceroys: to my mind, they _are_; but
that's nothing. You know Bustamente? a mighty great man: Santa Anna will
beat him--but don't say so!) Well, to save his books from the
president-viceroys, or viceroy-presidents, Cristobal offers them to
every body he meets, with a petition to take them over the seas and
publish them.--That's all!--The Indians at the hacienda love him, and
take care of him.--Ha, ha! he caught you, did he? What did he say?"

"He gave me his books," said the traveller.

"_Fuego!_ you took them? Ha, ha! now will the poor padre die happy!"

"I will return them to his relations."

"Relations! they are all in heaven; he is the last of the
Ixtlilxochitls! Ha, ha! I beg your pardon, amigo mio! I beg your
pardon; but if you offer them to any body, never believe me, but folks
will take you for Cristobal the Second, _el segundo maniatico_, or some
one he has hired to do the work of donation. Ha, ha! cielo mio, pity me!
say nothing about it;--burn them."

"At least, let us look over them."

"_Olla podrida!_ look over a beggar's back! a pedler's sack! or a
dictionary!--Any thing reasonable. Burn them; or take them to America,
to your North, and deposit them in a museum, as the commonplace books of
Montezuma. _Vamos; que me manda vm.?_ will you ride to the
Alameda?--Pobre Cristobal! he will die happy----"

The traveller returned to his own land: he bore with him the books of
Cristobal. Twenty times did he essay to make examination of their
contents, and twenty times did he yawn, in mental abandonment, over
their chaotic pages,--not, indeed, that they seemed so _very_ incoherent
in style and manner, but because the cautious historian, as it seemed,
with a madman's subtlety, had hit upon the device of so scattering and
confusing the pages, that it was next to impossible that any one, after
reading the first, should discover the clue to the second. Each volume,
as has been hinted, consisted of a single great sheet, folded up in the
manner of a pocket map; both sides were very carefully written over, the
paragraphs clustered in masses or pages, but without numbers; and, but
for the occurrence, here and there, of pages of hideous hieroglyphics,
such as were never seen in a Christian book, the whole did not seem
unlike to a printed sheet, before it is carried to the binder. The task
of collating and methodising the disjointed portions, required, in the
words of the padre himself, the devotedness which he had figured as 'the
patient martyrdom of an almanac-maker;' it was entirely too much for the
traveller. He laid the riddle aside for future investigation: but
Cristobal was not forgotten.

A year afterwards, in reading a Mexican gazette, which had fallen into
his hands, his eye wandered to the little corner which appeals so
placidly to the feelings of the contemplative,--the place of obituaries.
His attention was instantly captivated by a name in larger characters
than the others. Was it? could it be? Pobre Cristobal!--'_El Licenciado_
Cristobal Santiago Marhojo y Ixtlilxochitl, _Cura de la Hacienda de_
Chinchaluca, _ordinariamente llamado_ El Maniatico Historiador'----. The
same! But what is this? the common immortality of a long paragraph?--The
heretic rubbed his eyes. "Several MSS., historical memoirs, relating to
the earlier ages of the Aztec monarchy, the work of his own hand, have
been discovered; and a lucky accident revealing the expedient which he
adopted to render them illegible, or at least inexplicable to common
readers, they have been found to be in all respects sane and coherent,
the work less of a madman than an eccentric but profound scholar. The
pages are arranged like those in the form of the printer; and, being cut
by a knife without unfolding----" The heretic started up, and drew forth
the long-neglected tomes.--"It is said that a North American, a year
ago, received, and carried away, many of the volumes, which the
eccentric clergyman was accustomed to offer to strangers. It is hoped,
if this should meet his eye----" 'Enough! if thy work be at all
readable, departed padre, it shall have the new coat!'

Great was the surprise of the philosopher, when having, at the
suggestion of the gazetteer, cut the folded sheet of a volume, he beheld
the chaos of history reduced to order. There they were, the annals of
Aztecs and Toltecs, of Chechemecs and Chiapanecs, and a thousand other
_Ecs_, from the death of Nezahualcojotl, the imperial poet, up to the
confusion of tongues. "Here's a nut for the philosophers," quoth the
traveller; "but now for a peep at Montezuma!--Poor Cristobal! what a
wonderful big book you have made of it!"

How many days and nights were given to the examination of the history,
we do not think fit to record. It is enough, that the inheritor of this
treasure discovered with satisfaction, that, if Cristobal had been mad,
he had been mad after a rule,--dramatically so: he was sane in the right
places. A thousand eccentricities were, indeed, imbodied in his work,
the result, doubtless, of a single aberration, in which he persuaded
himself that men were yet barbarians, and that civilization, even to the
foremost of nations, was yet unknown. Under the influence of this
conceit, he was constantly betrayed, for he was a philanthropist, into
sharp animadversion upon popular morals; and he stigmatized as vices of
the most brutal character, many of those human peculiarities which the
world has consented to esteem the highest virtues. In other respects, he
was sane, somewhat judicious, and, as far as could be expected in an
historian, a teller of the truth.

His work consisted of several divisions; it was, in fact, a series of
annals, relating to different epochs. Of these, that volume which
treated of the Conquest of Mexico, had the most charms for the
traveller; and he thought it would possess the most interest for the
world. It was this which he determined to introduce to the public. It
differed greatly from common histories in one particular; it descended
to minutiæ of personal adventure, and was, indeed, as much a general
memoir of the great _Conquistadores_ as a history of the fall of
Tenochtitlan. Of this the writer was himself sensible; the running title
of the division, as recorded in his own hand, being, "_Una Cronica de la
Conquista de Megico, y Historia verdadera de los_ Conquistadores,
_particularmente de esos_ Caballeros _á quienes descuidaron celebrar los
Escritores Antiguos_. _Por Cristobal Johualicahuatzin Santiago Marhojo y
Ixtlilxochitl_;"--that is to say, 'A Chronicle of the Conquest of
Mexico, and true History of the Conquerors, especially of those
Cavaliers who were neglected by the ancient authors.'

The first portion of this,--for there were several,--treated of those
events which occurred between the departure of the first army of
invasion from Cuba, and its expulsion from Mexico, and this portion the
executor of Cristobal resolved to present to the world.

In pursuance of this resolution, he instituted a long and laborious
comparison of the MS. with the most authentic printed histories; the
result of which was a conviction, (which we beg the reader constantly to
bear in mind,) that, although the good padre had introduced, and upon
authority which his editor could not discover, the characters of certain
worthy cavaliers, of whom he had never heard, the relation, in all other
particulars, corresponded precisely with the narratives of the most
esteemed writers. The events--the great and the minute alike--of the
whole campaign were, in point of fact, identical with those chronicled
by the best authors; and in no way did this history differ from others,
except in the introduction of the above-mentioned forgotten or neglected
cavaliers, such as the knight of Calavar and his faithful esquire, and
in the recital of events strictly personal to them. It is true, the
narrative was more diffuse, perhaps we should say, verbose; but
Cristobal lived in an age of amplification. It was here alone that the
traveller felt himself bound to take liberties with the original; for
though the march of mind and the general augmentation of ideas, have
made prolixity a common characteristic of each man in his own person,
they have not made him more tolerant of it in another. He shaved,
therefore, and he cut, he amputated and he compressed; and he felt the
joy of an editor, when exercising the hydraulic press of the mind.

This will be excused in him. He expunged as much of the philosophy as he
could. The few principles at variance with worldly propensities, which
he left in the book, must be referred to another responsibility.--The
hallucinations of philanthropy are, at the worst, harmless.

For the title adopted in this, the initial chronicle, he confesses
himself answerable. The peculiar appetites of the literary community,
the result of intellectual dyspepsia, require and justify empiricism in
nomenclature. A good name is sugar and sweetmeats to a bad book. If it
should be objected, that he has called the _Historia Verdadera_ a
romance, let it be remembered, that the world likes romance better than
truth, as the booksellers can testify; and that the history of Mexico,
under all aspects but that of fiction, is itself----a romance.

       *       *       *       *       *

     NOTE.--It was said by the learned Scaliger, of the Basque
     language, 'that those who spoke it were thought to understand
     one another,--a thing which he did not himself believe.' For
     fear that the reader, from the specimens of Mexican words he
     will meet in this history, should imagine that the Mexican
     tongue was not meant even to be _spoken_, we think fit to
     apprise him, that all such words are to be pronounced as they
     would be uttered by a Spaniard. In his language, for example,
     the G, when before the vowels E and I, the J always, and, in
     certain cases, the X, have the value of the aspirate. Thus, the
     name of the city, the chief scene of our history, has been
     spelled, at different times, _Mexico_, _Mejico_, and _Megico_;
     yet is always pronounced _May-he-co_. The sound of our W he
     represents by HU,--as _Huascar_, for Wascar; and, indeed, JU
     has nearly the same sound, as in _Juan_. The names
     Johualicahuatzin, Anahuac, Xocojotzin, Mexitli, and Chihuahua,
     pronounced Howalicawatzin, Anawac, Hocohotzin, Meheetlee, and
     Chewawa, will serve for examples. But this is a thing not to be
     insisted on, so much as the degree of belief which should be
     accorded to the relation.

     Esto importa poco á nuestro cuento: basta que en la narracion
     de el, no se salga un punto de la verdad.--_Don Quijote._



CALAVAR.



CHAPTER I.


In the year of Grace fifteen hundred and twenty, upon a day in the month
of May thereof, the sun rose over the islands of the new deep, and the
mountains that divided it from an ocean yet unknown, and looked upon the
havoc, which, in the name of God, a Christian people were working upon
the loveliest of his regions. He had seen, in the revolution of a day,
the strange transformations which a few years had brought upon all the
climes and races of his love. The standard of Portugal waved from the
minarets of the east; a Portuguese admiral swept the Persian Gulf, and
bombarded the walls of Ormuz; a Portuguese viceroy held his court on the
shores of the Indian ocean; the princes of the eastern continent had
exchanged their bracelets of gold for the iron fetters of the invader;
and among the odours of the Spice Islands, the fumes of frankincense
ascended to the God of their new masters. He passed on his course: the
breakers that dashed upon the sands of Africa, were not whiter than the
squadrons that rolled among them; the chapel was built on the shore, and
under the shadow of the crucifix was fastened the first rivet in the
slavery of her miserable children. Then rose he over the blue Atlantic:
the new continent emerged from the dusky deep; the ships of discoverers
were penetrating its estuaries and straits, from the Isles of Fire even
to the frozen promontories of Labrador; and the roar of cannon went up
to heaven, mingled with the groans and blood of naked savages. But peace
had descended upon the islands of America; the gentle tribes of these
paradises of ocean wept in subjection over the graves of more than half
their race; hamlets and cities were springing up in their valleys and on
their coasts; the culverin bellowed from the fortress, the bell pealed
from the monastery; and the civilization and vices of Europe had
supplanted the barbarism and innocence of the feeble native. Still, as
he careered to the west, new spectacles were displayed before him; the
followers of Balboa had built a proud city on the shores, and were
launching their hasty barks on the surges of the New Ocean; the hunter
of the Fountain of Youth was perishing under the arrows of the wild
warriors of Florida, and armed Spaniards were at last retreating before
a pagan multitude. One more sight of pomp and of grief awaited him: he
rose on the mountains of Mexico; the trumpet of the Spaniards echoed
among the peaks; he looked upon the bay of Ulua, and, as his beams stole
tremblingly over the swelling current, they fell upon the black hulls
and furled canvas of a great fleet riding tranquilly at its moorings.
The fate of Mexico was in the scales of destiny; the second army of
invaders had been poured upon her shores. In truth, it was a goodly
sight to look upon the armed vessels that thronged this unfrequented
bay; for peacefully and majestically they slept on the tide, and as the
morning hymn of the mariners swelled faintly on the air, one would have
thought they bore with them to the heathen the tidings of great joy, and
the good-will and grace of their divine faith, instead of the earthly
passions which were to cover the land with lamentation and death.

With the morning sunbeam, stole into the harbour one of those little
caravels, wherein the men of those days dared the perils of unknown
deeps, and sought out new paths to renown and fortune; and as she drew
nigh to the reposing fleet, the hardy adventurers who thronged her deck,
gazed with new interest and admiration on the shores of that empire,
the fame of whose wild grandeur and wealth had already driven from
their minds the dreams of Golconda and the Moluccas. No fortress frowned
on the low islands, no city glistened among the sand-hills on shore: the
surf rolled on the coast of an uninhabited waste: the tents of the
armourer and other artisans, the palm-thatched sheds of the sick, and
some heaps of military stores, covered with sails, and glimmering in the
sun, were the only evidences of life on a beach which was, in after
times, to become the site of a rich and bustling port. But beyond the
low desert margin of the sea, and over the rank and lovely belt of
verdure, which succeeded the glittering sand-hills, rose a rampart of
mountains green with an eternal vegetation, over which again peered
chain after chain, and crag after crag, with still the majestic Perote
and the colossal Orizaba frowning over all, until those who had dwelt
among the Pyrenees, or looked upon the Alps, as some of that adventurous
company had done, dreamed what wealth should be in a land, whose first
disclosure was so full of grandeur.

Of the four-score individuals who crowded the decks of the little
caravel, there was not one whose countenance, at that spectacle, did not
betray a touch of the enthusiasm,--the mingled lust of glory and of
lucre,--which had already transformed so many ruffians into heroes.
Among this motley throng might be seen all sorts of martial madmen, from
the scarred veteran who had fought the Moors under the walls of Oran, to
the runagate stripling who had hanselled his sword of lath on the curs
of Seville; from the hidalgo who remembered the pride of his ancestors,
in the cloak of his grandsire, to the boor who dreamed of the crown of a
pagan emperor, in a leather shirt and cork shoes: here was a brigand,
who had cursed the Santa Hermandad of all Castile, and now rejoiced over
a land where he could cut throats at his leisure; there a gray-haired
extortioner, whom roguery had reduced to bankruptcy, but who hoped to
repair his fortune by following the pack of man-hunters, and picking up
the offals they despised, or cheating them of the prizes they had
secured; here too was a holy secular, who came to exult over the
confusion and destruction of all barbarians who should see nothing
diviner in the crucifix than in their own idols. The greater number,
however, was composed of debauched and decayed planters of the islands,
who ceased to lament their narrow acres and decreasing bondmen, snatched
away by the good fortune of some fellow-profligate, when they thought of
territories for an estate, and whole tribes for a household. Indeed, in
all the group, however elevated and ennobled, for the moment, by the
excitement of the scene, and by the resolute impatience they displayed
to rush upon adventures well known to be full of suffering and peril,
there was but one whom a truly noble-hearted gentleman would have chosen
to regard with respect, or to approach with friendship.

This was a young cavalier, who, in propriety of habiliments, in
excellence of person, and in nobleness of carriage, differed greatly
from all: and, to say the truth, he himself seemed highly conscious of
the difference, since he regarded all his fellow-voyagers, saving only
his own particular and armed attendants, with the disdain befitting so
distinguished a personage. His frame, tall and moderately athletic, was
arrayed in hose and doublet of a dusky brown cloth, slashed with purple:
his cap and cloak were of black velvet, and in the band of one, and on
the shoulder of the other, were symbols of his faith and his
profession,--the first being a plain crucifix of silver, and the second
a cross of white cloth of eight points, inserted in the mantle. In
addition to these badges of devotion, he wore a cross of gold, pointed
like the former, and suspended to his neck by a chain of such length and
massiveness, as to imbue his companions with high notions of his rank
and affluence.

The only point in which he exhibited any feeling in common with his
companions, was in admiration of the noble prospect that stretched
before him, and which was every moment disclosing itself with newer and
greater beauty, as the wind wafted his little vessel nearer to it. His
cheek flushed, his eye kindled, and smiting his hands together, in his
ardour, he dropped so much of his dignity as to address many of his
exclamations to the obsequious but not ungentle master.

"By St. John! señor Capitan," he cried, with rapture, "this is a most
noble land to be wasted upon savages!"

"True, señor Don Amador," replied the thrice-honoured master; "a noble
land, a rich land, a most glorious land; and, I warrant me, man has
never before looked on its equal."

"For my part," said the youth, proudly, "I have seen some lands, that,
in the estimation of those who know better, may be pronounced divine;
among which I may mention the Greek islands, the keys of the Nile, the
banks of the Hellespont, and the hills of Palestine,--not to speak of
Italy, and many divisions of our own country; yet, to be honest, I must
allow I have never yet looked upon a land, which, at the first sight,
impressed me with such strange ideas of magnificence."

"What then will be your admiration, noble cavalier," said the captain,
"when you have passed this sandy shore, and yonder rugged hills, and
find yourself among the golden valleys they encompass! for all those who
have returned from the interior, thus speak of them, and declare upon
the gospels and their honour, no man can conceive properly of paradise,
until he has looked upon the valleys of Mexico."

"I long to be among them," said the youth; "and the sooner I am mounted
on my good steed, Fogoso, (whom God restore to his legs and his spirit,
for this cursed ship has cramped both;) I say, the sooner I am mounted
upon my good horse, and scattering this heathen sand from under his
hoofs, the better will it be for myself, as well as for him. Hark'ee,
good captain: I know not by what sort of miracle I shall surmount
yonder tall and majestic pinnacles; but it will be some consolation,
while stumbling among them, to be able at least to pronounce their
names. What call you yon mountain to the north, with the huge,
coffer-like crag on its summit?"

"Your favour has even hit the name, in finding a similitude for the
crag," said the captain. "The Indians call it by a name, which signifies
the Square Mountain; but poor mariners like myself, who can scarce
pronounce their prayers, much less the uncouth and horrible
articulations of these barbarians, are content to call it the Coffer
Mountain. It lies hard by the route to the great city; and is said to be
such a desolate, fire-blasted spot as will sicken a man with horror."

"And yon kingly monster," continued the cavalier, "that raises his snowy
cone up to heaven, and mixes his smoke with the morning clouds,--that
proudest of all,--what call you him?"

"Spaniards have named him Orizaba," said the master; "but these godless
Pagans, who cover every human object with some diabolical superstition,
call that peak the Starry Mountain; because the light of his
conflagration, seen afar by night, shines like to a planet, and is
thought by them to be one of their gods, descending to keep watch over
their empire."

"A most heathenish and damning belief!" said the youth, with a devout
indignation; "and I do not marvel that heaven has given over to bondage
and destruction a race stained with such beastly idolatry. But
nevertheless, señor Capitan, and notwithstanding that it is befouled
with such impious heresies, I must say, that I have looked upon Mount
Olympus, a mountain in Greece, whereon, they say, dwelt the accursed old
heathen gods, (whom heaven confound!) before the time that our blessed
Saviour hurled them into the Pit; and yet that mountain Olympus is but a
hang-dog Turk's head with a turban, compared to this most royal Orizaba,
that raiseth up his front like an old patriarch, and smokes with the
glory of his Maker."

"And yet they say," continued the captain, "that there is a mountain of
fire even taller and nobler than this, and that hard by the great city.
But your worship will see this for yourself, with many other wonders,
when your worship fights the savages in the interior."

"If it please Heaven," said the cavalier, "I will see this mountain, and
those other wonders, whereof you speak; but as to fighting the savages,
I must give you to know, that I cannot perceive how a man who has used
his sword upon raging Mussulmans, with a sultan at their head, can
condescend to draw it upon poor trembling barbarians, who fight with
flints and fish-bones, and run away, a thousand of them together, from
six not over-valiant Christians."

"Your favour," said the captain, "has heard of the miserable poltroonery
of the island Indians, who, truth to say, are neither Turks nor Moors of
Barbary: but, señor Don Amador de Leste, you will find these dogs of
Mexico to be another sort of people, who live in stone cities instead of
bowers of palm-leaves; have crowned emperors, in place of feathered
caciques; are marshalled into armies, with drums, banners, and generals,
like Christian warriors; and, finally, go into battle with a most
resolute and commendable good will. They will pierce a cuirass with
their copper lances, crush an iron helmet with their hardened war-clubs,
and,--as has twice or thrice happened with the men of Hernan
Cortez,--they will, with their battle-axes of flint, smite through the
neck of a horse, as one would pierce a yam with his dagger. Truly, señor
caballero, these Mexicans are a warlike people."

"What you tell me," said Don Amador, "I have heard in the islands; as
well as that these same mountain Indians roast their prisoners with
pepper and green maize, and think the dish both savoury and wholesome;
all which matters, excepting only the last, which is reasonable enough
of such children of the devil, I do most firmly disbelieve: for how,
were they not cowardly caitiffs, could this rebellious cavalier, the
valiant Hernan Cortes, with his six hundred mutineers, have forced his
way even to the great city Tenochtitlan, and into the palace of the
emperor? By my faith," and here the señor Don Amador twisted his finger
into his right mustachio with exceeding great complacency, "these same
Mexicans may be brave enemies to the cavaliers of the plantations, who
have studied the art of war among the tribes of Santo Domingo and Cuba;
but to a soldier who, as I said before, has fought the Turks, and that
too at the siege of Rhodes, they must be even such chicken-hearted
slaves as it would be shame and disgrace to draw sword upon."

The master of the caravel regarded Don Amador with admiration for a
moment, and then said, with much emphasis, "May I die the death of a
mule, if I am not of your way of thinking, most noble Don Amador. To
tell you the truth, these scurvy Mexicans, of whose ferocity and courage
so much is said by those most interested to have them thought so, are
even just such poor, spiritless, contemptible creatures as the Arrowauks
of the isles, only that there are more of them; and, to be honest, I
know nothing that should tempt a soldier and hidalgo to make war on
them, except their gold, of which the worst that can be said is, first,
that there is not much of it, and secondly, that there are too many
hands to share it. There is neither honour nor wealth to be had in
Tenochtitlan. But if a true soldier and a right noble gentleman, as the
world esteems Don Amador de Leste, should seek a path worthy of himself,
he has but to say the word, and there is one to be found from which he
may return with more gold than has yet been gathered by any fortunate
adventurer, and more renown than has been won by any other man in the
new world: ay, by St. James, and diadems may be found there! provided
one have the heart to contest for them with men who fight like the
wolves of Catalonia, and die with their brows to the battle!"

"Now by St. John of Jerusalem!" said Amador, kindling with enthusiasm,
"that is a path which, as I am a true Christian and Castilian, I should
be rejoiced to tread. For the gold of which you speak, it might come if
it would, for gold is a good thing, even to one who is neither needy nor
covetous; but I should be an idle hand to gather it. As for the diadems,
I have my doubts whether a man, not born by the grace of God to inherit
them, has any right to wear them, unless, indeed, he should marry a
king's daughter: but here the kings are all infidels, and, I vow to
Heaven, I would sooner burn at a stake, along with a Christian beggar,
than sell my soul to perdition in the arms of any infidel princess
whatever. But for the renown of subduing a nation of such valiant Pagans
as those you speak of, and of converting them to the true faith! _that_
is even such a thought as makes my blood tingle within me; and were I,
in all particulars, the master of my own actions, I should say to you,
Right worthy and courageous captain, (for truly from those honourable
scars on your front and temple, and from your way of thinking, I esteem
you such a man,) point me out that path, and, with the blessing of
Heaven, I will see to what honour it may lead me."

"Your favour," said the captain, "has heard of the great island,
Florida, and of the renowned señor Don Ponce de Leon, its discoverer?"

"I have heard of such names, both of isle and of man, I think," said Don
Amador, "but, to say truth, señor comandante, you have here, in this new
world, such a multitude of wonderful territories, and of heroic men,
that, were I to give a month's labour to the study, I think I should not
master the names of all of them. Truly, in Rhodes, where the poor
knights of the Hospital stood at bay before Solyman _el Magnifico_, and
did such deeds as the world had not heard of since the days of Leonidas
and his brave knights of Sparta,--I say, even in Rhodes, where all men
thought of their honour and religion, and never a moment of their blood,
we heard not of so many heroes as have risen up here in this corner of
the earth, in a few years' chasing of the wild Indians."

"The señor Ponce de Leon," said the captain, without regarding the sneer
of the proud soldier, "the señor Ponce de Leon, Adelantado of Bimini and
of Florida, in search of the miraculous Fountain of Youth, which, the
Indians say, lies somewhere to the north, landed eight years ago, with
the crews of three ships, all of them bigger and better than this little
rotten Sangre de Cristo, whereof I myself commanded one. Of the
extraordinary beauty and fertility of the land of Florida, thus
discovered, I will say nothing. Your favour will delight more to hear me
speak of its inhabitants. These were men of a noble stature, and full of
such resolution, that we were no sooner ashore, than they fell upon us;
and I must say, we found we were now at variance with a people in no
wise resembling those naked idiots of Cuba, or these cowardly hinds of
Mexico. They cared not a jot for swordsman, arcubalister, or musketeer.
To our rapiers they opposed their stone battle-axes, which gushed
through the brain more like a thunderbolt than a Christian espada; no
crossbowman could drive an arrow with more mortal aim and fury than
could these wild archers with their horn bows, (for know, señor, they
have, in that country of Florida, some prodigious animal, which yields
them abundant material for their weapons;) and, what filled us with much
surprise, and no little fear, instead of betaking themselves to their
heels at the sound of our firelocks, as we looked for them to do, no
sooner had they heard the roar of these arms, than they fetched many
most loud and frightful yells, to express their contempt of our warlike
din, and rushed upon us with such renewed and increasing violence, that,
to be honest, as a Christian of my years should be, we were fain to
betake ourselves to our ships with what speed and good fortune we
could. And now, señor, you will be ashamed to hear that our courage was
so much mollified by this repulse, and our fears of engaging further
with such desperadoes so urgent and potent, that we straightway set
sail, and, in the vain search for the enchanted Fountain, quite forgot
the nobler objects of the voyage."

"What you have said," quoth Don Amador, "convinces me that these savages
of Florida are a warlike people, and worthy the wrath of a brave
soldier; but you have said nothing of the ores and diadems, whereof, I
think, you first spake, and which, heaven save the mark! by some strange
mutation of mind, have made a deeper impression on my imagination than
such trifles should."

"We learned of some wounded captives we carried to the ships," continued
the master, "as well, at least, as we could understand by their signs,
that there was a vast country to the north-west, where dwelt nations of
fire-worshippers, governed by kings, very rich and powerful, on the
banks of a great river; and from some things we gathered, it was thought
by many that the miraculous Fountain was in that land, and not in the
island Bimini; and this think I myself, for, señor, I have seen a man
who, with others, had slaked his thirst in every spring that gushes from
that island, and, by my faith, he died of an apoplexy the day after his
arrival in the Habana. Wherefore, it is clear, that marvellous Fountain
must be in the country of the fire-worshippers. But notwithstanding all
these things, señor, our commander Don Ponce, would resolve upon naught
but to return to the Bahamas, where our ships were divided, each in
search of the island called Bimini. It was my fortune to be despatched
westward; and here, what with the aid of a tempest that blew from the
east, and some little hankering of mine own appetites after that land of
the fire-worshippers, I found myself many a league beyond where any
Christian had ever navigated before, where a fresh and turbid current
rolled through the deep, bearing the trunks of countless great trees,
many of them scorched with fire: whereupon I knew that I was near to the
object of my desires, which, however, the fears and the discontent of my
crew prevented my reaching. I was even compelled to obey them, and
conduct them to Cuba."

"Señor Capitan," said Amador, who had listened to the master's narrative
with great attention, "I give you praise for your bold and most
commendable daring in having sailed so far, and I condole with you for
your misfortune in being compelled to abide the government of a crew of
such runagate and false companions, whom I marvel exceedingly you did
not hang, every man of 'em, to some convenient corner of your ship, as
was the due of such disloyal knaves; but yet, credit me, I see not what
this turbid and fresh flood, and what these floating trees, had to do
with the gold and the diadems, of which you were speaking."

"Señor," said the Captain earnestly, "I have navigated the deep for,
perhaps, more years than your favour has lived; and it was my fortune to
be with the Admiral----"

"With Colon!" cried the youth.

"With his excellency, the admiral, Don Cristobal Colon, the discoverer
of this new world!" replied the master proudly, "in his own good ship,
when we sailed into the Serpent's Mouth, which, we knew not then, laved
the shores of the great Continent; and I remember that when the admiral
had beheld the trees floating in the current, and had tasted of the
fresh water of that boiling gulf, he told us that these came from a
great river rolling through a mighty continent. And, in after times, the
words of the admiral were proved to be just; for there his captain, the
young Pinzon, found the great river Oronoko."

"There is no man," said Don Amador, "who more reverences the memory of
the admiral than I; and I feel the more regard for yourself, that you
have sailed with him on his discoveries. Moreover, I beg your pardon,
insomuch as I have been slow to unravel your meaning. But now, I
perceive, you think you had reached that river of the infidel
fire-worshippers, whom God confound with fire and flame! as doubtless he
will. And hath no man again sought the mouth of that river? I marvel you
did not yourself make a second attempt."

"I could not prevail upon any cavaliers, rich enough for the
undertaking," said the master, "to league with me in it. Men liked not
the spirit of the northern savages; and, in truth, there were a thousand
other lands where the barbarians could be subdued with less peril, and,
as they thought, with a better hope of gain. And yet, by our lady, that
river bore with it the evidences of the wealth on its banks; for what
were those scorched trees, but the relics of the fires with which the
kings of the land were smelting their ores? and what quantity of gold
must there not have been where such prodigious furnaces were kindled!"

"By the mass!" said Amador, with ardour, "you speak the truth; it is
even a most wonderful land; and if a few thousand pesoes would float an
expedition, by my faith, I think I could find them."

"A few thousand pesoes, and the countenance of such a leader as Don
Amador de Leste, a knight of the holy and valiant order of San Juan----"

"A knight by right, but not by vow," said Don Amador, hastily: "I give
you to understand, señor Capitan, that I am not a sworn brother of that
most ancient, honourable, and knightly order, but an humble volunteer,
attached, for certain reasons of my own, to them, and privileged by the
consent of his most eminent highness, the Grand Master, to wear these
badges, wherein I am arrayed, in acknowledgment that I did some service
not unworthy knighthood in the trenches of Rhodes."

"Your favour will not lead the less worthily for that," said the
Captain; "I know an hundred cavaliers who would throw their ducats, as
well as their arms, into the adventure prescribed by the señor Don
Amador; and a thousand cross-bows, with three or four score
arquebusiers, would flock to the standard as soon as we had preached
through the islands a crusade to the fire-worshippers, and a pilgrimage
to the Waters of Life."

"And is it truly believed," said Amador, eagerly, "that such waters are
to be found in these heathen lands?"

"Who can doubt it?" said the Captain; "the Indians of the Bahamas have
spoken of them for years; no Spaniard hath ever thought of questioning
their existence; and at this moment, so great is the certainty of
finding them, that my old leader, Don Ponce, is collecting round him men
for a second expedition, with which he will depart I know not how soon.
But I know Don Ponce; the draught of youth is not for him; he will seek
the fountain on his great island of Florida, and find it not: it will
bubble only to the lips of those who seek it near the great river of the
great continent."

"By heaven!" said Don Amador, "what might not a man do, who could drink
of this miraculous fountain! A draught of it would have carried the
great Alejandro so far into the East, as to have left but small work for
the knaves of Portugal. And then our friends! Dios mio! we could keep
our friends by us for ever! But hold, señor Capitan--a thought strikes
me: have you ever heard the opinion of a holy clergyman on this subject?
Is it lawful for a man to drink of such a fountain?"

"By my faith," replied the master, "I have never heard priest or layman
advance an argument against its lawfulness: and I know not how it should
be criminal, since Providence hath given us the privilege to drink of
any well, whose waters are not to our misliking."

"For my part," said Amador, "I must say, I have my doubts whether
Providence hath given us any such privilege; the exercise of which, in
general, would greatly confound the world, by over-peopling it, and, in
particular, would seem, in a measure, to put man in a condition to defy
his Maker, and to defeat all the ends of divine goodness and justice:
for how should a man be punished for his sins, who had in him the power
of endless life? and how should a man keep from sinning, who had no fear
of death and the devil? and, finally, how should we ever receive any of
the benefits of the most holy atonement, after drinking such a
life-preserving draught?--for it is my opinion, señor Capitan, no man
would wish to go to heaven, who had the power of remaining on earth."

"By my soul," said the captain earnestly, "this is a consideration which
never occupied me before; and I shall take counsel upon it with the
first holy man I meet."

"At all events," said the cavalier, "there is inducement enough to make
search after this river, were it only to fight the fire-worshippers,
convert them to the true faith, and see what may be the curiosities of
their land. Yet I must give you warning, it will rest with another whom
I am now seeking, whether I may league with you in this enterprise or
not. Give me his consent and leading, and I will take leave of these
poor rogues of Tenochtitlan, as soon as I have looked a little upon
their wonders; and then, with the blessing of God and St. John, have at
the valiant fire-worshippers, with all my heart!--But, how now, señor
Capitan? What means your pilot to cast anchor here among the fleet, and
not carry us forthwith to the shore?"

"I dare not proceed farther," said the captain, "without the authority
of the señor Cavallero, admiral of this squadron, and governor of this
harbour of San Juan de Ulua. It is necessary I should report myself to
him for examination, on board the _Capitana_, and receive his
instructions concerning my cargo and fellow-voyagers."

"His instructions concerning your fellow-voyagers!" said Don Amador,
sternly. "I, for one, am a voyager, who will receive no instructions for
the government of my actions, neither myself nor by proxy; and, with
God's blessing, I will neither ask permission to disembark, nor allow it
to be asked for myself, or for my grooms; and the señor Cavallero, or
any other señor, that thinks to stop me, had better grind both sides of
his sword, by way of preparation for such folly."

"Your favour has no cause for anger," said the master, moderately. "This
is the custom and the law, and it becomes the more necessary to enforce
it, in the present situation of things. Your favour will receive no
check, but rather assistance; and it is only necessary to assure the
admiral you do not come as a league and helpmate of the mutineer,
Cortes, to receive free license, a safe-conduct, and perhaps, even
guides, to go whithersoever you list throughout this empire. This,
señor, is only a form of courtesy, such as one cavalier should expect of
another, and no more."

"Truly, then, if you assure me so," said Don Amador, complacently, "I
will not refuse to go myself in person to his excellency, the admiral;
and the more readily that, I fancy, from the name, there is some sort of
blood-relationship between his excellency and myself. But, by heaven, I
would rather, at present, be coursing Fogoso over yon glittering sand,
than winding a bolero on my cousin's deck, though he were a king's
admiral."



CHAPTER II.


Don Amador de Leste was interrupted in the agreeable duty (the last to
be performed in the little caravel,) of inquiring into the health and
condition of his war-horse, Fogoso, by a summons, or, as it was more
courteously expressed, an invitation, to attend the admiral on board his
own vessel. Giving a thousand charges to his attendants, all of which
were received with due deference and humility, he stepped into the boat,
which, in a few moments, he exchanged for the decks of the
Capitana,--not, however, without some doubt as to the degree of
loftiness he should assume during the interview with his excellency, the
admiral, his kinsman. His pride had already twice, or thrice, since his
appearance among the islands of the New World, been incensed by the
arrogant assumption of their petty dignitaries to inquire into, and
control, the independence of his movements: and he remembered with high
displeasure, that the royal adelantado of Cuba, the renowned Velasquez,
a man of whom, as he was pleased to say, he had never heard so much as
the name until he found himself within his territories, had not only
dared to disregard the privileges of his birth and decorations, but had
well-nigh answered his ire and menaces, by giving him to chains and
captivity. Nor, when, at last, the pious exertions of the good friars of
Santiago had allayed the growing storm, and appeased his own
indignation, by urging the necessity their governor was under to examine
into the character and objects of all persons, who, by declining to
visit the new El Dorado under the authority of the commander, might
reasonably be suspected of a desire to join his rebellious
lieutenant,--not even then could the proud Amador forget that, whatever
might be the excuse, his independence _had_ been questioned, and might
be again, by any inflated official whom he should be so unlucky as to
meet. His doubt, however, in this case, was immediately dispelled by the
degree of state and ceremony with which he was received on board the
Capitana, and conducted to his excellency; and the last shadow of
hesitation departed from his brow, when he beheld the admiral prepared
to welcome him with such courtesy and deference as were only accorded to
the most noble and favoured.

"If I do not err," said the admiral, with a bow of great reverence, and
a smile of prodigious suavity, "I behold, in the señor Don Amador de
Leste, a gentleman of Valencia, whom I make free, as I shall be proud,
to welcome as my countryman and kinsman?"

"Señor Almirante," replied Amador, with equal amenity, "my mother was a
Valencian, and of the house of Cavallero. Wherefore, I take it for
granted, we are in some sort related; but in what degree, I am not able
to determine: nor do I think that a matter very important to be
questioned into, since, in these savage corners of the earth, the
farthest degree of consanguinity should draw men together as firmly as
the closest."

"You are right, señor cavalier and kinsman," said the admiral: "affinity
of any degree should be a claim to the intimacy and affection of
brotherhood; and although this is the first time I have enjoyed the
felicity to behold my right worthy and much honoured cousin, I welcome
him with good will to such hospitalities as my poor bark and this
barbarous clime can afford; marvelling, however, amid all my
satisfaction, what strange fortune has driven him to exchange the
knightly combats of Christendom for the ignoble campaigns of this wild
hemisphere."

"As to that, most noble and excellent cousin," said the cavalier, "I
will not scruple to inform your excellency, together with all other
matters, wherein, as my kinsman, you are entitled to question; previous
to which, however, I must demand of your goodness to know how far your
interrogatories are to bear the stamp of office and authority, the
satisfaction of my mind on which point will materially affect the
character of my answers."

"Surely," said the admiral courteously, and seemingly with great
frankness, "I will only presume to question you as a friend and
relative, and, as such, no farther than it may suit your pleasure to
allow. My office I will only use so far as it may enable me to assist
you in your objects, if, as I will make bold to believe, you may need
such assistance in this land of Mexico."

"I thank your excellency," said Amador, now receiving and pressing the
hand of the commander with much cordiality, "both for your offers of
assistance, which, if I may need it, I will freely accept; and for your
assurance you do not mean to trouble me with your authority:--a mark of
extreme civility and good sense, which virtues, under your favour, I
have not found so common among your fellow-commanders in these heathen
lands, as I was led to expect."

The admiral smiled pleasantly on his kinsman while replying, "I must beg
your allowance for the presumption of my brothers in command, who, sooth
to say, have had so much dealing with the wild Indians and rough
reprobates of these regions as somewhat to have forgot their manners,
when treating with gentlemen and nobles. My superior and governor, the
worthy and thrice-honoured Velasquez, (whom God grant many and wiser
counsellors!) is rather hot of head and unreasonable of temper; and has,
doubtless, thrown some obstructions in the way of your visit to this
disturbed land. But you should remember, that the junction of so brave a
cavalier as Don Amador de Leste with the mutinous bands of the señor
Cortes, is a thing to excite both dread and opposition."

"I remember," said Amador, "that some such excuse was made for him, and
that my assurance that my business had no more to do with that valiant
rebel than with his own crabbed excellency, was no more believed than
the assertion of any common hind: a piece of incredulity I shall take
great pleasure, at some more convenient period, of removing, at my
sword's point, from his excellency's body."

"I am grieved you should have cause to complain of the governor," said
the señor Cavallero; "and verily I myself cannot pretend to justify his
rash and tyrannical opposition, especially in the matter of yourself;
who, I take it for granted, come hither as the kinsman of the knight
Calavar, to search out and remove that crack-brained cavalier from these
scenes of tumult and danger."

"The knight Calavar," said the young soldier sternly, "like other men,
has his eccentricities and follies; but if God has smitten him with a
sorer infirmity than others, he has left him so much strength of arm and
resoluteness of heart, and withal has given him friends of so
unhesitating a devotion, that it will always be wise to pronounce his
name with the respect which his great worth and valiant deeds have
proved to be his due."

"Surely," said the admiral, good-humouredly, "it is my boast that I can
claim, through yourself, to be distantly related to this most renowned
and unhappy gentleman; and, while I would sharply rebuke a stranger for
mentioning him with discourtesy, I held myself at liberty to speak of
him with freedom to yourself."

"I beg your pardon then," said Amador, "if I took offence at your
utterance of a word, which seemed to me to savour more of the heartless
ridicule with which the world is disposed to remark a mental calamity,
than the respectful pity which, it is my opinion, in such cases should
be always accorded. Your excellency did right to suppose my business in
this hemisphere was to seek out the knight Calavar; not, however, as you
have hinted, to remove him from among the savages, (for I give you to
understand, he is ever capable of being the guide and director of his
own actions;) but to render him the dutiful service of his kinsman and
esquire, and to submit myself to his will and government, whether it be
to fight these rogues of Mexico, or any other heathens whatever."

"I give you praise for your fidelity and affection," said the señor
Cavallero, "which, I think, will stand the knight in good stead, if it
be his pleasure to remain longer in this wild country. But tell me, Don
Amador:--as a Cavallero of Valencia, I could not be ignorant of the
misfortune of our very renowned cousin; yet was I never able to compass
the cause of his melancholy. I remember that when he fleshed his boyish
sword for the first time among the Moors of the Alpujarras, he was
accounted not only of valour, but of discretion, far beyond his years.
There was no patrimony in all Granada so rich and enviable as the
lordship of Calavar; no nobleman of Spain was thought to have fairer and
loftier prospects than the young Don Gines Gabriel de Calavar; none had
greater reason to laugh and be merry, for before the beard had darkened
on his lip, he had enjoyed the reputation of a brave soldier; yet, no
sooner came he to man's estate, than, utterly disregarding the interests
of his house and the common impulses of youth, he flung himself into the
arms of the knights of Rhodes, vowed himself to toil and sorrow, and
has, ever since, been remembered by those who knew him in his boyhood,
as the saddest and maddest of men."

"So much I have heard, and so much I know, of the good knight," said
Amador, with a sigh; "little more can I add to the story, but that some
calamity, the nature of which I never dared to inquire, suddenly wrought
this change in him, even in the midst of his youth, and led him to
devote his life to the cause of the faithful."

"Thou hast heard it suggested," said Cavallero, significantly, "that, in
the matter of the Alpujarras, his heart was hotter, and his hand redder
than became a Christian knight, even when striking on the hearth of the
Infidel?"

"Señor cousin and admiral," said Amador decidedly, "in my soul, I
believe you are uttering these suggestions only from a kinsman's concern
for the honour and welfare of the party in question; and therefore do I
make bold to tell you, the man who, in my hearing, asperses the knight
Calavar, charging his grief of mind to be the fruit of any criminal or
dishonourable deed, shall abide the issue of the slander as ruefully as
if it had been cast on the ashes of my mother!"

"So shall he win his deservings," said the commander. "Nevertheless doth
Calavar himself give some cause for these foolish surmises, of which
indiscreet persons have occasionally delivered themselves; for the
evident misery of heart and distraction of head, the austere and
penitential self-denial of his life, nay, the very ostentation of grief
and contrition, which is written in his deportment and blazoned on his
armour, and which has gained him, in these lands, the appellation of the
Penitent Knight, seem almost to warrant the suspicion of an unquiet and
remorseful conscience, brooding over the memory of an unabsolved crime.
But I say this not so much to justify, as, in part, to excuse those idle
impertinents, who are so free with their innuendoes. I have ever
pondered with wonder on the secret of the brave knight's unrest; yet, I
must confess to thee, I was struck with no less astonishment, when,
returning from Nombre de Dios to Santiago, I heard that a famous Knight
Hospitaller, and he no other than Don Gines Gabriel de Calavar, had
arrived among the islands, frenzied with the opportunity of slaying
pagans at his pleasure, and had already followed on the path of Cortes
to Mexico. It gave me great pain, and caused me no little marvel, to
find he had come and vanished with so little of the retinue of his rank,
and of the attendance necessary to one in his condition, that two or
three ignorant grooms were his only attendants."

"I have no doubt," said Amador, "I can allay your wonder as to these
matters. Your excellency need not be told that the banner of the Turk
now floats over the broken ramparts of Rhodes, and over the corses of
those noble knights of San Juan, who defended them for more than two
hundred years, and at last perished among their ruins. This is a
catastrophe that has pealed over all Christendom like the roar of a
funeral bell, and its sound has even pierced to these lands of twilight.
No knight among all that band of warriors and martyrs, as I am myself a
witness, did more brave and heroical actions throughout the black and
bloody siege, than my lord and kinsman, Calavar. But the good and
ever-gracious Saint, the patron of this most ancient and chivalric
brotherhood, saved him, with a few other knights, out of the jaws of
destruction, and restored him again to his own country. Rhodes was
fallen, there was no longer a home for the destitute knights; they
wandered over Europe, whithersoever their destinies listed, but
particularly wheresoever there was an infidel to be slain. Our monarch
of Spain contemplated a crusade among the Moors of Barbary, the
descendants of that accursed--(why should I not say wretched? for they
are exiles;)--that wretched race who had once o'ermastered our own
beloved land; the knight Calavar entered into this project with
alacrity, and set himself to such preparations as should win him good
vengeance for the blood of his brothers lost at Rhodes. I did myself, in
obedience to his will, betake me to the business of seeing what honest
Christians might be prevailed on to fight under his banner; and while
thus engaged, at a distance from my beloved lord, with, perhaps, as I
should confess with shame, less energy and more sloth than were becoming
in his follower, I suffered certain worldly allurements to step between
me and my duty, and, for a time, almost forgot my renowned and unhappy
kinsman. Now señor," continued the youth, with some little hesitation,
and a deep sigh, "it is not necessary I should trouble you with any very
particular account of my forgetfulness and stupidity: it was soon known
that the enthusiasm of our king was somewhat abated touching the matter
of the African crusade,--perhaps swallowed up in the interest wherewith
he regarded the new world which God and the great Colon had given him;
the enthusiasm of his subjects diminished in like manner: there was no
more talk of Africa. This, señor, may perhaps in a measure excuse my own
lethargy, but you may be assured I awoke out of it with shame and
mortification, when I discovered that the good knight, left to himself,
and deprived of that excitement of combat, or the hope of combat, so
necessary to the well-being of his mind, had suddenly (doubtless, in one
of those paroxysms of eccentricity,--or delirium, as I may call it to
you,) departed from the land, and was now cleaving the surges that
divided us from the new hemisphere. There was nothing left for me but to
follow him in the first ship that sailed on the same adventure. This I
have done: I have tracked my leader from Palos to Cuba; from Cuba to
this barren coast; and now, with your good leave and aidance, I will
take the last step of the pursuit, and render myself up to his authority
in the barbaric city, Tenochtitlan."

"I respect your motive, and praise your devotion, most worthy cousin,"
said the admiral with much kindness; "and yet you must forgive me, if I
dare to express to you some degree of pity. My long acquaintance with
these countries, both of isle and main, has well instructed me what you
have to expect among them; and I can truly conceive what sacrifices you
have made for the good knight's sake. In any case, I beg leave to
apprise you, you can command all my services, either to persist in
seeking him, or to return to Spain. My advice is, that you leave this
place forthwith, in a ship which I am to-morrow to despatch to
Andalusia; return to your native land; betake yourself to those
allurements, and that lethargy, which I can well believe may bring you
happiness; commend yourself to your honourable lady-love, and think no
more of the wild Calavar. Here, if you lose not life, before you have
looked on your kinsman, as there is much fear, you must resolve to pass
your days in such suffering and misery, and withal in ignoble warfare
with naked savages, supported by such mean and desperate companions, as,
I am sure, you were never born to."

"What you counsel me," said Amador coolly, "is doubtless both wisdom and
friendship; nevertheless, if your excellency will be good enough to
reconsider your advice, you will perceive it involves such selfishness,
meanness, and dishonour, as cannot be listened to with any propriety by
a kinsman of the knight of Calavar. I do not say I come hither to
condescend to this ignoble warfare,--though if it be worthy my good
knight, _I_ shall have no reason to scorn it. I bear with me, to my
kinsman, the despatch of his most eminent highness, the Grand Master of
the most illustrious order of San Juan, wherein, although it be
recommended to him, if such warfare seem to him honourable and
advantageous to the cause of Christ, to strike fast and well, it is, if
such strife be otherwise, strongly urged on him to return without delay
to Europe, and to the Isle of Malta; which, it is announced, our monarch
of Spain will speedily give to the good knights. It is therefore,"
continued the cavalier, "from the nature of things and of mine own will,
clearly impossible I should follow your advice; in default of which, I
must beg such other counsel and assistance of your excellency as your
excellency may think needful to bestow; only premising, that as I have
many a weary league of sand and mountain to compass, the sooner you
benefit me with these good things the better."

"Your journey will be neither so long nor so wearisome as you imagine,"
said Cavallero: "but, I fear me, will present more obstructions than you
may be prepared to encounter. I take it for granted, the governor
Velasquez has furnished you with no commands to his general Don Panfilo
de Narvaez, since he gave you none to myself."

"This is even the fact," said Amador; "I entered the caravel which
brought me here, as I thought, in defiance of his authority, and not
without apprehensions of being obliged to cut off the ears of some dozen
or two of his rogues, who might be ordered to detain me. Nevertheless, I
left the island without a contest, and equally without aidance of any
kind from this discourteous ruler."

"I must give thee some counsel, then," said the admiral, "for I
apprehend the governor did, very perfidiously as I esteem it, when he
ceased his opposition, rest much hope on that of his general. Thou art
acquainted with the character of Narvaez?"

"By my faith, I am so ignorant of all matters appertaining to these
climates, that, saving thine own, and the knight Calavar's, and one or
two others which I acquired this morning, I am familiar only with those
of two other persons,--to wit,--of Velasquez, whom I consider a very
scurvy and ill-bred personage, and of Cortes, a man whom I hold in much
esteem, ever since I heard he burned his fleet to keep his followers
from running away, and made prisoner of the great Mexican emperor in his
own capital. In addition to this, I know the aforesaid governor doth
very hotly hate, and hath disgraced with the titles of rebel and outlaw,
this same respectable and courageous Cortes; but for what reason, as I
have been kept in somewhat too great a passion to inquire, I am yet
altogether ignorant."

"For one who may soon share an important part in the events of this
region, I think thou showest a most princely indifference to them," said
the admiral, smiling. "I will not say the safety, but the facility, with
which thou mayest traverse these lands, will be greatly increased by
knowing some little of their history; and that knowledge I will hasten
to impart to thee, and with what brevity I can. If I should be led to
speak with more freedom of certain persons than may seem fitting in an
inferior and a colleague, I must beseech thee to remember I am doing so
to a kinsman, and for his especial information and good. Know then,
señor Don Amador, the person whom it pleased our viceroy, the son of
Colon, to set over us, and whom it has since pleased his most devout
majesty, the emperor, to confirm in the government of Cuba, and even to
that to add the further dignity of ruler of the kings of Mexico, is, as
I hinted to thee before, afflicted with so irascible a temper and so
jealous a fancy, that, were I not restrained by the office I hold under
him, I should say he was, at the least, as mad as any other man in his
dominion. The desire of immortalizing himself by some great exploit
would be commendable in him, were it not accompanied by the ambition to
achieve it by the hands of another. Ever since the discovery of this
fair empire of Montezuma by the señor Cordova, he has thirsted for the
glory of subduing it; and has taken all the steps necessary to such a
purpose, except the single one of attempting it in person;--an omission
not in itself important, since there are an hundred other cavaliers more
capable of the task, only that, besides the other munitions with which
he furnishes his lieutenant, he follows him ever with so plentiful a
store of distrust, that it is utterly impossible his officer should have
a chance to immortalize him. After much seeking of a man whose ambition
should extend no further than to the glory of winning a crown for the
purpose of seeing his excellency wear it, he fixed upon the worthy
hidalgo, Hernan Cortes, a gentleman of Medellin in Estremadura, and
despatched him on the business of conquest. Now, no sooner was his
general gone, than this jealous imagination, whereof I spake, instantly
presented to his mind the image of Cortes as a conqueror, suddenly
laying claim, before the emperor and the world, to the sole merit of the
conquest; a spectacle so infinitely intolerable, that without delay he
set himself at work to hinder Cortes from making any conquest at all."

"Surely," said Amador, "this governor Velasquez is a fool, as well as a
knave!"

"Heaven have him in keeping! You should mention him with respect: but as
you are speaking in the confidence of blood-relationship, I cannot take
notice of your sarcasm," said the admiral. "The señor Cortes, however,"
continued Cavallero, "was by no means disposed to second the disloyal
frenzy of the governor: (disloyal I call it, since it threatened to
deprive his majesty, the emperor Charles, of the opportunity of adding a
new empire to his diadem.) On the other hand, Cortes was fully
determined to do his duty, and thought the governor could do nothing
better than to follow his example. But in the end, this same Cortes,
though of as meek a temper as is desirable in the commander of an army,
became greatly incensed at the sottish and grievous distrust of his
governor; and calling his army together, and representing to them the
foolish predicament in which his excellency had placed them, he threw
down his truncheon with contempt, and told them that as Velasquez had
left them without a leader, the wisest thing that remained for them was
to find another as soon as possible: as for himself, he disdained to
hold his commission longer under such a commander."

"By heaven, a most proper-spirited and gallant gentleman!" cried Amador.
"I honour him for the act, but chiefly for the contempt it argued of
this jackfeather ruler."

"I must beg of your favour," said the admiral, gravely, "to remember
that his excellency is my chief and commander; though, in justice, I
think you have some reason to censure him.--What remained for the army
of Cortes, now no longer having a general? They were loath to leave the
fair empire that appeared almost in their grasp, and enraged at the
governor, who seemed determined to rob them of it. There was only one
way to secure the conquest for their royal master: they absolved
themselves of their allegiance to the governor, swore themselves the
soldiers and subjects of the emperor alone, and erecting themselves
into a colony, forthwith elected Cortes their governor and
commander-in-chief; and despatched advice of the same to Don Carlos,
with a petition for permission to pursue and conclude the conquest of
Tenochtitlan in his name."

"A very loyal, defensible, and, indeed, praiseworthy action," said Don
Amador, with emphasis; "and I marvel your jealous governor did not stab
himself forthwith, out of pure chagrin, to be so sharply and justly
outwitted."

"Instead of that," said the admiral, "boiling with vexation and rage,
and devoting Cortes to the fiend who had first suggested him as a proper
lieutenant, his excellency equipped a second army, more than twice as
strong as that he had ordered Cortes to raise; and this, one would have
thought, he would have commanded in person. But the old whim of
conquering by lieutenants, and becoming famous by proxy, still beset the
brain of his wisdom. He gave the command of an army of more than a
thousand men to the señor Panfilo de Narvaez, a Biscayan, of
whom the best I can say is, that he swore eternal fidelity to
Velasquez,--resolving privately in his own mind that, as soon as he had
subdued Cortes, he would follow his example, and throw off the authority
of his distrustful commander."

"I should call this treachery," said Amador, "but that I think the
absurdity of the chief a full excuse for the defection of the follower."

"The wisdom of the proceeding is now made manifest," continued the
admiral. "It is scarce a month since it was my misfortune, as commander
of the naval division of this expedition, to land the forces of Narvaez
on this shore. Here I learned with much admiration, that Cortes,
notwithstanding the meagerness of his army, had, absolutely, after
certain bloody combats with savages on the wayside, marched into the
great city, taken possession of the body of the barbarous emperor, and,
through him, virtually, of all the lands which acknowledged his sway;
and you may understand how much, as a true and reasonable subject of our
Catholic monarch, I was afflicted to learn, in addition, that the
sending of the new force by Velasquez, only served the purpose of
snatching the conquest out of our hands. For Cortes, under a delusion
which may be pardoned him, on account of its loyalty, regarding himself,
in obedience to the command of his followers, as the only true
representative and general of our king, and ourselves, by consequence,
as traitors and rebels to his majesty, did forthwith resolve to drive us
from the land; to do which, it was needful he should withdraw his forces
from Tenochtitlan; and therefore, Tenochtitlan is lost."

"Thou sayest, the señor Cortes hath an army not half so powerful as the
Biscayan's?"

"Nay, 'tis much short of five hundred men, and weakened by a year's
campaign, and still further diminished by the necessity of maintaining a
garrison in his port of Vera Cruz, which he doth humorously denominate
the Rich City, and leaving another of more than a hundred men, with one
of his best captains, in the goodly city, out of a hope, which I myself
reckon both vain and foolish, still to retain possession of it."

"And with this shattered and pitiful handful, which I think cannot
exceed three hundred men," said Amador, "the brave Cortes is resolute to
resist the Biscayan, and his thousand fresh combatants?"

"It is even so," replied Cavallero.

"I give him the praise of a most dauntless and heroic leader," cried
Amador; "and I am eager to proffer him the hand of friendship."

"Not only resolute to resist," said the admiral, "but, from the most
undeniable tokens, impatient to attack; as, indeed, are all his people.
As an evidence of which, I may tell thee, that Narvaez having quartered
his host at an Indian city called Zempoala, within a few leagues of this
aforesaid stockade and Rich City of the True Cross, he straightway
despatched certain officers, military, civil, and religious, to demand
the surrender of the same at the hands of the very young and very
simple-minded señor, Don Gonzalo de Sandoval, its commandante. What
answer, thinkest thou, was made by this foolish captain, so many leagues
separated from his commander, and so far from all assistance? Faith, he
flings me the envoys into certain bags of net-work, as one would live
quails, and tossing them upon the backs of lusty savages, in lieu of
asses, despatched them forthwith over the mountains to his general. And
this is the only answer my colleague and most excellent friend the
general Narvaez, ever received to his summons for the surrender of the
Rich City of the True Cross."

"A spirited and ever-to-be-commended youth, this same bold Sandoval,"
said Amador earnestly; "and I begin to bethink me, I shall not be loath
to remain for a time in the company of a leader, who hath such worthy
spirits for his companions. But tell me, señor cavalier and cousin, hath
Cortes yet struck a blow for his honour and his right?"

"By our Lady, no," said the admiral: "and yet, upon reflection,"
continued he, "I must confess, that though he has not yet drawn a
Christian sabre on the Biscayan, he has done him much hurt with a
certain weapon of gold, the use of which he learned at Mexico, and whose
blows, by the operation of a kind of magic, have the virtue to paralyze
the wrath, without spilling the blood, of an adversary."

"This is a weapon of the devil!" said the young cavalier indignantly,
"which I marvel much should be used by so worthy a soldier.
Nevertheless, as it does not shed blood, the use of it may be
justifiable in a contest between brothers and countrymen; wherein
humanity and mercy are always more Christian qualities than the rage and
blood-thirstiness of another warfare. But notwithstanding all this, if
such enchanted arms (if such indeed exist, as I cannot believe,) be in
vogue among the followers of Cortes, I swear to God and Saint John, I
will eschew them as I would the gifts of the fiend; and, if compelled by
the command of my good knight, to fight in their company, it shall be
with such sword and spear as I can use with a free conscience, and an
honest arm."

"I commend your honourable resolution," said the admiral, amused with
the literal straightforwardness of his kinsman, but without thinking fit
to undeceive him; "but how long the cavalier Cortes will employ so
bloodless a rapier, is more than I can determine. He now lies within a
few leagues of my colleague, the Biscayan; and although apparently more
ripe for negotiation than combat, I shall be much mistaken if he do not,
at some convenient season, so fling his crew of desperadoes at the head
of Narvaez, as shall make his excellency stare. Indeed there is now
little hope of pacification; for Narvaez has very grievously insulted
Cortes, by proclaiming him a rebel and an outlaw, and setting a price on
his head; and such is his hotheadedness, that, it was but yesterday, he
compelled me to ship to Cuba the king's _oidor_, Vasques, whom he had
arrested for daring to speak to him of amicable treaty. I look daily for
intelligence of a battle."

"I vow to heaven!" said Amador, his eyes sparkling with animation, "I
vow to heaven! I have no desire to mingle in a civil fray of any kind;
but if these mad fellows must be e'en at it, I see no reason why I
should not stand hard by, to be a witness of their bravery. Wherefore
most excellent cousin, I must entreat of your favour to despatch me
without delay, with such guides, or instructions, as will enable me to
reach the Señor Cortes before the combat begins."

"If it would suit thee as well to survey this spectacle from the camp of
Narvaez," said Cavallero, "I could gratify thee without any difficulty.
But I must apprise thee, that to reach Cortes, it will be necessary to
pass the lines of Narvaez; and what obstructions he may choose to throw
in thy way is more than I can very satisfactorily determine, though I
may counsel thee how best to overcome them."

"Please heaven," said Amador proudly, "he shall make me no opposition
which he shall not answer to the cost of his body. For I am here, a free
hidalgo of Spain, knowing no authority but the king's will and mine own;
a neophyte (and, as I may add, a knight by right, though unsworn,) of
the illustrious order of San Juan, bearing the instructions of his most
eminent highness, the Grand Master, to a vowed knight, and therefore
liable to the command of no other man, save only, as before excepted,
the king; and he who thinks to hinder me in my passage, besides
provoking the wrath of the aforesaid privileged order, must, as I said
before, do it under the peril of mine own sword."

"It would not become me to question your privileges, or the danger with
which they might be invaded," said the admiral, "nor will I repeat to
you in how little regard these matters may be had by a man who has
presumed to arrest and imprison the representative of his majesty
himself, and who, surrounded by an army, and separated from the sway of
the laws, is beyond the present responsibility of any government but
that of his own conscience. I can only remind you that, as an emissary
of the holy order, you are doubly bound to avoid a quarrel with a
Christian and countryman; especially when, as will presently be your
case, you are in the lands of the infidel. I must beg to remind you,
too, that the Biscayan, holding, as he believes, the authority of the
king, and compelled to act as may seem to him necessary for the
preservation of the king's interest, should be respected accordingly;
and his humours, as well as his rightful commands, borne without anger
or opposition."

"May his majesty live a thousand years!" said the cavalier. "It is no
part of my principle to oppose his pleasure; wherefore, if contesting
the authority of this Biscayan general be such disloyalty, I will
refrain from it; that is, as long as I can. But nevertheless, I will
protest against any authority that may hinder my present journey."

"Moderation, and the exercise of patience," said Cavallero, "will
doubtless secure you from restraint and insult. It is quite necessary
you report the object of your travel to the commander Narvaez; and even
to desire his permission (a courtesy that has in it nothing of
degradation) to continue your journey."

"Doubtless," said Amador, sarcastically, "you will tell me, as did the
señor Gomez, the captain of the caravel, that this submission of myself
to his commands will be nothing more than the rendering of a customary
compliment to his dignity. If there be any way by which I may pass by
the camp of Narvaez, I shall be much bound to your excellency to inform
me of it; and I will pursue it, be it ever so rough and long, with much
more satisfaction than I can ever make my entreaties to him."

"There is no other way," said the admiral. "The Indian city, Zempoala,
where Narvaez has established his head-quarters, lies immediately on the
path to the Villa Rica; and the scouts of Narvaez, occupying all the
intermediate ground, render it impossible you should pass him without
observation, or them without their leader's commands. I am now about to
despatch to Narvaez certain reinforcements, in whose company I recommend
you to travel, and with whom I will send such representations to the
general as, I think, will secure you his instant permission and,
doubtless, aid, to join your kinsman, the good knight, without delay.
Only let me entreat of you, as your true friend and relation, not
wantonly, by any overbearing pride, to exasperate the peevish temper of
my colleague."

"I will take your advice," said the cavalier, complacently, "and treat
the Biscayan with as much respect as he may seem to deserve. Only, as it
may be a long day's journey to this Zempoala, I must entreat your
excellency to give orders for the instant debarkation of my horses and
attendants, and permit me to follow them as soon as possible."

"This shall be instantly done," said the admiral. "In the meanwhile, I
must beg to entertain you with the sight of one of those personages who
will be your companions on the journey."



CHAPTER III.


At the signal of the admiral, an officer made his appearance, received
certain commands, the most agreeable of which to the young cavalier were
those in reference to his own liberation, and then immediately withdrew.

"Thou wilt now see, worthy cousin," said Cavallero, "a man, whom,
although a base Moor and infidel, thou shouldst regard with some sort of
admiration; since, from the reports of those who brought him hither, he
is endowed with a spirit and pugnacity worthy even of a Christian."

While the admiral spoke, the door of the cabin was darkened by the
bodies of several men, who, at his beck, advanced, and stood full in the
view of the neophyte. He perceived in these, besides two or three
officers of the ship, nothing more, with a single exception, than the
rough figures of ordinary sailors. This exception presented itself in
the bronzed visage and wildly attired person of the Moor; and Amador
almost started, when the bright eyes of the pagan rolled from the
admiral to himself in a brief but most penetrating stare. In person, the
Moor was somewhat above the ordinary stature, but his limbs, though
hardy and active enough, were much attenuated. His face was emaciated
and bony, and the long black locks falling wildly over it, gave it an
appearance exceedingly haggard,--a character greatly augmented by the
white eyeballs flashing like stars in its almost Nubian blackness.
Something perhaps was to be allowed for the effect of his uncouth and
savage attire, which was composed almost entirely of skins, seemingly of
dogs or wolves, a portion of which encircled his loins as a tunic, while
the remainder lay, like a cape or short cloak, about his shoulders.
Under this latter garment, however, was a shirt of cotton, stained with
bright colours; and a kerchief of similar material glittered, not so
much like a turban as a fillet round his head. Rude sandals, strapped as
high as the midleg with shreds cut from his cloak, completed the
primitive costume of the barbarian.

"This fellow," said the admiral, turning from him to one who seemed as
chief of the seamen,--"this fellow is then the commander of that Sallee
pirate, you took among the Canaries?"

"Commander or not, I cannot say," said the sailor, with a shrug; "but
chief varlet at the gun, as I am free to maintain; and freer was he at
that same ordnance than was like to be safe for the good snow, _La
Encarnacion_, as her ribs may yet testify. But the knave speaks Spanish;
and if your excellency chooses to ask him, can tell you his rank and
condition."

"No commander--no pirate!" said the Moor, with a voice whose soft and
harmonious accents contrasted strangely with his rude appearance. "No
commander--no pirate," he repeated in good Castilian; "but a poor
Morisco of Fez, voyaging in a harmless trader to the Gibbel-al-Tarik."

"The Gibbel-al-Tarik," said the admiral, dryly, "would have been much
beholden for the new visit of an infidel."

"No commander, no pirate, no infidel!" said the Moor, earnestly; "but a
poor shepherd of Fez, brought to a knowledge of the true faith, and
driven from the home of his fathers for the exercise of it, to the land
of his fathers' enemies."

"Moor," said the admiral, composedly, "there are three reasons why I
should not believe thee: First, because thou _art_ a Moor, and therefore
born to be a liar and deceiver; secondly, because, unless God should
have worked a greater miracle for the good of a besotted heathen than he
often vouchsafes to prayerful Christians, there is no possibility thou
couldst be converted to the faith among the sands of Barbary; and
thirdly, because the fact that thou art skilful in the management of
ordnance, is sufficient proof thou canst not be an ignorant shepherd of
Fez, whose hands are more commonly trained to the spear and arrow, than
to the quoin and linstock."

"He manages them," said the sailor, "as if he had been born with them in
his hands; as I have made proof, sometimes, for my amusement, during the
tedium of the voyage."

"If my lord will listen to me," said the Moor eagerly, though humbly, "I
will make it apparent that I speak nothing but the truth.--My father
drew his first breath among the Almogavars of the desert; his son opened
his eyes among the hills of Granada."

"Ha!" cried the admiral; "thou art then one of the accursed tribe of
mine own land!"

"A Morisco of the Alpujarras," said the Moor, submissively; "whom, in my
very early youth, it pleased my father to have baptized in the holy
faith, as was the command of his most faithful and ever-blessed majesty,
the king Fernando, the conqueror of the kings of Granada. This will
show, my lord, that I speak the words of a Christian. As an Almogavar, I
was born to be a soldier, and so trained to all arms of an Almogavar,
the knife and dart, the spear and axe, the cross-bow and musket, as well
as other weapons of Christians. This will show my lord how it came that
I was found skilful at the cannon."

"Thou speakest like a cunning and most honest man," said the admiral,
gravely; "but all this revelation does not show me how an Almogavar of
Granada became a herdsman of the desert; and, after that, how the
herdsman of the desert was transformed into the gunner of a Sallee
corsair, or, as thou callest her, a harmless trader, on her innocent
voyage to Gibraltar."

"May it please my lord," said the Almogavar, bending for a moment his
troubled eyes on the admiral, as if to resolve himself whether or not
these questions were put to him in mockery, and then casting them
instantly on the floor; "may it please my lord to remember that after
the fall of Granada and the subjugation of the Alpujarras, many Moors,
Christian as well as pagan, preferring rather to lament their miseries
at a distance than in their own enslaved country, chose to accept the
merciful permission of the king, and withdrew from the land altogether.
This did I, my lord's servant and slave. I fled to the country of my
father; and although, there, I suffered many indignities and hardships,
as well as constant peril, as being suspected to be an apostate to the
faith of the land, I had been content to drag out a wearisome life, but
for one grief that was sharper than others."

"I will shrive thee as patiently as thy confessor," said the admiral;
"but while thou art speaking the sharpest of thy calamities, it will be
much proof to me of the sincerity of thy religion, if thou use language
somewhat of the briefest."

"My son," said the Moor, hurriedly, "my son, that was the lamp of my
eye-sight, the perfume of my nostrils, the song and music of my soul,
was in great danger to be led astray, and converted back to infidelity.
To save him from the contagion of heathenism, I resolved to return to
Granada, where, though he might grow up to bondage, he should be free
from the thrall of darkness: it was better he should be a slave than an
infidel. With these thoughts and these hopes in my heart, I embarked in
the Sallee trader; when it was my hard fate to be arrested in my course
by these men of the Canaries."

"Thy course," said the admiral, "was none of the straightest; and how
thou couldst find thy way to Gibraltar by way of the Fortunate Isles, is
much more than my nautical experience can teach me to understand."

"A great storm," said the Moor, with the deepest humility, "drove us
from our course; and it was the will of God that when the tempest
subsided, we should find ourselves beset by two strong ships, which
nothing but the fears and desperation of our captain could have tempted
him to think of resisting. We fought, and were subdued; the lives of my
son and myself were preserved out of the horrors of that combat. The
ships were traders of the Isles, bound to these new lands; they brought
us hither; where there is nothing left us but to claim the privileges of
our faith, acknowledge ourselves the thrall and bondmen of his majesty
the king, and entreat of my lord to send us, when it may suit his good
pleasure, to our homes and our altars in Granada."

The Moor concluded his speech with a degree of eagerness approaching
almost to vehemence. The admiral indifferently rejoined:--

"Thy name is Abdalla----?"

"Abdoul al Sidi," said the Moor, hastily. "When my father gave me up to
be baptized, he called me, in token of his true devotion and humility,
Esclavo de la Cruz; but in my days of darkness I was known as Abdoul al
Sidi, a poor Almogavar, but descended from the ancient lords of Fez."

"Sidi Abdalla, or sir Slave of the Cross, whichever it may please you to
be called," said the admiral, coolly, "in respect to your lordly descent
and most dignified title, which I think no Christian has dared to assume
since the days of the Cid Rodrigo, I will, before determining how far I
can make your fate agreeable to your wishes, condescend to compare your
story with that of the brave sailor, master of the Encarnacion, who
captured you."

"If I am to say any thing," said the master, gruffly, "it will be first
to pronounce this same Abdalla, or Esclavo, as he calls himself, a
hypocrite and knave not to be trusted. It is true there was a great
storm, which might have driven his piratical galley into the
neighbourhood of the Canaries; but that he showed any extraordinary
ardour to escape, as long as my consort was out of sight, is a matter
not to be believed. Trusting to his skill in the management of the great
_mangonneau_, with which the galley was armed, and not doubting to
cripple me with some lucky ball, before I could approach him, he fell to
with right good will; and it was not until my consort joined in the
melée that I was able to lay him aboard. Even then, when our crews were
springing on his decks, and his fellow-pirates had fled in dismay below,
I saw him, this very knave Abdalla, with mine own eyes, lay match to the
last charge which thundered against us; immediately after which, with a
most devilish spirit of desperation, he snatched up his boy, as one
would a kitten, and springing to the opposite side, was in the act of
dashing himself into the sea, when he was brought down by a
pistol-shot."

"I thought they would have murdered my poor Jacinto," said the
Almogavar, in a low voice; "and, in my desperation, desired he should
rather die the easy death of the deep, than be mangled by cruel
daggers."

"There was much fear of that," said the master; "for my sailors had
marked him at the linstock with no great love. In faith, there were some
five or six cutlasses aimed at his prostrate body; but I could not bear
they should slay the boy, who lay on his breast; and therefore I
commanded them to hold."

"Thou art a right worthy and noble heart!" said Amador ardently,
interrupting him; "for there is no reason a brave soldier, even in the
heat of blood, and with a pagan under his foot, should strike at the
life of a boy: and hadst thou done otherwise, I swear to thee, I was so
much moved by the relation, I should have gone nigh to slay thee for thy
barbarity!"

"And besides, señor," said the master complacently, "I was beset with
the idea, that if I preserved his life, and brought him to this land of
Mexico, I might sell him at a good price as an able cannonier; such a
man, as I had good reason to know, being worth the value of a dozen
bloodhounds. And besides," he continued, without regarding the
expression of disgust and contempt which drove the look of benevolence
from the visage of the cavalier, "I had greater reason to applaud my
clemency, when I discovered that the boy Jacinto, besides being a comely
and very dexterous stripling, was so great a master of the Moorish
lute, singing withal in a most agreeable manner, that I was well assured
some noble cavalier among the invaders would not scruple, at any price,
to have him for a page."

"I am a Christian! the boy is a Christian!" cried the Moor, hurriedly;
"and neither of us can be sold to bondage, except at the command of his
most faithful and merciful majesty, the emperor and king; to whose
gracious will and pleasure I desire, with my boy, to be rendered."

"Good Cid," said the admiral, "that is a matter wherein, if his
majesty's will were certainly known, thou shouldst not have to complain
of our negligence; but, under present circumstances, we must make our
own judgment the representative of the royal wisdom, and dispose of thee
in such manner as we may think most conducive to his majesty's interest.
We are resolute thou wilt serve him better by directing the thunders of
his cannon against the heathen hordes of Mexico, than by cultivating his
vines and fig-trees on the hills of Granada. We must send thee to the
commander Narvaez, whom if thou please, he will doubtless advance thee
to the command of a falconet, wherewith thou mayst divert many of thy
Almogavar propensities for battle and bloodshed. As for the boy, it not
appearing to me that the strumming of his strings, or the uplifting of
his voice in ballad and redondilla, are, in any wise, necessary to the
conquest of this barbarous empire, I may be able, if thou insistest upon
that, to send him to Spain."

"I take my lord at his word!" said Abdoul, trembling with eagerness and
anxiety; "let the boy be sent to Spain--to Granada--to either of the
ports Algeciras, Malaga, or Almeria; and he will find some friends
there, to protect his youth and inexperience; while I submit to my
harder fate in Mexico."

"To Almeria?" said Amador quickly. "I have myself some acquaintance with
that town; and it may perhaps advantage thee to make me thy confidant,
if there be any secret friend there thou wouldst send the boy to; or to
take my counsel as to what Christians may be persuaded to show him
kindness."

The Moor regarded Amador for an instant with a disturbed but piercing
eye. His answer was, however, prevented, by the admiral saying,

"Sir Slave of the Cross, (With the consent of my very noble kinsman); to
cut short all needless discussion on this subject, I may as well inform
thee, first, that if thy boy be sent to Spain, it will not be to any
port of thy choosing, but to such an one as may seem most fit to other
persons, and which will most probably be the port of Seville; wherefrom
thou canst better imagine than myself, how thy boy will be helped to
Granada. In the second place, as I deem it but honesty to acquaint thee,
if the youth be taken from this land, he will first be sent to the
excellent señor, the honourable Don Diego Velasquez, governor of Cuba,
to be disposed of by him as may seem most agreeable to his judgment; and
I warn thee, if the lad be an adept at the lute, as is asserted, Don
Diego will find him such employment in twangling to the ladies of our
brave cavaliers, as will leave it uncertain how much sooner than
doomsday he will bethink him to advance the poor youth on his voyage."

"It is enough!" said the Moor with a gloomy countenance. "God is with
us; and it may be better to have the boy among the perils of death than
the seductions of pleasure. Let my boy stay with me, and I am content to
follow my lord's bidding."

He bowed his head upon his breast, and, at the signal of the admiral,
was led away.

"Señor Capitan," continued Cavallero, addressing the master, who still
lingered in the cabin, "I will satisfy thee for the armament thou hast
brought, by acknowledgments, which thou must present to the governor.
What more Moors hast thou brought with thee from the galley, capable of
doing service in these exigencies?"

"The father and son are all," replied the master. "The others, as I told
your excellency, had fled below from the fury of my sailors. To make all
sure, while rummaging about their cabin, we had fastened down the
hatches. We had not picked up many things of value, before there was a
sudden cry that the pirate was sinking. Whether this happened from a
shot she may have received, or because the accursed runagates below had
knocked a hole in her bottom, was more than was ever determined. The
alarm sent us scampering to our own vessel; and in our hurry, as was
natural enough, we forgot the infidels in the hold; so that, when she
went down, which she did as soon as we were well clear of her, her crew
went along with her.--But your excellency has not told me whether I am
to receive pay for Sidi and the boy?"

"I swear to heaven," said the admiral, "thou hast no more heart than
thine anchor! Thou shockest me with the detail of a catastrophe, which,
though affecting the lives of nothing but heathen Moors, is nevertheless
both dreadful and pitiable; and yet thou dost abruptly demand me, 'Shall
I have payment for the two lives I saved?' Thou wilt have payment, if it
please the governor; and not otherwise. Betake thee to thy ship: I will
send thee thy warranties, and the sooner thou leavest with them the
better."

The master departed, and again Amador found himself alone with the
admiral.

"Cousin," said Cavallero, "I am now able to comply with your wishes. I
should have been rejoiced to keep you a prisoner on board the Capitana
for a few days; but I will not invite you, when I perceive you are so
impatient for freedom. Your horses are doubtless at this moment rolling
on the beach; your grooms are with them, either combing the sand from
their manes, or scraping the sea-spots from your armour. A company of
artisans, with a military escort, is on the eve of marching to the camp
of Narvaez. I have given such commands as will secure you the company
and friendly aidance of that escort; in addition to which, I will
immediately send after you a trusty officer with despatches concerning
yourself, to the general, and recommendations to him to assist you in
joining your kinsman, the knight Calavar, without delay. You will easily
reach Zempoala by night-fall. I beseech you to salute the general with
courtesy; and to-morrow you will be in the arms of your leader."

"I am so overjoyed," said the Cavalier, "at the thought of once more
bestriding my poor Fogoso, and exchanging the stupid pitching of a ship
for the bound of his gallop and curvet, that I know not how I can do
otherwise than treat the Biscayan with urbanity."

"A barge is ready to conduct you to the shore," continued the admiral,
leading the young soldier to the side of the vessel. "I pray heaven to
give you a prosperous journey, and to carry you with as much safety as
honour through the weapons of the heathen multitude. Make my devoirs to
his noble valour, the good knight of Rhodes; and say to the señor
Cortes, that though fate has arrayed me against him as an enemy, I
cannot forget the friendship of our past lives. Nay," continued
Cavallero, with emphasis, "tell him, that though it does not become me,
as an officer commissioned by Velasquez, to hold any communications with
him excepting those of simple form and civility, I shall be well pleased
when heaven has removed the obstruction, and left me at liberty to meet
him with full friendship and confidence. This salutation," said the
admiral significantly, "there is no reason thou shouldst impart to
Narvaez; for he is distrustful and suspicious to that degree, that, I do
not doubt, he would torture its harmlessness into a matured treason."

"I will do your bidding," said Amador blithely, "both to the Biscayan,
and the cavalier of Medellin. And now, with a thousand acknowledgments
for your favour and assistance, and as many wishes for your weal and
comfort, I bid you the farewell of a kinsman and true friend."

And so saying, and heartily shaking the hand of his excellency, the
young cavalier sprang into the boat, and was soon wafted to the beach.



CHAPTER IV.


The rapture with which Don Amador de Leste exchanged the confined decks
of the caravel for the boundless sands of Ulua, and these again for the
back of his impatient steed, was fully as great as he had promised
himself. Profound was his joy to find the demon of ennui, which had
beset the cribbed and confined charger as sorely as the cabined master,
flying from his dilated nostrils, and giving place to the mettlesome
ardour which had won him the title of the Fiery. The neigh that he sent
forth was like the welcome of the battle; the fire that flashed in his
eye was bright as the red reflection of a banner; and when he reared up
under his rider, it was as if to paw down the opposition of crouching
spearmen. A few snuffs of the morning breeze, a few bounds over the
sandy hillocks, and the beast that had pined in stupefaction in a narrow
stall on the sea, was converted into an animal fit for the seat of a
warrior.

The cavalier galloped about for a few moments, while his attendants made
their preparations for the journey. Then returning, like a thoughtful
leader, to inquire into their welfare, he beheld them with great
satisfaction, both horse and man, in good condition to commence their
adventurous campaign.

The elder of his followers was a personage of years and gravity; a mass
of grizzled locks fell from under his iron skull-cap, and a shaggy beard
of the same reverend hue ornamented his cheeks and throat. He had seen
long and sharp service, for besides the many scars that marked his
swarthy visage, one of which, from its livid hue, seemed to have been
won in recent combat, a sabre-cut, extending over his left cheek and
brow, had darkened the sinister eye forever. But his frame, though
somewhat short and squat, was robust and even gigantic in proportions;
and the muscles springing under the narrow cuishes, which, together with
a heavy breast-plate, made nearly the whole of his defensive armour, did
not seem less of iron than their covering. He was truly a man-at-arms
worthy to follow at the heels of a valiant cavalier.

The second attendant, though armed with little more care than the
former, had contrived, by the judicious distribution of riband-knots and
sashes about his person, to assume a more gallant appearance: and in
addition, he had the smoother features and gayer looks of youth. Both
were provided with horses strong and not inactive; and both, as Amador
returned, were busily engaged in disposing the mails and accoutrements
of the cavalier about the bulky loins of their animals.

"Hearken, Lazaro, thou varlet, that flingest my mailed shirt over thy
crupper, as if it were a vile horse-cloth," he cried to the younger
follower, "have more care what thou art doing. Give my helmet to
Baltasar, and let him sling it, with my buckler, over his broad
shoulders. I will not entrust thee with such matters; nor, by 'r lady,
with my pistols neither."

"If I may make bold to speak," said Baltasar, bending his eye bluffly,
and with a sort of rude affection on his young lord, "I can advise a way
to dispose of both casque and buckler more agreeably and usefully than
on the back of either Lazaro or myself."

"Thou meanest upon mine own, no doubt," said Amador: "I have ever found
thee fonder of carrying the arms of a dead foeman than of a living
master, though it were the knight Calavar himself."

"That is very true," said the veteran, chuckling grimly at the
compliment disguised in the sarcasm.

"I am never loath to do such duty: because, then, my conscience tells me
I am bearing arms which can no longer be of use to their owner."

"And thou desirest now to intimate, that, if I were arrayed in my
harness, I might put it to some use?"

"Quien sabe? who knows?" said Baltasar, looking around him with an
earnest eye. "We are now in a strange land, possessed by barbarians, who
are good at spear and bow, and fonder of fighting from an ambuscado than
on an open field; and with no true companions that I can see, to look
that they be not lurking among yonder woodlands, some of which, I take
it for granted, we have to pass. I should grieve sorely to see an arrow,
even in a boy's hand, aimed at your honour's present hauberk of cloth
and velvet."

"Well, thy wisdom will not perish for want of utterance," said Amador;
"and, in very truth, I must own, it has sometimes stood me in good
stead. I will therefore relieve thee of thy burthen, and Lazaro shall
hang it to my own shoulders."

He descended, and the linked surcoat soon invested his person.

"I will also presume to recommend your honour to have these snapdragons
hung to your saddle-bow," said Baltasar, extending the rude and
ponderous pistols,--weapons then scarcely creeping into notice, but
within twenty years, not uncommon in the hands of horsemen; "for if it
should come to pass, that some cut-throat pagan should discharge a
missile at us from the bushes, it will doubtless afford your honour much
satisfaction to shoot him dead on the spot; a punishment that would not
be so certain with the weapons in my own hands, or in Lazaro's. And
before I could bring my cross-bow from my back, it is possible the knave
might have another opportunity to do us mischief."

"In this matter also," said Amador good-humouredly, "I will follow thy
instructions. But, I give thee warning, there is something in the
feeling of my hauberk under this raging sun, that admonishes me how soon
my brain would seethe, as in a stew-pan, under the cover of a steel
helmet. Wherefore I will have thee carry that in thine own hands, until,
from the change of atmosphere, or the appearance of an enemy, I may see
fit to alter my resolution."

"I have ever found," said Baltasar, with the pertinacity of age, and,
perhaps, of a favourite, "that, under a broiling sun, a well-polished
casque of metal is something cooler than a cloth cap; a fact, the reason
for which I do not myself understand, and which I should esteem too
marvellous for belief, had I not oft-times put it to the proof."

"There is even much truth in what thou art saying," quoth the cavalier,
"and I have perhaps philosophy enough to explain the marvel to thee, but
that I know philosophy is not much to thy liking. There must be a cold
head, however, under the bright cap; otherwise, and with a brain as
inflammable as my own, I am very well convinced that bright steel would
be just as ignitible as dull iron." And so saying, he again bestrode the
champing Fogoso.

"It must be as your honour says," muttered the man-at-arms. "But, as we
are all as well prepared now to begin our journey as we will be
to-morrow, I would fain know of your favour whither lies our path, or
where lags the jackanapes that is to guide us? I heard some talk in the
caravel of a great troop of horse and foot, that was to accompany us;
but unless it may have been the herd of vagabonds, who, a full hour
since, took up their march along the sands, I know not where to look for
them among these few tinkers and sailors that are strolling yonder among
the huts of bamboo."

"I have much reliance on the friendship and courtesy of my cousin, the
admiral," said Amador hastily; "but I must confess, that, saving the
appearance of yonder bridled horse, (which may be in waiting for the
officer he told me of,) it looks very much, now, as if he had left me to
mine own guidance. Nay, I wrong the worthy señor," he cried quickly, as
turning with some doubt and indignation towards the ship, he beheld a
boat leave her, and approach the shore with all the speed of oars; "the
guide he promised me is, without doubt, in that barge; and the bridled
horse, which, as I can perceive even at this distance, is none of the
bravest, is the beast whereon he will keep us company."

As Amador conjectured, the boat contained his promised companion, who
instantly sprang upon the beach and on the caparisoned animal, and in a
few moments was at the side of the cavalier. He was young and handsome,
an adult in stature, but scarcely a man in deportment, for as he removed
his cap to make the obeisance of an inferior, there was a strong
tincture of confusion and trepidation in his countenance. This was
perhaps owing, in part, to a consciousness of having merited a reprimand
for over-delay, and in part also to his suddenly finding himself
confronted with so warlike a personage as the neophyte. Amador of the
caravel was a different person from Amador armed and mounted; and,
indeed, as he sat on his noble bay, mailed and sworded, and with two
goodly armsmen at his back, he was such a martial figure as might have
moved an older messenger to reverence.

"Señor caballero," said the youth, with a stammering voice, "my master
and patron, the admiral, has appointed me, his secretary, to be your
guide to the Indian city Zempoala; and I have to beg your pardon, if,
waiting for the letters wherewith it was his excellency's will to charge
me, and to make some needful preparation of my own, I have detained your
favour somewhat longer than was agreeable."

"I am ever bound to thank his excellency," said Amador; "and as I well
suppose, your own preparations had some weighty relation to the business
you have in charge, I will not take it upon me to express any
dissatisfaction with your delay."

"In truth," said the secretary, ingenuously, "I was loath to depart
without such armour about me as should beseem the attendant of a true
cavalier; in the fitting of which I fell into some perplexity, as not
finding a corselet that did not, in some manner, incommode my ribs; and
besides, the sabres were all so unwieldy and rough about the hilts, I
was in some despair I should never find one to my liking."

"Señor secretario," said Amador, with a smile of good-humoured contempt,
surveying the youth, and observing the cuirass chosen with no discretion
and donned without skill, "I am of opinion, that in the company of
myself and my attendants, you will find no occasion for such troublesome
apparel; and it is my advice, grounded on your admission of inexperience
in such matters, that, should we, on our march, be beset by any enemies,
you take post instantly behind my veteran Baltasar, whose broad breast
will stand you in greater stead than your ill-chosen cuirass, and whose
arm will do you better service than the sabre in your own hands."

"Señor," said the youth, colouring, "I am no soldier nor cavalier; I
have ever had my breast more bruised by the scribe's table than the
weight of a breast-plate, and my fingers have heretofore known more of
the goose-quill than the sword. Nevertheless I am both willing and
desirous to be placed where the knowledge of weapons may be obtained,
and to encounter such risks as are the helpers to knowledge. It was from
no lack of beseeching on mine own part, that his excellency has
heretofore denied me permission to try my fate among the cavaliers
ashore; nor should I have hoped that pleasure so early, but that I found
his excellency was bent to do you honour, by making a confidential
servant your attendant, and was therefore easily persuaded to give me
the opportunity I have so long coveted, of looking a little into the
strange sights of this marvellous land."

"I am to understand then," said Amador gravely, "that his excellency,
the admiral, has entrusted the charge of guiding me to Zempoala to an
individual who has never before put foot on the wilderness that divides
us from it?"

"It is true, señor," said the secretary, "that I have never been to
Zempoala. But I hope your favour will not doubt me for that reason, nor
take offence at the admiral. I am enjoined to conduct you to the
reinforcement that set out an hour ago. Its tracks are plain enough
along the beach; and as it is composed principally of footmen, there is
no doubt we will overtake it before another hour has elapsed. I am
confident I can lead your favour without difficulty to the party; among
which are guides well acquainted with the country."

"Let us set out then, in heaven's name," said the cavalier: "the day is
wasting apace; the sun climbs high in the vault; and the sooner we are
sheltered from its fury among some of yonder distant forests, the better
will it be for us. St. John be our guide, and the Holy Virgin favour
us.--Amen! Let us depart."



CHAPTER V.


As the secretary anticipated, the tracks of the reinforcement were
plainly discernible over the sandy downs and by the margins of the
pestilent fens, which gave an air of desolation to this part of the
Mexican coast, not much relieved by an occasional clump of palms, nor by
the spectacle, here and there disclosed, of the broad ocean blackening
among the low islets; though the hazy and verdant ramparts which
stretched between these burning deserts and the imagined paradises of
the interior, ever presented a field of refreshment and interest to the
eyes of the travellers. The novelty of their situation, felt more or
less intensely by all, was exciting: and many a dream of barbaric
monarchs reposing on thrones of gold and emeralds, and canopied by
flowers and feathers,--of dusky armies deploying among green valleys and
on the borders of fair lakes,--and perhaps of themselves doing the work
of heroes among these mystic multitudes,--wandered through their
over-troubled fancies.

Such visions flitted over the brain of Amador, but mingled with others,
with which the past had more to do than the present; for, despite the
eager longing with which he looked forward to a meeting with his good
knight and kinsman, and, notwithstanding his impatient ardour to gaze
with his own eyes upon those scenes which were filling the minds of men
with wonder, he looked back from a sand-hill to the distant ships, and
sighed, as, in an instant of time, his soul was borne from them, over
the broad surges to the pleasant hills of Spain.

But with the view of the squadron vanished his memory and his
melancholy: the narrow belt of sand-hills along the coast had been
exchanged for the first zone of vegetation; the mimosa afforded its
shade; the breeze and the paroquet chattered together on its top; and
when he came, at last, to journey among the shadows of a forest rich in
magnificent and unknown trees and plants, with here a lagoon fringed
with stately ceibas (the cotton-wood trees of Mexico) and gigantic
canes, and there a water-course murmuring among palms and other tropical
trees, he gave himself up to a complacent rapture. He remarked with
satisfaction the bright plumage of water-fowl,--the egret, the pelican,
the heron, and sometimes the flamingo, sporting among the pools; gazed
with wonder after the little _picaflor_, or humming-bird, darting, like
a sunbeam, from flower to flower; with still greater admiration listened
to the song of the calandra and the cardinal, and to the magical
_centzontli_,--the hundred-tongued,--as it caught and repeated, as if
with a thousand voices, the thousand roundelays of other songsters
scattered among the boughs; and it was not until the notes of a
trumpet, swelling suddenly in the distance, invaded his reveries, that
he roused from the voluptuous intoxication of such a scene.

"It is the trumpet of the soldiers, señor!" cried the secretary,
joyously; "and it rejoices me much, for I know not how much longer I
could have followed their obscure tracks through this forest. And
besides, I find, as I must in honesty confess, I have in me so little of
the skill of a leader, that I would gladly submit to be led myself,
especially by your worship, though it were to follow you to battle as an
humble esquire."

"I must commend your spirit, señor Lorenzo Fabueno," (for so the
secretary had called himself,) "though I must needs believe your
inexperience in all matters of war might render such an attempt
exceedingly difficult, if not altogether impossible."

"Señor," said the secretary, eagerly, "I have the wish, and doubtless
the ability, in course of time, to learn all the duties, and to acquire
some of the skill, of a soldier; and under so noble a leader as your
favour, I am sure I should advance much faster than ever I did in the
learning of a clerk. And, in addition to the little service I might
render with my sword, I have such skill with the pen as might be of good
use to your honour."

"I have no certain assurance," said Amador, "that I shall have any
occasion to use my own sword; it is utterly beyond my imagination to
discover to what use I could put the inkhorn of a secretary; and
finally, I know not how the course of events in these deserts may
require me to add to the number of my associates. Nevertheless, señor
Lorenzo, if it be the wish of his excellency the admiral, that his
secretary should be transformed into a soldier, I see not how I can
refuse to give my assistance to the conversion."

"I know not why I should be dungeoned in a ship's cabin," said Lorenzo,
with a sort of petulance, "when other youths are roaming at liberty
among these brave hills; and gnawing a quill with disgust, when all my
old schoolmates are carving out reputation with more manly implements. I
am sure I was not born to slave forever at the desk."

"This may be all true, as, in my opinion, it is both natural and
reasonable," said Amador, with gravity; "for, it seems to me, man was
brought into the world for a nobler purpose than to scribble on paper.
Yet you have not made it apparent that the admiral's wishes are in this
matter consonant with your own."

"I know not that they are," replied the secretary, "but, as I now feel
myself at liberty, with both horse and sword, I cannot help feeling that
they ought to be. How I can ever have the heart to return to my bondage
again, is more than I can tell; and I am confident, if it were your
favour's desire he should grant me permission to follow you through this
land, he would make no opposition, the more particularly that your
favour is his kinsman."

"I doubt whether the consent would not be wrung from his courtesy; and I
cannot well agree to rob him of one who may be a valuable servant.
Neither, under such circumstances, can I think of encouraging you in
your ardour, or recommending you, at present, to change your pursuits,
for which you are better fitted than for mine. Nay," said the cavalier
good-naturedly, observing the chagrin of the youth, "if you are
resolutely bent on your purpose, it is my advice you make your petitions
to his excellency; and when he has granted them, as doubtless he will,
you can, with a free mind, seek the patronage of some cavalier engaged
in these armies of invasion.--Hark! the trumpet sounds louder and
nearer, and by my faith, I see on yonder rising ground the bodies of men
and the glimmer of weapons! Spur thy horse a little; (and, I pr'ythee,
fling thy shoulders a jot backwards, sitting erect and at ease; for I
promise thee, this manner of riding, as if thou wouldst presently be
hugging at thy nag's neck, is neither becoming nor advantageous;)--spur
me up a little, and we will join company with them."

The long and straggling train with which the travellers caught up, just
as it issued from the forest upon an open tract of low sandy hills and
plains, was composed of motley materials. A few mounted men, who, by
their armour and bustling activity, seemed the leaders and commanders,
were scattered among a horde of footmen, a portion of whom were armed
and ranked as a company of military, but the greater part being the
ordinary native labourers, who served the office of mules, and bore on
their backs the burdens of the invaders. Some five or six score of these
swarthy creatures, followed by a dozen Castilian crossbowmen and a
single horseman, brought up the rear. They stalked in a line one after
another, each bending to his burden; and in their uniformity of
equipment, gait, muscular figures, and solemn visages, added not a
little to the singularity of the spectacle. A narrow strip of some
vegetable texture, so rude and coarse that it seemed rather a mat than a
cloth, was wrapped round the loins of each, leaving their strong and
tawny bodies otherwise naked. No sandal protected their soles from the
heated soil; and no covering, save only the long and matted locks
swinging about their countenances, defended their heads from the
scorching sun. A huge basket of cane, the _petlacalli_, or _petaca_ of
the Spaniards, carelessly covered with matting, and evidently well
charged with military stores and provision, weighed upon the shoulders
of each, while it was connected by a broad strap to the forehead. Thus
burthened, however, and thus exposed to a temperature which, as the day
advanced, seemed, in the open plains, nearly intolerable to their
Christian companions, they strode on with a slow but vigorous step, each
bearing a knot of gay flowers or of brilliant feathers, wherewith he
defended his face from insects, and perhaps, occasionally, his eyes from
the dazzling reflection of the soil. These were the _Tlamémé_, or
carriers of Mexico.

The eye of Amador, though at first attracted by this singular train,
dwelt with more surprise and curiosity on the crossbowmen, who were
sweltering, in common with nearly every Christian of the party, under
the thick and uncouth investment of the _escaupil_, a sort of armour
which the invaders of Mexico had not disdained to borrow from their
despised enemies. This consisted of nothing more than garments of
woollen or cotton cloth, cut as much after the fashions of Spain as was
possible, quilted so thickly with cotton as to be able to resist the
arrow heads and lance-points of the Indians; which virtue, added to the
facility with which it could be obtained and adapted to every part of
the body, gave the escaupil a decided preference over the few pieces of
iron mail which the poverty of the combatants denied them the power of
extending to the whole frame. In truth, so common had become this
armour, that there were few among the cavaliers of the conquest, except
those leaders who despised so unknightly and so unsightly an attire, who
were provided with any other. Nevertheless many distinguished captains
concealed garments of this material under their iron armour; and the
common soldiers of Cortes, after long experience, had fallen upon the
plan of quilting it in pieces imitative of morions and breast-plates,
which were far from being uncouth or unwieldy. But its efficacy, though
strongly explained and urged by the secretary Fabueno, could not blind
Don Amador to its ungainliness, as seen in the fashions of raw recruits;
and even the solemn gravity of Baltasar was changed to a grin of
ineffable derision, and the good-humoured vivacity of Lazaro to a laugh
of contempt, when the secretary advised the cavalier to provide his
followers with such coats of mail.

"What thinkest thou, Lazaro, rogue?" said Don Amador, merrily. "Thou
wert but a bitter groaner over the only cut it was ever thy good hap to
meet: and that was by a fair and courteous pistol-shot, which hath
something of an oily way about it: whereas these infidel flints and
hard woods gash as painfully as an oyster-shell. What sayest thou? Shall
I give thee an escaupil, to save thee from new lamentation?"

"May your honour live a thousand years!" said the serving-man. "The
tortoise to his shell, the Turk to his turban: heaven never thrust a
hornet into the cocoon of a caterpillar, nor a lion into a sheep's skin.
Wherefore I will keep my sting and my claws free from the cotton bags;
the only merit of which is, that when a man is wounded in them, he has
lint ever ready at his fingers."

"For my part," said Baltasar, "I am, in this matter, much of Lazaro's
way of thinking. Howsoever, please your favour, when I see these
lubberly lumps fight more courageously than myself in my iron trifles, I
will straightway change my mind on the subject."

"Hold thy tongue, then," said the cavalier, "lest thou give offence to
some of these worthy cotton-coats, who have, in no manner, furnished
thee with cause for a quarrel."

The cavalier rode on, followed closely by his attendants, courteously
returning the salutations which were everywhere rendered to his apparent
rank and martial appearance by the Spanish portion of the train; though
not even the glitter of his mail, the proud tramp of his war-horse, nor
the stout appearance of his followers, drew a glance from the Tlamémé.
The dull apathy which the oppression of ages has flung over the spirits
of Mexicans at the present epoch, had already been instilled into the
hearts of this class of natives, which with some others, under the
prevalence of the common feudalism of barbarians, were little better
than bondmen. He rode slowly by them, admiring the sinewy bulk of their
limbs, and the ease with which they moved under their heavy burdens.

The van of the train was formed by a score of footmen, all arrayed in
the escaupil, and all, with the exception of some five or six, who bore
firelocks, armed with sword and spear. A cavalier of goodly presence,
and well mounted, rode at their head; and Amador, thinking he perceived
in him the tokens of gentle blood and manners, pressed forward to salute
him. The ringing of Fogoso's heels arrested the attention of the leader,
who, turning round and beholding the gallant array of the stranger,
instantly returned upon his path, and met him with many courteous
expressions. At the very moment of meeting, Amador's eye was attracted
by a figure, which, in making way for the steed of the leader, had
well-nigh been trodden under the hoofs of his own; and in which, when
removed from this peril, he instantly remarked the spare person and
haggard countenance of the Moor. Holding fast to the hand of the
Almogavar, and indeed, for an instant, while the danger lasted, wrapped
anxiously in his arms, was a boy, whose youth and terror might have won
a second notice, had not the salutation of the officer immediately
occupied his attention.

"The señor Amador de Leste," said he--"Thou varlet of an infidel, I will
strike thee with my lance!" (This menacing objurgation was addressed to
the Moor, at the moment when, most endangered, he wavered with his boy
between the horses.) "The señor Amador de Leste," he continued, as the
Moor, recovering himself, cowered away, "will not be surprised to find
his coming expected, and his presence welcomed, by the general Narvaez,
or by his excellency's humble friend and captain, Juan Salvatierra."

"Señor Salvatierra, I give you good thanks," replied Amador; "and
although I know not what avant-courier has proclaimed the approach of so
obscure an individual as myself, I will not, for that reason, receive
your courtesy less gratefully."

"I have with me here," said Salvatierra, with a stately condescension,
"several of your fellow-voyagers of the caravel; among whom it would
have been strange indeed if any had forgotten the name of so honourable
a companion."

"Those cavaliers of the caravel," said Amador, dryly, "who condescend to
claim me as a companion, do me thereby a greater honour than I am
desirous to do myself. Sly companions are, as you may see, my two
men-at-arms; to which we will at present add the young señor Fabueno,
whom, as the secretary of his excellency the admiral Cavallero, I am not
indisposed to acknowledge."

There was something in the tone of the haughty and even arrogant
neophyte, that might have nettled his new friend; but its only effect,
beside bringing a little colour upon his rather pallid cheeks, was to
rob his suavity of somewhat of its loftiness.

"It is for hidalgos and cavaliers of knightly orders," he said, "and not
for ignoble adventurers, to aspire to the fellowship of a valiant knight
of San Juan."

"I am no knight of San Juan," said Amador, "but a simple novice, who may
one day claim admission to the illustrious order (by right of birth,) or
not, as it may please the destinies and mine own humour. Nevertheless I
have much pleasure to speak of the order and its valiant brothers, at
every opportunity, and at the present moment I am moved to ask your
favour, as relying much on your knowledge, what tidings have been last
had of the good knight Calavar, an eminent branch of that most lordly,
though thunder-stricken, stock."

"Concerning the knight of Calavar," said Salvatierra blandly, "it is my
grief to assure you that his madness----"

"Call it his melancholy! or his humour!" said Amador, sternly; "and let
it be some mitigation to your surprise, if my correction sound like a
rebuke, to know that I am his kinsman."

Again did the colour mount into the cheeks of the cavalier, and again
did his courtesy, or his discretion, get the better of the impulse that
raised it.

"The kinsman of that valiant and renowned gentleman," he said politely,
"shall command me to any epithet he chooses. The señor De Leste will
doubtless lament to hear that his kinsman, with an eccentricity scarce
worthy his high birth and knightly dignity, still stoops to be the
follower of an inferior and rebel, the outcast and proclaimed outlaw,
Hernan Cortes."

"As far as my own judgment is concerned in this matter, señor
caballero," said Amador coolly, "I very much doubt whether I shall
lament that circumstance at all. The knight Calavar will not disparage
his dignity or his profession, by choosing to serve where a
little-minded man might covet to command. Such a condescension in him,
besides being a new proof of magnanimity and fidelity to his vows,
whereby he is sworn never to make peace with the infidel, is only an
evidence to me that the cavalier Cortes, whom you call a rebel and
outlaw, must be a man worthy of much more respectful appellations; as
indeed, methinks, your own reflections should show you must be the due
of any associate of the knight of Calavar."

The unaffected surprise, and even consternation, with which the follower
of Narvaez heard the neophyte thus speak of his leader's enemy, might
perhaps have urged Amador to the utterance of commendations still more
unequivocal, had not his eye at that moment been caught by the shadow on
the sand of a man striding nearer to the flanks of Fogoso than he had
supposed any footman to be. His own position was near the side of the
company of musketeers and spearmen mentioned before; his followers, not
being willing to obtrude upon the privacy of the cavaliers, had fallen a
little back; and the Morisco, as he took it for granted, was lagging
some distance behind. His surprise was therefore not a little excited,
when looking round, he beheld the Almogavar so close at his side as to
be able to overhear all that was said, and drinking his words with an
expression of the intensest interest.

"Son of a dog!" cried Salvatierra, who beheld him at the same time, and
who was not unwilling to vent some of the gall that Amador had raised
in his bosom, upon so legitimate an object,--"I will see if I cannot
teach thee how to thrust thyself among soldiers and hidalgos!"

"Softly, señor Caballero!" cried Amador, observing the captain raising
his lance; "strike not Abdalla; for I have it in my power to inform you,
that, although in some sense your prisoner, and, to the eye of a
stranger, a most helpless and wretched varlet, he has shown himself to
be possessed of a spirit so worthy of respect, that you will do yourself
foul shame to strike him."

The lance of the cavalier was turned away from the shrinking Moor.

"Don Amador de Leste shall command my weapon, whether it be to smite or
to spare," said Salvatierra, smothering the rage which every word and
action of the neophyte seemed fated to inspire, and advancing to the
head of the train.

"Hark'ee, Sidi Abdalla," continued Amador, beckoning complacently to the
retiring Morisco, "it is not in my nature to see indignity of any kind
heaped upon a man who hath not the power of vengeance, and especially a
man who hath in him the virtue of courage, without raising a hand in his
defence."

"My lord speaks the truth," said Abdoul, with a subdued voice; "the
Almogavar hath not the power of vengeance:--The strong man may strike
him, the proud may trample, and he cannot resist; the cavalier may wound
with the lance, the soldier may smite with the unthonged bow.--It is all
one;--his head is bare, his breast open, his hand empty:--he can neither
resist nor avenge."

"By St. John of Jerusalem," said the cavalier warmly, moved to a
stronger feeling for the friendless Morisco, "I remember, as was
confessed by that beast of a Canary captain, that when thine enemies
were on thy decks, and thy friends fled from thy side, (for which they
deserved to sink to the bottom, as they did;) thou hadst the courage to
discharge thy mangonneau into the victorious trader; for which reason
chiefly, but partly because thou hast avowed thyself a Christian
proselyte, I will take it upon me, as far as it may be in my power, to
be thy protector and champion."

"My lord is good," said the Moor, bending his head low on his breast;
"and in the day of my death I will not forget his benevolence. The
Almogavar was born to grief; trouble came at his first hour; his first
breath was the sigh of Granada, his first cry was mingled with the
groans of his enslaved people, his first look was on the tears of his
father. Sorrow came in youth, anguish in manhood, and misery is in the
footsteps of years. My lord is great and powerful; he protects me from
the blow of a spear.--He can save me from a grief that strikes deeper
than a thousand spears!"

"As I am a true gentleman and Christian," said Amador, "I will hold to
my word, to give thee protection and aid, as far as my power lies."

"The feeble boy that totters over these scorching sands!" said the Moor,
raising his eyes wistfully to the cavalier, and turning them for an
instant with a look of unspeakable wildness to his son.--The cavalier
looked back, in that momentary pause, and beheld the young Morisco. He
seemed a boy of not more than twelve years. The soldier judged only from
his stature, for a garment of escaupil of unusual thickness completely
invested and concealed his figure; while his face drooping, as if from
weariness, on his breast, was hidden by a cap slouching in disorder, and
by long ringlets that fell in childish profusion over his shoulders.

"The boy!" continued Abdalla, turning again to the neophyte, and raising
his clasped hands as if in supplication. "Is it fit his tender years
should be passed among the horrors of a camp? among the dangers of a
wild war? among the vices and contaminations of a brutal soldiery? If it
were possible,"--and here the voice of the Almogavar trembled with
eagerness;--"if it were possible that boy could be sent to
Granada,--nay, to Barbary,--anywhere, where, for his father's sake, he
should be granted a refuge and asylum; then might the curse be uttered,
the blow struck, and Abdoul, receiving it as the payment of his debt,
would not call upon his lord for vengeance."

"Thou heardest from the admiral," said Amador, "how impossible would be
the gratification of such a wish; since, even were he parted from this
shore, it rests with another, who, I can, upon mine own knowledge,
assure thee, is not likely to help him on his way, whether he shall not
waste his days among the planters of the islands; who, according to
common report, are not a whit less wild and debauched than their friends
here in Mexico."

"God is just!" cried the Moor, clasping his hands in despair.

"Nevertheless," continued Amador, "I will not fail to make thy petition,
backed with my own request, to the señor Narvaez; and at the worst, it
is not improbable some good cavalier may be found who will consent to
receive him as a page, and treat him with kindness."

"God is just!" reiterated the Moor, with a gloomy sorrow; "and the arrow
of the savage may save him from the wrong of the Christian."

"I tell thee again," said Amador, "I will not forget to do my best for
his welfare, at the first opportunity. But tell me, Abdalla"--The
Morisco was dropping behind: he returned.--"I had forgotten to ask thee
a question for which I first called thee. I was speaking to this
hot-tempered captain of the knight Calavar--By heaven! it was thus I saw
thine eyes sparkle before! Is there any magic in the name, that it
should move thee to such emotion?"

"The knight Calavar," said the Morisco, "was among the conquerors of the
Alpujarras; and how can I hear his name, and not bethink me of the black
day of my country? His name is in our Moorish ballads; and when the
orphan sings them, he mourns over the fate of his father."

"That the knight Calavar did good service among those rebellious
mountaineers, I can well believe," said the cavalier, hastily; "but that
he did not temper his valour with mercy, is an assertion which no man
can make to me with perfect safety. As to those ballads of which you
speak, I am not certain if they be not the invention of some devilish
magician, opposed to honourable war and glory; since it is their sole
purpose to keep one thinking of certain sorrowful particulars, that may
be a consequence of victory and conquest, such as tearful widows and
destitute orphans; and I must declare, for mine own part, such is the
mischievous tendency of these madrigals, that sometimes, after hearing
them, I have had my imagination so enchanted, as to look with disgust at
war, and almost to lament that I ever had struck at the life of a human
being. I shall like well to have thy boy sing to me; but, as I will tell
him beforehand, it must be of lovelorn knights, and of knights going to
battle, and never a word about widows and orphans."



CHAPTER VI.


At midday, the squadron, after having accomplished more than half the
journey, halted for rest and refreshment on the banks of a little river,
under the shade of pleasant trees. The Tlamémé threw down their bundles,
and, apart from the rest, betook themselves to their frugal meal. A
plaintain, a cake of maize, or a morsel of some of the nameless but
delicious fruits of the clime, perhaps growing at their side, prepared
them for the enjoyment of slumber; while the Spaniards, grouped among
the trees, added to this simple repast the more substantial luxury of
the _tasajo_, or jerked beef of the islands.

As for the cavalier De Leste, not having bethought him to give orders
for the preparation of such needful munitions, he was glad to accept the
invitation of the captain Salvatierra to share his meal; and this he did
the more readily, that, having entered into farther conversation with
the leader, after the affair of the lance, it was the good fortune of
this gentleman to stumble upon no more offensive topics. In addition to
this, he observed with great satisfaction, that Salvatierra, preserving
among his subalterns the stateliness which he had vailed to the
neophyte, did not mean to trouble him with their society; and it was
only at his express desire that the secretary Fabueno was admitted to
partake of their repast. The excellent taste of the worthy commander, or
perhaps the wisdom of his attendants, several of whom, both Christian
and pagan, being in constant waiting, gave him an appearance of great
rank and importance, had provided a stock of food, which, in variety and
quantity, might have satisfied the hunger of half the squadron. Here,
besides the heavenly anana, the grateful manioc, and other fruits and
roots with which the cavalier had become acquainted in the islands, he
was introduced to the royal chirimoya, the zapote, and other fruits as
new as they were delicious. But, above all these delights with which
Providence has so bountifully enriched the lands of Mexico, did Don
Amador admire the appearance of certain fowls, which, though neither
reeking nor smoking with their savoury juices, but drawn cold from their
covering of green leaves, were of so agreeable a character as to fill
his mind with transport.

"Either this land is the very paradise of earth," said he, "or, señor
Salvatierra, you have the most goodly purveyors among your household,
that ever loaded the table of man. I will be much beholden to your
favour to know the name of this fowl I am eating, which, from its bulk,
one might esteem a goose, but which, I am sure, is no such contemptible
creature."

"That," said the leader, "is a sort of great pheasant, the name of which
I have not yet schooled my organs to pronounce, but which, being taken
among the hills and trained in the cottages of the Indians, becomes as
familiar and loving as a dog; and is therefore always ready when its
master is hungry."

"By my life, then!" said Amador, "I am loath to eat it; for it seems to
me, the creature that loves us is more worthy to be consecrated in the
heart, than immolated to the cravings of the stomach. I will therefore
desire to know something of that other featherless monster at your
elbow, previous to determining upon its fitness for mastification."

"Your favour need entertain no scruples about this bird," said the
captain; "for although domesticated, and kept by the Indians about their
houses in great flocks, it hath too much affection for itself to trouble
itself much about its masters. It is a kind of peacock, and without
possessing any of the resplendent beauty of that animal, it is endowed
with all its vanity and pride; so that, when strutting about with its
shaven head and long-gobbeted beard, its feathers ruffled in a majestic
self-conceit, our soldiers have sometimes, for want of a better name,
called it _el Turco_."

"A better name could not have been invented," said the neophyte; "for if
it be true, as is sometimes asserted by those who know better than
myself, that heretics and infidels are the food of the devil, I know no
morsel should be more agreeable to his appetite than one of those same
pagans that give name to this foolish and savoury creature."

The thoughts of Amador, as he sat testing the merits of the noble fowl,
which is one among the many blessings America, in after days, scattered
over the whole world, wandered from Mexico to Rhodes, from the peaceful
enjoyment of his dinner to the uproar and horror of a siege, from a dead
fowl to the turbaned Turk; and then, by a similar vagary, jumped at
once from the magnificent infidel to the poor Morisco who had lately
trod the desert at his side. As the image of Abdoul al Sidi entered his
brain, he looked round and beheld the proselyte sitting with his boy in
the shadow of a palm, remote from the rest; and a pang smote him, as he
perceived, that, among the scores who sat glutting their appetites
around, not one had dropped a morsel of food into the hands of the
Almogavar or his child.

"Hark'ee, Lazaro, thou gluttonous villain!" he cried, with a voice that
instantly brought the follower, staring, to his side; "dost thou feed
like a pelican, and yet refuse to share thy meal, as a pelican would,
with a helpless fellow of thy race? Take me this lump of a Turk to Sidi
Abdalla, and bid him feed his boy."

"I will suggest to your favour," said the captain Salvatierra, with a
grin, "that Lazaro be directed to bring the urchin hither, with his
lute, of which it is said he is no mean master; and before he eats he
shall sing us a song, which, thus, he will doubtless execute with more
perfection than after he has gorged himself into stupidity or the
asthma."

"I agree to that, with all my heart," said the neophyte. "The boy can
sing while we are eating, provided the poor fellow be not too hungry."

Lazaro strode to the Moriscos; and in an instant, as they rose, Amador
beheld the Sidi take the instrument from his own back where he had
carried it, and put it into the hands of his offspring. The boy received
it, and, as Amador thought, removed the gay covering, with a faltering
hand. Nevertheless, in a few moments, this preparation was accomplished,
and, with Abdalla, the stripling stood trembling from weariness or
timidity at the side of the group.

"Moor," said Salvatierra, before Amador had commenced his benevolent
greeting, "the noble and valiant cavalier hath charitably commanded thou
shouldst eat thy dinner at our feet; which whilst thou art doing, we
will expect thy lad to entertain us with such sample of his skill in
luting and singing as may make our own repast more agreeable."

"That is, if the boy be not too hungry," said the good-natured neophyte.
"I should blush to owe my pleasures to any torments of his own, however
slight; and (as I know by some little famine wherewith we were afflicted
at Rhodes,) there is no more intolerable anguish with which one can be
cursed, than this same unhumoured appetite."

"Jacinto will sing to my lord," said the Almogavar submissively.

But Jacinto was seized with such a fit of trembling, as seemed for a
time to leave him incapable; and when, at last, he had sufficiently
subdued his terror, to begin tuning his instrument, he did it with so
slow and so hesitating a hand, that Salvatierra lost patience, and
reproved him harshly and violently.

It happened, unluckily for the young Moor, that, at that moment, the eye
of Amador wandered to Fogoso, and beheld him wallowing, with more of the
spirit of a yeoman's hog than a warrior's charger, in a certain miry
spot near to which he had been suffered to crop the green leaves. He
called hastily and wrathfully to Lazaro, and, in his indignation,
entirely lost sight of his dinner, his host, and the musician.

"Whelp of a heathen!" said Salvatierra to the shrinking lad: "hast thou
no more skill or manners, but to make this accursed jangling, to which
there seems no end? Bestir thyself, or I will teach thee activity."

The boy, frightened at the violence of the soldier, rose to his feet,
and dropping his instrument in alarm clung to Abdalla. The wrath of the
hot-tempered Salvatierra exceeded the bounds of decorum and of humanity.
He had a twig in his hand, and with this he raised his arm to strike the
unfortunate urchin. But just then the neophyte turned round, and beheld
the act of tyranny.

"Señor!" he cried, with a voice even more harsh and angry than his own,
and seizing the uplifted hand with no ceremonious grasp,--"Señor! you
will not so far forget your manhood as to do violence to the child? Know
that I have taken him, for this journey, into my protection; know also,
thou canst not inflict a stripe upon his feeble body, that will not
degrade thee into the baseness of a hind, and that will not especially
draw upon thee the inconvenience of mine own displeasure!"

The heart of Salvatierra sunk before the flaming countenance of the
cavalier: but observing that several of his nearest followers had taken
note of the insult, and were grasping their arms, as if to avenge it, he
said with an air of firmness,

"The señor De Leste has twice or thrice taken occasion to requite my
courtesies with such shame as is hard to be borne, and in particular by
interfering with the just exercise of my authority; and I have to assure
him, that when the duties of my office shall release me from restraint,
his injuries shall not be unremembered."

"If thou art a hidalgo," said the cavalier sternly, "thou hast the right
to command me; if of ignoble blood, as from thy deportment to this
trembling child, I am constrained to believe, I have, nevertheless,
eaten of thy bread and salt, and cannot refuse to meet thee with such
weapons and in such way as thou mayest desire; and to this obligation do
I hold myself bound and fettered."

Some half-dozen followers of the captain had crowded round their leader,
and were lowering ominously and menacingly on the neophyte. Lazaro and
Baltasar beheld the jeopardy of their master, and silently but
resolutely placed themselves at his side; nay, even the youthful
Fabueno, though seemingly bewildered, as if doubting on which side to
array himself, had snatched up his bloodless sabre; and it seemed for an
instant as if this unlucky rupture might end in blows. The señor
Salvatierra looked from his followers to the angry hidalgo; the flush
faded from his cheek; and it was remarked by some of his soldiers, not a
little to his dispraise, that when, as if conquering his passion, he
motioned them to retire, it was with a hurried hand and tremulous lip.

"The señor de Leste is right," he said, with a disturbed voice; "I
should have done myself dishonour to harm the boy; and although the
reproof was none of the most gentle and honeyed, I can still thank him
that it preserved me from the shame of giving too much rein to my
ill-temper. I therefore forget the injury, as one that was merited,
discharge my anger as causeless, and desiring rather to devote my blood
to the subjugation of pagans, than to squander it in contest with a
fellow-Christian, offer the hand of reconciliation and of friendship to
Don Amador de Leste."

There was an appearance of magnanimity in this confession of fault and
offer of composition, that won upon the good opinion of the neophyte;
and he frankly gave his hand to the captain. Then turning to the
innocent cause of his trouble, who, during the time that there seemed
danger of a conflict, had exhibited the greatest dismay, he found him
sobbing bitterly in the arms of Abdalla.

"Poor child!" said the benevolent cavalier, "thou art fitter to touch
thy lute in the bower of a lady, than to wake it among these wild and
troubled deserts. It is enough, Abdalla: conduct thy son to some shade,
where he may eat and sleep; and when we renew our march, I will think of
some device to spare his tender feet the pain of trudging longer over
the sands."

The Moor laid his hand on his heart, bowed with the deepest submission
and gratitude, and led the boy away to a covert.



CHAPTER VII.


"Didst thou observe, brother henchman," said Lazaro, as, after having
completed his meal, and taken good note of the tethers of the horses, he
threw himself on the ground by the side of Baltasar, as if to imitate
the other members of the party, who were making what preparations they
could for the indulgence of the siesta,--"Didst thou observe, I say, old
sinner, that, this moment, we were like to have made experience of the
virtue of cotton corslets? By my faith, this gentle master mine will not
suffer our hands to be idle, so long as there be savages to curse the
faith, or hidalgos to cross his humours. I am ever bound to the
magnanimous señor commander, that he thought fit to swallow his wrath,
and send me those black-browed vagabonds back to their dinner: for
otherwise, I assure thee, there was much fear of our supping in
purgatory."

"For my part," said Baltasar, raising his head from the saddle, which
served him for a pillow, and looking curiously round on the various
groups, "I am of opinion, there was more discretion than dignity about
that same captain, when he became so moderate of a sudden; for so sure
as he was very foolish to get into a quarrel with the boy Amador, who, I
am free to say, is no way unworthy to be a kinsman and esquire of my
master the knight, so surely would the boy have dinged the feathers off
his gilt casque with the first blow; and how much of his head might have
followed the feathers, is more than I will take upon me to determine."

"Thou art so hungry after war," said Lazaro, "thou canst not perceive
the valour of foregoing an opportunity of battle now and then. Hast thou
never seen a man turn pale from anger, as well as cowardice?"

"Of a truth, I have," said the veteran; "and, provided there be a steady
countenance along with it, this sickly hue is ever a sight to be dreaded
more than the woman's blush, which some men fall into in their anger.
But a coward's mouth is always playing him dog's tricks: I have
sometimes seen the nether lip shake in a brave man; but when the
trembling is all up in the corners, as I have learned to know, after
divers lessons, it is a sign the heart is in a flutter. There are
doubtless certain strings, whereby the heart is fastened to the mouth;
and it is when the corners are writhing about in this cowardly snaky
manner, that the heart is drawn up further than is comfortable; a thing,
as I have no doubt, may have sometimes happened to yourself."

"If it have, may I become a Turk's slave!" said Lazaro, with great
indignation; "and if it do, I hope it may be transformed, at that
moment, from my own mouth to a dog's, to be made a dinner of!"

"Thou art an ass to be in a passion, at any rate," said Baltasar,
coolly, "and a very improbable idiot, to deny, in thy vain-glory, what
has happened to braver men than thyself; and, which I am free to
confess, has sometimes chanced to myself, especially in my youth, when I
first went to fight the Moors; and, I very well remember, that besides
perceiving there was a sort of emptiness under my ribs, on such
occasions, I could feel my heart beating at the back of my throat as
plainly as I ever felt the arrow-heads tapping about my buckler. But it
always went to its place again, when we were come to close quarters."

"May I die of the bastinado, if I ever felt any such thing!" said
Lazaro, proudly. "I was born without any such gaingiving; and the only
uncomfortable feeling I have had, under such circumstances, was a sort
of cold creeping about the stomach, as if it were raining inside of me."

"Or as if there was a cold air brewing in your gizzard!" said Baltasar,
triumphantly. "That is the very same thing,--the emptiness, I was
talking about; and if you never felt the beating in your throat, it was
because your heart was in such a fit of fright as to have no power of
beating left."

"Ay! that may be," said Lazaro, with a grin: "that beating is a business
I keep for my arm, and when that is in service, my heart is ever wise
enough to be quiet. But concerning the captain,--Dost thou really esteem
him a coward?"

"Who knows?" said the veteran. "A man may be once in fear, and
strong-hearted ever after. Yet was there such a working about that
cavalier's mouth, as made me think he longed to strike Don Amador, if he
durst, and which still persuades he has some bitter thoughts about the
matter of the insult: for, as you may remember, Don Amador said he was
more of a hind than a hidalgo, with other such loving remarks as might
stir a man's choler. For this reason, I am of opinion it will be good
service of thee to thy master, to keep thine eyes open while he is
taking his siesta, lest, mayhap, some mischief might come to him
sleeping."

"I am ever bound to your good-natured discretion," said Lazaro, with a
laugh. "I have no doubt it would be more profitable to sit for an hour
or two, watching the sunbeams stealing through the wood, than, for the
same time, to slumber and snore, without any other amusement than an
occasional buffeting of one's nose, to keep the flies off. I will
therefore surrender this agreeable privilege to thyself, as being my
senior and better; while I nap a little, and that so lightly, that if an
emmet do but creep near my master, I shall hear the rustling of his
footsteps. But hark'ee, Baltasar: there is much wit about thee, for an
old man that has endured so many hard knocks; and ever, about once in an
hundred times, I have found thy conjectures to be very reasonable. What
is thy opinion concerning those infidel Moors under the bush yonder? and
by what sort of magic dost thou suppose they have so wrought upon our
commander, that he will neither suffer lance-shaft nor cane-twig to be
laid upon them?"

"Ay, there they are!" said Baltasar, looking towards the father and son.
"The boy lies with his head on Abdalla's knee, and Abdalla covers him
with his skin mantle; and the mantle shakes, as if the boy were sobbing
under it.--It is my opinion, the lad has been used to milder treatment
than he seems likely to meet in these parts, unless Don Amador should
see fit to take him into his own keeping; and it is also my opinion, if
he be so much affected at the sight of a green twig, he will go nigh to
die of terror at the flash of a savage's sword."

"That is an opinion I have, in part, formed for myself," said the junior
coolly: "and one that I think is shared in common with every other
person in this quilted company, that has looked in the manikin's face."

"It is as white," said Baltasar, "as that mountain top we saw from the
caravel; whereas the children of common Moriscos are much the hue of my
own weather-beaten boots."

"The boy was in a most pestilent fright," said Lazaro, "and therefore
somewhat more snowy than was natural; nevertheless, I have seen darker
skins among the damsels of La Mancha."

"And he is, in a manner, well figured and comely," said the veteran.

"If thou hadst said he was such a Ganymede as might hold the wine-cup
and trencher to a princess, I should have thought better of thine
eye-sight. By cross and spear! he has such eyes as I shall be glad to
find in any wench I may be predestined to marry."

"And his hand," said Baltasar, "is as small as a hidalgo's son's. He
hath an amiable countenance, and such gravity in it, when not disturbed,
as belongs to older years; and he ever keeps it bent to the earth, as if
to shun observation."

"Ay; I see what thou art driving at," said Lazaro, significantly. "Thou
thinkest Sidi Abdalla is some infidel prince of Granada--a Zegri or
Abencerrage--"

"I think no such thing," said Baltasar, gruffly. "I have fought, myself,
hand to hand, with a Zegri, while my young lord Gabriel was cleaving the
head of another; to which knightly and majestic infidels the wretch Sidi
bears such resemblance as, in comparison, doth the hedge-hog to a
leopard."

"Thou art of opinion then, doubtless," said Lazaro, "that the boy
Jacinto is some Christian nobleman's son, stolen in his infancy by Sidi,
to be made a sacrifice to the devil?"

"I am no such ass," said Baltasar, "to entertain any such notion."

"A bird's flight by his feather, a beast's rage by his claw, and a man's
thoughts by his tongue," said Lazaro; "but how I am to judge thee, is
more than I know. What a-God's name, dost thou think then of these
Christian heathens?"

"I think nothing at all," said Baltasar, dryly: "I only wonder by what
chance a Morisco boor came to have so tender and so handsome a boy."

"Well, heaven be with thee, old oracle," said Lazaro, laying his head on
his saddle: "If I should resolve thy wonder in my dreams, I will
enlighten thee when I wake."

The veteran gave a look to the horses,--to his master, who, by the
attentions of the captain Salvatierra, had been enabled to enjoy the
luxury of a hammock, slung between two trees,--to the Moor, who sat
watching over his child,--to the Tlamémé, who slumbered by their
packs,--to the Spaniards, who slept, as they had eaten, in groups,--to
the few sentinels who stood nodding under the trees,--and then,
dismissing all care, as if satisfied with the security of the motley
encampment, he was not slow to follow the example of his companion.



CHAPTER VIII.


Two or three hours before sunset, the sleepers were roused to renew
their march. Horses were saddled and armour buckled, and Don Amador de
Leste mounted his steed with great satisfaction at the thought of still
further diminishing the distance that separated him from his knight. As
the train began to ford the rivulet, he turned round and beckoned to
Abdoul, who, with Jacinto, had taken the station assigned them behind
the musketeers.

"Sidi Abdalla," said he, "I have thought it a great shame that thy weary
boy should trudge over these sands afoot, when such men as myself and my
people are resting our lazy limbs on horseback. I have therefore given
order to my soldier, Lazaro, to take the youth behind him; whereby much
discomfort and suffering may be avoided."

"My lord will scorn the thanks of the poor Morisco," said Abdoul,
humbly. "Sleep, and the food which it pleased my noble lord to give to
the boy, have so refreshed his strength and his spirits, that now, in
the pleasant evening air, he will journey without pain, as he has often,
of yore, in the deserts of Barbary. And let not my lord be displeased to
know, that Jacinto will be of better heart at the side of his father,
than on the saddle of my lord's servant."

"If it be as thou sayest," said the cavalier, "I am content. Heaven
forbid I should take him from thee, but for his good; which, doubtless,
thou must know better how to compass than myself. Yet if he should at
any time grow weary, make me acquainted with it, and Lazaro shall be
still prepared to give him relief."

The Moor bent his head to the ground, and fell back; while Amador,
followed by his attendants and the secretary, rode to the head of the
train.

No occurrence of moment interrupted the monotony of the journey, until a
thunderstorm, accompanied by rain, drove them for shelter into a
forest, where their march was interrupted for a time. But with a
capriciousness equal to the fury with which they had gathered, the
clouds parted and vanished in the sunbeams; the earth was gladdened; the
trees shook the liquid treasure from their leaves; a breeze came from
the distant surges; and, resuming their path, the train and cavalcade
went on their way rejoicing.

As they advanced, and as the day declined, the country assumed a more
agreeable aspect; the woods were thicker and more luxuriant; the
mountains approached nearer to the sea, and the streams gambolled among
piles of rocks, instead of creeping sluggishly through the sands; the
flowers were more abundant, and the birds, resuming their songs,
prepared their vespers for the sinking luminary. At last he set: the
curlew wheeled his last flight; the plover sent his last whistle, from
the air; and the stars, stealing out from the dusky arch, shed their
celestial lustre over the path of the travellers. With these lamps of
heaven, were also lit the torches of the cucujos,--those phosphorescent
beetles, with which Don Amador had been made acquainted in the islands.
But he did not the less admire the splendour of the spectacle, when he
saw these resplendent insects glistening among the trees, or flashing by
him like little meteors. The moon rose from the sea; and as her mellow
radiance streamed over the tree tops, or sheeted itself on the sands,
and as a thousand delicious scents came to the nostrils of the soldier,
he thought he had never before, not even when watching the same planet
in the calm bosom of the Levantine sea, looked upon a scene of more
beautiful repose. The commander of the squadron had not, since the
affair of the dinner, thought fit, frequently, to trouble Don Amador
with his presence; but by the murmurs of satisfaction and curiosity
which were breathed about him, the cavalier knew he was approaching the
Indian city Zempoala. The party issued from the wood upon what seemed a
fair waving plain, dotted, in certain places, with clumps of trees, and
doubtless, in other spots, enriched with plantations of maize and
bananas. In the distance, from a dark and shadowy mass, which might have
been a lofty grove or a low hillock, and whose gloom was alike broken by
the glare of insects and the flash of many flambeaux, arose three lofty
towers, square and white, and glittering in the moonbeams as if covered
over with plates of silver.

"Zempoala!" whispered an hundred voices, as these gleaming fabrics came
fairly into view. The languid horseman raised himself on his saddle; the
foot-soldier strode onwards with a firmer and quicker step; and at each
moment, as the three towers reflected the moonbeams with increasing
brilliancy, more torches flickered and more structures were seen shining
among the trees; and it was evident to Don Amador that he was
approaching a city or town of no little magnitude.

The secretary had pressed to his side, and overhearing his exclamations
of surprise, took the liberty of addressing him.

"Señor," he cried, "they say this pagan city is bigger and lovelier than
Seville. I have often before heard of the Silver Towers; for truly, when
the men of Cortes first saw them, they thought they were built of blocks
of plate, and rode forward to hack away some samples with their swords;
whereupon, to their great shame and disappointment, they discovered the
brilliance to be owing to a certain white and polished plaster, with
which these barbarians have the art to beautify their temples."

"Are these then the sanctuaries of the fiend?" said the neophyte,
raising himself, and surveying the structures with a frown of infinite
hostility: "It drives me to little esteem, to know that the señor
Narvaez and his companions should rest in sight of these accursed
places, without hurling them to the dust."

"They are no longer the houses of devils," said Lorenzo: "Cortes, the
great rebel, tore the idols from their altars, and putting an image of
Our Blessed Lady in their place, consecrated them forthwith to the
service of God."

"I hear nothing of Cortes, that does not convince me he is a truly noble
and faithful cavalier," said Amador, with emphasis.

"There can be no doubt of that," said the secretary; "nevertheless, if I
may presume to advise your favour, I would beseech you not to mention
the name of Cortes among these men of Narvaez; or at least, not with the
respect which you may think his due."

"Dost thou know," said Amador, addressing Fabueno so sternly, as to
cause him instantly to repent his presumption: "dost thou know, that
what thou art saying is of so base and boorish a spirit, that, if it be
the true prompting of thy heart, thou art utterly unworthy to take upon
thee the arms, as thou art wholly incapable of winning the fame, of a
soldier? Know thou, for it is good thou shouldst be told, that all
hypocrisy is the offspring of cowardice, and is therefore impossible to
be practised by a brave man: know also, that when thou art deceiving
man, thou art lying to God, which is an impiety not to be thought of by
an honest man: and know, in conclusion, that when thou art called upon
for thy opinion, if thou givest not that which is in thy heart, thou art
guilty of that hypocrisy which is cowardice, and that deceit which is
perjury."

"I beg your worship's pardon," said Lorenzo, abashed and confounded, and
somewhat bewildered by the chivalrous and fantastic system of honour
disclosed in the reproof of the cavalier. "I meant only to let your
favour know, that there could be no travelling beyond this Indian city,
without the good will of Narvaez and his officers, which might not be
gained by commending their enemy. And moreover, señor, if you will
suffer me to justify myself,--while I confess it would be both cowardly
and impious, as your worship says, to conceal or alter a sentiment, when
it is called for, yet was I thinking it could be in no wise
dishonourable to retain in our own mind opinions _not_ called for,
particularly when they might be disagreeable to those upon whom they
were thus, as I may say, forced."

"By my faith, thou art, in a measure, very right," said Amador, "and I
hereby recall any expressions which may have reflected on thy courage or
thy religion; for, I perceive, thou wert only touching upon the
obligation all men are under not to force their opinions upon others; an
obligation of which I am myself so sensible, that, provided I am not
called upon by the questions of these people, or the enforcements of
mine own honour, I shall surely utter nothing to displease them. But
canst thou tell me, señor secretario, how far from this town lies the
commander, of whom we were speaking?"

"I have heard, only at the distance of two or three leagues," replied
Fabueno; "but I should think, considering the wisdom of Cortes, he would
be fain to increase that distance, as soon as he came to know the
strength of Narvaez. Your favour may see, by the many torches glimmering
through the streets, and the many voices that go chanting up and down,
that there is a goodly multitude with him."

"I see, by the same tokens," said Amador, "he has a set of riotous,
disorderly vagabonds, who seem to think they are keeping carnival in
Christendom, rather than defending a camp among infidels: and, by St.
John, I know not any very good reason, why the valiant Cortes might not,
this instant, with his knot of brave men, steal upon the town, and
snatch it out of the hands of the Biscayan. There is, neither out-post
in the field, nor sentinel in the suburbs!"

There seemed some grounds for this notion of the cavalier. As he
approached nearer to Zempoala, there was audible a concert of sounds
such as one would not have looked for in the camp of a good general. A
great fire had been lit, as it appeared, among the Silver Towers, the
ruddy reflection of which, mingled with the purer light of the moon,
had given them so shining an appearance, even at a distance. In this
neighbourhood, as Amador judged by the direction and variety of cries,
was the chief place of the revellers; though in divers quarters of the
town might be heard the voices, and sometimes the musical instruments,
of idle soldiers, struggling in rivalry with the ruder songs and harsher
instruments of the natives. Besides the bonfires among the temples,
there was another in the quarter of the town which the train was just
entering, and apparently upon the very street which they were to pass.
The cavalier had, however, underrated the vigilance of the sentinels;
for, just as he had concluded his denunciation, the trumpet with which
Salvatierra announced his approach to his companions, was answered by a
flourish from the fire; and there was straightway seen a group of armed
men advancing to challenge the party. In fact, an out-post was stationed
at the fire; the worthy warriors of which, in the absence of any
important duties, had got together the means of amusement in the persons
of certain Indian tumblers and merry-andrews, who were diverting them
with feats of agility. Besides these tawny sons of joyance, there were
others of the same race, whose business it was to add to the pleasures
of the entertainment the din of the musical instruments common to
barbarians; only, as it seemed to Amador, that if there was nothing
superior in the tone or management of these which he now heard, they had
an advantage, over those of the islanders, in being wrought with greater
skill and ornamented with a more refined taste. Thus, of the little
drums which were suspended to the necks of the musicians, and which were
at least equal in sound to the labours of Europe, some were carved and
painted in a very gay manner; while the flutes of cane, though not less
monotonous than the pipes of other savages, had about them an air of
elegance, from being furnished with pendants of rich flowers, or
beautiful feathers.

As Amador rode by, his attention was in a measure diverted from the
tumblers by the agitation of Fogoso, who regarded neither the great fire
nor the wild looking artists with friendship; and when, having subdued
his alarm, he turned to gratify his wonder, his eye was caught by the
appearance of the Moor, who had stolen to his side, and now stood with a
countenance even more disturbed than when shrinking from the blow of
Salvatierra, and with hands upraised and clasped, as if to beseech his
notice.

"My lord is benevolent to the friendless, and pitiful to the orphan," he
cried anxiously, as soon as he perceived that Amador regarded him; "he
has been the champion of the father, and the protector of the son; and
when the heart's blood of Abdoul can requite his benefactor, Abdoul will
not deny it."

"Good Sidi," said Amador, "that I have protected both yourself and your
son Jacinto, from unjust violence, is more than can be denied; but why
it is needful to thank me so many times for the favour, is more than I
can easily understand. I must therefore command you to find some more
novel subject for conversation."

"My lord is a knight of Rhodes," said Abdalla quickly, "and therefore by
vow bound to charity, justice, pity, and all the other good virtues
acknowledged as well by infidels as Christians?"

"I am no knight; a novice of the order I may be called," said Amador,
"but no knight; though," he added with a most dolorous sigh, "how soon I
may take the vows after returning from the lands of Mexico, is more than
I can pronounce. I have therefore not bound myself by oath to any of
those virtues of which you spoke; but had you been born of a nobler
blood than I can account that of the lord of Fez, you should have known,
that, being a gentleman and a Christian, I cannot release myself from
any of their natural obligations."

"For myself," said Abdalla, "though insult and danger will come to me
among these riotous soldiers, who are the enemies of my race, and these
barbarians, who are surely the enemies of all, I can submit to my
griefs; but Jacinto needs the arm of power to protect him. If my lord
will take him to be his servant, he will be merciful to misfortune; the
prayers of gratitude will ascend to heaven; and the love of a faithful
boy will watch ever at his side like the vigilance of an armed
follower."

"Art thou content the boy should be parted from thee?" demanded Amador.
"I know not how, among these strange lands and unknown wildernesses, I
may be able to take that care of his tender years which should be the
duty of a good master; nor, to tell thee the truth, do I know in what
manner I can make use of his services----"

"Let not my lord despise his skill," said the Almogavar, "because his
fright and weariness palsied his hand, when he should have played before
him. He hath good skill with the lute, and he has in his memory a
thousand redondillas, with which he may divert the leisure of my lord.
Besides this skill, he hath a fidelity which nothing can corrupt, and a
loving heart which, once gained by kindness, no temptation can lure from
his master: and in these qualities will I vouch for him with my head. I
know not in truth," continued Abdalla, faltering, "since he has never
before served a master, if he have any other qualifications. But he is
quick to acquire, and perhaps--perhaps, he may soon learn to preserve
the armour of my lord--yes, he will soon make himself useful to my
lord."

"The cleaning of my armour," said Amador, in a very matter-of-fact
manner, "is a duty which belongs particularly to Lazaro; whose fidelity,
as well as that of Baltasar, is of so unquestionable a character, that
it fully meets all the exigencies of my course of life. I would
therefore receive thy son chiefly out of a hope to be comforted, at
times, with his music; and partly out of pity for his forlornness. He
will doubtless serve me as a page and cup-bearer; in which capacity,
promising to give him as much protection and kindness as may be in my
power, I consent to receive him."

"And my lord will permit that I shall often see him?" said Abdoul,
eagerly.

"Surely I must desire thou shouldst," said Amador, "if it were possible
thou couldst be in the same army."

Abdalla looked at the cavalier with a bewildered and confused
countenance, as if not understanding him.

"I must acquaint thee, good Sidi," said Amador, "with one fact, of which
thou seemest ignorant, and which may wholly change thy desires in this
matter. Thy destination is to this town of Zempoala, and mine to the
very far city Tenochtitlan; thy fate is to submit thee into the hands of
the general Narvaez, as thou hast heard, to serve him as a cannonier,
while mine is to betake myself to the general Cortes, his sworn and most
indomitable enemy. Thou mayest therefore inquire of thyself, if thy boy
go with me, whether thou wilt ever again look upon him; a question that
I cannot myself answer in a satisfactory manner. Make thy election,
therefore, whether thou wilt keep him at thy side, or entrust him to my
guardianship; being assured, that if the latter be thy desire, I will
bid thee call him, and straightway take him into my keeping."

"It cannot be!" said Abdalla, vehemently;--"I cannot trust him from my
sight: it cannot be! God is just; and justice may come with misery!"

Thus lamenting, Abdoul al Sidi retired from the side of the cavalier;
and Amador, whose pity was not a little touched, suffered his image to
be crowded from his mind by the new and strange spectacles which were
now opening upon him.



CHAPTER IX.


While he still talked with the Morisco, Don Amador was able to cast his
eyes about him, and to perceive on either side a great multitude of low
houses of wickered cane, which seemed to him more to resemble gigantic
baskets than the habitations of men; but which, even in these latter
days, are found sufficient to protect the humble aborigines from the
vicissitudes of that benignant clime. Each stood by itself in an
enclosure of shrubs and flowers, and where it happened that the inmates
were within, with torches or fires burning, the blaze, streaming through
the wattled walls, illuminated every thing around, and disclosed the
figures of the habitants moving about like shadows in the flame. Other
buildings, equally humble in size, were constructed of less remarkable
but not less romantic materials; and where the moonbeams fell over their
earthen walls and palmy roofs, both were often concealed by such a
drapery of vines and creeping flowers, perhaps the odoriferous vanilla
and the beautiful convolvulus, as might have satisfied the longings of a
wood-nymph. As he approached nearer to the centre of the town, these
lowly and lovely cottages were exchanged for fabrics of stone, many of
them of considerable size, and several with walls covered with the
bright and silvery plaster which ornamented the temples. Each of these,
the dwellings of the _Tlatoani_, or, as the Spaniards called them, in
the language of Santo Domingo, the _Caciques_ of the city,--stood alone
in its garden of flowers, with vines trailing, and palm-trees bending
over its roof, commonly in darkness, though sometimes the myrtle-taper
of a fair Totonac, (for such was the name of this provincial people of
the coast,) or the oily cresset of a Spanish captain, who had made his
quarters wherever was a house to his fancy, might be seen gleaming from
behind the curtains of cotton stuff, which were hung at the doors and
windows. These sights had been seen by Amador, while yet engaged in
conversation with Abdalla; but when the Morisco dropped sorrowfully
away, he found himself on the great square of the city, immediately
fronting the sanctuaries, and gazing upon a scene of peculiarly wild and
novel character. The centre of the square was occupied by a broad, and
indeed a vast platform of earth, raised to a height of eight or ten
feet, ascended from all sides by half as many steps,--having the
appearance of a low truncated pyramid, serving as a base to the three
towers which crowned it. Upon its summit or terrace, immediately in
advance of the towers, was kindled a great fire, the blaze of which,
besides illuminating the temple itself and all the buildings which
surrounded the square, fell upon sundry groups of Indian tumblers,
engaged in feats of activity, as well as upon a host of cavaliers who
surveyed them close at hand, and many throngs of common soldiers and
natives who looked on at a distance from the square.

Here the detachment was halted; the burthens of the Tlamémé were
deposited on the earth; the horses were freed from their packs; and
Amador, at the suggestion of Salvatierra, dismounted, and leaving Fogoso
to the care of his attendants, and these again to the disposition of the
captain, ascended the pyramid, followed by the secretary. He was
somewhat surprised, when this worthy commander, whom he looked for to
conduct him to the general, resuming much of the stately dignity he had
found it inconvenient to support on the march, made him a low bow, and
informed him with much gravity he would find the commander-in-chief
either on the terrace among his officers, or at his head-quarters in the
middle tower. The feeling of indignation which for a moment beset him,
would have been expressed, had not Salvatierra with another bow retired,
and had he not perceived, at the same moment, the young Fabueno draw
from his girdle the letter which was doubtless to secure him the
good-will of Narvaez. Checking therefore his anger, he straightway
ascended the platform. Arrived at its summit, he now beheld the scene
which he had imperfectly witnessed from below. The great fire, crackling
and roaring, added the ruddy glare of a volcano to the pallid
illumination of the moon; and in the combined light, the operations of
the gymnasts and dancers, the athletes and jugglers, were as visible as
if performed in the glitter of noon-day. For a moment Amador thought, as
had been thought by all other Spaniards, when looking for the first time
on the sports of these barbarous races, that he had got among a group of
devils, or at least of devilish magicians; and he crossed himself with
an instinctive horror, when he beheld, so to speak, three piles of men,
each composed of three individuals, half-naked, standing one upon the
head or shoulders of another, whirling about in a circle, and each, as
he whirled, dancing on the head or shoulders of his supporter, and
tossing abroad his _penacho_, or long plume of feathers, as if diverting
himself on the solid earth. This spectacle entirely distracted his
attention from others scarcely less worthy of observation,--as was
indeed that, where two men see-sawed on a pole, in the air, and, as
might be said, without support, except that which was occasionally
rendered by the feet of a sinewy pagan, who lay on his back, and ever
and anon, as the flying phantoms descended, spurned them again into the
air. Such also was that magical dance of the cords, brought from the
unknown tribes of the South, wherein a score of men, each holding to a
rope of some brilliant colour, and each decorated with the feathers of
the parrot and the flamingo, whirled in fleet gyrations round a
garlanded post, till their cords were twisted together in a net of
incomprehensible complexity, but which, before the observer had leisure
to digest his amazement, were again unravelled in the rapid and
mysterious evolutions of the dance. A thousand other such exhibitions,
similar in novelty but different in character, were displayed at the
same moment; but the eyes of the neophyte were lost to all but that
which had first astounded him; and it was not till the voice of the
secretary roused him from his bewitchment, that he collected his senses,
and observed an officer of the household of the general standing before
him, and doing him such reverence as was evidently the right of his
dignity. It was then that Don Amador looked from the dancers to the
cavaliers whom they were diverting. The fire flashed over the walls of
the square and lofty towers up to the shelving thatch of palm-leaves,
under which they were grouped, making, with the glitter of their
half-armed persons, a suitable addition to the romance of the scene. In
the centre of that group which lounged before the middle and loftiest
tower, in a chair, or indeed, as it might be called, a throne, of such
barbaric beauty as was known only to the magnificos of this singular
people, sat a cavalier, tall and somewhat majestic of stature, with a
ruddy beard, and yellow locks falling over an agreeable countenance; in
whom, not so much from the character of his deportment and the quality
of his decorations, as from the evident homage rendered him by the
officers around, Don Amador did not doubt he beheld the Biscayan
general. At the very moment when his eyes fell upon this smiling
dignitary, he was himself perceived by the general; and Narvaez started
up with a sort of confusion, as if ashamed to be discovered in such
trivial enjoyment by so gallant a cavalier. In fact, the glittering
casque of steel had supplanted the velvet cap on the head of the novice;
and as he approached in full armour, clad also in the dignity with which
he was wont to approach his fellows in rank, Don Amador presented a
figure, to say the least, equally noble with that of the
commander,--and, what was no slight advantage in those days, with the
additional manifestation of high blood, such as was certainly less
questionable in him than in Narvaez. It seemed for a moment, as if the
general would have retreated into the temple, doubtless with the view of
assuming a more stately character for the interview; but perceiving that
Don Amador had already recognised him, and was advancing, he changed his
purpose, and making a step forward to do honour to his visiter, he stood
still to receive him. The eyes of all those gallant adventurers were
turned from the dancers to the new-comer; but Don Amador, not much moved
by such a circumstance, as indifferent to their curiosity as their
admiration, approached with a stately gravity, and, making a courteous
reverence to the general, said,--

"I have no doubt it is my felicity at this present moment to offer my
devoirs to the noble and very respected señor, the general Don Panfilo
de Narvaez; on the presumption of which, I, Amador de Leste, of Cuenza,
a novice of the holy hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, do not hesitate
to claim the hospitalities, which, as an hidalgo of Spain, and kinsman
of the noble señor, the admiral Cavallero, your excellency's
confederate, I hold myself entitled to expect."

"The very noble and valiant señor Don Amador de Leste shall not claim
those hospitalities in vain," said the general, with a voice whose
natural and voluminous harshness did not conceal an attempt at amenity;
"and I hope he will not anticipate in them too little of the roughness
of a soldier, by reason that he has seen us unbending a little from the
toils of war to the foolish diversions of these ingenious barbarians."

"I will not take upon me to judge either of the tactics or the
recreations of your excellency," said Amador, very coolly. "I will only
demand of your favour to accept, at this present moment, such
protestations of respect as become me in my function of suitor; and, in
especial, to accredit my companion, the secretary Fabueno, the messenger
of the admiral, who is charged with certain letters to your excellency,
of which, I believe, I am myself, in part, the subject."

"I receive them with respect, and I welcome the very distinguished Don
Amador with much joy," said Narvaez; "in token of which I must beg him
to allow himself to be considered, at least so long as he honours my
command with his presence, as my own peculiar guest: and that I may the
sooner know in what it may be my happiness to do him service, I must
entreat him to enter with me into my poor quarters."

With such superb expressions of etiquette, the common compliments of an
over-chivalrous age and people, Don Amador was ushered into the interior
of the temple. A curtain of a certain strong and checkered matting, that
served the purpose of a door, was pushed aside, and, entering with the
general and two or three of his most favoured officers, he found himself
in the heathen sanctuary. A table covered with brilliant drapery of
cotton--a product of the country--and strewed over with pieces of
armour, as well as with divers vessels wherein glowed some of the rich
wines ripened by the breath of the Solano, contained also a great silver
cresset filled with oil tempered with liquidambar, which, besides
pervading the whole atmosphere with a delicious odour, shed abroad such
a light as enabled Don Amador to survey the apartment. It was of good
height, and spacious: the walls were hung with arras of a sombre-hued
cotton, and the floor covered with thick matting. In one corner was a
ladder, leading to the upper chambers. Two sides of it were occupied by
a low platform, on which lay several mattresses stuffed with the down of
the ceiba; over one of which, on a small altar of wood, illuminated by
tapers of the myrtle wax, was a little image of the Virgin. In this
chamber, the chief adoratory of the temple, where now flashed the
weapons of the iconoclasts, stood once the altar of an idol, whose
fiendish lips had been often died with the blood of human sacrifices.
There were rude chairs about the table; and Amador, at the invitation of
the general, did not hesitate to seat himself, and cast an eye of
observation on his companions, while Narvaez, with the assistance of the
secretary, proceeded to decipher the advices of the admiral.

The individuals with whom Amador found himself in contact, were of a
genteel and manly presence: and though evidently burning with desire to
make the acquaintance of the novice of Rhodes, and certainly also with
curiosity to know what strange event had cast him among themselves, had
yet sufficient breeding to conceal their anxieties,--excepting one, who,
although of riper years than the rest, and even of more gravity of
deportment, was nevertheless twice or thrice guilty of a very
inquisitive stare. This Don Amador did himself at last perceive, and
felt greatly moved to discover the cause of so remarkable a scrutiny.
Nevertheless, before he had resolved in what manner to commence the
investigation, and before the general had well looked into the advices
of the admiral, they were both interrupted in their purpose by the
abrupt intrusion of an officer, who, approaching Narvaez, said something
to him in a low voice, of which all that Amador could distinguish were
the words, twice or thrice repeated, of _nigromante_ and _astrologo_.
The officer received a direction equally obscure with his information;
and Amador observed that as Narvaez gave it, his face flushed over with
some sudden excitement. The speculations of the neophyte were soon
terminated. Before the curtain had yet closed upon the retreating
officer, the cavalier whose curious looks had attracted his own
attention, rose and addressed the general.

"Señor general and governor," he cried, "I doubt whether this knavish
impostor be worthy your attention. He is accounted both a liar and
traitor, and he can tell us nothing that will not be spoken to deceive
us."

"The señor Don Andres de Duero cannot be better persuaded of the man's
character than myself," said the general; "and he will not assure me
that a good general can refuse to listen to any intelligence of his
enemy, though it be brought by a traitor.--The noble Don Amador de Leste
will pardon me, if I make so free with him, as in his presence to
introduce and examine a prisoner, or deserter, I know not which, on
matters which it concerns me as a commander to know. And moreover,"
continued the Biscayan, with a laugh, "I know not what better diversion
I can give my guest, than to make him acquainted with a man who pretends
to read the mysteries of the stars by night, and to have a devil who
gives him knowledge of men's destinies by daylight."

Before Amador could reply to this appeal, the señor Duero spoke again.

"Surely he can bring us no information of Cortes which we have not
received at better hands; and as for his magical art, I think your
excellency holds that in too much doubt and contempt to set much store
by its crazy revelations."

"What may be my doubt, and what my contempt for his art," said the
general, "is more than I have yet resolved: only there is one thing of
which I am quite certain, and that is, that, with the blessing of Our
Holy and Immaculate Lady, I defy the devil and all his imps, whether
they come at the bidding of a heathenish magician or a Christian
enchanter; and, moreover, that if there be any knowledge to be gained of
the devil, without jeopardy of soul, one is a fool not to receive it.
Señor," continued Narvaez, addressing himself again to Amador, "I may as
well tell you, that the magician Botello, whom you will presently
behold, is a favourite soldier and chief enchanter to that infidel
rebel, Cortes, (whom God confound, with all his mutinous friends and
upholders, high and low, strong and feeble, Amen!)--I say, señor, his
chief magician," continued the general, speaking so rapidly and
impetuously, as utterly to prevent Don Amador from making the amendment
he meditated to the curse, and insisting that Narvaez should revoke it,
as far at least as it concerned his kinsman, the knight,--"his chief
magician, by whose aid, it is supposed, the runagate desperado has been
enabled to imprison the Indian emperor. And, knave or not Don Amador, it
cannot be denied, that when struck down, after surrendering himself,
this morning, by the currish soldier, Caboban, he cursed the smiter with
'a short life and a long death;' which curse was fulfilled upon him on
the instant; for striking Botello with his spear again, his horse
plunged, threw him violently, and, falling, he was instantly spitted on
the spear of a footman. He has been dying ever since; and sometime,
doubtless, his agony will be over; but he is as good as a dead man now."

"I am by no means certain," said Don Amador, "that there was any
connexion between the curse of the magician and the calamity of the
soldier; though, as it appears to me, heaven could not visit with
judgment any one more righteously than the dastard who strikes an enemy
after he has rendered himself a captive. Nevertheless, and though I am
somewhat impatient your excellency should determine upon my own affairs,
I have such respect for the superior claims of your duties, that I will
willingly defer my anxiety until your excellency has examined the
prisoner."

There were several very meaning glances exchanged among the cavaliers at
this speech, which seemed to imply a feeling of neglect and resentment
on the part of the speaker; but Narvaez did not notice it, or if he did,
the impression was immediately driven from his mind by the entrance of
the enchanter, conducted by several soldiers and officers, among whom
was the captain Salvatierra.



CHAPTER X.


Amador surveyed the prisoner, though somewhat indifferently. He was, in
figure and age, very much such a man as Baltasar, but in other respects
very dissimilar. His face was wan, and even cadaverous; but this might
have been the effect of the blows he had received from the dying
soldier, as was made probable by the presence of several spots of blood
encrusted over his visage. His cheeks were broad, and the bones
prominent; his eyes very hollow, and expressive of a wild solemnity,
mingled with cunning; his beard long and bushy, and only slightly
grizzled, and a rugged mustache hung over his lips so as almost to
conceal them. His apparel was of black cloth, none of the freshest, the
principal garment of which was a long loose doublet, under which was
buckled an iron breast-plate,--his only armour; for, instead of a
morion, he wore a cloth hat of capacious brim, stuck round with the
feathers of divers birds, as well as several medals of the saints,
rudely executed in silver. Besides these fantastic decorations, he had
suspended to his neck several instruments of the Cabala,--a pentacle of
silver, and charms and talismans written over with mystical characters,
as well as a little leathern pouch filled with various dried herbs and
roots. This mystagogue, an agent of no little importance among many of
the scenes of the Conquest, was led into the presence of the general,
and approached him without betraying any signs of fear or embarrassment;
nor, on the other hand, did he manifest any thing like audacity or
presumption; but lifting his eyes to the visage of the Biscayan, he
gazed upon him with a silent and grave earnestness, that seemed somewhat
to disconcert the leader.

"Sirrah sorcerer," said he, "since the devil has deserted you at last,
call up what spirits you can muster, and find me why I shall not hang
you for a spy, early in the morning."

"_Tetragrammaton Adonai!_" muttered the warrior-magician in the holy
gibberish of his art, with a voice of sepulchral hollowness, and with a
countenance gleaming with indignation or enthusiasm. "In the name of
God, Amen! I defy the devil, and am the servant of his enemy; and in the
land of devils, of Apollyon in the air, Beelzebub on the earth, and
Satan in men's hearts, I forswear and defy, contemn and denounce them;
and I pray for, and foresee, the day when they shall tumble from the
high places!"

"All this thou mayst do, and all this thou mayst foresee," said the
general; "but nevertheless thy wisdom will be more apparent to employ
itself a little in the investigation of thine own fate; which, I promise
thee, is approaching to a crisis."

"I have read it in the stars, I have seen it in the smoke of waters and
of blessed herbs, and I have heard it from the lips of dead men and the
tongues of dreams," cried the professor of the occult sciences, with
much emphasis. "But what is the fate of Botello, the swordsman, to that
of the leaders of men, the conquerors of kings and great nations? I have
read my own destinies; but why shouldst thou trifle the time to know
them, when I can show thee the higher mysteries of thine own?"

"Canst thou do so? By my faith then, I will have thee speak them very
soon," said Narvaez. "But first, let me know what wert thou doing when
thou wert found prowling this morning so near to my camp?"

"Gathering the herbs for the suffumigation which shall tell me in what
part of the world thou shalt lay thy bones!" said the magician,
solemnly. "The moon, in the house Alchil, showed me many things, but not
all; a thick smoke came over the crystal, and I saw not what I wanted; I
slept under the cross, with a skull on my bosom, but it breathed nothing
but clouds. Wherefore I knew, it should be only when the wolf spoke to
the vulture, and the vulture to the red star, that Camael the angel
should unlock the lips of destiny, and lead me whither I longed to
follow."

"I am ever bound to thee," said the general, with a manner in which an
attempt at mockery was mingled with a natural touch of superstition,
"for the extreme interest thou seemest to cherish in my fate and again I
say to thee, I will immediately converse with thee on that subject. But
at present, señor nigromante, I warn thee, it will be but wisdom, to
confine thy rhapsodies within the limits of answers to such
interrogatories as I shall propose thee.--Where lies thy master, the
outcast and arch-rebel, my enemy?"

"My _master_ is in heaven!" said Botello, with a devout and lofty
earnestness, "and there is no outcast and rebel but he that dwelleth in
the pit, under the foot of Michael; and _he_ is the enemy!"

"Sirrah! I speak to thee of the knave Cortes," cried the general,
angrily. "When wert thou last at his side? and where?"

"At midnight,--on the river of Canoes, where he has rested, as thou
knowest, for a night and a day."

"Ay!" said the Biscayan fiercely; "within a league of my head-quarters,
whither my clemency has suffered him to come."

"Whither God and his good star have drawn him," said the magician.

"And whence I will drive him to the rocks of the mountains, or the
mangroves of the beach, ere thou art cured of thy wounds!"

"Lo! my wounds are healed!" said Botello; "the hand that inflicted them
is stiff and cold, and Hernan Cortes yet lies by the river! Ay, the holy
unguent, blessed of the fat of a pagan's heart, hath dried the blood and
glued the skin; and yet my captain, whose fate I have seen and spoken,
even from the glory of noon to the long and sorrowful shadows of the
evening, marshals his band within the sound of thy matin bell; and wo
be to his foeman when he is nearer or further!"

"Prattling fool," said the commander, "if thou hadst looked to the
bright moon to-night, thou wouldst have seen how soon the cotton-trees
of the river should be strung with thy leader and companions, and with
thyself, as a liar and an impostor, in their midst!"

"I looked," said the veteran, tranquilly, "and saw what will be seen,
but not by _all_. There was thunder in the temple, and peace by the
river, and more wailing than comes from the lips of the Penitent
Knight."

The angry impetuosity with which Narvaez was about to continue the
conference, was interrupted by the impatience of the novice. He had
listened with much disgust both to the mystic jargon of the soldier and
the idle demands and bravadoes of the general. The interest with which
he discovered how short a distance separated him from his kinsman, was
increased to an irresistible excitement, when he heard the title with
which, as the admiral had told him, the knight was distinguished among
the invaders, on the lips of Botello. Rising therefore abruptly, he
said,

"Señor Narvaez, I have to beg your pardon, if, in my own impatience to
be satisfied in a matter which I have much at heart, I am somewhat blind
to the importance of this present controversy. If your excellency will
do me the favour to examine the letters of the admiral, you will
discover that it is not so much my purpose to lay claim to your
hospitable entertainment, the proffer of which I acknowledge with much
gratitude, as to request your permission to pass through the lines of
your army, to join my kinsman the knight Calavar. Understanding,
therefore, from the words of this lunatic, or enchanter, whichever he
may be, that I am within the short distance of a league from my good
knight, to whom all my allegiance is due, I see not wherefore I should
not proceed to join him forthwith, instead of wasting the night in
slumber. I must, therefore, crave of your excellency to grant me, to the
camp of the señor Cortes, a guide, to whom I will, with my life and
honour, guarantee a safe return;--or such instructions concerning my
route, as will enable me to proceed alone--that is to say, with my
attendants."

The effect of this interruption and unexpected demand, on the
countenances of all, was remarkable enough. The cavaliers present stared
at the novice with amazement, and even a sort of dismay; and the
secretary Fabueno, looking by chance at the captain Salvatierra,
observed the visage of this worthy suddenly illuminated by a grin of
delight. As for the general himself, nothing could be more unfeigned
than his surprise, nothing more unquestionable than the displeasure
which instantly began to darken his visage. He rose, thrust his hand
into his belt, as if to give his fingers something to gripe, and drawing
himself to his full height, said haughtily and severely,

"When I invited the cavalier De Leste to share the shelter of this
temple, I did not think I received a friend of the traitor Cortes or of
any of his people; nor did I dream an adherent of this outlaw would dare
to beard me at my head-quarters with so rash and audacious a request!"

"The señor Narvaez has then to learn," said Amador, with a degree of
moderation that could only be produced by a remembrance of his
engagement to the admiral, and his promise to the secretary, not
causelessly to provoke the anger of the general,--but nevertheless with
unchanging decision, "that if I boast not to be the friend of Cortes,
whom you call a traitor, I avouch myself to be very much the creature of
mine own will; and that if I cannot be termed the adherent of an outlaw,
I am at least a Spanish hidalgo, bent on the prosecution of my designs,
and making requests more as the ceremonies of courtesy, than the tribute
of humility. I will claim nothing more of your excellency than your
excellency is, without claim, inclined to grant; and allowing therefore
that you invited me to your lodgings under a mistaken apprehension of my
character, I will straightway release you from the obligation, only
previously desiring of your excellency to reconsider your expressions,
wherein, as I think, was an innuendo highly unjust and offensive."

"Now, by heaven!" exclaimed the Biscayan, with all the irascibility of
his race, and the arrogant pride of his station, "I have happened upon a
strange day, when a vagabond esquire, wandering through my jurisdiction,
asks my permission to throw himself into the arms of my enemy; and when
I admonish him a little of his rashness, rebukes me with insult and
defiance!"

"A very strange day indeed!" muttered a voice among the cavaliers, in
which Amador, had he not been too much occupied with other
considerations, might have recognized the tones of Salvatierra.

"Biscayan!" said he, with an eye of fire, "I have given you all the
respect, which, as a governor's governor, and a captain's captain, you
had a right to demand; I have also done you the homage of a guest to his
host, and of a gentleman to a reputed hidalgo; but neither as a governor
nor commander, neither as a host nor a nobleman, have you the privilege
to offend with impunity, or to insult without being called to a
reckoning."

"Is this another madman of the stock of Calavar, that the silly admiral
hath sent me?" cried the enfuriated leader, snatching up a sword from
the table, and advancing upon the novice.

"Señor Panfilo!" cried Amador, confronting the general, and waving his
hand with dignity, "unless thou force me by thine own violence, I cannot
draw my sword upon thee on thine own floor, not even although thou add
to thy wrongs a sarcasm on my knight and kinsman. Nevertheless I fling
this glove at thy feet, in token that if thou art as valiant as thou art
ill-bred, as ready to repair as to inflict an injury, I will claim of
thee, as soon as may suit thy convenience, to meet me with weapons, and
to answer thy manifold indignities."

"_Dios santísimo!_" cried the commander, foaming with rage and stamping
furiously on the floor. "What ho! swords and pikemen! shall I strike
this _galofero_ braggart with my own hands? Arrest him!"

"The blood of him that stays me, be on his own head!" said Amador,
drawing his sword and striding to the entrance. "I will remember thee,
uncourteous cavalier, when I see thee in a fitter place."

The arm of the governor had been arrested by Duero; and in the confusion
of the moment, though the door of the tower was instantly beset by a
dozen gaping attendants, Don Amador would doubtless have passed through
them without detention, notwithstanding the furious commands of Narvaez.
But at the moment, when, as he waved his sword menacingly, the
hesitating satellites seemed parting before him, Salvatierra stepped
nimbly behind, and suddenly seizing his outstretched arm, and calling to
the guards at the same time, in an instant Don Amador was disarmed and a
prisoner. His rage was for a moment unspeakable; but it did not render
him incapable of observing the faithful boldness of the secretary.

"Señor general!" cried Lorenzo, though with a stammering voice, "if your
excellency will read this letter to the end, your excellency will find
my master recommends Don Amador as of a most noble and lofty family,
and, at this moment, raised above arrest and detention, by being charged
with authority from the Grand Master of Rhodes."

The only answer of the general was a scowl and a wave of the hand, which
instantly left Fabueno in the predicament of the cavalier. He was
seized, and before he could follow the example of his patron, and draw
his sabre, it was snatched from his inexperienced hand.

All this passed in a moment; and before the neophyte could give
utterance to the indignation which choked him, he was dragged, with
Fabueno, from the sanctuary.



CHAPTER XI.


The dancers had fled from the terrace; the fire had smouldered away; but
in the light of the moon, which shed a far lovelier radiance, Don
Amador, as he was hurried to the steps, saw in place of the gay
cavaliers, a few sentries striding in front of the towers, and among the
artillery which frowned on either edge of the platform. Nevertheless, if
his rage had left him inquisitive, he was not allowed time to indulge
his observations. He was hurried down the steps, carried a few paces
further, and instantly immured in the stone dwelling of some native
chief, which, by the substitution of a door of plank for the cotton
curtain, and other simple contrivances, had been easily converted into a
prison.

In the meanwhile, the rage of the governor burned with a fury that was
not much lessened by the remonstrances of his officers; and to the
counsel of Duero,--the personal secretary of Don Diego Velasquez,
accompanying the expedition less as an adviser than as a spy over the
general, and therefore necessarily held in some respect,--he answered
only with heat and sarcasm.

"I have ever found the señor Don Andres," he cried, without regarding
the presence of Botello, "to be more friendly with the friends of Cortes
than may seem fitting in the honourable and confidential secretary of
Velasquez!"

"I will not deny that such is my temper," said Duero; "nor will I
conceal from you that such leniency springs less from affection than
interest. Sure am I, that had your excellency, from the first, held out
the arms of conciliation, instead of the banners of vengeance, at this
moment, instead of being arrayed against you in desperate hostility, the
forces of Cortes would have been found enrolled under your own
standard, and Cortes himself among the humblest and faithfullest of your
captains."

"While I doubt that effect," said the general sharply, "I cannot but be
assured of the strength of Don Andres's interest, while I listen to the
whispers of his enemies."

Duero coloured, but replied calmly:

"It is not unknown to me, that certain ill-advised persons have charged
me with being under the influence of a secret compact with Cortes,
formed before his appointment to the command of the first army of
invasion; whereby I was to share a full third of the profits of his
enterprise. Without pretending to show the improbability of such an
agreement, I will, for an instant, allow your excellency to take it for
granted, in order that your excellency may give me credit for my present
disinterestedness, in doing all I can to ruin my colleague; in which I
reckon, as no slight matter, taking every opportunity to decoy away his
followers."

"If thou wilt show me in what manner submission to the whims and insults
of this insolent boy could have detached any of the mutineers from
Cortes, I will confess myself in error, and liberate him forthwith,"
said the general.

"The insult has been passed, the blow has been struck," said Duero
gravely, "and unless your excellency chooses to measure swords with him
immediately after his liberation, nothing can be gained by such a step.
I should rather counsel your excellency to have the prison watched with
a double guard. But, in arresting him, you have, besides giving deep
offence to your colleague, the admiral, for ever won the hate and
hostility of the knight of Rhodes; and when this is told him in the camp
of Cortes, it will harden the hearts of all against us."

"When it is told in the camp of Cortes," said Narvaez, with a bitter
smile, "it shall be with mine own lips; and if I hang not upon a tree,
afterwards, the knight Calavar himself, it will be more out of regard
to his madness, than to the dignity of his knighthood. I will attack the
rebel to-morrow!"

"Your excellency is heated by anger," said Duero temperately; "or you
would observe you have a follower of the rebel for a listener."

"Ay! Botello!" cried the general, with a laugh of scorn. "He will carry
my counsels to Cortes when the cony carries food to the serpent, and the
sick ox to the carrion crow. Hark, sirrah,--thou hast read the fate of
thy master: will I attack him to-morrow?"

"Thou wilt not," said Botello, with an unmoved countenance.

"Hah!" cried Narvaez; "art thou so sure of this that thou wilt pledge
thy head on the prophecy? Thou shall live to be hanged at sunset, with
thy old comrades for spectators."

"Heaven has written another history for to-morrow," said Botello,
gravely; "and I have read that as closely as the page of to-day; but
what is for myself, is, and no man may know it: The fate in store for
the vain pride and the quick anger, may, in part, be spoken."

"Sirrah," said Narvaez, "remember, that though the vain pride might
overlook one so contemptible as thyself, the quick anger is not yet
allayed; and if thou wilt not have me beat thee in the morning, proceed
forthwith to discourse of our destinies."

"Blows shall be struck," said the magician, earnestly; "but whether upon
my own head or another's, whether in this temple or another place,
whether in the morning or the evening, I am not permitted to divulge.
Repent of thy sins; call in a confessor, and pray; for wrath cometh, and
sorrow is behind! By the spirits that live in the stars, by the elves
that dwell in stones and shrubs, by the virtues that are caged in matter
where the ignorant man findeth naught but ignorance, have I been made
acquainted with many things appertaining to thy fate, but not all. If
thou wilt, I will speak thee the things I am permitted."

"Speak then," cried the general; "for whether thy knowledge be truth or
lies, whether it come from the revelations of angels, or the diabolical
instructions of fiends, I will listen without fear."

"_Adonai Melech!_ under the heaven, and above the abyss,--with my hand
on the cross, and the rosary in my bosom,--in Rome, near to the
footsteps of his holiness, and with one who was his favourite
astrologer, studied I mine art; and there is nothing in it that is not
blessed," said Botello, with a solemn enthusiasm, that made a deep
impression upon all.--"Give me a staff, that I may draw the curtain from
this loop," he continued.

The sword of a younger officer was instantly extended, the curtain
removed, and the moon, climbing the blue hills of paradise, looked down
into the apartment. The cavaliers stared at the astrologer and magician,
for Botello was both, some with an unconcealed awe, and others, the
general among the rest, with an endeavour at looks of contempt not in
good character with the interest they betrayed in all his proceedings.
He raised his eyes to the beautiful luminary--enough to create by her
mystic splendour the elements of superstition in the breast of a
rhapsodist,--crossed himself devoutly twice or thrice, mumbled certain
inexplicable words, and then said aloud, with a mournful emphasis,

"Wo to him that sits in the high place, when the moon shines from the
house Allatha! But the time has not come; and I dare not speak the hour
of its visitation."

"And what shall it advantage me to know my peril, if I have not such
knowledge as may enable me to prevent it?" demanded Narvaez, with a
frown.

"And what would it benefit thee to know the time of thy peril," said the
astrologer, "when God has not given thee the power to avert it? What is
written must be fulfilled; what is declared must be accomplished.
Listen--the queen of night is in the eighteenth mansion; and under that
influence, discord is sown in the hearts of men, sedition comes to the
earth, and conspiracy hatches under the green leaf."

The general turned quickly upon his officers, and surveyed them with an
eye of suspicion. They looked blankly one upon another, until Duero,
laughing in a forced and unnatural manner, cried,

"Why should we listen to this madman, if we are so affected by his
ravings? Señor general, you will straightway look upon us all as
traitors!"

"There have been villains about us before," muttered the general, "but I
will not take the moon's word for it; and the more especially that I
must receive it through this man's interpretation."

"It is the influence, too, that is good for the friendless captive,"
continued the magician; "and many a heart that beats under bonds
to-night, will leap in freedom to-morrow."

"Every way this is bad for us," said Duero, banteringly. "I would advise
your excellency to clap chains on the legs of De Leste and the scribe,
who are, I think, saving the few rogues of Cortes who have craved to
enter into our service, the only prisoners in our possession."

"And dost thou think this gibberish will move me to any such
precaution?" cried Narvaez, with a compelled smile. "Thou canst not
believe I listen to it for aught but diversion?"

"Surely not, if your excellency says so. But still may we guard the
prisoners, without fear of being laughed at for our superstition,--as
long as we have faith in the discretion of all present."

"Guard them thyself, if thou wilt," said the general; "I am not moved
enough for such condescension.--Continue thy mummeries, Botello," he
went on, "and when thou art done with the moon, of which I am heartily
tired, I will look for thee to introduce me to some essence that speaks
a clearer language."

"What wouldst thou have?" cried the astrologer; "what plainer language
wouldst thou have spoken? In the house Allatha is written the defection
of friends, the dethronement of princes, the fall of citadels in a
siege."

"Villain and caitiff! dost thou dare to insinuate that this citadel of
Zempoala is in a state of siege?" cried the Biscayan, with a ferocious
frown.

"I speak of the things that are to come;" said Botello. "What more than
this wilt thou have?"

"It will doubtless be well," interrupted Duero, significantly, "to
evacuate this city in the morning. By encamping in the fields, we can
certainly avoid the danger of a besieged citadel."

"Dost thou gibe me, Don Andres?" said Narvaez, with a brow on which
jealousy struggled with rage.

The secretary of Velasquez laid his hand on his heart, with a gesture of
respectful deprecation.

"Ay! I see thou art stirred by these phantasms!" cried the governor,
with a harsh laugh, looking from Duero to the other cavaliers. "What
means this, my masters? Do ye all stare as if ye had got among you a
dead Samuel, telling ye of your deaths on the morrow? Cheer up,--for,
by'r lady, I intend, if this old fellow's command of the black art runs
so far, to divert you with a more horrible companion. What sayest thou,
Botello? It is whispered thou canst raise devils, and force them to
speak to thee!"

"Ay!" said Botello, with a ghastly grin, staring the general in the
face, until the latter faltered before him. "Wilt thou adventure then so
far? Canst _thou_, whose eyes tremble at the gaze of a living creature,
think to look upon the face of a fallen angel? Hast thou confessed
to-day, and been absolved? hast thou been free, since the sunrise, of
thoughts of treachery and feelings of wrath? The pentacle and the circle
the consecrated sword and the crucifix, the sign of the cross and the
muttered paternoster, will not protect the unshriven sinner from the
claws of a raised demon."

"If thou canst raise him," said Narvaez stoutly, "do so, and quickly. I
fortify myself in the name of God and the Holy Ones, against all spirits
and devils. It will be much satisfaction to my curiosity to look upon
one of the accursed."

"They are about us in the air--they are at our elbows and ears," said
Botello; "and it needs but a spell to be spoken to bring them before us.
But wo to him that hath thought a sin to day, when the Evil One looks on
him!"

"Señor Narvaez," cried Duero, with a most expressive and contagious
alarm, "if it be your inclination to raise the devil, you must indulge
it alone. For my part, I confess there have been, this day, certain
sinful thoughts about my bosom, which have unfitted me for such an
interview; and--I care not who knows it--my valour has in it so little
of the fire of faith, I would sooner, at any moment, speak with ten men
than one devil. God be with you, señor,--I wish you a good evening."

"Tarry, Duero; stay, cavaliers!" cried Narvaez, losing much of his own
dread in the contemplation of the apprehension of others. "Why, you are
such a knot of sinners as I dreamed not I had about me! Faith, I am
ashamed of you, and of you in particular, Duero; for I thought thy
shrewdness would have seen in this knave's attempt to frighten us from
the exhibition, an excellent evidence of his inability to make it."

"I could show thee more than thou couldst see," said Botello, "and, I
know, more things will come to thee than thou _shall_ see. I know, with
all thy vaunting, thou wouldst perish in the gaze of an angel of hell;
for thy heart would be the heart of a boy, and it flutters already, even
at the thought of the spectacle.--I will show thee an essence thou
mayest look upon without alarm."

"Do so," said Narvaez, sternly; "and remember, while saying what may be
necessary by way of explanation, that thou speakest to the chief and
governor of these lands, who will whip thy head from thy neck, in spite
of all the devils, if thou discoursest not with more becoming
reverence."

"My fate is written!" cried Botello, with neither indignation or alarm;
and drawing calmly from his bosom an implement of his art, he advanced
to the light, and displayed it freely to the cavaliers. It was, or
seemed to be, an antique jewel of rock-crystal, not bigger than a
pigeon's egg, set in the centre of a triangular disk of gold, on which
last, were engraved many unknown characters and figures. Crossing
himself twice or thrice, the enchanter swung it by a little silver chain
to which it was pendent, in the full blaze of the lamp; so that either
of the persons present might have handled it, had any been so disposed.
But, in truth, the superstition of an age for which no marvel was too
gross, no miracle too wonderful, was more or less shared by all; and
they merely surveyed it at a distance with curiosity and fear.

"This," said the magician,--"a gem more precious to the wise than the
adamant of the East, but in the hands of the unfaithful, more pernicious
than the tooth of a viper,--is the prison-house of an essence that was
once powerful among the spirits of night. The great Agrippa wedged him
in this stone; and from Agrippa, when I rested at his feet in the holy
city, did I receive the inestimable gift.--Kalidon-Sadabath! the night
is thy season, the midnight thy time of power! The lord of men calls
thee from thy prison-house, the armed man calls thee with the sword--Lo!
he wakes from his slumber, and will image out the destiny of the
seeker!"

The cavaliers, starting, gazed behind them with fear, as if expecting to
behold some mighty fiend rising shadowy from the floor; but no
intelligence more lofty or more ignoble than themselves was visible in
the sanctuary. They bent their eyes upon the crystal, and beheld, some
with surprise and others with deep awe, a little drop as of some black
liquid, glittering in the very centre of the jewel.

The haughty soldiers who would have rushed with cries of joy upon an
army of infidels, shrank away with murmurs of hesitation, when Botello
extended the talisman towards them. But they mistook the gesture of the
magician; his arm was outstretched more to display the wonder than to
part with it. He surveyed it himself a moment with much satisfaction;
then turning to Narvaez, he said,

"Lay thy hand upon the cross of thy sword, say a paternoster over in thy
heart, and thou shalt be protected from the mischief of this
inquisition, while I tell thee what I behold in the face of
Kalidon-Sadabath."

"With your favour," cried Narvaez, suddenly and boldly snatching the
enchanted crystal from the hands of Botello, "I will choose rather to
see his visage myself, than trust to your interpretations; and as for
the protection, I can con over a paternoster while I am looking: though,
why it needs to bestow so much piety upon this juggler's gewgaw, is more
than I can understand."

"Say at least the prayer," cried Botello, earnestly, "for neither
enchanted crystal nor consecrated gold can hold the strong spirit from
the wicked and self-sufficient."

"I have much trust in the saints, and in myself," said the governor,
coolly, greatly assured and inspirited by the harmless appearance of the
little mystery. "Nevertheless, I will follow your counsel, in the matter
of the prayer,--the more readily that it will keep my mind from
wandering to more important affairs; and because, in part, I am somewhat
burdened with the sin of neglecting such duties, when there is more
occasion for them."

He drew the lamp to him, grasped the crystal firmly in his hands, and
bending over it so closely that his warm breath sullied its lustre,
regarded it with a fixed attention. The cavaliers noted the proceeding
with interest; they gazed now at the jewel almost concealed in his
grasp, and now at the general, as his lips muttered over the inaudible
prayer.--Suddenly, and before he had half accomplished the task, they
observed his brows knit, and his lip fall; his eye dilated with a stare
of terror,--a deadly paleness came over his visage,--and starting up and
loosing the talisman from his grasp, he exclaimed wildly,

"By heaven, there is a living creature in the stone!"

The sorcerer caught the magical implement as it fell from the hands of
Narvaez; and throwing himself upon his knees, while the cavaliers looked
on in mute astonishment, exclaimed:--

"Forget not the prayer! and be content to hear what is revealed by the
imp of the crystal. Kalidon-Sadabath! He flingeth abroad his arms, and
is in wrath and trouble!"

"It is true," said Narvaez, looking to his officers in perturbation.
"While I looked into the shining stone, the black drop increased in
size, and grew into the similitude of a being, whose arms were tossed
out as if in agony, while spots of fire gathered round his visage!"

"Say the prayer, if thou wilt not die miserably before the time that is
otherwise ordained!" cried Botello with a stern voice, that was
remarkable enough, to be addressed by one of his station to the proud
and powerful commander. "Once, twice--Ay! is there no more to be
reckoned by thee, Sadabath? Once, twice--Yea, as the star sayeth, so
sayest thou--Once, twice!"

"What sayest thou?" said Narvaez, ceasing the prayer he had resumed, to
question the oraculous adept.

"To thy prayer! Listen, and ask not.--Ay! thou speakest in mystery! I
turn thee to the north, which thou knowest not, and the south, where
thou hadst thy dwelling,--to the east, which thou abhorrest, and to the
west, where was thy dark chamber; to the heaven, whose light thou lovest
not,--to the pit under the earth, where thou wast a wanderer,--and to
man's heart, which was pleasanter to thee than the bonds of the crystal.
In the name of the Seven that are of power under the earth, and of the
Seven that are mighty above, I call to thee, Kalidon-Sadabath, the
bright star that is quenched! In shadows, in fire and smoke,--in thunder
and with spears--with blows and with bloodshed, thou speakest, and I
hear thee!"

"_I_ hear nothing save thy accursed croaking, worse than that of the
crows of Biscay," cried Narvaez, hotly. "If thy devil have no more
intelligible gabble, cast him out, and call another."

"He speaks not, but by images and phantasms pictured on the
crystal.--Now listen, for thy story cometh. I see a great house on
fire--"

"Ay, I shall perish then in a conflagration!" said the governor,
hastily. "I have ever had a horror of burning houses."

"The smoke eddies, the flame roars, and one sitteth blindfold under the
eaves, with the flakes and cinders falling about him, which he sees
not."

"If thou meanest, that I shall rest, in that stupid state, under such
peril, thy devil Sadabath is a liar, and I defy him!"

"And he that takes thee by the hand," cried Botello, without regarding
the interruptions,--"is he thy friend?"

"Ay, answer me that question," said the governor; "for if I am to be led
out of the fire by a foeman, I will straightway forswear my friends, and
give my heart to the magnanimous."

"Thou doest him obeisance!" cried the magician, with extraordinary
emphasis--

"Villain!" exclaimed the general.

"Thou placest thy neck upon the earth, and he tramples it!"

"Liar and traitor!" roared the Biscayan, spurning the magician with his
foot, and, in his fury, snatching up a weapon to despatch him.

"Why shouldst thou stain thy hand with the blood of the dotard?" cried
Duero, interposing for a second time between the intemperate commander
and the object of his anger. "He is a madman, incapable of understanding
what he says; and were he even sane, and speaking the truth, your
commands to have him entertain you with his mummeries, should have
ensured him against your anger."

"Very true," said Narvaez, with a scowl; "I was a fool to strike
him.--Trample on my neck! Thou grizzly and cheating villain!--Go!
begone!--Thy devil, though he cannot tell thee what awaits thee in the
morning, may show thee what thou deservest."

"I deserved not to be spurned," said Botello tranquilly, after having
gathered up his enchanted crystal, and raised himself to his feet; "and
the dishonour will fall not on the side that was bruised, but on the
limb that was raised against it.--Once already, to-day, have I cursed
the man that struck me in my captivity; and he lies a corse on his
couch."

"It is true," said a young cavalier, shuddering. "I inquired after
Caboban, when I came from the prison with Botello--he was dead!"

"I will curse no more to-day," said the magician, sorrowfully; "for it
is a sin upon the soul to kill with maledictions; and, moreover, thou,
that hast done me this wrong, wilt suffer enough, without a new
retribution!"

The general waved his hand angrily and impatiently, and Botello was led
away, followed by most of the cavaliers.



CHAPTER XII.


When Don Amador found himself alone in the prison with Fabueno; with no
other prospect before him than that of remaining therein till it might
please the stars to throw open the doors, the rage that was too
philosophic to quarrel with stone walls, gradually subsided into a
tranquil indignation. Nay, so much command of himself did he regain,
that hearing his companion bewailing his fate in a manner somewhat
immoderate, as if regarding his incarceration as the prelude to a more
dismal destiny, he opened his lips to give him comfort.

"I must counsel thee, friend Lorenzo," he said, "to give over this vain
and very boyish lamentation, as being entirely unworthy the spirit I
beheld thee display in presence of that Biscayan boar. The insult and
shame of our present imprisonment are what thou dost not share; and
therefore thou shouldst not be grieved on that account. And, doubtless,
as thou wert arrested less because thou wert in fault, than because this
foolish governor was in a passion, he will liberate thee, when he cools
in the morning."

"I have no such hope," said Fabueno, piteously. "Don Panfilo is a most
bitter and unforgiving man, sudden in his wrath, inexorable in his
vengeance; and he has already indulged his fury at the expense of men so
much more elevated and powerful than myself, that I am in great fear he
will give me to some heavy punishment, for daring to oppose his
humours."

"Know, Lorenzo," said the novice, "that, in that opposition, thou didst
show thyself possessed of a spirit which has won my respect; and unless
thou dost already repent thy boldness, I will confess I am very grateful
to thee, that thou didst grasp thy sword in my cause. For which reason,
when we are again free, I will beseech the admiral to grant thee thy
wish, and immediately receive thee into my service, as a pupil in war."

"And how is your worship to be freed?" said Lorenzo, disconsolately.
"Sure am I, Don Panfilo will no more regard your worship's honour and
dignity than he did the privileges of the licentiate Vasques de Ayllon,
the agent of the holy monks of San Geronimo, and, what is more, an
_oidor_ of the king himself, whom, notwithstanding all these titles, he
imprisoned and banished, for thwarting him in a small matter."

"I have, in my own present situation, a sufficient and
never-to-be-forgotten proof of his violence and injustice," said Amador.
"Nevertheless, I entertain hopes of being soon at freedom; for if some
lucky opportunity do not enable me myself to break my bonds, I am
assured, the news of this most causeless and tyrannical outrage will, in
some way, be carried to the ears of my kinsman, the knight Calavar;
after which, I shall be very confident of liberation, and, after
liberation, as I may add, of satisfaction on the body of my wronger.
But, before we give ourselves up to despondence, let us see in what
manner we may be able to help ourselves. We should at least look a
little to the various entrances that seem to lead into this dungeon."

The apartment was spacious, but low; a narrow casement opened on one
side, at the distance of six feet from the floor, and admitted the
moonbeams, by which the captives were enabled to conduct their
examination. The door, through which they had entered, was strongly
barricaded on the outside. A passage leading to the interior, was
similarly secured, and equally impassable. The neophyte, with a sigh,
turned to the casement. A thick grating defended it, and shut out all
hopes of escape.

"We can do nothing, unless assisted from without," said Amador.--"I
would to heaven, I had kept my knaves at my side! With such a wary
servant as Baltasar at my back, and so faithful a desperado as Lazaro at
my side, I should have made another sort of departure from that abhorred
tower. The varlets are perhaps sleeping in security, without a thought
of their master. Nay, by my faith, it is not probable they should give
themselves to rest, without being made acquainted with my instructions
for the night. Perhaps they may be lurking in the neighbourhood, ready
to hear my call, and to obey it! At all events, señor secretary, I would
thou couldst mount to those iron stanchions, and take note of what is
passing on the outside."

"_Iron!_" cried the secretary quickly: "by San Iago of Compostella! a
thought strikes me. I know well, señor, that in these lands, iron has
almost the value of gold, and is too scarce to be wasted on the defences
of a temporary dungeon, where it might be stolen too, at the first
opportunity, by the Indians."

"Dost thou mean to say, that these bars are of wood?" demanded Amador.

"Indeed, I think so, señor; and if I had but a knife or dagger, and the
means of climbing into the window, I would warrant to be at liberty
before morning."

"Here is a poniard, of which the villains forgot to divest me," said
Amador. "Strike it against the stanchions:--if they be of wood, we have
much hope of freeing ourselves."

The secretary did as he was directed. He raised himself a-tiptoe, and
the sharp weapon buried itself in the flimsy barrier.

"If I had but something to stand on," he cried eagerly, "how soon might
we not be free!"

"There is neither stool nor chair in this vile den," said Don Amador;
"but I will not shame to give thee the support of my shoulder, and the
more readily, that I think thy slight frame would be incapable of
supporting my own greater weight.--Pause not," he continued, observing
that Fabueno hesitated: "If thy foot be near my neck, I shall know it is
not the foot of an enemy.--I will kneel to take thee on my back, as the
Saracen camel does to his master.--Stretch thyself to thy full height,
so as to cut through the tops of the bars; after which, without further
carving, thou canst easily wrench them from their places."

Fabueno submitted to the will of the novice, and Amador rising without
much effort under his weight, he was soon in a position to operate to
advantage.

"Why dost thou falter?" demanded the novice, as Lorenzo, after making
one or two gashes in the wood, suddenly ceased his labour.

"Señor," replied the secretary, in a low voice, "there is a guard at a
little distance, sitting under the shadow of the pyramid. A cavalier
stands in advance, watching--It is the captain Salvatierra!"

"May heaven strike me with pains and death," cried Amador, with an
abrupt ardour, that nearly tumbled the secretary from his station, "if I
do not covet the blood of that false and cowardly traitor! who, after
hiding his wrath under the cloak of magnanimity and religion, was the
first to seize upon me, and that from behind!"

"What is to be done, señor?" demanded Fabueno, in a whisper. "He will
discover me; and even if I can remove the grating, there will be no
possibility to descend without observation."

"Cut through the wood as silently as thou canst," said Amador; "and
then, when the window is open, I will myself spring to the earth, and so
occupy the dastard's notice, that thou shall escape without peril. Cut
on, and fear not."

The secretary obeyed, but had not yet divided a single stake, when
suddenly a noise was heard as of the clattering of armour, as well as
the voice of Salvatierra exclaiming furiously,

"To your bows, ye vagabonds! Quick and hotly! Drive your shafts through
and through! Shoot!"

"Descend!" said Amador.

But before the secretary could follow his counsel, here came four
cross-bow shafts rattling violently into the window; and Fabueno, with a
loud cry, sprang, or rather fell, to the floor.

"Have the knaves struck thee?" demanded Amador, as he raised the
groaning youth in his arms.

"Ay, señor!" replied the youth, faintly, "I shall never see the golden
kings of Mexico!"

"Be of better heart," said Amador, leading him to where the moonlight
shone brightest on the floor. "Art thou struck in the body?--If thou
diest, be certain I will revenge thee.--Where art thou hurt?"

"I know not," replied Lorenzo, piteously; "but I know I shall die.--O
heaven! this is a pang more bitter than death!--Must I die?"

"Be comforted," said the novice, cheeringly; "the arrow has only pierced
thy arm! I will snap it asunder, and withdraw it. Fear not: there is no
peril in such hurt; and I will bear witness thou hast won it most
honourably."

"Will I not die then?" cried Fabueno, with joy. "Pho! it was the first
time I was ever hurt, and I judged of the wound only by the agony. Pho,
indeed! 'tis but a scratch!"

"Thou bearest it valiantly," said Amador, binding his scarf round the
wound; "and I have no doubt thou wilt make a worthy soldier.--But what
is now to be done? If thou thinkest thou hast strength to support me for
a minute or two, I will clamber to the window myself, and remove the
bars, without fear the arrows of these varlets can do me much harm
through my armour."

"They are not above three-score yards distant," said Fabueno, "and,
señor, I feel a little faint. I know not, moreover, how I could escape,
even if your honour should be so lucky as to reach the ground."

"I should not have forsaken thee, Lorenzo," said the cavalier, giving
over, with a sigh, all hope of escape. "There is nothing more to be
done.--The foul fiend seize the knave that struck thee, and the dastard
that commanded the shot! I would to heaven I had beaten him
soundly.--How feelest thou now? If thou canst sleep, it will be well."

"I have no more pain," said the secretary, "but feel a sort of
exhaustion, which will doubtless be relieved by rest."

"Sleep then," said Amador, "and have a care that thy wounded member be
not oppressed by the weight of thy body. I will myself presently follow
thy example. If aught should occur to disturb thee, even though it
should be but the pain of thy hurt, scruple not to arouse me."

The neophyte watched till persuaded the secretary was asleep; then
devoutly repeating a prayer, he stretched himself on his hard mat with
as much tranquillity as if reposing on a goodly bed in his own
mountain-castle, and was soon lost to his troubles.



CHAPTER XIII.


The cavalier was roused from his slumbers by a cause at first
incomprehensible. The moonlight had vanished from the prison, and deep
obscurity had succeeded; but in the little light remaining, he saw, as
he started up, the figures of several men, one of whom had been tugging
at his shoulder, and now whispered to him, as he instinctively grasped
at his dagger,

"Peace, cavalier! I am a friend, and I give you liberty."

"I will thank thee for the gift, when I am sure I enjoy it," said the
neophyte, already on his feet; "I remember thy voice--thou art one of
the followers of the knave Narvaez?"

"I am one who laments, without extenuating, the folly of the general,"
said the voice of Duero. "But tarry not to question. Hasten,--thy horse
is ready."

"Where is the youth Fabueno? It is not in my power to desert the
secretary."

"Here, señor!" whispered Lorenzo. "I am ready."

"Ah, friend Fabueno! I am glad to hear thee speak so cheerily;--it
assures me thy wound does not afflict thee.--And my varlets, señor?"

"They wait for thee, Don Amador. Delay not: the door is open. The
magician will guide thee to thy kinsman.--Commend me to Cortes; and if
thou art at any time found fighting on the pyramid of Zempoala,
remember that Duero is not thine enemy."

"By heaven, I should think I dream!" said Amador. "Stay, señor! I would
thank thee for thy honourable and most noble benevolence; and, in
addition, would tax thy charity in favour of a certain Moor----"

"_Tetragrammaton!_ thou pratest as if thou wert among thy friends in
Christendom! and of infidels too, as if there were no Christians to be
thought of!" said a voice, in which Amador instantly recognised the
tones of the enchanter. "I said, the captive should be freed; but never
a jot that he should not be reduced to bonds again by his own folly!--Be
silent, and follow me."

The neophyte had collected his scattered senses, and instantly assuming
the prudence, which, he now understood, was necessary to his safety, he
issued from the prison. The moon was sinking behind the vast and
majestic peaks of the interior. A deep shadow lay over the great square,
on one side of which stood the dungeon; and only on the top of the
principal tower trembled a lingering ray. A silence still deeper than
the darkness, invested the Indian city; and Amador could distinctly hear
the foot-fall of a sentinel as he strode to and fro over the terrace of
the pyramid. He looked to that quarter, whence, as he judged, had come
the shafts which had so nearly robbed him of his fellow-prisoner. The
crossbowmen slept on their post, in the mild and quiet air, at the base
of the temple.

"Give me thy hand, Fabueno," said Amador, drawing his poniard again from
the sheath. "I will shield thee from the dogs this time. And now that I
snuff the breath of freedom! I think it will need a craftier knave's
trick than that of Salvatierra, to deprive me of it a second time."

Following the magician, as he stole cautiously along, the brothers in
misfortune crept on with a stealthy pace, under the shadows of buildings
and trees; till, exchanging the more exposed openness of the square for
the safer gloom of a street, they advanced with greater assurance and
rapidity. The stone dwellings of the Tlatoani gave place to the earthen
and wicker cabins of the suburbs.--The gray glimpses of morning had not
yet visited the east, when they reached the extreme edge of the town,
and betook themselves to the covert of a clump of trees, under which, in
the figures that were there visible, Don Amador recognised with joy his
war-horse and his followers.

"Rejoice in silence," said Botello, interrupting his raptures; "for
there is an ear at no great distance very ready to hear thee. Mount and
be ready.--Señor secretary, thy sorrel is tied to the mimosa.--You can
look to your equipments a little, while I see if heaven will not confirm
the fate of visions; for I dreamed I should ride back to Cortes on a
good roan charger to-day."

The magician disappeared, and Amador, scarcely suppressing his ardour,
when he found that not only his attendants and horses, but even the
well-fleshed sword wrested from him in the evening, was in readiness to
be restored to him, grasped it with exultation, and sprang into the
saddle. Then passing towards Fabueno, and finding that his arm caused
him much pain in the act of mounting, he assisted him to ascend with his
own hand; a condescension that went to the heart of the secretary. From
Fabueno also he learned, in a few words, somewhat of the secret of their
liberation. Less than an hour after Amador had fallen asleep, and while
Lorenzo was still kept awake by the pain of his wound, the door of the
prison was opened, and Botello thrust in; who comforted the secretary
with a mystic, but still an unequivocal assurance of freedom before
sunrise; and commanded him not to wake the novice, but to follow his
example--he would need invigoration from slumber to support the toils of
the coming day. What previous understanding might have existed between
the enchanter and the señor Duero, he knew not; but, certain he was,
Botello had predicted a speedy deliverance for all; and all were now
delivered.

"I have often considered," said the novice, thoughtfully, "that the
existence of magical powers, either for the purposes of prediction or
enchantment, was incompatible with the known goodness and wisdom of God;
for surely if the power to foresee would have added any thing to the
happiness of man, God would not have denied it to men generally. And as
for the powers of enchantment, as they can only be used for good or bad
purposes, it seems to me that to employ them for the first, would be to
accuse the Divinity of an insufficient benevolence; while to exercise
them for the last, would imply a supposition that heaven had not all men
equally under its protection. This, therefore, is my opinion; though I
must confess that, sometimes, when governed more by passion or
imagination than by reason, I have had my misgivings on the subject.
Nevertheless, good Fabueno, in this particular case of Botello, I must
advise thee not too much to abuse thy credulity; for, I think, all
circumstances go to show, he grounded his prophecy of our deliverance
more on a knowledge of the resolutions of the good señor Duero than on
the revelations of stars or spirits. Yet must I confess," continued
Amador, "that this very goodness of Duero, implying, as it truly does, a
state of opposition and rebellion to the will of the uncivil Narvaez,
his general, is so very miraculous, as almost itself to look like
magic."

Before the secretary could reply, the sound of hoofs was heard
approaching; and Botello, as they discovered by his voice, rode up to
the trees.

"The dream was true, the imp that speaks to slumber was not a liar!" he
cried, exultingly. "We leave the jailor afoot; and Kalidon-Sadabath
shall swing on a galloping horse. God is over all, by night and by
day, afoot and on horse, in battle and in flight, Amen!--Now ride,
and Santiago for Spain!"--He shouted this sudden cry with a voice
that amazed Amador, after his often-repeated injunctions for
silence,--"Santiago for Spain! San Pedro for the Invaders! and San Pablo
for flying prisoners! Whip and spur, guide and cheer! and rocks and
thorns spread over the path of pursuers!"

As Don Amador anticipated, the shout of the lunatic, for such he began
to esteem Botello, was carried even to the head-quarters of the
Biscayan. An arquebuse was discharged from the pyramid, and, as the
fugitives began their flight, the flourish of a trumpet in one quarter
of the town, and the roll of a drum in another, convinced them that the
alarm had been given, and was spreading from post to post in a manner
that might prove exceedingly inconvenient. The cavalier pressed to the
side of Botello,--an achievement of some little difficulty, for he
perceived his guide was well mounted.

"Señor Magico," he cried, as he galloped in company with him, "dost thou
know thou couldst not have fallen upon a better plan to oppose our
flight, and perhaps reduce us again to bonds, than by the indulgence of
this same untimely and obstreperous shouting?"

"Trust in God, and fear not," replied the magician. "This day shalt thou
look upon the face of Cortes; and though the enemy follow us, yet shall
his pursuit be vain and unlucky."

"I will allow that such may be the termination," said Amador; "yet,
notwithstanding, can I perceive no advantage in being pursued; but much
that is to be deprecated, inasmuch as we shall exhaust that strength of
our horses in our hurry, which might have been reserved for a more
honourable contingency."

"Your valour will by-and-by perceive there is more wisdom than looks to
the moment," said Botello, coolly, without slacking his pace: "and,
provided you can keep your followers from swerving from the path, and
that inexperienced youth from falling out of his saddle, I will, with
my head, answer for your safety."

Amador dropped behind a little: Lazaro and Baltasar required no
instructions to keep them in the neighbourhood of their master; and the
secretary, though complaining that he rode in pain, professed himself
able to keep up with the party. From his henchmen, as he rode, Don
Amador obtained but little to unravel the mystery of his escape. The two
attendants had been quartered alone in a deserted building, in the
garden of which they were instructed to provide for their steeds. They
had been roused by a cavalier, who commanded them to follow him to their
master, in token of whose authority he showed them the well-known blade
of the novice. He had conducted them to the grove, and left them, with
charges to remain, as they had done, in tranquillity, until the
appearance of Don Amador.

At the dawn of day, the neophyte became convinced he had ridden more
than the distance which, he supposed, separated the camps of the rival
generals; and wondering at the absence of all signs of life in the
forest through which he was passing, he again betook himself to Botello.

The magician had halted on the brow of an eminence, where, though the
dense wood, as well as the obscurity of the hour, greatly contracted the
sphere of vision, he looked back as if striving to detect the figures of
pursuers among the thick shadows. The shouts of men were heard far
behind; but this circumstance, instead of filling the mind of Botello
with alarm, gave, on the contrary, to his countenance an expression of
great satisfaction.

"We are pursued, enchanter; and yet, I perceive neither tent nor
out-post of thy friends, to give us refuge from our enemies," said Don
Amador.

"Let them come," cried Botello, tranquilly: "It is worse for the stag,
when the pack is scattered; but better for the kite, when the pheasants
have broke the covey."

"There may be much wisdom in thy tropes, as well as in thine actions,"
said the novice; "yet am I slow to discover it in either. Whether we are
to be considered the stag or the hounds, the hawk or the pheasants,
entirely passes my comprehension; but sure am I that, in either case,
our safety may be considered quite as metaphorical as thy speech. I
understood from thee, last night, and I remember it very well, because
it was that communication which exasperated me into a quarrel with the
governor,--that the river whereon Cortes was encamped, was but a league
from Zempoala; yet am I persuaded we have galloped twice that distance."

"He travels no straight road who creeps through the country of a
foeman," said Botello, resuming his journey, though at a more moderate
gait than before; "and Don Amador should be content, if he can avoid the
many scouts and vedettes that infest the path, by riding thrice the two
leagues he has compassed already."

"Fogoso is strong, and, it seems to me, his spirit revives at every new
step he takes through these fresh forests," said the cavalier; "yet even
for his sake, were there no other reason, would I be fain to pick the
shortest road that leads to the camp of Cortes. I am greatly concerned
about my young friend, the secretary, who, as thou hast doubtless
learned, was last night shot through the arm with an arrow, by those
knaves who kept watch at the window of the prison; and therefore, for
his sake, am I desirous to find a resting place as soon as possible. If
I should give thee my counsel, (a thing I am loath to do, as thou
seemest experienced in all the intricacies of this woody wilderness, in
which I am a stranger,) it would be, to forsake all these crooked and
endless by-ways without delay, and strike upon the shortest path,
without consideration of any small party of scouts we might meet. For,
even excluding the wounded Fabueno, we are here together four strong
men, armed, and well mounted, who, fighting our way to freedom, would
doubtless be an over-match for twice the number of enemies."

"The youth must learn the science of a soldier," said Botello, "and
suffering is the first letter of its alphabet. Happy will he be if, in
the life he covets, he encounter no more agony than he shall endure
to-day. When we have time to rest, I will anoint his arm with a salve
more powerful than the unguents of a physician.--What I do, señor, and
whither I guide, are best; as you will acknowledge, when the journey is
over. Why should your honour desire to exchange blows with poor scouts?
I shall win better thanks of the knight Calavar, when I conduct you to
him unharmed.--Faster, señor--the pursuers are gaining on us."

The neophyte gave the rein to Fogoso, and greatly inflamed by the
mention of his kinsman's name, rode by the side of Botello, to demand of
him such intelligence of the knight as it might be in his power to
impart. Little more, however, had the astrologer to communicate than
Amador had already acquired. The knight Calavar was in the camp of
Cortes, among the most honoured of his followers, if such he could be
called, who divided the perils, without claiming to share the profits of
the campaign, and fought less when he was commanded or entreated than
when moved by his own wayward impulses. That he was in good bodily
health, was also another point on which Botello was able to satisfy
curiosity; and as he made no mention of another subject, on which Don
Amador scrupled to speak, he was glad to believe the distractions of the
new world had given some relief to the mental maladies of his kinsman.

A very little circumstance served, however, almost at the same moment to
reveal one of his own infirmities. As the morning dawned, and objects
were seen more distinctly, he began to bend an eye of observation on the
horse which Botello rode,--a spirited beast, as he had already
determined, by many evidences of fleetness and mettle. When he came to
regard it more closely, he perceived, by signs not to be mistaken, that
it was no other than the animal which had, the day before, caracoled
under the weight of Salvatierra. Botello grinned, when an exclamation
made him acquainted with the thoughts of the cavalier. To the demand
where and how he had obtained possession of the charger, the answer was
brief and significant. The captain Salvatierra, like many other officers
of Narvaez, preferred rather to waste the moonlight nights with the
olive-cheeked Dalilahs of the suburbs, than with enemies and prisoners,
even though they might be men of such merit and distinction as Don
Amador. This was a peculiarity with which (he did not say whether by the
instrumentality of his art, or the intervention of human agents,)
Botello had contrived to become acquainted; and being also apprised of
Salvatierra's favourite retreat, which was at no great distance from the
grove wherein Don Amador had found his followers, he did not hesitate to
deprive him of so superfluous an appendage as his charger.

"By St. John!" cried the neophyte, in a heat, "I would have bestowed
upon thee more cruzadoes than thou canst gain by a month's exercise of
thine art, hadst thou but made me acquainted with his hiding-place. I
now know, the man who could strike a boy, and attack one he hated from
behind, is a most execrable caitiff, more worthy of misprision than
revenge; but despite all this, I should have begun this day's labours
with more tranquillity and self-approval, had I but enjoyed two moments
of conference with him previously."

"Your worship may have a day for acquitting scores with him more
conveniently than you could have done this morning," said Botello.

"Hark'ee, Botello," cried Amador, eagerly--"It is thy absolute opinion
we are at this moment pursued,--is it not?"

"I do not doubt it--I hear shouts behind, ever and anon."

"I will tell thee what I will do," continued the neophyte: "I will tarry
here with Lazaro and Baltasar: thou, if thou thinkest fit, canst advance
with the secretary--I should be loath to bring him into combat before
his wound is healed, and before Lazaro has given him some instructions
in the management of his arms----"

"All this thou wilt do then," said Botello, interrupting him, "on the
presumption that Salvatierra is among the pursuers? Your worship may
satisfy yourself, the vigilant cavalier is, at this moment, either
abiding the reproof of Narvaez for his negligence, or biting his thumbs
with disgust, as, among mounted captains, he walks through the streets
of Zempoala. Horses are not in this land so plentiful as rabbits; and I
thank the blessed influences, which have given to me so good a friend
this day," he went on, patting the neck of the steed,--"so very good,
that, until there comes a new fleet from Cuba, the captain Salvatierra
will be scarce able to follow after his charger. This may satisfy your
honour on one point. As to another, I beg to assure you, Don Amador,
that I am no lying juggler, selling my revelations for money. I tell
what is told me, when I am moved by the spirit that is given to dwell
within me; and neither real of silver nor doubloon of gold can otherwise
buy me to open my lips!"



CHAPTER XIV.


To the surprise, and much also to the dissatisfaction, of Don Amador,
the noon-day sun still found him struggling, with his companions, among
the rocks and forests. It seemed to him, from a review of his journey,
that he had been doubling and turning, for the whole morning, like a boy
at blindman's-buff, within a circle of a few leagues; and though he
could not, upon the closest inspection, detect a single tree or brook
which he remembered to have passed before, he shrewdly suspected it was
Botello's intention to make him well acquainted with the forest, before
dismissing him from its depths. It was however vain to wonder, and
equally fruitless to complain. For the whole morning, at different
intervals, he was assured, sometimes from hearing their shouts in the
thicket, sometimes from beholding them from a hill-top crossing an
opposing eminence, that his pursuers were close at his heels: of which
fact, and the necessity it presented to move with becoming caution, the
enchanter took advantage in the construction of his answers to every
remonstrance. At length, perhaps two hours after noon, the travellers
approached a hill, whence, as Botello assured them, they might look down
upon the River of Canoes. This was the more agreeable intelligence,
since the day was intolerably hot, and they almost longed for the
bursting of a tempest which had been brooding in the welkin for the last
half hour, the drenching of which, as they thought, would be far more
sufferable than the combustion of sunshine. They reached the hill, and
from its bushy and stony side, looked down upon the valley, where the
river, or, more properly speaking, the rivulet, went foaming and
fretting over its rugged channel. On the hither side of the stream, the
vale was bare and sandy, and on the other, though doubtless partaking of
the same character, the trees which bordered upon the water, making
divers agreeable groves, entirely shut out the view, so that Don Amador
saw not, as he had fondly anticipated, the encampment of the invader of
Mexico, and the resting-place of his kinsman. But if he beheld not what
he so much desired to see, he surveyed another spectacle, which caused
him no little wonder. At a short distance, and almost at the bottom of
the hill, he was struck with the unexpected apparition of the army of
Narvaez, drawn out in order of battle, as if awaiting the approach of a
foe, and commanding the passage of the river. He rubbed his eyes with
astonishment; but there was no delusion in the view.

"Señor," said Botello, in a low voice, as if reading his thoughts, "you
marvel to see this army, which we left sleeping at the temple, arrived
at the river before us; but you forget Zempoala lies only a league from
the river."

"Let us descend, and cross to the other side," said Amador, impatiently.
"I see the very spot where sits the knave Narvaez on his horse; and if
the valiant Cortes have it in intention, as I do not doubt, to give him
battle, I should sharply regret to watch the conflict from this
hill-side."

"I told Narvaez, himself," said the magician, with a sort of triumph,
"he should not join battle with Cortes to-day; and he shall not!--When
the time comes, Don Amador may join in the combat, if he will.--Be
content, señor: we cannot stir from this hill without being observed,
and captured or slain. The thunder roars, the bolt glitters in the
heaven; the storm that levels the tall ceibas, will open us a path
presently, even through that angry army."

Almost while Botello spoke, and before the cavalier could add words to
the disinclination with which he regarded so untimely a delay, there
burst such a thunderbolt over his head, as made Fogoso, in common with
every other horse in the party, cower to the earth, as if stricken by
its violence. This was immediately followed by a succession of separate
explosions and of multisonous volleys, less resembling the furious roar
of the ordnance of a great army than of the artillery of volcanoes; and
it became immediately necessary for each man to dismount, and allay, as
he could, the frantic terrors of his charger. In the midst of this
sublime prelude, the rushing of a mighty wind was added to the orchestre
of the elements; and, in an instant, the face of day, the black vapours
above and the varied valley below, were hidden in a cloud of dust, sand,
and leaves, stripped in a moment from the plains and the forest; and in
an instant also, the army of Narvaez was snatched from the eyes of the
cavalier. Presently, also, came another sound, heard even above the peal
of the thunder and the rush of the wind; the roar of a great rain,
booming along like a moving cataract, was mingled with the harsh music
of nature; and Don Amador looked anxiously round for some place of
shelter. Happily, though no cavern welcomed them into its gloomy
security, there was a spot hard by, where certain tall and massive rocks
lay so jammed and wedged together, as to present most of the
characteristics of a chamber, except that there was wanting the fourth
side, as well as the roof, unless indeed the outstretched branches of
the great trees that grew among these fragments, might have been
considered a suitable canopy. A spring bubbled up from among these mossy
ruins, giving nourishment to a thick growth of brambles and weeds, which
added their own tangled covert to the stouter shelter of the rocks and
trunks. Into this nook the party, guided by Botello, to whom it seemed
not unfamiliar, penetrated forthwith; and here they found themselves, in
a great measure, sheltered from the rain. Here also, taking advantage of
a period of inactivity, and at the instigation of Don Amador, who
perceived with solicitude the visage of the secretary covered not only
with languor, but flushed with fatigue and fever, the enchanter set
about relieving the distresses of the youth. He removed the bandage and
garment, examined the wound, bathed the inflamed member in the cool
waters of the fountain; and having thus commenced proceedings with so
reasonable a preliminary, he drew a little silver vessel from his
wallet, containing the unguent 'blessed,' as he had before said, 'of the
fat of a pagan's heart,' and which, as may be repeated to those who
might doubt the efficacy of so remarkable a compound, was not only much
used, but highly commended by the Christian soldiers of that day in
America. The magician commanded Fabueno to repeat a paternoster as
slowly and devoutly as possible, (for none of Botello's conjurations
were conducted without the appearance of deep devotion;) and mumbling
himself another, or perhaps repeating some superstitious invocation, he
applied the ointment, previously spread over green leaves, to the wound;
and when it was again bound up, the secretary declared its anguish was
much mitigated, as well as his whole body greatly refreshed.

Don Amador regarded the youth for a moment with much grave kindness; and
then said,--

"I owe this man so much gratitude for the good he seems to have, and
doubtless has, done thee, whom I now, Fabueno,--at least until I can
receive instructions from my kinsman, the admiral,--must esteem as being
my ward and follower, that I am unwilling to offend him by seeming to
throw any discredit on his remedy. Nevertheless I am not less bound to
instruct thee with counsel, than to repay him with thanks; for which
reason I must charge thee to remember, that, when any miracle of a very
unusual or unnecessary character is wrought upon thyself, much more of
it may possibly be the product of thine own imagination, than of that
agent which seems to thee to be the only cause."

"Faith will work miracles, but fancy will not!" said Botello, gravely.

"If I were a better philosopher, good Botello," said Don Amador, "I
would attempt to show thee how that which thou callest faith, is, in
such a case as this, nothing but imagination in very fervent action,
differing as much from that calm assurance which constitutes true faith,
as doth a potter's pitcher gilded to resemble true gold, from a golden
pitcher; which difference, in the latter case, may be instantly
detected, by ringing them. And here I may tell thee, Botello, by way of
continuing the figure, that, as the earthen vessel will really tinkle
more pleasantly than the vessel of gold, so also will the excited
imagination give forth a sound so much more captivating than the
tranquil utterance of belief, that, in attempting to distinguish between
them, men are often seduced into error. Nevertheless, I will not quarrel
with thee on this subject, for I perceive thou art religious; and what
thy religion does not blame in thee, I have no right to censure."

This was a degree of liberality doubtless produced rather by the amiable
feeling of gratitude than any natural tolerance of disposition or
education; for the neophyte was in all respects a representative of the
nobler spirits of his age, in whom the good qualities inherited from
nature were dashed, and sometimes marred, by the tenets of a bad
philosophy.



CHAPTER XV.


This discourse of the novice, together with the magical unction of the
wound, occupied so much time, that when it was finished, the storm had
in a great measure passed away; and Botello, either feeling his
inability to reply to it with an allegory of equal beauty, or despairing
to overcome the scepticism of the cavalier, instead of answering, rose
from his seat, and led the way to the post on the hill-side, which they
had lately deserted.

Drops of rain still occasionally fell from the heavens, or were whirled
by the passing gusts from the boughs; the clouds still careered
menacingly in the atmosphere; and though the sunbeams ever and anon
burst through their rent sides, and glimmered with splendour on the
shivered tops and lacerated roots of many a fallen tree, it was still
doubtful at what moment the capricious elements might resume their
conflict. The river, that was before a brook, now rolled along a turbid
torrent, and seemed, every moment, to augment in volume and fury, as its
short-lived tributaries poured down their foaming treasures from the
hills----

"The boy to his bed, and the fool to his fire-side!" cried the
enchanter, with a sudden exultation, as, pointing down the hill, he
disclosed to the cavalier the valley deprived of its late visiters. The
armed men of Cadmus had not risen from the soil with a more magical
celerity than had the soldiers of Narvaez vanished: the valley was
silent and solitary. "I said the tempest should open for us a path!"
continued Botello; "and lo! the spirit which was given to me does not
lie!"

"I must confess," quoth Don Amador, with surprise, "you have in this
instance, as in several others, verified your prediction. What juggler's
trick is this? Where is the hound Narvaez?"

"Galloping back to Zempoala, to amuse himself with the dancers on the
pyramid," said Botello, with a grin of saturnine delight. "He came out
against Cortes, and his heart failed him in the tempest: he loves
better, and so do his people, the comfort of the temple, than the strife
of these tropical elements. Wo be to him who would contend with a strong
man, when he hides his head from the shower! He shall vapour in the
morning, but tremble when the enemy comes to him in dreams!"

"And I am to understand, then," said Amador, with a voice of high scorn
and displeasure, "that these effeminate hinds, after drawing out their
forces in the face of an enemy, have taken to their heels, like village
girls in a summer festival, at the dashing of rain?"

"It is even so," said Botello: "they are now hiding themselves in their
quarters; while those veterans who awaited them beyond the river, stand
yet to their arms, and blush even to look for the shelter of a tree."

"Let us descend, then," said the cavalier, "and join them without delay;
for I believe those men of Cortes are true soldiers, and I long to make
their acquaintance."

"It is needful we do so, and that quickly," said the astrologer; "for
this river, though by midnight it shall again be shrunk to a fairy
brook, will, in an hour, be impassable."

It required not many moments to convey the party to the banks of the
stream; but when they had reached it, it was apparent, it could not be
forded without peril. Its channel was wild and rocky; fallen and
shivered trees fringed its borders with a bristling net-work, over and
among which the current raved with a noisy turbulence. The cavalier
regarded it with solicitude; but perceiving that the magician was urging
his horse into it without hesitation, he prepared forthwith to follow
his example. He saw, however, that the secretary faltered; and feeling
as much pity for his inexperience, as commiseration for the helplessness
to which, as he supposed, the arrow-hurt had reduced him, he rode up to
him with words of comfort and encouragement.

"Thou perceivest," he said, "that Botello goes into the water without
fear. Thou shall pass, Lorenzo, without danger; for besides placing
Lazaro on one side of thee, I will myself take station on the other. If
thou shouldst, by any mischance, find thyself out of depth, all that
thou canst do, will be to trust the matter to thy horse, who is
doubtless too sagacious to thrust himself into any superfluous jeopardy.
Be of good heart: this is a small matter: thou wilt one day, perhaps, if
thou continuest to desire the life and fame of a soldier, have to pass a
more raging torrent than this, and that, too, in the teeth of an enemy."

The secretary blushed at his fears, and willing to retrieve his
character, dashed into the flood with an alacrity that carried him
beyond his patron. For a moment he advanced steadily and securely, at
the heels of Botello; but becoming alarmed at the sight of a tree
surging down towards him, he veered a little from the direction, and
instantly found his horse swimming under him. Before Lazaro or the
cavalier could approach to his aid, his discomposure got so much the
better of his discretion, that he began to jerk and pull at the reins
in such a manner as to infuse some of his own disorder into the steed.
Don Amador beheld the sorrel nag not only plunging and rearing in the
water, but turning his head down the stream, and swimming with the
current.

"Give thy horse the reins, and perplex him not, Lorenzo!" he cried,
urging the dauntless Fogoso to his rescue; "jerk not, pull not, or thou
wilt be in great danger."

But before the secretary could obey the voice of Don Amador, and before
the latter could reach him, the hand of Lazaro had grasped the bridle,
and turned the animal's head to the bank.

"Suppose thou wert in the midst of a company of fighting spearmen,
instead of this spluttering gutter," said the man-at-arms, in his ear,
"wouldst thou distract thy beast in this school-boy fashion?"

The contemptuous composure of the soldier did more to restore the
spirits of Fabueno, than the counsels of the cavalier; and yielding up
the guidance of himself as well as his animal, to Lazaro, he was soon
out of danger.

In the meanwhile, Don Amador, in his hurry to give the secretary relief,
had taken so little note of his own situation, that when he beheld his
ward in safety, he discovered that he was himself even more disagreeably
situated. A few yards below him was a cluster of rocks, against which,
as he discerned at a glance, it would be fatal to be dashed, but which
he saw not how he could avoid, inasmuch as the bank above them was so
palisaded by the sharp and jutting boughs of a prostrate tree, that it
seemed impossible he could effect a landing there. While balancing in
doubt, at a time when doubt, as he well knew, was jeopardy, he heard a
voice suddenly crying to him from the bank,

"What ho, señor! holla! 'Ware the rocks, and spur on: your hope is in
the tree-top."

While Don Amador instinctively obeyed this command, and urged his steed
full towards the threatening branches, he raised his head, and perceived
a cavalier on a dun horse riding into the water, above the rocks hard by
the tree, as if to convince him of the practicability of the passage,
and the shallowness of the water. This unknown auxiliary stretched forth
his hand, and doing to Amador the service rendered by Lazaro to the
secretary, the neophyte instantly found himself in safety, and ascending
the bank of the river. Not till his charge was on dry land, did the
stranger relax his hand; and then perhaps the sooner, that Don Amador
seized it with a most cordial gripe, and while he held it, said,
fervently,--

"I swear to thee, cavalier! I believe thou hast saved me from a great
danger, if thou hast not absolutely preserved my life: for which good
deed, besides giving thee my most unfeigned present thanks, I avow
myself, till the day of my death, enslaved under the necessity to
requite thee with any honourable risk thou canst hereafter impose."

While Don Amador spoke, he perused the countenance and surveyed the
figure of his deliverer. He was a man in the prime and midway of life,
tall and long-limbed, but with a breadth of shoulders and development of
muscle that proved him, as did the grasp with which he assisted the
war-horse from the flood, to possess great bodily strength. His face was
handsome and manly, though with rather delicate features; and a very
lofty and capacious forehead shone among thin black locks, and under a
velvet cap worn in a negligent manner, with a medal of a saint draggling
loosely from it. His beard was black and thin, like his hair, and Amador
plainly perceived through it the scar of a sword-cut between the chin
and mouth. His garments were of a fine and dark cloth, without much
ornament; but his _fanfarrona_, as it was called in the language of the
cavaliers, was a gold chain of at least thrice the weight and bigness of
the neophyte's, linked round his neck, and supporting a pendant of
Christ and the Virgin; and in addition, Don Amador saw on a finger of
the hand he grasped, a diamond ring of goodly size and lustre. Such was
the valiant gentleman, who won the friendship of the neophyte not less
by his ready good will than by his excellent appearance; although this
last qualification was perhaps not displayed to advantage, inasmuch as
his whole attire and equipments, as well as the skin and armour of his
horse, were dripping with wet, as if both had been lately plunged into
the river or exposed to all the rigour of the storm. He replied to Don
Amador's courtesies with a frank and open countenance, and a laugh of
good humour, as if entirely unconscious of any discomfort from his
reeking condition, or of any merit in the service he had rendered.

"I accept thy offers of friendship," he said, "and very heartily, señor.
But I vow to thee, when I helped thee out of the stream, I thought I
should have had to give thee battle the next moment, as a sworn friend
of Don Panfilo, the Biscayan."

"How little justice there was in that suspicion," said Amador, "you will
know when I tell you, that, at this moment, next to the satisfaction of
finding some opportunity to requite your true service, I know of no
greater pleasure the saints could send me than a fair opportunity to
cross swords with this ill-mannered general, in serious and mortal
arbitrement. Know, señor, I am at this moment a captive escaped out of
the hands of that most dishonourable and unworthy person, seeking my
way, with my followers, under guidance of a certain conjurer called
Botello to the camp of the valiant señor Don Hernan Cortes and I rejoice
in this rencounter the more, because I am persuaded you are yourself a
true friend of that much-respected commander."

"Ay, by my conscience! you may say so," cried the blithe cavalier; "and
I would to heaven Cortes had many more friends that love him so well as
my self. But come, señor; you are hard by his head-quarters.--Yet, under
favour, let us, before seeking them, say a word to Botello, who, with
your people, I perceive, has crossed the river."

A few steps of their horses brought the two cavaliers into contact with
the travellers, with whom Don Amador beheld some half-a-dozen strangers,
all of hidalgo appearance, on horseback, and dripping with wet like his
new friend, but, unlike him, armed to the teeth with helm, mail, and
buckler.

"How now, Botello, _mi querido_?" he cried, as he rode in among the
party; "what news from my brother Narvaez! and what conjuration wert
thou enacting, while he was scampering away before the bad weather?"

"Nothing but good, señor!" said Botello, baring his head, and bending it
to the saddle.

The neophyte was surprised at this mark of homage in the enchanter, whom
he had found, though neither rude nor presumptuous, not over-burthened
with servility. Looking round to the other hidalgos, he discovered that
they all kept their eyes upon his companion with looks of the deepest
respect. At the same moment, and as the truth entered his mind, he
caught the eye of his deliverer, and perceived at once, in this stately
though unarmed cavalier, the person of the renowned Cortes himself. For
a moment, it seemed as if the general were disposed to meet the
disclosure with a grave and lofty deportment suitable to his rank; but
as Don Amador raised his hand to his casque with a gesture of reverence,
a smile crept over his visage, which was instantly succeeded by a
good-humoured and familiar laugh.

"Thou seest, señor!" he cried, "we will be masking at times, even
without much regard either for our enemies or the weather. But trust me,
caballero, you are welcome; and doubtless not only to myself, but to
these worthier gentlemen, my friends." And here the general pronounced
the names of Sandoval, of De Morla, of De Leon, De Olid, and
others,--all, as was afterwards proved, men of great note among the
invaders of Mexico. The neophyte saluted them with courtesy, and then,
turning to the general, said:--

"I am myself called Amador de Leste, a poor hidalgo of Cuenza, a novice
of the order of St. John of the Holy Hospital, and kinsman of the knight
Gines Gabriel de Calavar, to seek whom am I come to this land of Mexico,
and to the tents of your excellency."

All bowed with great respect at this annunciation; and Cortes himself,
half raising his drooping cap, said:--

"I doubly welcome the cavalier De Leste; and whether he come to honour
me with the aid of his good sword, or to rob me of the true friendship
of the knight Calavar, still am I most glad to see him: and glad am I
that heaven has sent us a kinsman to watch by the side of the good
knight. Señor," continued the general, anticipating the questions of the
neophyte, "if you will moderate your impatience a little, until I fulfil
my duties with my mad friend here, the astrologer, I will be rejoiced in
person to conduct you to your kinsman."

The courteous manners of Hernan Cortes did more to mollify the ardour of
the novice than could any degree of stateliness. He smothered his
impatience, though it was burning with a stronger and an increasing
flame; while the general proceeded to confer with the magician.

"How is it, Magico mio?" he cried. "I had a deserter this morning, who
told me thou hadst been entrapped,--that my brother Narvaez had
cudgelled thee with his own hands, and had some thoughts of hanging
thee."

"Such is, in part, the truth," said Botello, tranquilly. "He was
incensed at the stars, and struck me with his foot, because the Spirit
of the Crystal gave not an answer to his liking."

"Ay, indeed!" cried Cortes, curiously; "and Kalidon hath been speaking
to him! What said Kalidon-Sadabath of Narvaez?"

"He said that, to-night," replied Botello, with his most solemn
emphasis, "the foot of Cortes should be on the pyramid, and that,
to-morrow, the Biscayan should do homage to his rival."

"Ay! and Kalidon told him all this?" said Cortes, quickly, and, as
Amador thought, angrily.

"He told only that which it was fitting the Biscayan should know," said
Botello, significantly; "he told him that which brought his forces into
the field to-day, so that they shall sleep more soundly for their
labours to-night; and yet he told him, no blow should be struck in the
field. He showed him many such things; but he told him not, in manner as
it was written in the heaven and figured in the stone, that to-night
should his enemy creep upon him as he slept blind and besotted, and
while his best friends guided the assailant to his bed-side."

"Ay, by my conscience!" cried Cortes, turning with meaning looks to his
companions; "this Kalidon reads men's thoughts; for it was but an half
hour since, when I beheld these delicate warriors turning their backs to
the gust, that I vowed in my heart, I would, to-night, give them a
lesson for their folly. What thinkest thou, son Sandoval? Will thy
sun-burnt, lazy fellows of the Rich City march to Zempoala by night?"

"Ay, by night or by day,--whenever they are bidden," said the
sententious stripling, who, at this early period of the campaign and of
his life, was not only the favourite of the general, but his second in
fame. As Don Amador listened to his rough voice, and surveyed his bold
and frank countenance adorned with a curly beard and hair, both of amber
hue, he bethought him of the story of the heralds summoning him to
surrender his post into their hands, and receiving an answer which they
digested in the nets of the Tlamémé, on the road to Tenochtitlan.

"And thou, Juan Velasquez de Leon," said the general, turning to a young
and powerfully framed cavalier, with a red beard and fierce countenance,
who, besides being clad in a heavier coat of mail than any other
present, was more bountifully bedecked with golden chains, and who sat
on a noble gray mare,--"What sayest thou? Wilt thou play me a bout with
Narvaez, the captain of thy kinsman, the governor Velasquez?"

"Ay, by my beard, I will!" replied De Leon, with a thick ferocious
voice, suiting the action to the word, and wringing the rain-drops from
the beard he had invoked; "for, though I love the governor, I love not
his dog; and if this godly enchanter will assure me the stars are
favourable to the enterprise, I will be the last man to say, our two
hundred and fifty men are no match for the thousand curs that bark at
the heels of the Biscayan."

"It is written that, if we attack to-night, we shall prevail," said
Botello.

"If _I_ am permitted to say anything in a matter of such importance,"
said the neophyte, "I can aver, that if the people of Narvaez design to
revel away this night, as they did the last, their commanders trifling
with jugglers and rope-dancers, their guards sleeping on their posts, or
straying away into the suburbs, as we discovered them when we escaped at
dawn, it is an opinion which I formed on the spot, that some ten or
fifteen score of resolute men may take them by surprise, and utterly
vanquish them."

"I respect the opinion of Don Amador," said Cortes, "as well as the
counsels of Kalidon-Sadabath and the stars, which have never yet told me
a falsehood. But how comes it, Botello? Hast thou been flying since
dawn? I cannot understand the necessity thou wert under to lead my
worthy friend Don Amador so long a ramble; and moreover I perceive that,
though yesterday thou wert constrained to trudge upon foot, thou art,
to-day, master of a steed that may almost compare with Motacila, the
wag-tail, of my son Sandoval."

"I stole the beast from the captain of the watch, Salvatierra, while he
kept guard over us at some distance in the fields," said the magician,
while all the cavaliers laughed heartily at the explanation; "and as
for the long day's travel,--when I found myself upon a good horse, I
thought I could do no better than give the alarm, and draw a party in
pursuit, and so entangle them among the woods, or wear them out with
fatigue, that they should make little opposition when we came to attack
their comrades at midnight."

"A shrewd and most laudable device!" cried Cortes, with unconcealed
delight: "I have ever found thee as good a soldier as astrologer; and if
the fates be as favourable to thee as I am myself, Botello, I can
promise thee many an acre of maize fields or gold mountains, to
recompense thy services."

"It must be as it is written," said Botello, gravely. "Many a peril
shall encompass me; but I know that, in the worst, as it has been
revealed to me, I shall be rescued out of it on the wings of eagles!"

"Amen!" cried Cortes, "for the day of miracles is not over. If the
señor De Leste," he continued, "claim to discharge his just anger for
his imprisonment on my brother Narvaez, I will invite him to such a post
of honour as shall be most likely to gratify his longings. And after
that, if my very noble friend be inclined to exercise some of that skill
in naval warfare which he has doubtless acquired among the knights of
Rhodes, I will rejoice to entrust to him the attack upon the fleet of
Cavallero."

"Señor," said Amador, "though I burn to assist you in the attack on
Narvaez, I must first receive the command of my knight Don Gabriel. I am
not so eager to draw sword upon the admiral; for know, valiant Don
Hernan, I have discovered in Cavallero a kinsman of my mother. And
señor," continued the neophyte, "I am now reminded of a message which he
charged me to deliver to your excellency, wherein he begs to assure you,
that, though fate has arrayed him as your enemy, he cannot forget the
friendship of his former life."

"Ay!" cried Cortes briskly, "does the excellent admiral say me that?"

"He bade me also avow to you, that, though it became him not, as an
officer of Velasquez, to hold any communications with you, except those
of simple form and courtesy, he should be well rejoiced when heaven has
removed the obstruction, and left him at liberty to meet you with former
friendship and confidence."

"By my conscience," cried the general, turning to his officers, and
exchanging meaning and joyous glances with them, "though these be
tidings which Kalidon hath not revealed, yet are they of such pleasant
import, that I shall ever thank Don Amador for being the bearer of them.
Eh, my masters!" he exclaimed; "did I not tell you, when we left
Tenochtitlan in gloom, we should return to it in merriment? that when we
sank our rotten fleet among the surges of Villa Rica, heaven should send
us another and a better? Let us move on, and spread these good news
through the camp----"

The neophyte perceived, by the exultation of the general, that he had
been in a manner cajoled by Cavallero; but he was not sorry to think his
kinsman should rather prefer to command his fleet as the ally of Cortes
than as the friend of Narvaez.



CHAPTER XVI.


The sun was declining fast, when the travellers made their way to the
camp of Cortes. The River of Canoes ran through a fertile valley; but
this was of no great extent, and towards its upper termination, the
scene of the events of the day, it was arid and broken with rocks.
Immediately beyond the river, in a place made strong by rocks and
bushes, impenetrable to cavalry, and affording the safest covert to his
arquebusiers and crossbowmen, the wary rival of Narvaez had pitched his
quarters. Temporary huts of boughs and fresh-woven mats were seen
withering among the green shadows, and from these ascended the smoke of
fires, at which the soldiers were dressing their evening meal. But in
advance of this primitive encampment, dripping with rain like their
commanders, yet standing to their arms with a patient and grave
constancy, as if still in readiness for an enemy, Don Amador beheld the
forces of Cortes. They had a weather-beaten and veteran appearance; most
of them were apparelled in the escaupil, cut in separate pieces
resembling cumbrous plate-armour, and occasionally so hacked by the
weapons of the natives, that the white lining gaped out somewhat
ludicrously from its darker covering. Those arrayed in a better
investment, had their morions and breast-plates commonly covered with
rust, as if kept too much occupied with perils by night and day to allow
leisure for burnishing them. Nevertheless, they looked like disciplined
and experienced soldiers. Amador observed that few of them had
fire-arms; the cross-bow, the sword, and the great lance of Chinantla,
with its long double head of bright copper, were almost their only arms;
but they handled them as if well acquainted with their value. Behind
this advanced guard, under the shelter of the rocks and bushes, he
remarked several officers, a few of them mounted, as well as divers
groups of Indian menials; and, as his ear caught a low exclamation from
the general, he turned his eyes, and beheld the object of his long and
painful search.

Under the shadow of a tall tree, remote from the rest, and attended only
by a single armed follower,--on a coal-black horse, heavily harnessed,
which stood under his weight with a tranquillity as marble-like as his
own, sat the knight of Calavar. He was in full armour, but the iron
plates were rusted on his body, and in many places shattered. The plumes
were broken and disordered on his helmet; the spear lay at the feet of
his steed; his buckler was in the hands of his attendant; and instead of
the red tabard which was worn in a season of war by the brothers of his
order, the black mantle of peace, with its great white cross, hung or
drooped heavily from his shoulders. His beaver was up, and his
countenance, wan and even ghastly, was fully revealed. The ravages of an
untimely age were imprinted upon his aspect; yet, notwithstanding the
hollow cheeks and grizzled beard, the brow furrowed with a thousand
wrinkles, the lips colourless and contracted into an expression of deep
pain, he presented the appearance of a ruin majestic in its decay. His
hands were clasped, and lay on the pommel of the saddle, and, together
with his whole attitude and air, indicated a state of the most profound
and sorrowful abstraction. In truth, he seemed the prey of thoughts,
many and deep; and it scarcely needed the simple and touching legend,
_Miserere mei, Deus!_ which usurped the place of a scutcheon or other
device on his shield, to know that if fame sat on his saddle, sorrow
rested under his bosom.

No sooner had the neophyte beheld this gloomy apparition, than, with a
loud cry, he threw himself from his horse; and, rushing forward, he
seized the relaxed hand of the figure, and pressed it to his lips with
reverence and affection. But the knight, not yet roused from his revery,
or struggling vainly with imperfect recollections, looked only into his
face with a wistful stare.

"Patron and cousin! my friend and my father!" cried the novice,
passionately, "do you not know me? I am Amador!"

"Amador!" muttered the knight, with a troubled look and a tone of
perplexity. "Very well,--to-morrow--to-morrow!"

"He will not understand you now," said the general. "He is often in
these trances."

"Mi padre! mi amigo!" cried the youth, vehemently, without regarding the
interruption of the commander, "will you not know me? I am Amador!
Look,--here is Baltasar, old Baltasar! your servant and favourite, that
has been at your side ever from the days of the Alpujarras to the fall
of Rhodes."

"The Alpujarras!" echoed the knight, with a deep sigh. "Wo is
me!--miserere mei, Deus!"

"He will recollect us _now_," said Baltasar, who had also descended, and
who testified his fidelity by a tear that glittered in his ancient eye.
"I never knew that word fail to call him out of his mood, though I have
often known it fling him into one.--Master! I am Baltasar; and here is
your honour's kinsman, Don Amador!"

"Ay! is it so indeed? I thought I was dreaming," said the knight: "Art
thou here indeed, my son Amador? Give me thy brows, for I am rejoiced to
find thee in the world again." And stooping and flinging his arms round
his neck, he kissed the forehead of the neophyte, with a parental
affection.

"This, my masters," said Cortes, in an under voice, "is not a spectacle
for us. Let us pass on, and arrange proceedings for the attack." And,
with his suite, he instantly departed.

"And how dost thou prosper at Almeria?" continued Calavar, mildly, and
without any incoherence of manner, though it was evident his thoughts
were far away. "Hast thou found me any brave hearts, who will march with
me against the infidels of Barbary?"

"Dear knight and patron," said Amador, "we are not now in Spain, but in
the heathen lands of Mexico."

"Ay! Dios mio, I had forgotten that!" said Don Gabriel, with a
bewildered air.

"Whither I have come," said the novice, "to beg your pardon for my
negligence and desertion, and never more to part from your side."

"I remember me now," said the knight, slowly and sadly. "Wo is me! a
sore infirmity is on my brain; and sometimes I am not master of my own
acts. But I remember thee, my friend: I remember that, in an evil hour
of forgetfulness, I forsook thee, to come to this unknown land. But I
beg thy pardon, my son;--the dark mood took me from thee, and in truth I
knew it not."

The tears came into the eyes of Amador, as he listened to the
self-accusation of his kinsman, and remembered how much the blame should
rest on his own momentary defection.

"It is _I_ that must bear the reproach, and _I_ that must look for
forgiveness," he cried. "But I will never need to be rebuked or forgiven
again; for I swear, dear kinsman, I will follow thee truly now, until my
death."

"And thou hast left the fair hills of Spain, thy true friends, and thy
lady-love," said Calavar, with a mournful voice, "to follow me over the
wide seas and the hostile deserts? I welcome thee with gratitude, for
thy love is great, and thy task will be bitter. I welcome thee well,
Amador, but surely it is with sorrow; for I heard thou hadst won the
love of a noble and virtuous lady; and heaven forbid I should not lament
to sever thee, in thy youth, from the enjoyment of thy affection."

A flush of shame and pain mantled the countenance of the devoted novice,
as he replied,--

"I confess I have much need of thy forbearance, dear knight; but they
did me wrong, who said I could forget thee for the love of woman. I
acknowledge no duty that is not to thee, and no passion but that of
serving thee with constancy and truth. But I am sent to thee not more by
the impulses of my own love, than by the commands of his most eminent
highness, the Grand Master, who leaves it to thyself, as a well-beloved
and much-trusted follower of the holy order, whether thou wilt remain
fighting the infidels of this new world, or return at thy pleasure to
the island Malta, which his majesty the king and emperor, Don Carlos of
Spain and Austria, hath promised to bestow upon the good knights, the
defenders of Christendom."

"Among the infidels of the new world, then," said Calavar, casting his
eyes meekly to heaven; "for I know that what poor service I may yet
render the faith, must be rendered soon; and if God uphold me, I will
render it truly and well. But thou, Amador my son, my faithful and my
beloved! I adjure thee that, when my task is finished, thou return to
the land of thy birth, and give thyself to a life of virtue, and, if
possible, of peace. Watch well the creatures that are in thy breast, for
among them are devils, which, if thou do not chain them, will rend thee.
Check thy wrath, fetter thy fury," continued the knight, vehemently;
"and when thou drawest thy sword, call on God, that it may not fall
unjustly; for when blood is shed that should not have been shed, it
lives on the soul for ever--Ay de mi! Miserere mei, Deus!"

Don Amador feared, as he listened with a superstitious reverence to the
adjurations of the knight, that he was about to relapse into his gloomy
stupor; but he was deceived. The lips of Calavar muttered on for a
moment, as if continuing to repeat the solemn and impassioned appeal of
the psalmist: and then, making the sign of the cross on his breast, he
turned again to the novice with a kind of dismal cheer, and said:--

"I welcome thee again to this land, Amador. And Baltasar--What now,
Baltasar? is it possible I should forget thee? I am glad to look upon
thy loyal countenance; thine old friend Marco will rejoice to fight
again at thy side.--If I do not err, this is thy henchman, Lazaro:--I
greet thee well, Lazaro: be very true to thy master, and forget not thy
religion. And this youth that rests behind thee--if he be thy follower,
my son, he shall share thy welcome."

"I recommend the youth Fabueno to thy kindness," said Amador, well
pleased to perceive his kinsman so collected. "He is the secretary of
the admiral Cavallero, who claims to be related to your honour, and
sends you the assurance of his love. I have been constrained, without
yet knowing the pleasure of his excellency, to receive the youth into
my protection; and this I did the more cheerfully, that he was my
fellow-sufferer in the camp of Narvaez, and did, for my sake, very
courageously expose himself to the painful shot of a cross-bow, which
now maims his right arm."

"If he have suffered for thee, my friend, I will not forget him," said
the knight; "and I am rejoiced for his sake that now, in this season of
peace, we may cure his wound before we call upon him to endure another."

The countenance of Don Amador fell; he thought the knight's dream of
peace denoted that he was sinking again into abstraction.

"Call this not the season of peace," he cried. "The commander Cortes is
resolute to fall upon his enemy, Narvaez, the enemy of honour; and it
needs we should burnish up our arms, to give him help."

Calavar looked seriously at the youth, and touching his black mantle
with an expressive gesture, said:--

"It is the time of peace, my son,--the time of peace for those that
follow the good St. John. I remember me now, that Cortes came down from
the mountains, to fight the man Narvaez and his host: but these are not
infidels, but Christians."

"Cousin," said the cavalier, warmly, "though this man have the name, yet
do I very much doubt if he possess any of the religion of a Christian;
and I have to assure you, I have endured such causeless indignities at
his hands, such as direct insult, violent seizure, and shameful
imprisonment, as can only be washed away with his blood."

"Wo's me! wo's me!" cried the knight: "the blood that is poured in
anger, will not flow like water; it will not dry like water; nor will
water, though blessed by the holy priest in the church, wash its crust
from the hand! Thou seest," he cried, extending his gauntleted member,
and gazing piteously into the face of his heated kinsman--"thou seest,
that though, for thrice five years, I have washed it in brook and font,
in the river that flows from the land of the Cross, and in the brine of
the sea, it oozes still from between the scales, like a well that must
trickle for ever, and will not be hidden.--Thou art very wroth with me,
heaven!--Miserere mei, Domine!"

Don Amador was greatly shocked and grieved, that his imprudent obstinacy
had so nearly again recalled the distraction of his kinsman. But it
needed not many expressions of gentleness and submission, to divert the
current of his thoughts. The appearance of the young and devoted
follower had come to the spirit of the penitent knight, like a cool
breeze over the temples of a fevered man; and having once been roused
from his gloom, he could not be long insensible to the excitement of his
presence. He cast an eye of kindness and affection on the youth, and
obeying, as one who had been long accustomed to such control, the humble
suggestion of Marco, he turned to the tents of the encampment.

       *       *       *       *       *



CHAPTER XVII.


The sun had not yet set, when the ray, stealing through the vapours that
gathered among the distant peaks, beheld the señor Cortes and his little
army crossing the River of Canoes. A quarter-league above his encampment
was the very ford which had given him passage, when, with a force short
of five hundred men, and a few score of wild Totonacs, taken with him
less as warlike auxiliaries than as beasts of burthen and hostages for
the fidelity of their tribe, he set out to cross mountains of snow and
fire, rocky deserts and foaming rivers, in the invasion of an empire,
whose limits, as well as its resources and power, were utterly unknown.
Here the stream was more shallow than at that spot where it had been the
fate of Don Amador to ford it; the flood had also in a measure
subsided; and while the mounted individuals passed it with ease, the
waters came not above the breasts of the footmen. Don Amador rode at the
side of his knight, and though chafing with discontent at the thought
that he should share no part in the brave deeds of the coming night, and
be but a looker-on, while strangers were robbing him of his vengeance,
yet did he conceal his troubles, lest the exhibition of them should give
new pain to his unhappy kinsman. The three attendants were behind, and
Fabueno, though evidently regarding the knight Calavar with a deep and
superstitious awe, rode not far from his patron.

The rivulet was crossed, and the hardy desperadoes who were now marching
with spears to attack a foe of five times their own number, fortified
with cannon on an eminence, gathered about their leader as he sat his
horse on the bank, as if expecting his final instructions and
encouragement. He surveyed them not only with gravity but with
complacency, and smiling as if in derision of their weakness,--for they
did not number much over two hundred and fifty men,--he said, with
inimitable dryness:--

"My good friends and companions! you are now about to fight a battle,
the issue of which will depend very much on your own conduct; and I have
to inform you, that if, as seems reasonable enough, you are vanquished,
there is not a man of you that shall not hang at some corner of Zempoala
to-morrow!"

A murmur running through the whole crew, marked the disgust of all at
this unsavoury exordium.

"The reasons for this opinion," continued the leader, gravely, "both as
to the probable fate of the battle and of yourselves in the event of
your being beaten, I shall have no trouble in speaking; only that, like
one who knows how to use the butt as well as the blade of his lance, I
shall discourse first of the hinder part of my argument; that is to say,
of the very great certainty with which a gibbet shall reward every man
who, this night, handles his weapon too tenderly. Know, then, my good
brothers, that, at this moment, though you very loyally and truly avow
yourselves the soldiers of his majesty, our king and master, it hath
somehow entered into the head of the general Narvaez, the lieutenant of
his majesty's governor, to consider you as villain rebels and
traitors;--an imputation so exceedingly preposterous and eccentric,
that, were we in a Christian land, you should not be required to deny
it; but, standing as you do, with no better present judge than your
accuser, it is certain your innocence could not be made apparent to his
majesty, until after the gallinazas had picked the last morsel from your
bones; at which time, as I think you will agree with me, a declaration
of your true loyalty would not be a matter of much consequence to any of
you."

Again a murmur, accompanied by sundry ferocious looks and savage
interjections, testified the discontent of the adventurers.

"What I say, is the truth," continued Cortes, adopting the scowl which
darkened the visages of all, extending his drawn sabre above his head,
and speaking with a fierce and resolute indignation: "In the face of
that heaven, which has seen us, for its honour and glory, devote
ourselves to pain and peril, landing friendless and unaided, save by its
own divine countenance, on the shores of bitter and murderous
barbarians, overthrowing their bloody idols, and even in the chief
sanctuaries of their diabolic superstition, on the palaces of their
emperors and the pyramids of their gods, erecting the standard of the
crucified Saviour,--I say, even in the face of that heaven that has seen
us do these things that will immortalize us on earth and glorify us in
heaven, the man Narvaez has dared to call us traitors to our king and
faith, has denounced us more as infidel Moors, than as Christian
Spaniards, and declaring war upon us with sword, fire, and free rope,
has sworn to give us to the death of caitiffs and felons!"

The answer to this passionate appeal was loud and furious. The
cavaliers clashed their swords upon their bucklers, the footmen drove
their spears into the soil, and, foaming with rage, swore they would
thus answer the calumny in the heart of their enemy.

"Does it need I should give you more proof of the bloody and insolent
violence of Narvaez?" said the general. "He hath set a price upon my
head, and on the head of my loyal friend Sandoval, as though we were
vile bandits and assassins."

"What needs more words?" cried the young captain, thus referred to. "He
shall have my head for the three thousand crowns, if he can take it."

"How it happens he has not thought any other head in this company worth
buying," said the commander, with an adroit bitterness, "is an insult he
must himself explain."

There was not a cavalier present that did not swear, in his heart, he
would avenge such forbearance with the full swing of his weapon.

"It must be now manifest," continued Cortes, with composure, "that
defeat will be the warrant and assurance of a gallows-death to all that
may render themselves prisoners. And having convinced you of this, I may
now betake me to the first article of my discourse, as one that concerns
the possibility of your defeat. It is quite probable," he went on to
say, with an irony more effectual than the most encouraging argument of
hope, "that being but two hundred and fifty strong, and enfeebled by
your divers battles with the Tlascalans, and the knavish herds of
Cholula, you will be easily beaten by a thousand men, who, besides being
fond of the valiant diversions of Indian dancers, and the martial
delights of house shelter and soft beds, have hardened their bodies, and
perfected their knowledge of arms, among the plantain patches of Cuba;
and who, in addition, are of so magnanimous a turn, that they would, the
half of them, at this moment, rather join your ranks than draw sword
against you. But why do I talk thus? A live dog is better than a dead
lion,--and a score of waking men, better than a hundred sleepers. Know,
then, ye grumbling and incensed companions, if ye _will_ conquer this
man that comes with a rope, ye may. Botello hath shown me how the stars
are propitious, and how the Spirit of the Crystal hath promised us
success. Heaven fights on our side, for we fight for heaven;--St. Paul
will be with us, for we contend for the privilege to convert the
heathen;--and Santiago will not forget us, for with every thrust of our
spears, we strike a brave blow for Spain!"

"Let us on!" cried all, with a shout of exultation; "We will conquer!"

"Nay!" cried the general, with a mock discretion. "Rush not too eagerly
on danger. Let us wait a day for those two thousand brown varlets of
Chinantla, whom the loitering Barrientos conducts hitherward; for though
it be somewhat dishonourable to share a triumph with Indian soldiers,
yet will they doubtless make that triumph the more certain."

"We will win it ourselves!" cried the excited desperadoes.

"Ye will have hotter work than ye think," said Cortes; "and surely I
believe ye will take to your heels, like the old Arrowauks of Cuba,
leaving me to die at the pyramid--For I swear you, if ye force me to
conduct you to Zempoala, I will not come from it alive, unless as its
master!"

"Let it be proclaimed death to any one that turns his back!" cried an
hundred voices.

"Ay then, ye mad valiant rogues! ye shall have your wish!" cried Cortes,
yielding to an excitement he had not easily suppressed, rising in his
stirrups and looking round him with that fiery and fanatical enthusiasm
which was the true secret of his greatness, and which left him not for a
moment even in the darkest and most perilous hour of his enterprise. "We
will march to Zempoala, with God in our hearts, and the name of the Holy
Spirit on our lips; and remembering that, under such influence, we
scattered the tens of thousands that beset us on the plains of
Tlascala, we will show this dog of a Biscayan what it is to oppose the
arms of heaven,--Amen!"

And _Amen_ was uttered fiercely and frantically by the adventurers, as
they prepared to follow their leader. But a wave of his hand checked
their ardour for a moment; a few words explained the order of attack,
and the duties of the several leaders, of whom the young Sandoval was
appointed to the most honourable and dangerous task,--to seize the
artillery by a coup-de-main, and thus give passage for De Leon in the
assault of the towers, while Cortes himself should stand by with a
chosen body of reserve, to witness the valour of his captains, and give
assistance where it might be needed. Again, when the announcement of
these orders seemed to have taken the restraint from the ardour of his
followers, the general checked them. A huge and rugged cross of
cotton-wood raised its mouldering bulk before them on their path,--a
holy landmark, raised by the piety of the invader, nine months before,
while on his march to Tenochtitlan.

"Under the cross will we commend ourselves to God, and prepare ourselves
for battle," said the leader, riding forward, and dismounting. His
example was followed by all the cavaliers, who, together with the
footmen, knelt upon the dank grass, and baring their heads, prepared for
the rites of penitence and absolution. None knelt with a more devout
submission than the knight of Calavar; none exposed with more humility
their youthful heads to the evening breeze than did he his
silver-touched locks and withered temples; and none, as the holy
chaplain dictated the act of general confession and contrition, echoed
his words with a more fervent sincerity. Under the rude crucifix in the
desert, knelt those men who were about to imbrue their hands in blood,
and that the blood of their countrymen.

The words of penitence were said, the rite of absolution pronounced; and
the followers of Cortes rose to their feet, with their hearts full of
conquest. But before the helm was buckled and the horse mounted, there
came on the twilight air, from the towers of Zempoala, the sound of the
vesper-bell of Narvaez.

"It is long since we have worshipped at the sound of a Christian bell,"
said Cortes, again flinging himself on his knees. "God speaks to us in
the omen. We have not forgotten, among infidel savages, that we are
Christians!"

As if those tones were rung in the chapel of a brother, instead of the
barracks of an enemy, and as if to join that enemy in one act of piety,
before springing upon him, sword in hand, all again knelt down; and the
Ave-Marias of two hostile armies, on the brink of engagement, went up to
heaven together.



CHAPTER XVIII.


Hard by to the town of Zempoala ran a little brook, coursing through
agreeable meadows, and here and there skirted by green forests. In a
wood that overshadowed this current,--but at the distance of a quarter
league from it,--lay concealed the forces of Hernan Cortes, waiting
patiently for the time when the squadrons of Narvaez, satiated with the
sports of their tawny neighbours, should, additionally, recompense the
exploits of the day with the oblivion of slumber. They had watched with
contempt, and with joy (for they perceived in such spectacle, a symptom
of the infatuated security of their enemies,) the great fire that
lighted the diversions of the evening, blazing on the pyramid; until it
began to die away, as did many of the sounds of revelry, that, in the
still hour of the night, were borne to their ears. But it was not until
their spies brought word that the last brand was flinging its decaying
lustre over the eaves of the towers, that they were bidden to arise,
cross the stream, and array for battle.

In deep silence--for they knew there were sentinels on the path--they
reached and forded the rivulet: trooper and footman passed over, and
were ranked under their several leaders, and all seemed in readiness for
the assault.

Still, however, the knight of Calavar sat motionless on his sable steed,
as if all unaware of the tempest of war that was brewing; and Don Amador
beheld, with a pang of unutterable grief and vexation, the departure of
those bold spirits to the scene of strife and honour, in which he was to
have no share. As he sat fuming and frowning, now on the point of urging
his kinsman for permission to follow, now reproaching himself in bitter
reprehension, as if the unuttered wish might recall some of those
thoughts of misery which so often perplexed the brain of the crazed
knight, he heard the foot-fall of a horse, and perceived a cavalier
riding towards him. To his grief was superadded a pang of shame, as he
saw in this individual the person of Cortes himself, and conceived the
object of his return.

"I am loath to see that the noble Calavar still abides by the black
mantle," he said, as if content to waste no arguments on the knight;
"but if the very valiant Don Amador de Leste be desirous to repay upon
Narvaez the injuries done to his honour, or if he be minded to bestow
upon me that great favour whereof he spoke on the River of Canoes, there
can never come a better opportunity than this present: and for the
services he may render me personally, as well as a most loyal cause,
this night, by leading his followers with me to the pyramid, I shall
ever remain in thankful remembrance."

The words stuck in the throat of the novice, as he replied, "I am the
slave of my kinsman: I burn to follow you--but my knight must command."

He turned to Calavar, with a look of despair; but the night which
concealed it from the eye, could not preserve the reproach from the ear.

"Stay thou by my side, Amador, my son," said Calavar, sorrowfully; "and
let no man that follows thee or me, think to draw his sword this night;
for we are the followers of St. John, and may not contend with a
Christian, except in self-preservation."

"God shield thee, sir knight," cried the general, anxiously; "every man
who strikes with us to-night, strikes for his own life: victory
preserves us, and defeat conducts us to the scaffold; and I am free to
confess to _thee_, what I dared not speak to my companions, that unless
every man does his duty, and God looks kindly upon all, I know not how
soon we may be under the foot of our enemy."

"I have not refused thee my sword," said the knight calmly, "when an
infidel stood in thy path; nor will I, when such opposition is again
made."

"But thy noble and valiant kinsman, and thy people," said the general,
hastily: "they long to divide the honour of this combat, and they have
no vows to restrain them. Every sword to-night is as valuable as a Cid's
right arm."

"Tempt them not! delude them not into the commission of a great sin,
that will fill their future days with remorse," said Calavar, earnestly.
But before he could add any thing further, the report of an arquebuse
from the front filled the forest with its roar, and Cortes, plunging the
spur into his charger, was instantly borne out of sight.

"For God's sake!" cried Amador, with despairing entreaty, "let us cross
the brook, and follow these brave men a little, though we join not in
the battle."

"I will not refuse thee so much as that," said the knight, with some
little animation, which was perhaps caused by the martial associations
of the explosion. "It is not forbidden us at least to look on; and by so
doing, heaven may perchance allow us the happiness to save some wretched
life."

In a moment the little party had crossed the brook and spurring their
horses hard, followed, as they thought, in the path of their late
companion. But, though the moon frequently displayed her resplendent
visage through loop-holes in the scudding clouds, the many clumps of
trees that dotted over the meadows in the environs of Zempoala, so
confounded the vision, that they had reached the very suburbs, without
yet obtaining a view of the adventurers. Indeed it had so happened, that
not being provided with a guide acquainted with the various approaches
to the town, they fell upon one entirely different from that trodden by
the assailants. Not doubting however that they were following closely
upon their rear, they pushed boldly on through a deserted street,
echoing loudly to the clatter of their steps; nor did they discover
their error until, to their great surprise, they found themselves
issuing upon the great square, in full view of the temple.

They paused an instant in confusion.--No tumult of shouts or fire-arms
came from the sanctuaries; a deep silence brooded over the city as with
wings; in fact, no sound broke the solemn tranquillity of midnight, save
one which was the evidence and representative of peace. The faint
twangling of a lute, mingling with the sweet tones of a youthful voice,
came from the chief tower; to hear which the sentinels had doubtless
stolen from their posts among the cannon, which were now seen frowning
in solitude on the verge of the platform.

Before Don Amador could take time to ponder on the infatuated
recklessness of the Biscayan general, or bethink him much of the young
Moor of Fez, whose voice it was, he did not doubt, that sounded so
plaintively from the tower, and which, by some inexplicable principle of
association, instantly wafted his spirit to Granada, and wrung it with a
sharp and sudden anguish,--the clattering of a horseman riding furiously
up a neighbouring street, roused him from the imperfect revery; and his
heart waxed hot and fierce, as the loud cry, _Arma! Arma! A las armas!_
burst from the lips of the flying sentry. In a moment of time this
faithful watchman was seen dashing across the square; and as he flung
himself from his steed, and rushed up the steps of the pyramid, still
shouting the alarm at the top of his voice, there was heard another
sound following at his heels, in which the practised ear of the neophyte
detected the tramp of footmen, pursuing with the speed of death. In a
moment, also, ceased the lute and the voice of the singer; torches
flashed suddenly from the doors of the towers; and as their light shot
over the open square, there was seen a hurried mass of men running in
confusion over the area of the pyramid. But the same flash that revealed
this spectacle, disclosed also the wild figures and hostile visages of
the men of Cortes, rushing to the assault, and sending forth a shout,
that made the whole town ring and tremble to its foundations.

It was not in the nature of man to see these sights and hear these
sounds with composure; and accordingly Don Amador had no sooner
dismounted and flung the reins of Fogoso into the hands of Lazaro, than
he perceived the knight of Calavar, on foot, at his side. He turned an
inflamed, and perhaps a rebellious eye on his kinsman; but the
countenance of Calavar was bent on his own, with a ghastly placidity;
and as the hand of the knight was laid on his shoulder, as if to
restrain his fury, the youth groaned in bitterness and anger.

"By heaven!" he cried, "I see the very face of Sandoval, as he darts at
the steps!--O my friend! my father!"

"Shed no blood!" said the knight, with a hollow, but stern and vehement
voice. "The avenger will follow thee by night and by day, at prayers and
in battle--Shed no blood!"

"We are alone, too!" cried Amador, with ungovernable fire, as he found
that Marco, Lazaro, and Baltasar, after flinging the reins of their
horses round the shrubs that grew at the corner, had vanished from his
side. "Even the varlets may strike at the knave who has wronged me; yet
may I not raise my hand!"

"Shed no blood!" reiterated Don Gabriel, in a sort of frenzy: "Forget
thy rage, forswear thy fury! slay thyself, but strike not in
vengeance!--Miserere mei, Deus!"

All these wild words, though they take moments to record, were the
utterance of an instant; and while the piteous plaint of the knight
Calavar still winged its way to heaven, and before Amador could reply a
single word, the shouts of the assailants, as they rushed up the steps,
were met by the roar of a cannon discharged by a skilful hand,
illumining tree and tower with a hideous glare, and flinging death and
havoc among their ranks. But the foot of desperation was on the earth of
the temple; and before another piece of artillery could answer to the
hollow thunder of the hills, the spear of Chinantla was drinking the
blood of the cannoniers. At this moment, and while even the young
Fabueno grasped the sword in his feeble hands, and turned his pale face
to the battle,--while Amador gnashed his teeth with rage,--there rose
from the platform, above the shouts and yells of the combatants, a
shriek as though of a woman struck by the spear of some ferocious
dastard.--If the blow of an enemy had fallen upon his cheek, the young
cavalier could not have started from the grasp of his kinsman, and drawn
his sword, with a more irresistible impulse. But, in truth, the same cry
that inflamed his own brain, went also to the heart of Calavar; and when
he dashed up the pyramid with furious haste, as if to the rescue of a
sworn friend, the knight of Rhodes, drawing his weapon, followed
fiercely after.

The scene that awaited the neophyte on the platform, though composed of
men writhing together in thick affray, did not dwell an instant on his
eye. It had caught, as if by providential direction, in the very chaos
of combat, the figure that had sent forth the cry of affliction; and as
he bestrid the body of Abdalla, and caught up the childish minstrel from
his person, he shivered with a single stroke of his sabre, the spear
that, in a moment, would have pinned to the earth both father and son.

"Dog of a conjurer!" he cried, as he discovered the person of Botello in
the discomfited slayer, and prepared, while the terrified stripling
clung convulsively to his body, to shield him from the weapons of
others; "dog of a conjurer! thy cruelty cancels thy services, and I will
cleave thee for a viper!"

"What is written is written--God be thanked! I knew not 'twas a boy."
And in an instant Botello vanished among the combatants.

"I thought thee a woman, thou scared varlet!--Cheer up, Abdalla!--they
shall not harm thee.--Father! my knight and my father! wilt thou protect
my boy, that I have saved, and his sire, the Christian Moor?" cried
Amador, as he perceived the knight stand staring wildly at his side. "I
leave them to thee.--Surely there may be other lives to save!" And thus
concealing his excitement in what seemed an excuse for his disobedience,
and without waiting for an answer, he rushed instantly into the thickest
of the combat.



CHAPTER XIX.


When Don Amador fled from the side of Calavar, the instinct of his
vengeance carried him to the spot where it seemed most likely to be
gratified. The chief tower, as well as the two others, was invested; but
in the crowd of musketeers and crossbowmen who stood valiantly at its
door, repelling the assailants, he not only heard the voice, but very
plainly perceived the tall figure, of his enemy, Don Panfilo. Infuriated
at the sight, he rushed forwards, and calling out with an indiscreet
vigour that drew both the attention of that general and the thickest
shots of his companions, he quickly found himself in a situation of
great jeopardy. Though bullet and cross-bow shaft fell harmless from his
mail of proof, the thrust of some half a score partisans aimed at his
shining and exposed breast, beat down the insufficient defence of his
buckler, and hurled him instantly to the ground. But the voice with
which he had challenged the Biscayan had been heard by friends as well
as enemies; and as his faithful Lazaro dashed aside the most threatening
weapon, the shield of another friend was extended over his body, and he
found himself raised by the hand of Cortes.

"I knew my valiant friend would not desert me, this night!" cried the
commander. "But risk thyself no further. We will sack these towers,
without the loss of so invaluable a life.--What ho! yield thee,
Narvaez!" he exclaimed, with a voice heard above the din; "yield thee up
a prisoner, or thine own cannon shall bury thee under the temple!"

"_El Espíritu Santo_, and on!" cried fifty eager men, as they rushed by
their leader, and drove the followers of Narvaez into the sanctuary.
They vanished; but the pikes and muskets bristling through the curtain,
checked the audacity of the besiegers at the door; and the voice of
Sandoval was heard exclaiming from behind, "Clear for the cannon, and
stand aside!" when suddenly a fire-brand dashed by some unseen hand to
the roof, lodged among the palm-leaves, and in a moment the whole
superstructure was in flames.

"Spare your powder, and stand by for the rats!" cried Lazaro, for it was
he who had achieved this cunning and well-timed exploit; "Basta! So we
catch rabbits in La Mancha!"

"An hundred crowns to the knave of the fire-brand!" cried Cortes,
exultingly;--"and three thousand paid in gold, to him who lays the first
hand on Narvaez!--Burn, fire! smother, smoke! the night is ours!"

"Ay! Don Panfilo! I await thee!" exclaimed Amador, as the rushing
descent of beams and embers drove the besieged from the temple, and
again discovered the person of his wronger. He sprang towards the
commander, who, however hot and foolish of temper, now bore himself like
a courageous soldier, and struck fast and fiercely at his foes, while
shouting good cheer to his friends. But before Don Amador could well
reach him, he saw the unfortunate man struck down, and in the act of
being transfixed by many spears. Magnanimity--for the fury of a brave
man cannot live without opposition--took the place of wrath; and no
sooner did he hear Don Panfilo exclaim, with a piteous voice, "_Dios
mio!_ I am slain, and mine eye is struck out forever!" than he rushed to
his assistance, and seemed resolved to perform in his service the same
act of valour with which he had befriended Abdalla. Again, too, as he
caught an outstretched arm, did he find himself confronted with Botello:
but this time the magician's arm was extended in the office of mercy;
and as he raised the vanquished general, and displayed his countenance,
covered with blood oozing from his right eye, he exclaimed with a
triumphal solemnity: "I saw him blindfold; and lo, his eye is blinded
with blood!--Victory! victory! Á Dios, á Cristo, y al Espíritu Santo,
gracias! gloria y gracias! Amen!--Victory!"

Loud was the shout with which the besiegers responded to the cry of the
magician; and the disordered and unavailing shots from the other towers
were lost in the uproar of voices exclaiming, "Viva Cortes, el soldado
verdadero! Viva Don Carlos, el rey! Viva el Espíritu Santo! el Espíritu
Santo santísimo!"

"Away with him!" cried Cortes. "Guard thy prisoner, magico mio,--thou
hast won the prize.--Leave shouting, ye rebel hounds, and bring up the
cannon!--What ho, ye rogues of the towers! will ye have quarter and
friendship, or flames and cannonballs? Point the ordnance against the
flank towers. Bury me the knaves that resist us longer.--In the name of
God and the emperor, fire!"

But this measure was unnecessary. The shout of triumph, with which the
assailants proclaimed the capture of the Biscayan, was carried to every
ear in the adoratories; and it was at this instant that the besieged, as
much bewildered by the surprise as discomfited by the fury of the
attack, disheartened, too, by the misadventure of their general, looked
from the loops of their strong-holds, and made that famous blunder of
converting the host of _cucujos_, or fire-flies, into a multitude of
match-locks; whereby their hearts were turned to water, and their
assurance of victory humbled to the hope of capitulation.

At the very moment that Don Amador, foiled in the gratification of his
passions in one quarter, turned to indulge them in another, and rushed
with increasing animation to that tower, around which he heard many
voices echoing the name of Salvatierra, he beheld that worthy captain
issue from the door, fling his weapon to the earth, and stretch out his
arms, as if beseeching for quarter.

"Oh thou thing of a white liver!" cried the young cavalier, with extreme
disgust, "hast thou not the spirit to strike me one blow? I would I had
brought thee the boy Jacinto, to inflame thy valour a little. Thou wilt
fight me a boy!"

As the neophyte thus gave vent to his indignation, he felt his arm
touched, and, turning round, he beheld the secretary, holding a sword
ornamented with drops of blood, and otherwise looking as though he had
commenced his pupilage in a manner that would not shame his instructor.

"Well done, Fabueno!" he exclaimed, encouragingly: "thou lookest like a
soldier already. I am glad thine arm is so strong."

"I struck but one blow, señor, and I believe I have killed a man! God
forgive me!" he cried, in more affright than elation,--"I am not sure I
did right; for the very moment I struck the blow, my arm twinged with a
most horrible pang; which was perhaps a judgment on me, for striking a
man who had done me no wrong."

"These things must not be thought of too much," said Don Amador,
hastily; "in battle, we must look upon all opponents as our sworn
enemies, at least so long as they keep to their feet. But the battle is
over--I will have thy wound looked to by some better surgeon than this
crazy conjurer."

"Señor," said Fabueno, "I sought you out, not to trouble you with my
pains, but to recall you to the knight, your kinsman, who is in some
difficulty with certain men, about the Moor, that may end in blows, and
never a henchman but old Marco by the good Don Gabriel."

Amador followed the secretary instantly, and found his kinsman--not
unprotected, however, for both Marco and Baltasar were at his
side--surrounded by several men speaking with loud and fierce voices,
among which he quickly detected the tones of the master of the
Incarnation.

"I say, and I aver," cried this man, as the neophyte approached, "the
two knaves, both father and son, are my slaves, as can be proved by
these runagate men, my sailors; and no man shall have them from me,
without payment of my price."

"Ay! we can bear witness to that," said his companions. "These are true
pagan slaves, captured in a fight at sea, out of a Barbary pirate;--very
honest, lawful slaves: and though we have deserted our captain, to fight
these other pagans, we will not see him robbed of his property."

To the great joy of Don Amador, he observed that his kinsman was calm
and collected, and though he spoke with his usual voice of affliction,
his answer was still full of dignity and gravity.

"The Moor that is a Christian cannot be enslaved; neither can he be
bought and sold--and these claim to be both _Gazies_, Christian
Moriscos. I guard them at the desire of their protector, who can
assuredly support their claims; in which event thou must cease thy
importunity, and think of them no more."

"They are my slaves, and I will have them!" said the master,
ferociously. "I meet nothing but robbers in these lands; but robber
peasant, or robber knight, neither shall wrong me for naught."

"Thou base and covetous cur!" said Amador, advancing before the sailor,
"if thou usest no better language, I will strike thy head from thy
shoulders! Dost thou remember me, sirrah? Did not the admiral satisfy
thee in this matter? and dost thou follow me still, like a blood-hound,
after the prey that is not thine?"

"Calm thy rage, son Amador," said the knight. "Thou hast done a good act
to-night, in saving the lives of this poor child and his father, and
thou shall not want my aid to preserve their freedom. But let us not
quarrel: enough Christian blood has already been shed, and a woful sight
will the sun see, when he presently rises. Let us go before Cortes: he
shall judge between this man, and these creatures whom thou hast rescued
from destruction."

"I ask nothing but justice and my right," grumbled the master, somewhat
pacified by the angry bearing of the neophyte--for this was a more
commanding argument than the mildness of Calavar.

He fell back, and without further contention, though with a lowering
look, followed the two cavaliers and the Moriscos in search of Don
Hernan.



CHAPTER XX.


The morn, which by this time was breaking over the sea, was ushered in
with a thousand sounds of triumph; and the drums of the vanquished
rolled in concert with the trumpets of the victors. In truth, saving to
the wounded and broken-spirited Biscayan, and some few cavaliers who
had remained faithful to him and to his employer, the change of others
from rivalry to subjection, was a circumstance more of gratulation than
regret; as was proved by the ready alacrity with which they betook
themselves to the audience of their conqueror.

In the gilded and feather-broidered chair in which he had first seen the
person of the unlucky Narvaez, Don Amador de Leste now perceived the
figure of the Conqueror, a rich mantle of an orange hue thrown over his
shoulders, his head bare, but his heel resting on a certain footstool or
ball of variegated feathers, and altogether preserving an appearance of
singular, but superb state. His valiant and well-beloved officers stood
ranked on either side, and on either side, also, his resolute followers
were displayed, as if performing the duties of a body-guard. In this
situation of pride, he prepared to receive the congratulations or the
griefs of his enemies; and, as if to add still further to the imposing
magnificence of the ceremony, at that moment, as a wild roar of conches
and drums mingling with the wilder shouts of human beings, burst over
the city, a great multitude of native warriors from the province of
Chinantla, marching in regular and alternate files of spearmen and
archers, and glittering with feathers and brilliant cotton garments,
strode upon the square, and dividing upon either side of the pyramid,
halted only when they had surrounded it with their warlike and most
romantic array. The spectacle was no more surprising to the people of
Narvaez than to those friends of Cortes, who had not before looked upon
an Indian army, among whom Don Amador was one. He regarded the
picturesque barbarians with much admiration; though his eye soon
wandered from them to dwell upon the leader, and the ceremonious part he
was then enacting. He sat in his chair like a monarch, and though, at
times, when some conquered cavalier more honoured, or better beloved,
than others, approached, he arose, and even extended his arms with a
friendly embrace, in the greater number of instances he was content to
pronounce some simple words of compliment, and present his hand to be
kissed,--a mark of homage reverentially rendered by all.

It did not become Don Amador, though he surveyed these proceedings with
some little contempt, as indicating on the one side, too much arrogance,
and on the other, too much humility, to interrupt them, in which
persuasion, he stood patiently aside, with his company, watching until
such moment when he might approach with propriety. Being thus a witness
of the degree of friendliness which characterized the receptions, as
well as the many petitions which the comers made to be accredited and
enrolled among the general's true friends and followers, he began to
lose somewhat of the wonder with which he had regarded the suddenness
and facility of the victory. It was apparent, that most of the officers
of Narvaez had long made up their minds to devote themselves to the
service of his enemy; and when they had paid their compliments to Don
Hernan, they dropped among his officers, as if joining old friends and
comrades.

It gave the neophyte some pain, when at the conclusion of these
ceremonies, he beheld the Biscayan led forward in chains, (for he was
heavily ironed,) to salute his rival. His casque was off; a bandage
covered his eye; his face was very pale; and he strode forward with an
uncertain gait, as if feeble from the loss of blood, or agitated by
shame and despair. Nevertheless, he spoke with a firm and manly voice,
when he found himself confronted with his vanquisher.

"Thou mayest congratulate thyself, Cortes," said the fallen chief. "Thy
star has the ascendant, thy fate is superior; and so much do I admire my
own misfortune, that I could compliment thee upon it, did I not know it
was wrought less by the valour of my enemies, than the perfidy of my
friends."

"Thou doest thyself, as well as all others, a great wrong to say so,
brother Narvaez," said the victor, gravely; "and it would better become
thee magnanimously to confess thou art beaten by thine own fault, rather
than to follow the example of little-minded men, and lay the blame upon
others."

"I confess that I _am_ beaten," said the captive;--"and that the shame
of my defeat will last longer than my grave. But I aver to God, and I
maintain in thy teeth, though I am but a captive in thy hands, that this
victory is altogether so miraculous, it could not have happened unless
by the corruption of my people."

"To heaven and my good soldiers, it is all owing," said Cortes,
composedly: "and so little miraculous, my brother, do I myself esteem
it, after having twice or thrice beaten thirty thousand Tlascalans, at a
time, all valiant men, that I vow to thee on my conscience, I cannot do
other than consider this triumph as altogether the least of my
achievements in Mexico."

"It must be so, since you say it," responded Narvaez, his breast heaving
under the sarcasm, with a bitter and suffocating pang; "yet it matters
not. Let the glory be ever so little, the shame is not the less
notorious; and though thou scornest thy reward of fame, I will not fly
from mine own recompense of contempt.--What more is expected of me? Dios
mio! I cannot, like the rest, kiss thy hand, and take upon me the oaths
of service. I am thy prisoner!"

"Had I been thine," said Cortes, gravely, "thou wouldst have fulfilled
thy word, and hanged me, wouldst thou not?"

"What matters it?" replied the unfortunate man, with a firm voice.
"Doubtless, if the passion that beset me at the time of the
proclamation, had lasted after a victory, I should have been as good as
my word: for which reason I will anticipate thy excuses, and assure thee
out of mine own mouth, thou wilt but retaliate fairly, to dismiss me to
the same fate."

"Thou canst not understand the moderation thou hast not practised," said
Cortes rising, and speaking with dignity. "The foolish rage that
provoked thee to set a price upon my head, I remember not; the madness
that proclaimed these true and most loyal men for rebels and traitors,
must be passed by, as other hallucinations: but as, in doing this, thou
hast greatly injured and jeoparded the interests of thy master the king,
thou art worthy to suffer the death of a rebellious subject, for as such
thou hast acted. Nevertheless, I will do thee a grace thou wouldst not
accord to me; I will conceive, that, however traitorous have been thy
actions, thou mayest have been faithful at heart,--mistaken, but not
disloyal: in which thought, I give thee thy life, and will recommend
thee into the hands of his majesty for judgment and mercy."

The conqueror waved his hand, and Narvaez was led away:--to terminate,
in after years, a life of mischance by a death of misery, among those
ruder tribes of the North who are but now vanishing from the borders of
the Mississippi, and to add his melancholy tale to the gloomy histories
of De Leon and De Soto.

"What will my noble and thrice-honoured friend, Don Amador de Leste?"
cried Cortes, as he perceived the neophyte approaching him. "We should
be good friends, señor; for I owe thee much, and we have been in peril
together."

"Twice, I thank your excellency," said Amador, "you have done me the
office of a true cavalier; for which I will not now trifle the time to
thank you, inasmuch as my arm is henceforth unshackled, and I can write
my gratitude better with it, than with my tongue. What I have now to
require, is that your excellency will judge between me and this fellow,
the master of a ship, in the matter of a Moor called Abdalla, otherwise
Esclavo de la Cruz, and his son Jacinto; both of whom being Christian
Moors, though captured in a Barbary vessel, this man doth claim to be
his slaves; I, on the other hand, as their vowed protector and champion,
upholding them to be free, and in the condition of wards to his majesty
the king."

"They are my slaves," said the master--but a frown from the general
instantly closed his lips.

"It is well for the Moor," said Cortes, as, at his command, Abdalla
approached, followed by Jacinto: "it is well for the Moor that he has so
powerful a protector as Don Amador; for otherwise, having discovered it
was his accursed hand shot off the falcon which destroyed me four brave
men and maimed as many more, I had resolved to hang him like a hound,
this very morning!"

"There is no better cannonier in all your excellency's train," said the
master, who, however likely to be robbed of his property, could not
check the impulse to praise it.

"I fired the cannon with the fear of death in my eyes, if I refused,"
said Abdalla, humbly; "and my lord should as well be wroth with the
linstock as with myself."

"Say not a word, sirrah Moor," said Cortes; "for the favour of Don
Amador having saved thy life, I have nothing further to do, but to judge
thy claims to liberty; the which if thou establish, I will not scruple
to employ thee in mine own service."

"The freedom of these twain," said Amador, "was recognised by his
excellency, the admiral Cavallero; and I thought he had satisfied this
ship-master."

"His excellency, the admiral, protested he would represent the matter to
the governor Velasquez," said the surly captain; "and I was content to
abide his decision. But my sailors, hearing there was more gold to be
gathered among these hills than on the sea, deserted me; and not having
the means to carry my ship to Cuba, I was fain to follow after them;
hoping the excellent cavaliers would do me justice, and pay me for my
captives."

"Sirrah," said the general, "wert thou with Narvaez, or with me, in this
battle?"

"With neither," said the sailor. "I arrived at night-fall; and not being
able to make my way to Narvaez, I slept off my fatigue in a hut below,
till roused by the din of this siege; coming forth to behold which, I
discovered my slaves, and straightway claimed them: and my sailors
yonder will witness I won them in fair fight."

"The Moriscos are Christians, and therefore not thy property," said the
commander; "and if they were, being taken out of the camp of an enemy,
they should be reckoned spoils of war, and for that reason, my
possessions, and not thine. Cease therefore thy demands; follow thy
sailors, if thou wilt,--for on the lakes of Mexico, I shall have
employment for thy best skill; and if, in time, I discover thee
faithful, and this Moor as dexterous as thou representest, I will,
without allowing thee any right to the same, give thee very good guerdon
for his services."

The master, concealing his dissatisfaction, retired.

"I hoped," said Amador, "your excellency might be persuaded to send
Abdalla and the boy to Spain."

"I am loath to say to Don Amador, that may not be," replied Cortes. "As
a good Christian, Abdalla will doubtless rejoice to fight the infidel;
and as for his boy, if there be no other cavalier willing to advance him
to the honours of a page, I will myself receive him. I hear he is a good
musician; and I want a playmate for my little Orteguilla, whom I left
dancing boleros before the emperor Montezuma."

The fame of Jacinto as a lutist and singer, had already spread among the
cavaliers; and his appearance was at the same time so prepossessing,
that many of them stepped forward, and avowed themselves ready to
receive him into service. Don Amador himself, now for the first time
perusing his countenance at leisure, and moved as much by its beauty as
by its air of grief and destitution, added himself to the number; and it
seemed as if the claims of the various applicants might lead to heat and
misunderstanding. The cap of Jacinto had fallen from his head, and long
ringlets, such as greatly stirred the envy of the younger cavaliers,
fell over his fair brow and exceedingly beautiful countenance. His
delicately chiseled lips, parted in alarm and anxiety, moved and played
with an ever-varying expressiveness; while his large black eyes, in
which brilliancy was mingled with a pensive gentleness, rolled from
general to cavalier, from Amador to his father, with a wild solicitude.

The difficulty was terminated at last by Don Hernan.

"I vow by my conscience," said he, "I like the boy's face well; but I
will not oppose my wishes to those of worthier gentlemen here present.
In my opinion, no man hath so fair a claim to the boy as Don Amador de
Leste, who first befriended him; and not doubting that, herein, the boy
will agree with me, I propose the election of a master to be left to
himself, or, what is the same thing, to his father, as a measure equally
agreeable to all. Choose, therefore, Abdalla, between these cavaliers
and thy benefactor; for it is not possible the stripling can remain with
thyself."

Abdalla bent his troubled eyes around the assembly; and Amador, not
doubting his choice, regarded him with a benignant encouragement. Long
did the Almogavar survey him, now with eagerness, as if about to throw
himself at his feet and beseech his protection, and now faltering with
hesitation and doubt. Amador, mistaking the cause of his embarrassment,
prepared to reassure him; when the eyes of the Moor, wandering away from
himself, fell upon the figure of Don Gabriel standing hard by. The same
hesitation that disturbed him before, again beset him; but it lasted not
long. Amid the clouds of dejection and distraction that characterised
the countenance of the knight of Rhodes, there shone a ray of
benevolence as if the emanation of a fixed and constant principle; and
Abdoul al Sidi, as he remarked it, forgot that Calavar was the slayer of
his people.

"If my lord, my very noble lord," he said, bending to the earth, "will
hear the prayer of his servant, and waste his charity on so great a
wretch as Abdoul, there is no one of all this noble assembly to whose
benevolent protection Abdoul would sooner confide his helpless and
sinless child."

The cavaliers stared; yet Abdalla had not erred, when he reckoned on the
humanity of Calavar.

The knight received the hand of Jacinto from his father, and regarding
him with a paternal kindness, said,--

"For the sake of Him who did not scorn to protect little children, I
will receive this boy into my arms, and protect him with my best
strength, both from sorrow, and the sin that is the parent of sorrow."

"And I may see him sometimes?" said the Moor, lingering, though the
general had motioned him away.

"Surely I keep him from harm, not from the love of his father."

"I commend thee to heaven, my child," said the Almogavar, embracing him.
"Confide in thy master, remember thy father, and pray often.--Farewell!"

But the boy, with a cry that drew the commiseration of all present,
threw himself into Abdalla's arms, and clasping him as if forever, wept
on his bosom.

"Thy master waits thee, my child!" said Abdalla, disengaging his hands,
and again leading him to Calavar. "Be wise and faithful, and remember,
if not always in thy presence, I shall not often be far from thy side."

The stripling once more kissed the lips of the Morisco, and then
checking his lamentations, as his father left him, wrapped his cloak
round his head, as if to hide his tears, and stood by the knight in
silence.

While this incident was passing, the attention of Cortes was attracted
by two Indians differing much in equipment from the warriors of
Chinantla, but still of a soldier-like bearing, who, in company with two
or three of his chief cavaliers, hastily approached him, and conferred
with him through the medium of an interpreter. A cloud came over his
countenance; he arose, and smote his hands together with fury.

"What, ho, cavaliers!" he cried; "we must think of other matters than
crying babes and jingling pages. I thank God for this victory, for never
came one more opportunely; and ye, true friends, who have, this moment,
protested your allegiance, prepare now to make it more manifest. Sharpen
your swords, saddle your horses; for to-day we must march to
Tenochtitlan!"

A murmur of surprise ran through the multitude that thronged the
pyramid; and Amador forgot both the boy, and the touch of indignation
with which he had seen him transferred to another, though his kinsman,
as he pressed towards the excited general.

"Know ye, friends and brothers!" continued Cortes, "that the devil has,
at last, waked up in the infidel city; blood has been shed,--the blood
of Spaniards as well as of pagan Mexicans,--and, at this moment,
Alvarado is besieged in the palace by the whole hordes of the valley;
and he swears to me, by these Tlascalan messengers, that unless I render
him speedy assistance, he must die of starvation, or perish under the
sword of the barbarians. So God speed us to the Venice of the New World,
the Babylon of the mountains! The gold shall not be snatched out of our
hands, nor the fame blotted from our histories: we have this good day
numbers enow to chase the imps from the islands, and to tumble the gods
from their temples; and so will we, in the name of God and St. Peter,
Amen!--God speed us to Tenochtitlan!"

The shout that answered this pious and valiant rhapsody from the pyramid
and the square, gave note of the zeal with which his followers, both old
and new, were prepared to second the resolution of their leader.



CHAPTER XXI.


A history of moral epidemics, drawn up by a philosophic pen, would add
much to our knowledge of the mysteries of human character and human
power, as well as of the probable contingencies of human destiny. In the
prosecution of such a subject, besides tracing the development of those
little causes which, in former days, have spread their effects from man
to man, until whole communities have laboured under a disease resulting
in revolutions of the most stupendous nature, we should, doubtless,
perceive many of those points of susceptibility and chains of impulsion,
which render men the creatures of change; and which, being definitely
understood and wisely influenced, might at once put it in the power of
philanthropists to govern the operations of reform in such manner as to
avoid the evils of ill-considered innovation. Religion and liberty have
both come to us as diseases; and the propagation of them throughout the
lands of the heathen and the slave, is yet a measure of pain and peril,
because we have not considered, or not yet learned, how to address
ourselves to infirmity. What man will not say, that the enthusiasm which
cumbered the sands of Syria with the blood of the Crusaders, might not,
if properly directed, have brought light and happiness to all Europe? or
that the fever, which has left the revolution of France a horror on the
page of history, might not, under the guidance of a less speculative
philosophy, have covered her valleys and filled her cities with security
and peace? Enthusiasm comes and goes; and because we know not enough of
its weak and governable qualities to direct it in the paths of justice
and virtue, it is allowed yet to fill the world with wrong and misery;
and, misapplied to the purposes of glory, avarice, and fanaticism, the
engine which God has given us to advance our civilization, is still the
preserver of barbarism.

In the facility with which the aboriginal empires of America were
subverted by a handful of hotheaded Spaniards, mankind has been willing
to find a proof of the savage imperfection of their institutions. In the
case of Mexico, at least, this testimony is deceptive. If we remember
that the tribes of Anahuac, like the other races of America, were
struggling against obstacles which did not impede the advancement of
other nations, we shall be surprised at the point of civilization they
had reached. Heaven had denied all the useful domestic animals to
America. The bison, which is perhaps not altogether untameable, roamed
only over the prairies and the forest lands of the north, among tribes
that were yet in the bottom class of humanity. The horse and the ass
added not their strength to the labours of man, and the little llama,
bearing the burden of its master over the icy Cordilleras of the south,
was but a poor substitute for the camel of the desert, to which it has
been compared. Accident, or the knowledge of a thousand years, can alone
teach men the use of that metal which will bring him civilization, when
gold will not buy it; but the discovery even of the properties of iron
will soon follow the invention of an alphabet, however rude or
hieroglyphic. The Mexicans could already record and perpetuate their
discoveries. Without the aid of iron and domestic animals, they were
advancing in refinement. Civilization had dawned, and was shedding a
light, constantly augmenting, over their valleys; and, apart from these
deficiencies, saving only, perhaps, additionally, in the article of
religion, which was not yet purged of its abominations, (and which,
_perhaps_, flung more annual victims on the altars than did, in after
days, even the superstition of their conquerors, in Spain,) the Mexican
empire was not far behind some of the monarchies of Europe in that
method, purpose, and stability of institutions, both political and
domestic, which are esteemed the evidences of civilization.

A moral epidemic nerved the arm of the invaders, another paralyzed the
strength of the invaded. Superstition covered the Spaniard with armour
stronger than his iron mail, and left the Mexican naked and defenceless;
and, in addition, the disease of disaffection, creeping from the
extremities to the centre of the empire, added its weight to the
lethargy of religious fear. When Hernan Cortes set out on his march, the
second time, against Tenochtitlan, believing that God had chosen him to
be a scourge to the misbeliever, he knew well that thousands and tens of
thousands of malecontents were burning to join his standard. Mexico was
the Rome of the New World,--a compound of hostile elements, an union of
tribes and states subdued and conjoined by the ambition of a single
city, but not yet so closely cemented as to defy the shocks of a Gothic
irruption. What might have been the condition of the empire of
Montezuma, if the divine ray which conducted the Genoese pilot over the
Atlantic, had been reserved for an adventurer of the present day, it is
impossible to determine; but, it is quite clear, its condition was such
at the time of the invasion, that, had not the indecision of its
monarch, founded on such a conjuncture of coincidences as might have
confounded a more enlightened prince, entirely repressed its powers of
resistance, no armies, raised by the Spanish colonists, or even by their
European master, could have penetrated beyond the shores; and the
destiny of Cortes would have been written in letters as few and as
obscure as those which have recorded the fate of Valdivia among the less
refined, but better united Araucanians of Chili.

The heart of the leader was bold, the spirits of his confederates full
of resolution and hope; and notwithstanding the evil intelligence that
their victims were wakening to a knowledge of their strength, and
confirming their audacity in the blood they had already shed, the united
followers of Narvaez and Hernan Cortes began their march over the
mountains with alacrity and joy.

The novelties and wonders that were each day disclosed, were remarked by
no one with more satisfaction than by Don Amador de Leste. He rejoiced
when, ascending among the mountains, the fens and sand-hills of the
coast were exchanged for picturesque lakes and romantic crags; when the
oak woods and pine forests began to stretch their verdant carpets over
the hill-sides; when, standing among the colossal ruins of some shivered
peak, he cast his eye over glen and valley, glittering with verdure and
fertility, far away to the majestic ridges over whose hazy sides tumbled
the foamy fall, or crept the lazy cloud, while among their gorges
glistened the distant cones of snow. Now he admired the ferns, lifting
their arborescent heads, like palms, among other strange trees; now, as
he exchanged the luxuriant slopes for those volcanic deserts which strew
the base of Perote with lava and cinders, he beheld the broad nopal, and
the gigantic maguey, rearing their massive leaves over the fissures,
while a scorched forest withered and rotted above. Sometimes, while
pursuing his weary way over these mountain _paramos_, or deserts, he
advanced bewildered, as what seemed a fair and spacious lake withdrew
its vapoury waters from before him, and revealed a parched and barren
expanse of sand. The journey was an alternation of mountain and valley,
forest and plain, with sometimes a pleasant little Indian village, and,
twice or thrice, a town of no mean magnitude and splendour, rising in
pleasant nooks among the horrors of the waste.

Over this rugged region it was not possible to drag the ordnance and
heavy stores, with which Cortes was now abundantly provided, without
much labour and delay; and it was not until about the time of the summer
solstice, more than a month after the fall of Zempoala, that, at the
close of a pleasant day, the new invaders laid their eyes, for the first
time, on Tlascala,--the capital of that warlike republic, which, for the
singular object, as certain historians have conjectured, of preserving
an enemy to exercise their armies, as well as to furnish victims for
their gods, the Mexican monarchs permitted to subsist in the heart of
their empire.

The slowness of their march was productive of many advantages to those
particular individuals, whose adventures it is the object of this
history to record. It gave to Don Amador an opportunity to make the
acquaintance of many of his new companions, among whom were some not
unworthy his friendship. The services of the señor Duero were remembered
not without gratitude; and although he reflected, at times, with some
unreasonable disgust, that these denoted as much treachery to a friend
as humanity to a stranger, the attentions of that cavalier were so
sedulously continued, that he could not well refuse him his regard. The
taciturn but ever-resolute Sandoval,--the lofty and savage, but not the
less courteous De Leon,--the fiery De Olid,--the daring De Ordaz, who,
thirsting to accomplish exploits not dreamed of by his confederates, had
clambered among the snowy pinnacles and burning caverns of the great
Volcan, and had thereby won the right, confirmed to him afterwards by
the Spanish king, to carry a fire-mountain for his arms;--these, as well
as divers others of no mean renown, so recommended themselves to the
esteem of the neophyte, that he dismissed much of his preconceived
contempt, and began to consider himself among honourable and estimable
cavaliers. But to none of them did his spirit turn with so much
confidence and affection as to Don Francisco de Morla, a young hidalgo
of his own native town, greatly beloved throughout the army, as a man of
honour and tried courage. In this cavalier a modest carriage was united
to great gayety of disposition, and a warm heart, governed by gentleness
of temper. A milder enthusiasm than that which beset his comrades,
softened him to the barbarians, in whose land he was more desirous to
consider himself a guest than an enemy; and without lacking any
sincerity of devotion to his own faith, he seemed to regard the
ferocious superstitions of the natives with less abhorrence than pity.
He had followed at the side of Cortes from Tobasco to Zempoala; and,
being as observant as brave, was not only able to acquaint Don Amador
with the marvellous events of the invasion,--its perils, sufferings, and
triumphs,--but could also instruct him in many of the remarkable
characteristics of the land and the people.

The effects of this delay on the knight of Rhodes were equally
beneficial, though differently wrought. The paroxysms of lethargy, as
well as the fits of distraction, which, as Don Amador learned from the
faithful Marco, had been many and ungovernable, whenever the excitement
of battle was over, began to vanish under the interest of the society,
and the influence of the careful government of the neophyte; who, from
long acquaintance with his kinsman's eccentricities, had acquired a
power to soothe them. But if such was the influence of Don Amador, the
power of the little Moorish page over his moody moments was still more
remarkable. The sorrows of Jacinto vanished with the capriciousness of
childhood; and perceiving that, in the long and toilsome march, he was
never so far separated from his father that he might not look to see him
at night-fall, he quickly recovered his spirits. Then, as if to express
his gratitude to the good knight who protected him, he studied, with
wonderful diligence and address, how best to please and divert him. With
a thousand pretty stories, chosen with such discretion and prattled with
such eloquence, as often surprised the neophyte;--with countless songs,
which no one could sing with more sweetness, or accompany with more
skill on the lute,--he would seduce the knight from his gloom, and cheat
him out of his melancholy. No dagger shone so brightly as that polished
by the hand of Jacinto; no plume of feathers waved with more grace than
that set by the young Moor on the casque of Don Gabriel. If a
tiger-flower glittered on the path, if a chirimoya put forth its fruit
by the wayside, before the knight could turn his eyes upon them, they
were in his hand; and Jacinto smiled with delight, as he received the
thanks of his patron. The benevolence of Don Gabriel soon changed to
affection; he almost smiled--not so much with joy as with love--when,
sometimes, the boy sat at his feet at evening, and sang with fervour a
hymn to the Virgin; he was troubled if, by chance, Jacinto strayed from
his sight; and Don Amador sometimes found himself beset by a sort of
jealousy, when he perceived, or thought he perceived, this stripling
robbing him of the heart of his kinsman. But to do Don Amador justice,
it needed not many suggestions of his honour or pride to rid him of such
envious emotions. The zeal of the boy in the service of Calavar, as he
confessed, deserved much of his own gratitude; to which should be added
many acknowledgements of the satisfaction with which he himself listened
to his instrument and voice. If the boy sang with alacrity at the wish
of Calavar, he was not less ready to obey the command of the neophyte.
Nevertheless, Don Amador fancied this obedience was rendered less from
love than duty: he thought the stripling looked on him with fear,
sometimes with dislike; and he was persuaded that (though on occasions
of difficulty,--when a thunderstorm met them on a hill, or a torrent
roared over the path,--Jacinto chose rather to fly to him for
protection, than to remain by the side of the knight,) he was oftener
disposed to shrink from his kindness. This troubled Don Amador, for he
loved the boy well; and often he said to himself, "I have saved this
urchin from a beating, and, as I may add, from the imminent danger of
being speared like a frog;--I have given him gentle words, as also
praises for his singing, which is indeed very excellent; I have helped
him over divers rivers, and a thousand times offered him a seat on
Fogoso's crupper, which it was his own fault, or his own cowardice, he
did not accept; in short, I have helped him out of countless troubles,
and was, besides, the first to befriend him in these lands--without
reckoning what protection I have given to his father, Sidi Abdalla;--and
yet the lad loves me not. It is a pity he was not born of Christian
parents;--ingratitude runs in Moorish blood!"

So thought Don Amador, a thousand times; but a thousand times, as his
displeasure waxed hot at the unthankfulness of the lad, it was
dissipated by some little circumstance or another. Once, when he was in
a talkative mood, and desirous to have Jacinto at his side, he was so
displeased at his evident wish to escape, as to vent his displeasure in
a reprimand. The boy ran to his side, kissed his hand, and raised his
eyes, suffused with tears, to the countenance of his preserver.--The
cavalier never rebuked him again. On two or three occasions, also,
greatly to his surprise, he caught the stripling weeping; which was the
more wonderful, since he seemed not only reconciled, but greatly pleased
with his state of easy servitude. On all such occasions, he excused
himself with such persuasive simplicity, as not only to remove all
suspicions of discontent, but greatly to increase the affection of the
neophyte. He was a favourite as well with the men-at-arms, as with their
masters; and Don Amador often reflected with wonder, how quickly he had
wound himself into the hearts of all. "If I could persuade myself into a
belief of magic," he pondered, "I should think him a truer conjurer than
Botello. What Botello prophesied concerning Narvaez, is very remarkable;
yet, when a man is prognosticating all his life, it is hard if he do not
sometimes blunder upon the truth. Truly he blundered wrong about
Lorenzo's arm, which is not yet well healed; and I vow to St. John, I
thought, one time, it would have gangrened. But as to Jacinto, he has
enchanted my knight's heart. I have ever thought _he_ abhorred the
Moors, and surely he slew great numbers in the war of the Alpujarras. As
for myself, I was born with a natural detestation of the Moorish race;
and I never before knew but one that I did not hate at first sight."
Here he sighed dolefully. "But this boy I love; yet loves he not me.--I
have heard of philters and love-medicines; and surely, as many drugs
attack the stomach, brain, and other parts, there is no reason some
should not be found to affect the heart!"

But while the neophyte thus marvelled and reasoned, Jacinto stole still
deeper into his favour; and at the end of a day's march, Don Amador was
oftener found sitting at the door of some Indian cabin, or under the
shade of its flower-garden, listening with Calavar to the lays of the
young musician, than sharing the martial sports of his companions, or
even superintending the warlike exercises of his ward, Fabueno.



CHAPTER XXII.


To those invaders who had not yet witnessed with their own eyes the
peculiar wonders of the interior, the approach to Tlascala was full of
surprise and interest. As the sun sank, the four hills on which lay the
republican city, and the pyramids and towers that crowned them, sent
their long shadows over the plain to the feet of the cavaliers; and in
the gloom, they beheld a vast multitude,--the armies of the four tribes
which composed the nation, under their several banners, glittering with
feathers, and marching in regular divisions to the sound of wild music,
as well as a host of women and children waving knots of flowers, and
uttering cries of welcome,--advancing to do them honour. Don Amador
forgot the valiant appearance of the warriors of Chinantla, while gazing
on the superior splendour of the armed Tlascalans. These warlike people,
in imitation of their Christian confederates, had learned to divide
their confused throngs into squadrons and companies, ranked under
separate leaders, and now approached in what seemed well-ordered
columns. Bunches of red and white feathers waved among their long
locks, and ornamented their wickered shields; the short tunic of
_nequen_, a coarse white cloth of the maguey, left their muscular and
well-sculptured limbs free for action; and as they strode along,
brandishing their swords of obsidian, (the _maquahuitl_,--a heavy
bludgeon, armed on either side with blades of volcanic glass,) or
whirling in their slings those missiles of hardened copper armed with
sharp horns, which were capable of piercing the toughest armour,--and
ever and anon, mingling their fierce cries with the savage sound of drum
and flute, they made a show not more remarkable than glorious. At the
head of each division, under his peculiar standard, (the image of some
bird of prey, or wild beast, very gorgeously decorated,) marched each
chieftain, with the great plume of distinction, or _penacho_, as it was
called, rising full two feet above his head, and nodding with a more
than barbarous magnificence. Thus appareled and thus displayed, they
advanced to the head of the Christian army, and dividing on either side,
so as to surround the Spanish host with a guard of honour, each
individual, from the naked slinger to the feather-crowned chief, did
homage to the Christian general, by touching the earth with his hand,
and then kissing the humbled member; while at the same moment, a number
of priests with black robes and hair trailing almost to the ground,
waved certain pots of incense before him, as if to a demigod; a mark of
distinction which they afterwards extended to the cavaliers that
surrounded him. The religious ire of Don Amador de Leste was inflamed,
when it became his turn to receive this fragrant compliment; and looking
down fiercely upon the innocent censer-bearer, and somewhat forgetting
that Castilian was not the language of the realm, he cried;--

"What dost thou mean, thou pagan dog! to smoke me in this idolatrous
manner, who am neither a god nor a saint?"

"Señor," said De Morla, who sat at his side, "be not offended at this
mark of reverence, which the customs of the country cause to be rendered
to every man of dignity; and which is a harmless compliment, and no
idolatrous homage, as was first thought among us. Thou wilt presently
see them smoke their own generals and senatorial lawgivers, the last of
whom thou mayest see yonder approaching us in a group;--those old men
with the feather fans in their hands."

As De Morla predicted, the priests were no sooner done smoking their
Christian visiters, than they turned to do similar reverence to their
own dignitaries; and Don Amador's concern was soon changed to admiration
to behold with what lofty state these noble savages received the tribute
due to their rank.

"This fellow with the red plume, and the sword that seems heavy enough
for a giant's battle-axe," he cried,--"the knave over whom they hold a
great, white bird like an ostrich?--He must needs be a king! He bends to
Cortes, like an emperor doing courtesy to some brother monarch."

"That," said De Morla, "is Xicotencal, of the tribe of the White-Bird,
the most famous general of the Tlascalans, and, in fact, the
captain-in-chief of all their armies. He is not less valiant than
famous, and not less arrogant than valiant; and at this moment, beshrew
me, I think he would rather be knocking his bludgeon over our heads, out
of pure love of war, than kissing his fingers in friendship. This is the
man who commanded the armies which fought us on our first approach; and
truly I may say, he fought us so well, that had he not been commanded by
the senators, who are the civil rulers of Tlascala, to make peace with
us, there is much suspicion we should have seen heaven sooner than the
vale of Mexico. For, señor, after having supplied us with food, as
scorning to be assisted in his victory by famine, which was somewhat
pressing with us, he fell upon us to win it in person; and I must
confess, as will be recorded in history, he quite broke and confounded,
and would have utterly destroyed us, had it not been for a providential
mutiny in his camp in the very midst of his triumph; whereby we had time
to rally, and take advantage of his distresses. The same good fortune
might have been his, another time, without so inconvenient an
interruption. But it seems the senators of Tlascala only made war on us,
to prove whether or not we were valiant men, and worthy to be received
as their allies, according to our wish; which being now proved to their
satisfaction, they ordered the war to be ended, and welcomed us as
friends. There never were more valiant men than these soldiers of
Tlascala."

"Of a surety," said Don Amador, "I begin to think the captain Gomez of
the caravel was somewhat mistaken as to the courage of these
barbarians."

"Thou seest the second chief,--he of the green penacho, with whom Cortes
confers so very courteously! That is Talmeccahua, chief of the tribe
Tizatlan, a very young warrior, but second in fame only to Xicotencal;
and being more docile and friendly, he is much a favourite with our
general, and doubtless will be selected to accompany us to the great
city. Of those reverend old senators I could also give you an account;
but we who are soldiers, care not for lawgivers. It is enough to assure
you, that they are the rulers of Tlascala; and that though these proud
people, the commoners, call themselves free republicans, they are to all
intents and purposes the servants of many masters; a sort of freedom
somewhat more questionable than that of a nation governed by one king.
Thou seest, they kiss their hands to us, as we enter their city. For my
part, I think them rogues to love us, their truest enemies, better than
their domestic rivals, the people of Tenochtitlan. Wo betide them, who
help us to conquer their foes, when their foes _are_ conquered!"

As De Morla spoke, Don Amador found himself entering the city of
Tlascala. Twilight had darkened over the hills, and in the obscurity,
(for the moon had not yet risen) he perceived long masses of houses,
not very lofty, but strong, on the terraced roofs of which stood many
human beings, chiefly women and children, who waved a multitude of
torches, and, as they sung what De Morla told him were songs of welcome,
threw flowers down upon their guests.

Flambeaux were also carried before them in the streets; and with this
sort of pomp, they were ushered to a great building with extensive
courts, sufficient to lodge the whole army, which was assigned them for
their quarters.

While the cannoniers were arranging the artillery, the officers of the
guard choosing their watchmen, and preparations were made to hold a
conference with the chiefs of the republic, the neophyte was invited by
De Morla to accompany him to a pyramid on one of the four hills, whence,
as he assured him, was a noble prospect of those huge mountains which
separated them from the valley of Tenochtitlan. Don Amador looked about
him for his kinsman. He had retired with the chaplain of the army, in
some sudden disorder of spirit, for prayer or confession; and Don Amador
sighed, as he bethought him that yearly, about the time of midsummer,
the knight's disease seemed to reach its intensest point.

"If thou couldst but sing to him that holy song of the Virgin, written
many years back by the priest of Hita,

    Quiero seguir á ti, Flor de las flores!"

said Don Amador to the Moorish page, (for it was Jacinto who gave him
this information,) "I have no doubt thou wouldst do him more good than
the reverend father Olmedo; for, though I know not why it should be so,
he ever seems to me more troubled than relieved by confession."

"It was a song chanted the evening before that had thrown the knight's
spirit into disorder; and Baltasar had commanded him never to sing
again;" so said Jacinto.

"Baltasar is an ass! though very zealous for his master," said the
neophyte in a heat, "and thinks there is nothing comforts my kinsman's
heart, save the clanging of swords and bucklers; whereas, I know very
well, thy ditties are true medicine to him; and, with heaven's blessing,
thou shall sing him very many more."

"Let the boy follow with us," said De Morla: "I like his piping well;
and methinks, if he have not forgotten that tender love-song about the
Christian knight who adored a pagan Morisca, I can listen to it again
with much good will, as I look towards the mountains of Montezuma."

"I am loath to have him away, for perhaps my good knight may call for
him when the confession is over; and there is something raw in this
night air, that may be prejudicial to the youth."

"_Yo seguiré á mi señor_--I will follow my master," said Jacinto, with
simplicity. "My lord the knight bade me this night to remain by the side
of my lord, lest some evil should happen to me among the infidels."

"Take up thine instrument then," said the neophyte, "for thou seemest
to-night to remain by me in good will; and I am ever glad to have thy
foolish company, when such is the case. If thou wilt carry a torch also,
'tis very well: 'twill be some half hour yet ere moonrise."

The two cavaliers, followed by the page bearing a torch, as well as his
lute, strode through the streets, which were still thronged with their
savage allies, as in a gala-day, singing and shouting; many of whom,
from affection or curiosity, seemed disposed to add themselves to the
little party. Nevertheless, such inquisitive individuals were easily
repelled by De Morla pointing in the direction he was pursuing, and
pronouncing a few words in their language, the effect of which, as Don
Amador observed, was always to check their ardour, and cover their
visages, when these could be seen, with sadness and awe.

"I tell them," said De Morla, in answer to the inquiries of the
neophyte, "that we are going to the hill to look upon the
fire-mountain, Popocatepetl; and why they are so stricken with
superstition at the name, I will explain to thee when we reach the
temple."

The temple was soon reached. The city,--a congregation of cabins and
rude stone dwellings, of vast size,--lying on the prolonged base of a
great mountain, reared its principal sanctuaries on the spurs of this
elevation, on the highest of which stood that consecrated to the god of
the air. This was an earthen pyramid, huge and lofty, surmounted by
towers such as Don Amador had seen at Zempoala. As the friends
approached this, the deep silence that surrounded it was broken by the
voices of men speaking vehemently in a strange tongue; and as they
advanced, they beheld two or three figures glide behind the pyramid, as
if to escape observation. This would not perhaps have attracted the
notice of the neophyte, had not his companion exclaimed,--

"Sidi, the cannonier, again! plotting his knaveries with the two Moorish
slaves of Cortes! There is some villany in the wind: I have twice or
thrice seen Abdalla in close conference with these two varlets, and he
is often seen talking with his other countrymen that we have in the
army. I will represent this matter to the general; for there can no good
come of such secret proceedings.--I have all along distrusted that
infidel cannonier to have some mischief in him."

"Please my lord, my father is no infidel," said Jacinto, trembling,
perhaps as much at his presumption in contradicting a noble hidalgo, as
at the presumed danger of his parent,--"no infidel, but a Christian
Moor; as the good padre Olmedo will witness to my lord."

"Young page," said De Morla, pleasantly, "I should not have said so
grievous a thing of thy father, but that I forgot thou wert in hearing.
I will grant thee Abdalla to be a good Christian, if the padre say so;
but, if thou art as much of a wit as a singer, tell me, how is it thy
father is found so often skulking about by night, in company with the
Moorish slaves, who are yet unbelievers, instead of resting with
Christian soldiers?"

"Though the Moors be slaves and Mahometans," said the page, with much of
the submissiveness of his father, though recovering from his
trepidation, "they were born in the same land with my father, and are
his countrymen. As for the Christian soldiers, they will not forget,
that though a Christian, he was born of the poor Moriscos: and, my lord
knows, it is hard to rest with those who hate us."

"I should give thee a ducat for thy argument," said De Morla,
good-humouredly, "but that I know thou art so unsophisticated as to
prefer sweet praise to gold; and I intend soon to bestow some of that
upon thee. Thy oration has utterly persuaded me I have wronged Abdalla;
in token of my penitence for which, I will relieve thee of the burthen
of the torch, whilst thou art climbing up these steps, which are none of
the smoothest nor shortest."

"Take thou my hand, Jacinto," said the novice, benevolently; "for, as my
friend says, these steps are indeed very rugged; and I am willing to
show thee, that though thou art of Moorish blood, I myself do by no
means either hate or despise thee."

The page humbly and hesitatingly placed his hand in the grasp of Don
Amador, and ascending at his side, soon stood on the summit of the
pyramid.

Here, besides two towers of stone that reared their lofty bulk over
head, the novice perceived in advance of them, two great urns of rude
workmanship, each apparently carved out of a solid block of stone, and
each glowing with the remains of a fire not yet extinguished,--though no
priests stood by, to guard and replenish them.--They had forsaken their
altars, to join in the festivities of the evening.

"Let us break these idolatrous censers!" said Don Amador, "for my blood
boils to look upon them."

"Nay," said the moderate De Morla, "let us wait for heaven's own time,
as is strenuously advised by our wise and holy chaplain, who must know
better than ourselves how to attack the impieties of the land. We have
ever found these heathens more easily converted by gentle persuasions
than by violent assaults on their prejudices; and father Olmedo has
shown us how persecution strengthens instead of overturning an abused
superstition. He has also proved to the satisfaction of most of us, that
it is our bounden duty to subdue the arms of the pagans, and leave their
faith to be conquered by the good priests who will follow in our
path.--Turn, señor, from these pigmy vases to the great censers, which
God has himself raised to his majesty!"

As De Morla spoke, he turned from the altars, and Don Amador, following
with his eyes the direction in which he pointed, beheld a spectacle
which instantly drove from his mind the thought of the idolatrous urns.
Far away in the south-west, at the distance of eight or ten leagues,
among a mass of hills that upheld their brows in gloomy obscurity, a
colossal cone elevated its majestic bulk to heaven, while the snows
which invested its resplendent sides, glittered in the fires that
crowned its summit. A pillar of smoke, of awful hue and volume, rose to
an enormous altitude above its head, and then parting and spreading on
either side through the serene heaven, lay still and solemn, like a
funeral canopy, over its radiant pedestal. From the crater, out of which
issued this portentous column, arose also, time by time, great flames
with a sort of lambent playfulness, in strange and obvious contrast with
their measureless mass and power; while ever and anon globes of fire,
rushing up through the pillar of vapour, as through a transparent
cylinder, burst at the top, and spangled the grim canopy with stars. No
shock creeping through the earth, no heavy roar stealing along the
atmosphere, attested the vigour of this sublime furnace; but all in
silence and solemn tranquillity, the spectacle went on,--now darkling,
now waxing temporarily into an oppressive splendour, as if for the
amusement of those shadowy phantoms who seemed to sit in watch upon the
neighbouring peaks.

"This is indeed," said Don Amador, reverently; "if God should require an
altar of fire, such a high place as might be meeter for his worship than
any shrine raised by the hands of man. God is very great and powerful!
The sight of such a spectacle doth humble me in mine own thoughts: for
what is man, though full of vanity and arrogance, in the sight of Him
who builds the fire-mountains?"

"Padre Olmedo," said his companion, "will ask you, what is this
fire-mountain, though to the eye so majestic, and to appearance so
eternal, to the creeping thing whose spark of immortality will burn on,
when the flames of yonder volcano are quenched forever?"

"It is very true," said the neophyte, "the mountains burn away, the sea
wastes itself into air, but the soul that God has given us consumes not.
The life of the body passes away like these flames; the vitality that is
in the spirit, is a gift that heaven has not extended to the stars!"

"My friend," said De Morla, willing to pass to more interesting
discussions, "will now perceive for what reason it was that the
Tlascalans were dismayed and sorrowful when I pronounced the name of
Popocatepetl. The name signifies the Mountain of Smoke; for this great
chimney, though ever pouring forth dark vapours, has not often been
known to kindle into flames. The present eruption, beginning about the
time of our descent upon the coast, has ever since continued; and was
considered to have heralded our appearance. The Tlascalans, though as
securely fettered under the sway of their senators, as are the people of
Anahuac under their kings, are, as I told thee, very intolerant of such
chiefs as carry the open names of masters. Nay, so bitterly do they
detest all tyrants, that they have constructed a fable, which they now
believe as a truth,--namely, that the souls of such persons are
concocted and elaborated among the flames of yonder awful crater;
whence, at the times of eruptions, they are sent forth, in the shape of
meteors and fire-balls, to afflict and desolate the world. The globes
that fall back into the cavity, they think, are despots recalled by
their relenting gods; whereas, those that fall beyond the brim and roll
down the sides of the mountain, are tyrants let loose upon them without
restraint. This being their belief, it may seem strange to you, they
have conceived so preposterous an affection for ourselves, who are much
liker to prove their tyrants than any of the lords of Anahuac; but yet,
so savage is their detestation of these native kings, that, though
nightly terrified with the spectacle of so many fiery tyrants flying
through the air, they seem quite to have lost sight of the danger of
entrusting their liberties to our care."

"I hope," said Don Amador, "we have come to rid them of the bondage of
idolatry, not to reduce them to a new slavery."

"We will see that by-and-by," said De Morla. "We broke the chains of
superstition in the islands, but we followed them with more galling
fetters; and what better fate awaits the good Montezuma, is more than I
can tell."

"Dost thou call that savage emperor the good Montezuma?" demanded the
novice.

"I cannot do otherwise," said De Morla, mildly, "A thousand times might
he have swept us from the face of the earth; for his armies are
numberless. A grain of sand from the hand of each of his warriors, would
have covered us with a mountain. But age has come to him with a disgust
of blood; and all his actions have proved him rather a humane host than
a barbarous destroyer. I must confess, we have repaid his gentleness and
beneficence both with perfidy and cruelty; yet, notwithstanding all
this, and notwithstanding that he is sorely afflicted by our harshness,
such is the goodness of his heart, that he will not permit his people to
do us any injury, nor, by any violence, rescue him out of our hands."

"I have heard another story from Don Hernan," said Amador: "and, truly,
I thought these ferocious assaults upon the garrison left with the señor
Alvarado in the city, were proof enough of his deceitful malice."

"I will not take upon me to contradict what is averred by Don Hernan,"
said De Morla. "But, señor, we have had other representations of these
tumults, by envoys from Montezuma himself, which, if Cortes had not
refused to hear them, would have entirely changed the nature of our
belief. I have myself spoken with these ambassadors," continued the
young cavalier earnestly, "some of whom were sent to us at Zempoala, and
others have met us at divers places since, though without being
hearkened to,--and having no inducements to remain in a rage, like
Cortes himself, I was very easily persuaded, to my shame, that the fault
lay all on the side of the garrison.--Señor, for the sake of lucre, we
have done many unjust things! We were received with all hospitality by
Montezuma, the great lord of Tenochtitlan; he gave us a palace to live
in, supplied us with food and raiment, and enriched us with many costly
presents. We repaid all this kindness, by seizing him, in a moment of
confidence, and conveying him to our dwelling, where we have kept him
ever since a prisoner, forcing him, by the fear of death, to submit to
many indignities unworthy his high rank and benevolent character; and
once even forcing him to sit in chains and witness the cruel execution
of some of his own officers for a certain crime in which he could have
had no part. He forgave us this, as well as other insults, and, while we
were absent against Zempoala, preserved his promise sacred, to remain in
ward of Alvarado until our return. Now, señor, you shall hear the truth
of the assault, of which so much is said by Cortes, as fully proving the
iniquitous duplicity of the captive emperor. While we were gone, there
occurred the anniversary of the great festival of Mexitli, the war-god,
in which it is customary for all the nobles, arrayed in their richest
attire, to dance on the terrace of the great pyramid, before the
emperor. Alvarado, dreading lest such an assemblage of chiefs, heated,
as we well knew them to be, on account of the imprisonment of their
king, might encourage them to rescue him from his thrall, refused to let
the _Mitotes_, (for so they call this ceremony,) be danced on the
temple; and, at his invitation, the Tlatoani assembled in the court-yard
of the palace which Montezuma gave us for our quarters; and here the
rite began. Now, señor," continued De Morla, speaking indignantly, "you
will blush to hear, that our Christian garrison were so inflamed with
cupidity at the sight of the rich and precious jewels, with which their
guests were decorated, that they resolved to possess them, though at the
cost of blood-guiltiness; and falling upon these poor unsuspicious and
unarmed revellers, when wearied with the dance, and calling out
'_Treason!_' as if to justify themselves, though there was no treason,
except that in their own hearts, they butchered all that could not leap
the high walls, and rifled the corses, even in the sight of the emperor.
This, as you may well believe, excited the people to fury, and drove
them to vengeance. They assaulted the palace, killed many of the
perfidious garrison, and would have destroyed all, but that Montezuma,
whom they call the traitor and murderer, moved by the intreaties and
excuses of Alvarado, commanded them to retire; and such are their love
and subjection to this monarch, that they instantly obeyed him, and have
remained in peace ever since, waiting the return and the judgment of Don
Hernan.--And Don Hernan will doubtless command us to give them justice,
by slaying as many as shall dare to demand it."

"By heaven!" said Don Amador, "if this be the truth, there are more
barbarians than those who worship pagan idols; and I vow to God, if I
find thy narrative well confirmed, I will draw no sword, not even at the
bidding of my knight Calavar, on the people of Tenochtitlan. Were I even
sworn, like a vowed knight of Rhodes, to keep no peace with the
infidel, I could not fight in an unjust cause."

"I am glad to hear you say so," said De Morla, frankly; "for I have
often, ever since I have been assured of the friendly and docile
character of the Mexicans, been persuaded it would be wiser, as well as
juster, to teach them than to destroy. Your favour will find the nobles
very civilized; and surely their daughters, if converted to the true
faith, would make more honourable wives for Spanish hidalgos than the
Moorish ladies of our own land."

A sigh came from the lips of Jacinto, as he heard this narrative, to
which he had listened with boyish interest, terminated with a slur so
degrading to his people. But his mortification was appeased by Don
Amador, exclaiming with great emphasis,--

"That these Mexican princesses may make very good wives, when true
Christians, I can well believe; but I have my doubts whether they have
any such superiority over the Moorish ladies of Granada, who possess the
religion of Christ. I have, once or twice, known very noble Moriscas,
honoured among the wives of Granada as much as those who boasted the
pure blood of Castile; and for myself, without pretending to say I shall
ever condescend to such a marriage, I may aver, that I have seen at
least one fair maiden, and she of no very royal descent, whom,--that is,
if I had loved her,--I should not have scorned to wed. But these things
go by fate: a Christian Moor is perhaps as much regarded by heaven as a
Christian Spaniard; and surely there are some of them very lovely to
look on, and with most angelical eyes!"

The gentle cavalier smiled in his own conceits, as he listened to the
argument of his friend; but, without answering it, he said,--

"While we have the authority of the Cid Ramon of Leon before our eyes, I
am much disposed to agree with Don Amador; for the Cid adored an
infidel, and why should not we love proselytes? Come, now, my pretty
page: of all thy ballads, I like best that which treats of the loves of
Cid Ramon; and if thou hast not forgotten it, I shall rejoice to hear
thee chant it once more, while we sit under the tower and gaze on the
fire-mountain, that looks down on Mexico."

The boy agreed with unusual alacrity, and sitting down at the feet of
the cavaliers, on the flags that surrounded the sanctuary, with the
torch stuck in the earth near him, he tuned his instrument with a
willing hand.



CHAPTER XXIII.


Lighted not more by the torch at his feet than by the flames that
crested the distant mountain, the Moorish boy struck the lute with a
skilful touch, whispered, rather than wailed, the little burthen that
kept alive the memory of the Alhambra, and then sang the following
Romance;--a ballad that evidently relates to the fate of Mohammed
Almosstadir, king of Seville, dethroned by the famous Yussef ben Taxfin,
Emir of Morocco. In the wars of the Moorish kings of Spain with Alfonso
VI. of Leon, about the year 1090, the Christian monarch prevailing, his
infidel enemies invited Yussef to their assistance. The emir obeyed the
call; but having fought one or two battles with Alfonso, contented
himself with turning his arms on his confederates, and dethroning
them,--Mohammed Almosstadir among the number. It is recorded, that his
chivalrous enemy, the king Alfonso, moved by the distresses of Mohammed,
sent an army of twenty thousand men to assist him against Yussef; but in
the obscurity of the historic legends of that day, nothing can be
discovered in relation to the devout condition of "kissing the cross,"
nor, indeed, of the name or fate of the leader of the Spanish army. We
should know nothing of the good Cid, but for the ballad, which was
doubtless of very antique origin; though the simple burthen, _Me acuerdo
de ti, Granada_! commemorative of the fall of the Moorish city, must
have been added four hundred years after; perhaps by the singer from
whom Jacinto had learned it.

          ROMANCE OF CID RAMON.

            I remember thee, Granada!
    Cid Ramon spurr'd his good steed fast,
      His thousand score were near;
    And from Sevilla's walls aghast,
      The watchmen fled with fear:
    For Afric's Emir lay around,
      The town was leaguer'd sore,
    And king Mohammed wept with shame
      To be a king no more.
            I remember thee, Granada!

    The Emir's powers were round and nigh,
      Like locusts on the sward;
    And when Cid Ramon spurr'd his steed,
      They struck him fast and hard.
    "But," quoth the Cid, "a knight am I,
      With crucifix and spear;
    And for Mohammed ride I on,
      And for his daughter dear."--
            I remember thee, Granada!

    "Cheer up, dark king, and wail no more,
      Let tears no longer flow;
    Of Christian men a thousand score
      Have I to smite thy foe.
    The king Alfonso greets thee well:
      Kiss thou the cross, and pray;
    And ere thou say'st the Ave o'er,
      The Emir I will slay."
            I remember thee, Granada!

    "Or let the African be slain,
      Or let the Emir slay,
    I will not kiss the cross of Christ,
      Nor to his Mother pray.
    A camel-driver will I live,
      With Yussef for my lord,
    Or ere I kiss the Christian's cross,
      To win the Christian's sword."
            I remember thee, Granada!

    "Mohammed, now thou griev'st me much--
      Alfonso is my king:
    But let Suleya kiss the cross,
      And let her wear the ring.
    The crucifix the bride shall bear,
      Her lord shall couch the spear;
    And still I'll smite thy foe for thee,
      And for thy daughter dear."
            I remember thee, Granada!

    Then up Suleya rose, and spoke,--
      "I love Cid Ramon well;
    But not to win his heart or sword,
      Will I my faith compel.
    With Yussef, cruel though he be,
      A bond-maid will I rove,
    Or ere I kiss the Christian's cross,
      To win the Christian's love."
            I remember thee, Granada!

    "Suleya! now thou griev'st me much--
      A thousand score have I;
    But, saving for a Christian's life,
      They dare not strike or die.
    Alfonso is my king, and thus
      Commands my king to me:
    But, for that Christian, _all_ shall strike,
      If my true love she be."
            I remember thee, Granada!

    "Ill loves the love, who, ere he loves,
      Demands a sacrifice:
    Who serves myself, must serve my sire,
      And serve without a price.
    Let Yussef come with sword and spear,
      To fetter and to rend;
    I choose me yet a Moorish foe
      Before a Christian friend!"--
            I remember thee, Granada!

    "Ill loves the love, who pins his love
      Upon a point of creed;
    And balances in selfish doubt,
      At such a time of need.
    His heart is loosed, his hands untied,
      And he shall yet be free
    To wear the cross, and break the ring,
      Who will not die for me!"
            I remember thee, Granada!

    The Emir's cry went up to heaven:
      Cid Ramon rode away--
    "Ye may not fight, my thousand score,
      For Christian friend to-day.

    But tell the king, I bide his hest,
      Albeit my heart be sore;
    Of all his troops, I give but _one_
      To perish for the Moor."
            I remember thee, Granada!

    The Emir's cry went up to heaven;
      His howling hosts came on;
    Down fell Sevilla's tottering walls,--
      The thousand score were gone.
    And at the palace-gate, in blood,
      The Arab Emir raves;
    He sat upon Mohammed's throne,
      And look'd upon his slaves.
            I remember thee, Granada!

    "The lives of all that faithful be,
      This good day, will I spare;
    But wo betide or kings or boors,
      That currish Christians are!"--
    Up rode Cid Ramon bleeding fast;
      The princess wept to see;--
    "No cross was kiss'd, no prayer was said,
      But still I die for thee!"
            I remember thee, Granada!

    The Moorish maid she kiss'd the cross,
      She knelt upon her knee;--
    "I kiss the cross, I say the prayer,
      Because thou diest for me.
    To buy thy thousand score of swords,
      I would not give my faith;
    But now I take the good cross up,
      To follow thee in death."
            I remember thee, Granada!

    "Holy Maria! Come to us,
      And take us to the blest;
    In the true blood of love and faith,
      Receive us to thy rest!"--
    The Emir struck in bitter wrath,
      Sharp fell the Arab blade;
    And Mary took the Cid to heaven,
      And bless'd the Christian maid.
            I remember thee, Granada!

"I like that ballad well," said De Morla, with a pensive sigh, when the
singer had finished, "and, to my thought, no handsome maiden, though
such always makes the best ballad-singer, could have trolled it with a
more tender and loving accent than Jacinto. 'The Moorish maid,'" he
continued, humming the words in a sentimental manner,--

    "The Moorish maid she kiss'd the cross,
    She knelt upon her knee.--

To my mind, it would read better, if we could say, 'The Mexican maid.'--

    The Mexican maid she kiss'd the cross--

But, pho upon it! that spoils the metre.--Is it not thy opinion, señor,
the princess Suleya would have shown more true love as well as wisdom,
to have kissed the cross _before_ the Cid came to his death-gasp?"

"By my faith, I cannot doubt it," said Don Amador; "yet, considering
that she avowed herself a proselyte, when the sword of that accursed
Emir was suspended over her head, and so provoked and endured the death
of a martyr for Don Ramon's sake, it must be acknowledged she acted as
became a loving and truly devout lady. But what I chiefly esteem in
this ditty, is the magnanimous art with which the Cid Ramon both
preserved his faith to his king, and devoted himself to death for his
mistress,--a reconciliation of duties which some might have considered
impracticable, or, at least, highly objectionable."

"Amigo querido mio," cried De Morla, grasping the neophyte's hand, and
speaking with a voice half comical, half serious, "if thou livest a
hundred years longer than myself, thou wilt hear some such mournful
madrigal as this sung in memory of my foolish self; only that, in place
of a Moorish Infanta, thou wilt hear the name of a Mexican princess; and
Minnapotzin will doubtless be immortalized along with De Morla."

"Minnapotzin!" exclaimed Don Amador, with a stare rendered visible
enough by the distant flashings of the volcano. "I swear to thee, my
brother, I understand not a word thou art saying!"

"To make the matter clear to thee then," said De Morla, with forced
gayety, "conceive me for a moment to be the Cid of whom we have been
singing; and imagine my Suleya to be wandering by the lake side in the
figure of a certain Minnapotzin, received to our holy faith under the
name of Doña Benita,--a princess among these poor barbarians."

"Dost thou indeed love one of these strange maidens, then?--and is she
baptized in our holy faith?" demanded Don Amador, with much interest.
"If she be worthy of thee, Francisco, I pray heaven to make thee happy
with her."

"Now, may I die!" cried De Morla, grasping Don Amador's hand warmly, "if
I did not fear thou wouldst either censure or laugh at me,--or perhaps
turn thy ridicule upon Benita,--a wrong I never could have forgiven
thee. For I protest to thee, there is no such gentle and divine being in
all the world beside. I make thee my confidant, hermano mio, because I
shall have much need of thy friendship and counsel; for though I come
not, like Cid Ramon, with 'a thousand score' to rescue her pagan
father, sure am I, I cannot love the princess, and yet be blind to the
miseries of the king."

"Assuredly," said Don Amador, "I will aid thee, and, for thy sake, both
the fair princess and her unconverted sire, wherever, in so doing, I may
not oppose my allegiance and religion."

"I will not claim any sacrifice," said De Morla, "unless so much as will
rob thee of thy prejudices against this deluded people. In fact, I
desire thee more as a confidant, than as an abettor; for there is
nothing to oppose my happiness, saving the present uncertainty of the
relations betwixt ourselves and the Mexicans. Minnapotzin is a
Christian;--I dare be sworn, the Cid was not better beloved than
myself;--and Cortes hath himself promised to ask the consent of our
Christian king to the marriage, as soon as Montezuma has properly
confirmed his vassalage. No, there is nothing to oppose me," continued
De Morla, with a sudden sadness, "saving only this uncertainty I have
spoken of,--and the darkness that hangs over my own destiny."

"I vow to thee, I am as much in the dark as before," said Don Amador.

"In good faith, my friend," said the young cavalier, with a faint smile,
"it is promised me, I shall die very much like Don Ramon. Did I never
tell thee what Botello hath prophesied?"

"Not a jot," said the neophyte. "But I trust thou puttest no faith in
that worthy madman?"

"How can I help it?" said De Morla, seriously. "He has foretold nothing
that has not been accomplished, from the quarrel of Cortes with the
Adelantado Velasquez, even to the fall of Zempoala."

"I have reflected on this prediction with regard to Zempoala, as well as
all others whereof I have heard," said the neophyte, with a sagacious
nod, "and I have settled in mine own mind that there is nothing in them
beyond the operation of a certain cunning, mingled with a boldness which
will hazard any thing in prognostic. Much credit is given to Botello
for having, as I am informed, predicted, even before the embarkation of
Cortes, the rupture between him and his governor that afterwards ensued.
Now, any man, acquainted with the unreasonable rashness and hot jealousy
of the governor, might have foretold a quarrel; and I see not how it
could have been otherwise. So also, as I may say, I did myself, in a
manner, foretell the disaster of Narvaez, as soon as I perceived his
foolish negligence, in choosing rather to divert his soldiers with
legerdemain dances than to set them about his city as sentinels. The
victory comes not to the indiscreet general."

"All this might have been conjectured, but not with so many surprising
particulars," said the cavalier. "How could Botello have predicted,
that, though Narvaez should sally out against us, no blow should be
struck by daylight?"

"Marry, I know not; unless upon a conviction that Cortes was too wise to
meet his enemy on the plain; and from a personal assurance, that the
rocks wherein the general had pitched his camp, were utterly
unassailable."

"How could he have guessed that flames should drive the Biscayan from
the tower?"

"Did he guess that, indeed?" said the neophyte, staring. "He could not
have known that; for the brand was thrown by mine own rogue Lazaro, who,
I know, was not his confederate."

"How could he have averred that Narvaez should lose his eye, and come
blindfold to his conqueror?"

"Is it very certain Botello foretold _that_?" demanded Don Amador, his
incredulity shaking.

"The señor Duero was present, as well as several other honourable
cavaliers, and all confirm the story," said De Morla. "Nay, I could give
thee a thousand instances of the marvellous truths he has spoken; and so
well is Cortes convinced of his singular faculty, that he will do no
deed of importance, without first consulting the magician."

"When my head is very cool," said Amador, musingly, "I find no
difficulty to persuade myself that the existence of the faculty of
soothsaying is incredible, because subversive of many of the wise
provisions of nature; yet I will not take upon me to contradict what I
do not know. And surely also, I may confess, I have heard of certain
wonderful predictions made by astrologers, which are very difficult to
be explained, unless by admission of their powers."

"What Botello has said to me," said De Morla, with a hurried voice, "has
been in part fulfilled, though spoken in obscure figures. He told me,
long since, that I should be reduced to bondage, 'at such time as I
should behold a Christian cross hanging under a pagan crown.' This I
esteemed a matter for mirth; 'for how,' said I, 'shall I find a pagan
wearing a crucifix? and how shall I submit to be a captive among strange
and cruel idolaters, when I have the power to die fighting?' But I have
seen the cross on the bosom of one who wears the gold coronet of a
king's daughter; and now I know that my heart is in slavery!"

Don Amador pondered over this annunciation; but while he deliberated,
his friend continued,--

"When Botello told me this, he added other things,--not many but
dark,--to wit, as I understood it, 'that I should perish miserably with
my enslaver,' and, what is still more remarkable, with an infidel priest
to say the mass over my body! Señor, these things are uncomfortable to
think on; but I vow to heaven, if I am to die in the arms of
Minnapotzin, I shall perish full as happily as did Cid Ramon in the
embraces of Suleya!"

De Morla concluded his singular story with a degree of excitement and
wildness that greatly confounded Don Amador; and before the neophyte
could summon up arguments enough to reply, a voice from the bottom of
the pyramid was heard pronouncing certain words, in a tongue entirely
unknown to him, but among which he thought he recognised the name of
Minnapotzin. He was not mistaken. De Morla started, saying, hastily,--

"I am called, señor. This is the voice of one of the envoys of
Montezuma, with whom I have certain things to say concerning Doña
Benita. I will return to thee in an instant." And so saying, he
descended the stairs of the mound, and was straightway out of sight.



CHAPTER XXIV.


The moon had now risen, and was mingling her lustre with the blaze of
the volcano. The shouts of revelry came less frequently from the city,
and, one by one, the torches vanished from the house-tops and the
streets. A pleasant quiet surrounded the deserted temple; a few embers,
only, glowed in the sacred urns; but the combined light of the luminary
and the mountain covered the terrace with radiance, and fully revealed
the few objects which gave it the interest of life. In this light, as
Don Amador turned to his youthful companion, he beheld the eyes of the
page suffused with tears.

"How is it, Jacinto?--What ails thee?" he cried. "I vow to heaven, I am
as much concerned at thy silly griefs, as though thou wert mine own
little brother Rosario, who is now saying his prayers at Cuenza. Art
thou weary? I will immediately conduct thee to our quarters. Is there
any thing that troubles thee? Thou shouldst make me thy confidant; for
surely I love thee well."

"Señor mio! I am not weary, and I am not grieved," said the stripling,
with simplicity, as the good-natured cavalier took him by the hand, to
give him comfort. "I wept for pity of the good Don Francisco and the
poor Minnapotzin; for surely it is a pity if they must die!"

"Thou art a silly youth to lament for evils that have not yet happened,"
said Amador.

"But besides, señor," said the page, "when Don Francisco made me sad, I
looked at the moon, and I thought how it was rising on my country!"

"It is now in the very noon of night, both in thy land and mine," said
the neophyte, touched by the simple expression, and leading the boy
where the planet could be seen without obstruction;--"it is now midnight
over Fez, as well as Castile; and, perhaps, some of our friends, in both
lands, are regarding this luminary, at this moment, and thinking of
_us_."

The page sighed deeply and painfully:

"I have no friends,--no, neither in Fez nor in Spain," he said; "and,
save my father, my master, and my good lord, none here. There is none of
my people left, but my father; and we are alone together!"

"Say not, alone," said Amador, with still more kindness,--for as Jacinto
made this confession of his destitute condition, the tears fell fast and
bitterly from his eyes. "Say not, alone; for, I repeat to thee, I have
come, I know not by what fascination, to love thee as well as if thou
wert my own little brother; and there shall no wrong come to thee, or
thy father, while I live to be thy friend."

Jacinto kissed the hand of the cavalier, and said,--

"I did not cry for sorrow, but only for thinking of my country."

"Thou shouldst think no more of Fez; for its people are infidels, and
thou a Christian."

"I thought of Granada,--for that is the land of Christians; and I longed
to be among the mountains where my mother was born."

"Thou shalt live there yet, if God be merciful to us," said the
cavalier: "for when there is peace in this barbarous clime, I will take
thee thither for a playmate to Rosario. But now that we are here alone,
let us sit by the tower, and while I grow melancholy, bethinking me of
that same land of Granada, which I very much love, I will have thee sing
me some other pretty ballad of the love of a Christian knight for a
Moorish lady;--or I care not if thou repeat the romance of the Cid: I
like it well--'Me acuerdo de ti'--'me acuerdo de ti'--" And the
neophyte seemed, while he murmured over the burthen, as if about to
imitate the pensiveness of De Morla.

"If my lord choose," said the page, "I would rather tell him a story of
Granada, which is about a Christian cavalier, very noble and brave, and
a Christian Morisca, that loved him."

"A Christian Morisca!" said Amador; "and she loved the cavalier?--I will
hear that story. And it happened in Granada too?"

"In one of the Moorish towns, but not in the royal city.--It was in the
town Almeria."

"In the town Almeria!" echoed Amador, eagerly. "Thou canst tell me
nothing of Almeria that will not give me both pain and pleasure, for
therein--But pho! a word doth fill the brain with memories!--Is it an
ancient story?"

"Not very ancient, please my lord: it happened since the fall of
Granada."

"It is strange that I never heard it, then; for I dwelt full two months
in this same town; and 'tis not yet forty years since the siege."

"Perhaps it is not _true_," said the stripling, innocently; "and, at the
best, 'tis not remarkable enough to have many repeaters. 'Tis a very
foolish story."

"Nevertheless, I am impatient to hear it."

"There lived in that town," said Jacinto, "a Moorish orphan--"

"A girl?" demanded the neophyte.

"A Moorish maiden,--of so obscure a birth, that she knew not even the
name that had been borne by her parents; but nevertheless, señor, her
parents, as was afterwards found out, were of the noblest blood of
Granada. She was protected and reared in the family of a benevolent
lady, who, being descended of a Moorish parent, looked with pity on the
poor orphan of the race of her mother. When this maiden was yet in her
very early youth, there came a noble cavalier of Castile--"

"A Castilian!" demanded Don Amador, with extraordinary vivacity,--"Art
thou a conjurer?--What was his name?"

"I know not," said Jacinto.

"Thou learnest thy stories, then, only by the half," said the neophyte,
with a degree of displeasure that amazed the youth. "And, doubtless,
thou wert forgetful also to acquire the name of the Moorish orphan?"

"Señor," said the page, discomposed at the heated manner of his patron,
"the Moorish maiden was called Leila."

"Leila!" cried the neophyte, starting to his feet, and seizing Jacinto
by the arm--"Canst thou tell me aught of Leila?"

"Señor!" murmured Jacinto, in affright.

"Leila, the Morisca, in the house of the señora Doña Maria de
Montefuerte!" exclaimed Don Amador, wildly. "Dost thou know of her fate?
Did she sleep under the surges of the bay? Was she ravished away by
those exile dogs of the mountains?--Now, by heaven, if thou canst tell
me any thing of that Moorish maid, I will make thee richer than the
richest Moor of Granada!"

At this moment, while Jacinto, speechless with terror, gazed on his
patron, as doubting if his senses had not deserted him, a step rung on
the earth of the terrace, and De Morla stood at his side.

The voice of his friend recalled the bewildered wits of the neophyte; he
stared at Jacinto, and at De Morla; a deep hue of shame and confusion
flushed over his brow; and perceiving that his violence had again thrown
the page into tears, he kissed him benevolently on the forehead, and
said, as tranquilly as he could,--

"A word will make fools of the wisest! I think I was dreaming, while
thou wert at thy story. Be not affrighted, Jacinto: I meant not to scold
thee--I was disturbed.--Next--next," he added, with a grievous shudder,
"I shall be as mad as my kinsman!"

"My brother! I am surprised to see thee in this emotion," said De
Morla.

"It is nothing," responded Amador, hastily and gloomily: "I fear there
is a natural infirmity in the brains of all my family. I was moved, by
an idle story of Jacinto, into the recollection of a certain sorrowful
event, which, one day, perhaps, I will relate to thee.--But let us
return to our quarters.--The air comes down chilly from the
mountains--It is time we were sleeping."

The friends retired from the temple, leaving the torch sticking in the
platform; for the moon was now so high as to afford a better
illumination. They parted at the quarters; but Don Amador, after
satisfying himself that the knight of Rhodes was slumbering on his
pallet, drew Jacinto aside to question him further of the orphan of
Almeria. His solicitude was, however, doomed to a disappointment; the
page was evidently impressed with the fear, that Don Amador was not
without some of the weakness of Calavar; and adroitly, though with great
embarrassment, avoided exciting him further.

"It is a foolish story, and I am sorry it displeased my lord," said he,
when commanded to continue the narrative.

"It displeased me not--I knew a Moorish maid of that name in Almeria,
who was also protected by a Christian lady; and, what was most
remarkable, this Christian lady was of Moorish descent, like her of whom
thou wert speaking; and, like the Leila of _thy_ story, the Leila of my
own memory vanished away from the town before----"

"Señor," cried Jacinto, "I did not say she vanished away from Almeria:
_that_ did not belong to the story."

"Ay, indeed! is it so? Heaven guard my wits! what made me think it?--And
thy Leila lived in Almeria very recently?"

"Perhaps ten or fifteen years ago----"

"Pho!--Into what folly may not an ungoverned fancy lead us?--Ten or
fifteen years ago!--And thou never heardst of the Leila that dwelt in
that town within a twelve-month?"

"_I_, señor?" cried Jacinto, with surprise.

"True--how is it possible thou couldst?--Thou hast, this night, stirred
me as by magic. I know not by what sorcery thou couldst hit upon that
name!"

"It was the name of the lady," said Jacinto, innocently.

"Ay, to be sure!--There is one Mary in heaven, and a thousand on
earth--why should there not be many Leilas?--Did I speak harshly to
thee, Jacinto? Thou shouldst not kiss my hand, if I did; for no
impatience or grief could excuse wrath to one so gentle and unoffending.
Good night--get thee to thy bed, and forget not to say thy prayers."

So saying, and in such disorder of spirits as the page had never before
witnessed in him, Don Amador retired.

Jacinto was left standing in a narrow passage, or corridor, on which
opened a long row of chambers with curtained doors, wherein slept the
soldiers, crowded thickly together. In the gallery, also, at a distance,
lay several dusky lumps, which, by the gleaming of armour about them,
were seen to be the bodies of soldiers stretched fast asleep. As the boy
turned to retire in the direction of the open portal, it was darkened by
the figure of a man, entering with a cautious and most stealthy step. He
approached, and by his voice, (for there was not light enough yielded by
the few flambeaux stuck against the wall, to distinguish features,)
Jacinto recognised his father.

"I sought thee, my child!" he whispered, "and saw thee returning with
the hidalgos.--The watchmen sleep as well as the cannoniers.--It is as I
told thee--art thou ready?"

"Dear father!"--stammered the page.

"Speak not above thy breath!--The curs, that are hungering after the
blood of the betrayed Mexicans, would not scorn to blunt their appetites
on the flesh of the Moor. Have thyself in readiness at a moment's
warning: Our destinies are written--God will not always frown upon us!"

"Dear father!" muttered Jacinto, "we are of the Spaniards' faith, and we
will go back to our country."

"It cannot be!--never can it be!" said Abdalla, in tones that were not
the less impressive for being uttered in a whisper. "The hills of thy
childhood, the rivers of thy love--they are passed away from
thee;--think of them no more;--never more shalt thou see them! In the
land of barbarians, heaven has willed that we should live and die; and
be thou reconciled to thy fate, for it shall be glorious! We live not
for ourselves; God brings us hither, and for great ends! To night, did
I--Hah!"--(One of the sleepers stirred in the passage.)--"Seek some
occasion to speak with me, to-morrow, on the march," whispered Abdalla
in the page's ear; and then, with a gesture for silence, he immediately
retired.

"_Fuego! Quien pasea alli?_" grumbled the voice of Lazaro, as he raised
his head from the floor. "_Fu! el muchacho!_--I am ever dreaming of that
cursed Turk, that was at my weasand, when Baltasar brained him with the
boll of his cross-bow. _Laus tibi, Christe!_--I have a throat left for
snoring." And comforting himself with this assurance, before Jacinto had
yet vanished from the passage, the man-at-arms again slumbered on his
mat.



CHAPTER XXV.


In the prosecution of his purpose, our historian, the worthy Don
Cristobal Ixtlilxochitl, though ever adhering to his 'neglected
cavaliers' with a generous constancy, is sometimes seduced into the
description of events and scenes of a more general character, not very
necessarily connected with his main object, and which those very authors
whom he censures, have made the themes of much prolix writing. The
difficulties that beset an historian are ever very great; nor is the
least of them found in the necessity of determinating how much, or _how
little_, he is called upon to record; for though it seems but reasonable
he should take it for granted that his readers are entirely unacquainted
with the matters he is narrating, and therefore that he should say all
that can be said, this is a point in which all readers will not entirely
agree with him. Those who have acquired a smattering of his subject,
will be offended, if he presume to reinstruct them. For our own part,
not recognizing the right of the ignorant to be gratified at the expense
of the more learned, we have studied as much as is possible, so to
curtail the exuberances of our original as to present his readers
chiefly with what they cannot know; for which reason, it will be found,
we have eschewed many of the memorable incidents of this famous
campaign, in which none of the neglected conquerors bore a considerable
part; as well as all those minute descriptions which retard the progress
of the history. We therefore despatch in a word the glories of the
morning that dawned over Tlascala, the gathering together of the
Spaniards, who, upon review, were found to muster full thirteen hundred
men, and their savage allies, two thousand in number, commanded, as had
been anticipated, by Talmeccahua of the tribe Tizatlan.

Amid the roar of trumpets and drums, and the shouts of a vast people,
the glittering and feathered army departed from Tlascala, and pursuing
its way through those rich savannas covered with the smiling corn and
the juicy aloe, which had gained for this valley its name of the Land of
Bread, proceeded onwards towards the holy city, Cholula.

What rocky plains were crossed and what rough sierras surmounted, it
needs not to detail: before night-fall, the whole army moved over the
meadows that environ Cholula; and there, where now the traveller sees
naught but a few wretched natives squatting among their earthen cabins,
the adventurers beheld a city of great size, with more than four hundred
lofty white towers shining over its spacious dwellings. The magnificent
mountains that surrounded it--the sublime Popocatepetl, still breathing
forth its lurid vapours,--the forbidding Iztaccihuatl, or the White
Woman, looking like the shattered ruins of some fallen planet, vainly
concealing their deformities under a vestment of snow,--the sharp and
serrated Malinche,--and last (and seen with not the less interest that
it intercepted the view towards home,)--the kingly Orizaba, looking
peaceful and grand in the east,--made up such a wall of beauty and
splendour as does not often confine the valleys of men. But there is one
mountain in that singular scene, which human beings will regard with
even more interest than those peaks which soar so many weary fathoms
above it: the stupendous Teocalli--the _Monte hecho á manos_, (for it
was piled up by the hands of human beings,)--reared its huge bulk over
the plain; and, while looking on the stately cypresses that shadowed its
gloomy summit, men dreamed, as they dream yet, of the nations who raised
so astonishing an evidence of their power, without leaving any
revealment of their fate. Whence came they? whither went they? From the
shadows--back to the shadows.--The farce of ambition, the tragedy of
war, so many thousand times repeated in the three great theatres that
divided the old world, were performed with the same ceremonies of guilt
and misery, with the same glory and the same shame, in a fourth, of
which knowledge had not dreamed. The same superstitions which heaped up
the pyramids and the Parthenon, were at work on the Teocallis of
America; and the same pride which built a Babylon to defy the assaults
of time, gave to his mouldering grasp the tombs and the palaces of
Palenque. The people of Tenochtitlan and Cholula worshipped their
ancient gods among the ruined altars of an older superstition.

Great crowds issued from this city--the Mecca of Anahuac--to witness
the approach of the Spaniards; but although they bore the same features,
and the same decorations, though perhaps of a better material, with the
Tlascalans, it was observed by Don Amador, that they displayed none of
the joy and triumph, with which his countrymen had been ushered into
Tlascala. In place of these, their countenances expressed a dull
curiosity; and though they kissed the earth and flung the incense, as
usual, in their manner of salutation, they seemed impelled to these
ceremonies more by fear than affection. He remarked also with some
surprise, that when they came to extend their compliments to the
allies,--the Tlascalans, from their chief down to the meanest warrior,
requited them only with frowns. All these peculiarities were explained
to him by De Morla:

"In ancient days," said the cavalier, "the Cholulans were a nation of
republicans, like the Tlascalans, and united with them in a fraternal
league against their common enemies, the Mexicans. In course of time,
however, the people of the holy city were gained over by the bribes or
promises of the foe; and entering into a secret treaty, they obeyed its
provisions so well, as to throw off the mask on the occasion of a great
battle, wherein they perfidiously turned against their friends, and,
aided by the Mexicans, defeated them with great slaughter. From that
day, they have remained the true vassals of Mexico; and, from that day,
the Tlascalans have not ceased to regard them with the most deadly and
unrelenting hatred."

"The hatred is just; and I marvel they do not fall upon these base
knaves forthwith!" said Amador.

"It is the command of Don Hernan, that Tlascala shall now preserve her
wrath for Tenochtitlan; and such is his influence, that, though he
cannot allay the heart-burnings, yet can he, with a word, restrain the
hands of his allies. Concerning the gloomy indifference of these
people," continued De Morla, "as now manifested, it needs only to inform
you how we discovered, or, rather, (for I will not afflict you with the
details,) how we punished a similar treachery, wherein they meditated
our own destruction, more than half a year ago, when we entered their
town, on our march to Mexico. Having discovered their plot to destroy
us, we met them with a perfidious craft which might have been rendered
excusable by their own, had we, like them, been demi-barbarians; but
which, as we are really civilized and Christian men, I cannot help
esteeming both dishonest and atrocious. We assembled their nobles and
priests in the court of the building we occupied; and having closed the
gates, and charged them once or twice with their guilt, we fell upon
them; and some of them having escaped and roused the citizens, we
carried the war into the streets, and up to the temples: and so well did
we prosper that day, and the day that followed, (for we fought them
during two entire days,) that, with the assistance of our Tlascalans, of
whom we had an army with us, we slaughtered full six thousand of them,
and that without losing the life of a single Spaniard."

"Dios mio!" cried Don Amador, "we had not so many killed in all the
siege of Rhodes! Six thousand men! I am not certain that even treachery
could excuse the destruction of so many lives."

"It was a bloody and most awful spectacle," said De Morla, with feeling.
"We drove the naked wretches (I say naked, señor, for we gave them no
time to arm;) to the pyramids, especially to that which holds the altar
of their chief god,--the god of the air; and here, señor, it was
melancholy, to see the miserable desperation with which they died; for,
having, at first, refused them quarter, they declined to receive it,
when pity moved us afterwards to grant it. About the court of this
pyramid there were many wooden buildings, as well as tabernacles of the
like material among the towers, on the top. These we fired; and thus
attacked them with arms and flames. What ruin the fire failed to inflict
on the temple, they accomplished with their own hands; for, señor,
having a superstitious belief, that, the moment a sacrilegious hand
should tear away the foundations of their great temple, floods should
burst out from the earth to whelm the impious violator, they began to
raze it with their own hands; willing, in their madness, to perish by
the wrath of their god, so that their enemies should perish with them. I
cannot express to you the horrible howls, with which they beheld the
fragments fall from the walls of the pyramid, without calling up the
watery earthquake; then, indeed, with these howls, they ran to the
summit, and crazily pitched themselves into the burning towers, or flung
themselves from the dizzy top,--as if, in their despair, thinking that
even their gods had deserted them!"

"It was an awful chastisement, and, I fear me, more awful than just,"
said Amador. "After this, it is not wonderful the men of Cholula should
not receive us with joy."

Many evidences of the horrors of that dreadful day were yet revealed, as
Don Amador entered into the city. The marks of fire were left on various
houses of stone, and, here and there, were vacuities, covered with
blackened wrecks, where, doubtless, had stood more humble and
combustible fabrics.

The countenance of Cortes was observed to be darkened by a frown, as he
rode through this well-remembered scene of his cruelty; but perhaps he
thought less of remorse and penitence, than of the spirit of hatred and
desperation evinced by his victims,--as if, in truth, the late
occurrences at Mexico had persuaded him, that a similar spirit was
waking and awaiting him there.--It was in his angry moment, and just as
he halted at the portals of a large court-yard, wherein stood the palace
he had chosen for his quarters, that two Indians, of an appearance
superior to any Don Amador had yet seen, and followed by a train of
attendants bearing heavy burthens, suddenly passed from the crowd of
Cholulans, and approached the general.

"Señor," said De Morla, in a low voice, to his friend, "observe these
new ambassadors;--they are of the noblest blood of the city; the
elder,--he that hath the gold grains hanging to his nostrils, in token
that he belongs to the order of _Teuctli_, or Princes by Merit, is one
of the lords of the Four Quarters of Mexico--the quarter Tlatelolco,
wherein is our garrison. His name, Itzquauhtzin, will be, to you,
unpronounceable. The youth that bears himself so loftily, is no less
than a nephew of the king himself; and the scarlet fillet around his
hair, denotes that he has arrived at the dignity of what we should call
a chief commander,--a military rank that not even the king can claim,
without having performed great actions in the field. 'Tis a sore day for
Montezuma, when he sends us such princely ambassadors.--I will press
forward, and do the office of interpreter; for destiny, love, and my
mother wit, together, have given me more of the Mexican jargon, than any
of my companions."

As the ambassadors approached, Don Amador had leisure to observe them.
Both were of good stature and countenance; their loins were girt with
tunics of white cotton cloth, studded and bordered with bunches of
feathers, and hanging as low as the knee; and over the shoulders of both
were hung large mantles of many brilliant colours, curiously interwoven,
their ends so knotted together in front, as to fall down in graceful
folds, half concealing the swarthy chest. Their sandals were secured
with scarlet thongs, crossed and gartered to the calf. Their raven
locks, which were of great length, were knotted together, in a most
fantastic manner, with ribands, from the points of which, on the head of
the elder, depended many little ornaments, that seemed jewels of gold
and precious stones; while from the fillets, that braided the hair of
the younger, besides an abundance of the same ornaments, there were many
tufts of crimson cotton-down, swinging to and fro in the wind. In
addition to these badges of military distinction, (for every tuft, thus
worn, was the reward and evidence of some valiant exploit,) this young
prince--he seemed not above twenty-five years old--wore, as had been
noticed by De Morla, the red fillet of the House of Darts,--an order,
not so much of nobility as of knighthood, entitling its possessor to the
command of an army. His bearing was, indeed, lofty, but not disdainful;
and though, when making his obeisance, he neither stooped so low, nor
kissed his hand with so much humility, as his companion, this seemed to
proceed more from a consciousness of his own rank, than from any
disrespect to the Christian leader.

"What will these dogs with me now?" cried Cortes, at whose feet, (for he
had dismounted,) the attendants had thrown their burthens, and were
proceeding to display their contents. "Doth Montezuma think to appease
me for the blood of my brothers? and pay for Spanish lives with robes of
cotton and trinkets of gold?--What say the hounds?"

"They say," responded De Morla to his angry general, "that the king
welcomes you back again to his dominions, to give him reparation for the
slaughter of his people."

"Hah!" exclaimed the leader, fiercely. "Doth he beard me with complaint,
when I look for penitence and supplication?"

"In token of his love, and of his assured persuasion that you now return
to punish the murderers of his subjects, and then to withdraw your
followers from his city for ever," said De Morla, giving his attention
less to Cortes than to the lord of Tlatelolco, "he sends you these
garments, to protect the bodies of your new friends from the snows of
Ithualco, as well as----"

"The slave!" cried Don Hernan, spurning the pack that lay at his foot,
and scattering its gaudy textures over the earth: "If he give me no mail
to protect my friends from the knives of his assassins, I will trample
even upon his false heart, as I do upon his worthless tribute!"

"Shall I translate your excellency's answer word for word?" said De
Morla, tranquilly. "If it be left to myself, I should much prefer
veiling it in such palatable language, as my limited knowledge will
afford."

But the scowling general had already turned away, as if to humble the
ambassadors with the strongest evidence of contempt, and to prove the
extremity of his displeasure; and it needed no interpretation of words
to convince the noble savages of the futileness of their ministry. The
lord of Tlatelolco bowed again to the earth, and again kissed his hand,
as if in humble resignation, while the retreating figure of Don Hernan
vanished under the low door of his dwelling; but the younger envoy,
instead of imitating him, drew himself proudly up, and looked after the
general with a composure, that changed, as Don Amador thought, to a
smile. But if such a mark of satisfaction--for it bore more the
character of elation than contempt,--did illuminate the bronzed visage
of the prince, it remained not there for an instant. He cast a quiet and
grave eye upon the curious cavaliers who surrounded him, and then
beckoning his attendants from their packs, he strode, with his
companion, composedly away.

"In my mind," said the neophyte, following him with his eye, and rather
soliloquizing than addressing himself to any of the neighbouring
cavaliers, "there was more of dignity and contempt in the smile of that
heathen prince, than in all the rage of my friend Don Hernan."

"Truly, he is a very proper-looking and well-demeanoured knave," said
the voice of Duero. "But the general has some deep policy at the bottom
of all this anger."

"By my faith, I think so, now for the first time!" exclaimed the
neophyte; "for, although unable to see the drift of such a stratagem, I
cannot believe that the señor Cortes would adopt a course, that seems to
savour so much of injustice, without a very discreet and politic
object."

Here the discourse of the cavaliers was cut short by the sudden
appearance of Fabueno the secretary.

"What wilt thou, Lorenzo?" said his patron. "Has Lazaro again refused to
tilt with thee? I very much commend the zeal with which thou pursuest
thine exercises; but thou shouldst remember, that Lazaro may, sometimes,
be weary after a day's march."

"Señor, 'tis not _that_," said the secretary. "But just now, as Baltasar
told me, he saw the page Jacinto very rudely haled away by one of
Cortes's grooms; and I thought your favour might be glad to know, for
the boy seemed frighted."

"I will straightway see that no wrong be done him, even by the general,"
said Amador, quickly, moving toward the door into which he had seen
Cortes enter. "I marvel very much that my good knight did not protect
him."

"Señor," said Fabueno, "the knight is in greater disorder to-day than
yesterday. He took no note of anybody, when we came to this palace; but
instantly concealed himself in some distant chamber, where, a soldier
told me, he was scourging himself."

"Thou shouldst not talk, with the soldiers, of Calavar," said Amador,
with a sigh. "Get thee to Marco. If my kinsman need me, I will presently
be with him."

Thus saying, he discharged the secretary at the door; and those servants
who guarded it, not presuming to deny admittance to a man of such rank,
he was immediately ushered into the presence of Cortes.



CHAPTER XXVI.


In a low but spacious apartment, the walls and floor of which were both
covered with mats, the neophyte found Don Hernan, attended by Sandoval
and one or two other cavaliers, busy, to all appearance, in the
examination of the page and a Moorish slave of Cortes's own household,
whom he seemed to confront with the other. It needed no more than the
tears which Amador discovered on the cheeks of the youth, to rouse him
to a feeling very like anger.

"Señor," said he, stepping forward to the side of Jacinto, and looking
gravely on his judge, "I have exercised the privilege of a master,--or
rather, as I should say, of a servant,--for this boy is in the ward of
Don Gabriel, whom I myself follow,--to enter into your presence, without
the ceremony of a previous request; for which liberty, if it offend you,
I ask your pardon. But I was told the boy Jacinto was dragged away by
one of your excellency's menials; and I claim, as asking in the stead of
his master, to know for what offence?"

"By my conscience, for none at all!" said Cortes, courteously; "at
least, for none of his own commission. And had he truly been guilty,
both of treason and desertion, I should have pardoned him, for the
precocious shrewdness of his answers. Señor," continued the general, "it
was my intention to beseech your presence at this examination; and
nothing but the suddenness of it, as well as the present defection among
my servants, could have caused me to defer the invitation for a moment.
By my conscience, you have a treasure of wisdom, in this boy!"

This was an assurance Don Amador did by no means deny: for, in addition
to the singular address with which he adapted himself to the humours of
the knight, he had seen in Jacinto many other evidences of a discretion
so much in advance of his years, as to cause him no little wonder; added
to which, the incident of the past night, in which the page had stumbled
upon a name, and indeed (for the after explanations had not removed the
first impression,) a story, which he did not remember to have breathed
to any living creature, had attached to the youth a sort of respect that
bordered almost on superstition. But Don Hernan gave the cavalier no
time for reflections.

"Señor Don Amador," said he, "the fault, if there be any, which we are
now striving to investigate, lies, not in the page, but in his father,
Sidi Abdalla, the cannonier; who is charged by my varlet here, this
unconverted heathen, to be meditating, if not now engaged in the
accomplishment of a very heinous, and yet, let me add, for your
satisfaction, a very improbable conspiracy. This is charged to be
nothing less than desertion from our standard, with a design to throw
himself into the arms of the enemy; and what makes the matter worse,
allowing it for a moment to be credible, is, that he plots to carry away
with him all his countrymen who are slaves with us, in number, I think,
somewhat above half a score."

"This is, assuredly," said Don Amador, "a very vile offence; for which,
if guilty, I must needs allow, the Sidi deserves to suffer. Yet, I agree
with your excellency, the design seems quite as incredible as its
accomplishment must be impossible."

"No one," said Cortes, "could have shown this with better argument than
this same weeping boy; for, 'First,' said he, ''tis wrong to receive the
accusation of an unconverted man against a Christian;' and such an
infidel hound is Yacub,--whom I will, at some future day, give over to
be burned for his idolatry; but, at present, I cannot spare so precious
a servant, for he is an excellent cook, and a good maker of arrow-heads
for the crossbowmen.--In addition to this argument, señor," continued
the general, "the boy advances me another of still more force; 'For
how,' says he, shrewdly, 'would my father leave his Christian masters
and protectors, to go over to savages, whose language he cannot
understand, and who would sacrifice him as a victim to their detestable
gods?'--which gods may heaven sink into the pit, whence they came! and I
say, Amen!--Now, though one part of this argument is answered by the
subtle art of Yacub; for whether he have Yacub or any other Moor who
hath picked up something of the tongue, to interpret for him, or
whether he have no interpreter at all, it is not the less certain, that,
the moment he entrusts himself into the power of the barbarians, that
moment will he be clapped into a great cage like a wild beast, and
devoured what time he is fat enough for the maws of their diabolical
divinities; I say, nevertheless, for that very reason, it is not
probable Abdalla should be so besotted a fool."

"Please your highness," said Yacub, with the obstinacy of one who
presumed on his master's indulgence, or on the strength of his cause,
"he urged me, last night, at the pyramid of Tlascala; and this noble
gentleman, as well as this boy, saw me in his company."

Don Amador started, as he perceived the eyes of Yacub fastened on him,
as well as those of every other individual in the chamber. The look that
Jacinto gave him was one of terror and beseeching earnestness.

"Señor," said he, hesitating a little, "though what I have to say, may,
in part, confirm the charge of this fellow, I cannot scruple to speak
it; and though I may not aver, on mine own knowledge, that I beheld,
last night, either this man Yacub, or his countryman, Abdalla, yet must
I admit that I saw, stealing by the basis of that heathen temple, three
men, whom my friend De Morla, who accompanied me, pronounced to be the
cannonier and two of your excellency's servants."--Jacinto wrung his
hands.--"But what passed between them," the cavalier went on, "whether
they were hatching a plot, or discoursing together of their hard fate,
as would seem reasonable for men like them, that have neither friends
nor country, I cannot take upon me to pronounce; though, from what I
know of Abdalla, as a courageous and honest man, I am fain to think,
their communication could not have been of an evil nature."

"He said," muttered the treacherous Moor, "that provided he had but some
one to interpret for him, he had no fear of the Mexicans; but could
promise us much favour and wealth from their kings, by virtue of
certain arts possessed by his son; and thereby he hinted the boy was an
enchanter."

All started at this sudden announcement, and none more than Don Amador
de Leste; for though, as he had said himself, he was, in his cooler
moments, very sceptical in affairs of magic, this incredulity was no
consequence either of nature or education; and besides the shock that
had been given to his doubts by the disclosures of De Morla, the story
of Jacinto, so unaccountably begun, and so abruptly terminated, had made
a deeper impression on his mind, than such a trifle should.--Its
importance had been imputed by his own feelings; but either he did not
remember, or he knew not that.--He stared at Jacinto, who stood pale as
death and trembling, now rolling his eyes wildly on Don Hernan, and now
on his patron. Before the latter could summon composure to answer, he
was relieved by the general saying, humorously--

"I cannot doubt that this little caitiff _is_ an enchanter, because he
has the faculty of exciting both admiration and pity in an eminent
degree; and, though I doubt the power of such a charm over the ears of
barbarians that delight in the thunder of wooden drums, and the yelling
uproar of sea-shell trumpets, yet I can believe, for it has been told me
by good judges, that the art with which he touches his lute, is as
magical as it is marvellous."

The boy clasped his hands in delight, and seemed as if he would have
thrown himself at the feet of his judge.

"Wherefore, my most worthy and honoured friend," continued Cortes, "have
no fear that I will rob thee of so serviceable a henchman. I could not
burn so pretty a log in the fire that was kindled for one who had sold
his soul; and I cannot, by allowing the claims of a rival to lawful
magic, kill my astrologer Botello with envy."

"He has a talisman round his neck, wherein is a devil, that I have
overheard him talking to!" said the resolute Yacub.

"Thou art an ass," said Cortes, laughing at the trepidation of Jacinto;
for he again turned pale, and lifted his hands to his neck, as if both
to confess and guard his treasure. "'Tis some gewgaw, given him by his
mother, or, perhaps, by some sweetheart wench;--for these Moorish boys
are in love when a Christian urchin is yet in his grammar.--Señor,"--he
addressed himself to the neophyte,--"you may perceive that the very
grossness of Yacub's credulity has destroyed the force of his testimony;
for he who can believe such a junior as this to be a conjurer, will give
credit to any other ridiculous imagination. I will now confess to you,
that, beside these charges, which are already answered, there is only
one more circumstance against Abdalla; and that is, that at the very
moment of our halt, and while engaged in the audience with those
ambassadors, (whom I treated somewhat harshly, but for a cunning
purpose, which you will soon understand,) he vanished away, in company
with another dog of my household called Ayub; and hath not been since
seen. Nevertheless, I attach no more importance to this matter than to
the others; but, I swear to heaven, if he be caught stealing turkeys, or
any such trumpery things from these villains of Cholula, I will give him
to the bastinado!"

"Señor," said Amador, earnestly, "the Sidi is of too magnanimous a
nature to steal turkeys."

"I will take Don Amador's word for it, then. But I see the page is still
in some mortal fright, as dreading, if he remain longer in our presence,
lest some new accusation should be brought against him."

"If Jacinto be absolved from censure, and is no longer desired by your
excellency, I will withdraw him from your presence; and, thanking you,
señor, for the mildness with which you have questioned him, I will beg
your permission to take my own leave."

Don Hernan bowed low, as the neophyte withdrew with Jacinto; he waved
his hand to Yacub, and the Moor immediately retired.

"What think ye now, my masters?" he cried, as soon as these were out of
hearing;--"Is it possible this stupid cannonier hath either the wit or
the spirit to hatch me a brood of treason, to help the kites of Mexico?"

"If he have," said Sandoval, "he should hang."

"Very true, son Gonzalo," said the general; "for in our condition, to be
suspected, should be a crime worthy death, especially in so contemptible
a creature as a Moor.--Didst thou observe what mortal consternation
beset our worthy and very precise friend, Don Amador, when Yacub called
his boy a conjurer?"

"I think, that should be examined into," said Sandoval; "for if he be,
'twill be well to give him to Botello, as a pupil; lest Botello should
be, some day, knocked on the head, as is not improbable, from his ever
thrusting it into jeopardy, and we be left without a diviner."

"By my conscience, 'tis well thought on," said Cortes, laughing, "for
this boy, if he had but as good a reputation, is much superior in
docility, as well as shrewder in apprehension; whereas Botello hath such
a thick-head enthusiasm for his art, as to be somewhat unmanageable;
and, every now and then, he prophesies me all wrong; as was the case,
when he anointed the wound of De Leste's secretary, and stupidly told
him 'twould be well in a few hours: and yet, all the camp knew, the lad
was near losing his arm."

"Botello excuses himself there," said Sandoval, "by protesting that his
injunctions were disobeyed, especially that wherein he charged the youth
not to touch his weapon for twenty-four hours; whereas he killed a man,
that very night, on the pyramid, very courageously, as I
witnessed,--though the man was hurt before; for I had charged him with
my own partisan."

"Amigo mio," said Cortes, abruptly, "in the matter of these Moors, I
must have thine aidance. I know not how it may have entered into the
brain of such a boor, to suppose he could make himself useful to the
frowning infidels in Tenochtitlan; but I would sooner give them a dead
lion than a living dog. If thou hast any very cunning and discreet
rogues among thy fighting men, send them, in numbers of two and three,
secretly about the city; and especially charge some that they watch at
the gate that opens to Mexico."

"I will do so," said Sandoval, "and I will myself hunt about the town
till I find the rascal.--Shall I kill him?"

"If it appear to thee he is deserting, let him be slain in the act. As
for Ayub, if he be found in the cannonier's company, bring me him alive:
I will hang him for an example; for in his death shall no intercessor be
offended. I have no doubt, that, for the boy's sake, both Don Amador and
Calavar would beg for Abdalla, if he were brought a prisoner; and it
would grieve me to deny them. Kill _him_, then, my son, if thou findest
him, and art persuaded he is a deserter."

With this charge, very emphatically pronounced, and very composedly
received, the friends separated.



CHAPTER XXVII.


During the whole time of the march from Tlascala to Cholula, an unusual
gloom lay upon the spirits of Calavar; and so great was his abstraction,
that, though pursuing his way with a sort of instinct, he remained as
insensible to the presence of his kinsman as to the attentions of his
followers. He rode at a distance from the rear of the army; and such was
the immobility of his limbs and features, saving when, stung by some
secret thought, he raised his ghastly eyes to heaven, that a stranger,
passing him on the path, might have deemed that his grave charger moved
along under the weight of a stiffened corse, not yet disrobed of its
arms, rather than that of a living cavalier. When the army halted at
noon to take food, he retired, with his attendants, to the shadow of a
tree; where, without dismounting, or receiving the fruits which Jacinto
had gathered, to tempt him to eat, he sat in the same heavy stupor,
until the march was resumed. Neither food nor water crossed his lips,
during the entire day; nor did the neophyte suffer any to be proffered
him, when he came to reflect that this day was an anniversary, which the
knight was ever accustomed to observe with the most ascetic abstinence
and humiliation. For this reason, also, though lamenting the necessity
of such an observance, he neither presumed himself to vex his kinsman
with attentions, nor suffered any others to intrude upon his privacy,
excepting, indeed, the Moorish page, whose gentle arts were so wont to
dispel the gathering clouds. But this day, even Jacinto failed to
attract his notice; and, despairing of the power of any thing but time,
to terminate the paroxysm, he ceased his efforts, and contented himself
with keeping a distant watch on all Don Gabriel's movements, lest some
disaster might happen to him on the journey. No sooner, as had been
hinted by Fabueno, had the army arrived at its quarters in the sacred
city, than the knight betook him to the solitude of a chamber in the
very spacious building; where, after a time, he so far shook off his
lethargy, as to desire the presence of the chaplain, with whom he had
remained ever since, engaged in his devotions. Hither, guided by Marco,
came now Don Amador, conducting Jacinto. The interview with Cortes had
swallowed up more than an hour, and when the neophyte stood before the
curtained door of his kinsman, a light, flashing through the irregular
folds, dispelled the darkness of the chamber. As he paused for an
instant, he heard the low voice of the priest, saying,

"Sin no more with doubt.--_Spera in Deo_: grace is in heaven, and mercy
knoweth no bounds.--_Misereatur tui omnipotens Deus._"

A few other murmurs came to his ear; and then the chaplain, pushing
aside the curtain, issued from the apartment.

"Heaven be with thee, my son," he said to Amador; "thy kinsman is
greatly disordered, but not so much now as before."

"Is it fitting I should enter, father?"

"Thy presence may be grateful to him; but surely," he continued, in an
under voice, "it were better for the unhappy knight, if he were among
the priests and physicians of his own land. A sore madness afflicts him:
he thinks himself beset with spectres.--I would thou hadst him in
Spain!"

"If heaven grant us that grace!" said Amador, sorrowfully.--"But he
believes that God will call him to his rest, among the heathen.--Tarry
thou at the door, Jacinto," he went on, when the father had departed;
"have thyself in readiness, with thy lute, for perhaps he may be
prevailed upon to hear thee sing; in which case, I have much hope, the
evil spirit will depart from him."

He passed into the chamber: the knight was on his knees before a little
crucifix, which he had placed on a massive Indian chair; but though he
beat his bosom with a heavy hand, no sound of prayer came from his lips.
Don Amador placed himself at his side, and stood in reverential silence,
until his kinsman, heaving a deep sigh, rose up, and turning his haggard
countenance towards him, said,--

"Neither penance nor prayer, neither the remorse of the heart nor the
benediction of the priest, can wipe away the sorrow that comes from sin.
God alone is the forgiver;--but God will not _always_ forgive!"

"Say not so, my father," cried Amador, earnestly; "for it is a deep
crime to think that heaven is not ever merciful."

"Keep thyself free from the stain of blood-guiltiness," said Don
Gabriel, with a manner so mild, that the neophyte had good hope the fit
had indeed left him, "and mercy will not be denied thee.--Have I not
afflicted thee, my friend?" he continued faintly. "Thou wilt have much
to forgive me; but not long. I will remember, in my death hour, that
thou hast not forsaken me."

"Never will I again leave thee!" said Amador, fervently. "I forgot thee
once; and besides the pang of contrition for that act, heaven punished
me with a grief, that I should not have known, had I remained by thy
side. But now, my father, wilt thou not eat and drink, and suffer
Jacinto to sing to thee?"

"I may neither eat nor drink this night," said Calavar; "but methinks I
can hear the innocent orphan chant the praises of the Virgin; for to
such she will listen!"

Amador strode to the door; but Jacinto had vanished--He had stolen away,
the moment that his patron entered.

"Perhaps he has gone to fetch his instrument. Run thou in search of him,
Marco, and bid him hasten."

Before the novice could again address himself to his kinsman, Marco
returned. The page was not to be found; the sentinel at the door had
seen him pass into the court-yard, but whether he had re-entered or not,
he knew not;--he had not noted.

"Is it possible," thought Don Amador, "that the boy could so wilfully
disobey me? Perhaps the general hath sent for him again: for,
notwithstanding all his protestations of satisfaction, it seemed to me,
that, while he spoke, there was still a something lurking in his eye,
which boded no good to Abdalla. I will look for the boy myself."

He charged Marco to remain by his lord, sought an audience with the
general, whom he found engaged in earnest debate with Duero, De Leon,
and other high officers. Don Hernan satisfied him that he had not sent
for Jacinto,--that he had not thought of Abdalla; and with an apology
for his intrusion, the novice instantly withdrew.

"The story is true!" said Cortes with a frown, "and that pestilent young
cub of heathenism has fled to give the traitor warning. But he that
passes, unquestioned, at the gate where Sandoval stands the watchman,
must have the devil for his leader, or, at least, his companion. I hope
he will not murder the boy; for he is a favourite with Calavar, a subtle
knave, a good twangler; and it is natural he should play me even a
knave's trick for his father!"

In the meanwhile, after hunting in vain about the different quarters of
the building, as well as the court-yard, for the vanished Jacinto, the
novice returned to the chamber of his kinsman. But Calavar also had
disappeared,--not, indeed, in disorder, but in great apparent
tranquillity; and he had commanded Marco not to follow him.

"He has gone to the fields," muttered Amador; "such is his practice at
this season: but there is no good can come of solitude. I know not what
to think of that boy; but assuredly, this time, it will be but my duty
to censure him." And so saying, Don Amador also passed into the open
air.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


It was late in the night; a horizontal moon flung the long shadows of
the houses over the wide streets of Cholula, when the knight Calavar,
wrapped in his black mantle, strode along through the deserted city.
With no definite object before him, unless to fly, or perhaps to give
way, in solitude, to the bitter thoughts that oppressed him, he suffered
himself to be guided as much by accident as by his wayward impulses; and
as he passed on, at every step, some mutation of his fancies, or some
trivial incident on the way, conspired to recall his disorder. Now, as a
bat flitted by, or an owl flew, hooting, from its perch among some of
those ruins, which yet raised their broken and blackened walls, in
memory of the cruelty of his countrymen, the knight started aghast, and
a mortal fear came over him; for, in these sounds and sights, his
disturbed senses discovered the signs of the furies that persecuted him;
and even the night-breeze, wailing round some lonely corner, or
whispering among the shrubbery of a devastated garden, seemed to him the
cries of haunting spirits.

"Miserere mei, Deus!" muttered Don Gabriel, as a tree, bowing away from
the wind, let down a moonbeam through a fissure on his path--"the white
visage will not leave me!--Heavy was the sin, heavy is the punishment!
for even mine own fancies are become my chastisers."

Thus, at times, conscious, in part, of his infirmity, and yet yielding
ever, with the feebleness of a child, to the influence of unreal
horrors, he wandered about, sometimes driven from his path by what
seemed a gaunt spectre flitting before him, sometimes impelled onwards
by a terror that followed behind: thus he roved about, he knew not
whither, until he found himself, by chance, in the neighbourhood of the
great temple, the scene of the chief atrocities enacted on that day
which has been called, by a just metonymy, the Massacre of Cholula. Here
it was, as had been mentioned by De Morla, that the miserable natives,
huddled together in despair, had made their last cry to their gods, and
perished under the steel and flames of the Christians; and the memorials
of their fate were as plainly written as if the tragedy had been the
work of the previous day. No carcasses, indeed, lay crowded among the
ruins, no embers smouldered on the square; weeds had grown upon the
place of murder, as if fattening on the blood that had besprinkled their
roots; life had utterly vanished from the spot; and it presented the
appearance of a desert in the bosom of a populous city.

A great wall, running round the temple, had enclosed it in a large
court, once covered with the houses of priests and devotees. The wall
was shattered and fallen, the dwellings burned and demolished; and the
pyramid, itself crumbling into ruins, lay like the body of some huge
monster among its severed and decaying members. The flags of stone,
tumbled by the victims, in their fury, from its sides and terraces,
though they had not called up the subterraneous rivers, had exposed the
perishable earth, that composed the body of the mound, to the
vicissitudes of the weather; and, under the heavy tropical rains, it was
washing rapidly away. The sanctuaries yet stood on the summit, but with
their walls mutilated, and their roofs burnt; and they served only to
make the horror picturesque. A wooden cross of colossal dimensions,
raised by the conquerors, in impious attestation that God had aided them
in the labour of slaughter, flung high its rugged arms, towering above
the broken turrets, and gave the finish of superstition to the monument
of wrath. It was a place of ruins, dark, lugubrious, and forbidding; and
as Don Gabriel strode among the massive fragments, he found himself in a
theatre congenial with his gloomy and wrecking spirit.

It was not without many feelings of dismay that he plunged among the
ruins; for his imagination converted each shattered block into a living
phantasm. But still he moved on, as if urged by some irresistible
impulse, entangling himself in the labyrinth of decay, until he scarcely
knew whither to direct his steps. Whether it was reality, or some
coinage of his brain, that presented the spectacle, he knew not; but he
was arrested in his toilsome progress by the apparition of several
figures rising suddenly among the ruins, and as suddenly vanishing.

"Heaven pity me!" he cried: "They come feathered like the fiends of the
infidel! But I care not, so they bring no more the white face, that is
so ghastly!--And yet, this is her day!--this is her day!"

Perhaps it was his imagination, that decked out the spectres with such
ornaments; but a less heated spectator might have discovered in them,
only the figures of strolling savages. With his spirits strongly
agitated, his brain excited for the reception of any chimera, he
followed the direction in which these figures seemed to have vanished:
and this bringing him round a corner of the pyramid, into the moonshine,
he instantly found himself confronted with a spectacle that froze his
blood with horror. In a spot, where the ruins had given space for the
growth of weeds and grass, and where the vision could not be so easily
confounded,--illuminated by the moonbeams as if by the lustre of the
day,--he beheld a figure, seemingly of a woman, clad in robes of white
of an oriental habit, full before him, and turning upon him a
countenance as wan as death.

"Miserere mei, Deus!" cried the knight, dropping on his knees, and
bowing his forehead to the earth. "If thou comest to persecute me yet, I
am here, and I have not forgot thee!"

The murmur, as of a voice, fell on his ear, but it brought with it no
intelligence. He raised his eye;--dark shadows flitted before him; yet
he saw nothing save the apparition in white: it stood yet in his view;
and still the pallid visage dazzled him with its unnatural radiance and
beauty.

"Miserere mei! miserere mei!" he cried, rising to his feet, and
tottering forwards. "I live but to lament thee, and I breathe but to
repent! Speak to me, daughter of the Alpujarras! speak to me, and let me
die!"

As he spoke, the vision moved gently and slowly away. He rushed
forwards, but with knees smiting together; and, as the white visage
turned upon him again, with its melancholy loveliness, and with a
gesture as of warning or terror, his brain spun round, his sight failed
him, and he fell to the earth in a deep swoon.



CHAPTER XXIX.


Motion is the life of the sea: the surge dashes along in its course,
while the watery particles that gave it bulk and form, remain in their
place to renew and continue the coming billows, heaving to each
successive oscillation, but not departing with it. Thus the mind,--an
ocean more vast and unfathomable than that which washes our
planet,--fluctuates under the impulses of its stormy nature, and passes
not away, until the last agitation, like that which shall swallow up the
sea, or convert its elements into a new matter, lifts it from its
continent, and introduces it to a new existence. Emotion is its life,
each surge of which seems to bear it leagues from its resting-place; and
yet it remains passively to abide and figure forth the influence of new
commotions.--Thus passed the billow through the spirit of Calavar; and
when it had vanished, the spirit ceased from its tumult, subsided, and
lay in tranquillity to await other shocks,--for others were
coming.--When he awoke from his lethargy, his head was supported on the
knee of a human being, who chafed his temple and hands, and bowed his
body as well as his feeble strength allowed, to recall the knight to
life. Don Gabriel raised his eyes to this benignant and ministering
creature; and in the disturbed visage, that hung over his own,
thought,--for his mind was yet wandering,--he beheld the pallid features
of the vision.

"I know thee, and I am ready!" cried Don Gabriel. "Pity me and forgive
me;--for I die at thy feet, as thou didst at mine!"

"Señor mio! I am Jacinto," exclaimed the page, (for it was he,)
frightened at the distraction of the knight;--"thy page, thy poor page,
Jacinto."

"Is it so indeed?" said Calavar, surveying him wildly.--"And the spectre
that did but now smite me to the earth!--hath she left me?"

"Dear master, there is no spectre with us," said the Moorish boy. "We
are alone among the ruins."

"God be thanked!" said the knight, vehemently, "for if I should look on
it more, I should die.--Yet would that I could!--would that I could! for
in death there is peace,--in the grave there is forgetfulness!--This
time, was it no delusion either of the senses or the brain: mine
eye-sight was clear, my head sane, and I saw it, as I see mine own
despair!--Pray for me, boy!" he continued, falling on his knees, and
dragging the page down beside him; "pray for me!" he cried, gazing
piteously at the youth; "pray for me! God will listen to _thy_ prayers,
for thou art innocent, and I am miserable. Pray that God may forgive me,
and suffer me to die;--for this is the day of my sin!"

"Dear master," said the page, trembling, "let us return to our friends."

"Thou wilt not pray? thou wilt not beseech God for me?" said Calavar,
mournfully. "Thou wilt be merciful, when thou knowest my misery! Heaven
sends thee for mine intercessor. I confess to thee, as to heaven, for
thou art without sin. Manhood brings guile and impurity, evil deeds and
malign thoughts; but a child is pure in the eyes of God; and the prayers
of his lips will be as incense, when wrath turns from the beseeching of
men. Hear thou my sin; and then, if heaven bid thee not to curse, then
pray for me, boy!--then pray for me!"

In great perturbation, for he knew not how to check the knight's
distraction, and feared its increasing violence, Jacinto knelt, staring
at him, his hands fettered in the grasp of his master; who, returning
his gaze with such looks of wo and contrition, as a penitent may give to
heaven, said wildly, yet not incoherently,--

"Deeply dyed with sin am I, and sharply scourged with retribution! Age
comes upon me before its time, but brings me nothing but memory--nothing
but memory!--Gray hairs and wrinkles, disease and feebleness, are the
portions of my manhood: for my youth was sinful, and guilt has made me
old! Oh that I might see the days, when I was like to thee!--when I was
like to thee, Jacinto!--when I knew innocence, and offended not God. But
the virtues of childhood weigh not in the balance against the crimes of
after years: as the child dieth, heaven opens to him; as the man
sinneth, so doth he perish.--Miserere mei, Deus! and forgive me my day
in the Alpujarras!"

As Don Gabriel pronounced the name of those mountains, wherein, Jacinto
knew, his father had drawn the first breath of life, and around which
was shed, for every Moor, such interest as belongs to those places where
our fathers have fought and bled, the page began to listen with
curiosity, although his alarm had not altogether subsided.

"Long years have passed; many days of peril and disaster have come and
gone; and yet I have not forgotten the Alpujarras!" cried Calavar,
shivering as he uttered the word; "for there did joy smile, and hope
sicken, and fury give me to clouds and darkness forever. Those hills
were the haunts of thy forefathers, Jacinto; and there, after the royal
city had fallen, and Granada was ruled by the monarchs of Spain, they
fled for refuge, all those noble Moriscos, who were resolute to die in
their own mistaken faith, as well,--in after years,--as many others, who
had truly embraced the religion of Christ, but were suspected by the
bigoted of our people, and persecuted with rigour. How many wars were
declared against those unhappy fugitives,--now to break down the last
strong hold of the infidel, and now to punish the suspected
Christian,--thou must know, if thy sire be a true Moor of Granada. In
mine early youth, and in one of the later crusades, that were proclaimed
against those misguided mountaineers, went I, to win the name and the
laurels of a cavalier. Would that I had never won them, or that they had
come to me dead on the battle-field! Know, then, Jacinto, that my
nineteenth summer had not yet fled from me, when I first drew my sword
in conflict with men; but if I won me reputation, at that green age, it
was because heaven was minded to show me, that shame and sorrow could
come as early. In those days, the royal and noble blood of Granada had
not been drawn from every vein; many of the princely descendants of the
Abencerrages, the Aliatars, the Ganzuls, and the Zegris, still dwelt
among the mountains; and, forgetting their hereditary feuds, united
together in common resistance against the Spaniards. With such men for
enemies, respected alike for their birth and their valour, the war was
not always a history of rapine and barbarity; and sometimes there
happened such passages of courtesy and magnanimity between the Christian
and Moorish cavaliers, as recalled the memory of the days of chivalry
and honour. Among others, who made experience of the heroic greatness of
mind of the infidel princes, was I myself; for, in a battle, wherein the
Moors prevailed against us, I was left wounded and unhorsed, on the
field, to perish, or to remain a prisoner in their hands. In that
melancholy condition, while I commended my soul to God, as not thinking
I could escape from death, a Moorish warrior of majestic appearance and
a soul still more lofty, approached, and had pity on my helplessness,
instead of slaying me outright, as I truly expected. 'Thou art noble,'
said he, 'for I have seen thy deeds; and though, this day, thou hast
shed the blood of a Zegri, thou shalt not perish like a dog. Mount my
horse and fly, lest the approaching squadrons destroy thee; and in
memory of this deed, be thou sometimes merciful to the people of
Alharef.' Then knew I, that this was Alharef ben-Ismail, the most noble
of the Zegris,--a youth famous, even among the Spaniards, for his
courage and humanity; and in gratitude and love, for he was a Christian
proselyte, I pledged him my faith, and swore with him the vows of a true
friendship. How I have kept mine oath, Alharef!" he cried, lifting his
eyes to the spangled heaven, "thou knowest;--for sometimes _thou_ art
with my punisher!"

The knight paused an instant, in sorrowful emotion, while Jacinto, borne
by curiosity beyond the bounds of fear, bent his head to listen; then
making the sign of the cross, and repeating his brief prayer, the
cavalier resumed his narrative.

"As my ingratitude was greater than that of other men, so is my sin; for
another act of benevolence shall weigh against me for ever!--Why did I
not die with my people, when the smiles of perfidy conducted us to the
hills, and the sword was drawn upon us sleeping? That night, there was
but one escaped the cruel and bloody stratagem; and I, again, owed my
life to the virtues of a Moor. Pity me, heaven! for thou didst send me
an angel, and I repaid thy mercy with the thankfulness of a
fiend!--Know, then, Jacinto, that, in the village wherein was devised
and accomplished the murder of my unsuspecting companions, dwelt one
that now liveth in heaven. Miserere mei! miserere mei! for she was noble
and fair, and wept at the baseness of her kindred!--She covered the
bleeding cavalier with her mantle, concealed him from the fury that was
unrelenting; and when she had healed his wounds, guided him, in secret,
from the den of devils, and dismissed him in safety near to the camp of
his countrymen. Know thou now, boy, that this maiden was Zayda, the
flower of all those hills, and the star that made them dearer to me than
the heaven that was above them; and more thought I of those green peaks
and shady valleys that encompassed my love, than the castle of my sire,
or the church wherein rested the bones of my mother. Miserere mei!
miserere mei! for the faith that was pledged was broken! my lady slept
in the arms of Alharef, and my heart was turned to blackness!--Now thou
shalt hear me, and pray for me," continued Don Gabriel, with a look of
the wildest and intensest despair, "for my sin is greater than I can
bear! Now shalt thou hear how I cursed those whom I had sworn to love;
how I sharpened my sword, and with vengeance and fury, went against the
village of my betrayers. Oh God! how thou didst harden our hearts, when
we gave their houses to the flames, and their old men and children to
swords and spears! when we looked not at misery, and listened not to
supplication, but slew! slew! slew! as though we struck at beasts, and
not at human creatures! 'Thou sworest an oath!' cried Alharef. I
laughed; for I knew I should drink his blood! 'Be merciful to my
people!' he cried,--and I struck him with my sabre. Oho!" continued the
knight, springing to his feet, wringing the page's hands, and glaring at
him with the countenance of a demon, "when he fled from me bleeding, my
heart was full of joy, and I followed him with yells of
transport!--_This_ is the day, I tell thee! this is the day, and the
hour! for night could not hide him!--And Zayda! ay, Zayda! Zayda!--when
she shielded him with her bosom, when she threw herself before
him--Miserere mei, Deus! miserere mei, Deus!"

"And Zayda?" cried the page, meeting his gaze with looks scarcely less
expressive of wildness.

"Curse me, or pray for me," said the knight,--"for I slew her!"

The boy recoiled: Don Gabriel fell on his knees, and, with a voice husky
and feeble as a child's, cried,

"I know, now, that thou cursest me, for thou lookest on me with horror!
The innocent will not pray for the guilty! the pure and holy have no
pity for devils. Curse me then, for her kindred vanished from the earth,
and she with them!--curse me, for I left not a drop of her blood flowing
in human veins, and none in her's!--curse me, for I am her murderer, and
I have not forgot it!--curse me, for God has forsaken me, and nightly
her pale face glitters on me with reproach!--curse me, for I am
miserable!"

While Don Gabriel still grovelled on the earth, and while the page stood
yet regarding him with terror, suddenly there came to the ears of both,
the shouts of soldiers, mingled with the roar of firelocks: and, as
three or four cross-bow shafts rattled against the sides of the pyramid,
there were visible in the moonlight as many figures of men running among
the ruins, new leaping over, now darting around the fragments, as if
flying for their lives from a party of armed men, who were seen rushing
after them on the square. The knight rose, bewildered, and, as if in the
instinct of protection, again grasped the hand of the page. But now the
emotions which had agitated the master, seemed transferred to his
follower; and Jacinto, trembling and struggling, cried,--

"Señor mio, let me loose! For the sake of heaven, for the sake of the
Zayda whom you slew, let me go!--for they are murdering my father!"

But Don Gabriel, in the confusion of his mind, still retained his grasp,
and very providentially, as it appeared; for at that very moment, a
voice was heard exclaiming,--

"Hold! shoot not _there_: 'tis the Penitent Knight!--Aim at the fliers.
Follow and shoot!--follow and shoot!"

Immediately the party of pursuers rushed up to the pair, one of whom
paused, while the others, in obedience to his command, continued the
chase, ever and anon sending a bolt after the fugitives.

"On, and spare not, ye knaves!" cried Sandoval, for it was this cavalier
who now stood at the side of the knight of Rhodes. "On, and shoot! on
and shoot! and see that ye bring me the head of the Moor! Oho, my merry
little page!" he cried, regarding Jacinto; "you have been playing Sir
_Quimichin_, Sir Rat and Sir Spy? A cunning little brat, faith; but
we'll catch thy villain father, notwithstanding!"

The page bowed his head and sobbed, but was silent; and Don Gabriel,
rallying his confused spirits a little, said,--

"I know not what you mean, señor. We are no spies, but very miserable
penitents."

"Oh, sir knight, I crave your pardon," said Sandoval, without noticing
the eccentric portion of his confession, "I meant not to intrude upon
your secrecy, but to catch Abdalla, the deserter; of whom, and of whose
rogueries, not doubting that this boy has full knowledge, I must beg
your permission to conduct him to the general."

"Surely," said Calavar mildly, "if Jacinto have offended, I will not
strive to screen him from examination, but only from punishment. I
consent you shall lead him to Cortes; and I will myself accompany you."

"It is enough, noble knight, if thou wilt thyself condescend to conduct
him," said the cavalier; "whereby I shall be left in freedom to follow a
more urgent duty. God save you, sir knight;--I leave the boy in your
charge."--So saying, Sandoval pursued hastily after his companions; and
Calavar leading the page, now no longer unwilling, (for the Almogavar,
with his companions, was long since out of sight,) pursued his
melancholy way to the quarters.



CHAPTER XXX.


While these occurrences were transpiring, Don Amador de Leste, in search
of the knight, had rambled through the streets, and following, very
naturally, the only path with which he was acquainted, soon found
himself issuing from that gate by which he had entered from Tlascala.
The domination of the Spaniards had interrupted many of the civil, as
well as the religious, regulations of the Cholulans; and, with their
freedom, departed that necessity and habit of vigilance, which had
formerly thronged their portals with watchmen. No Indian guards,
therefore, were found at the gate; and the precautions of the general
had not carried his sentinels to this neglected and seemingly secure
quarter. The neophyte passed into the fields, and though hopeless, in
their solitudes, of discovering the retreat of the penitent, was seduced
to prolong his walk by the beauty of the night and by the many pensive
thoughts to which it gave birth. How many times his reflections carried
him back to the land of his nativity, to the surges that washed the Holy
Land, to the trenches of Rhodes to the shores of Granada, need not be
here related, nor, if he gave many sighs to the strange sorrow and
stranger destiny of his kinsman, is it fitting such emotions should be
recorded. He wandered about, lost in his musings, until made sensible,
by the elevation of the moon, that he had trespassed upon the hour of
midnight. Roused by this discovery from his reveries, he returned upon
his path, and had arrived within view of the gate, when he was arrested
by the sudden appearance of four men, running towards him at a rapid
gait, and presenting to his vision the figures of Indian warriors. No
sooner had these fugitives approached near enough to perceive an armed
cavalier intercepting the road, than they paused, uttering many quick
and, to him, incomprehensible exclamations. But, though he understood
not their language, he was admonished, by their actions, of the
necessity of drawing his sword and defending himself from attack; for
the foremost, hesitating no longer than to give instructions to his
followers, instantly advanced upon him, flourishing a heavy axe of
obsidian. Somewhat surprised at the audacity of this naked barbarian,
but in no wise daunted at the number of his supporters, the cavalier
lifted his trusty Bilboa, fully resolved to teach him such a lesson as
would cause him to remember his temerity for ever; but, almost at the
same moment, his wrath vanished, for he perceived, in this assailant,
the young ambassador of the preceding evening; and, remembering the
words of De Morla, he felt reluctant to injure one of the princes of the
unhappy house of Montezuma.

"Prince!" said he, elevating his voice, but forgetting his want of an
interpreter, "drop thy sword, and pass by in peace; for _I_ have not yet
declared war against thy people, and I am loath to strike thee."

But the valiant youth, misconceiving or disregarding both words and
gestures, only approached with the more determination, and swung his
bulky weapon over his head, as if in the act of smiting, when one of his
followers, exclaiming eagerly, "Ho, Quauhtimotzin! forbear!" sprang
before him, and revealed to Don Amador the countenance of the Moor
Abdalla.

"Thou art safe, señor!" cried the Almogavar, "and heaven be thanked for
this chance, that shows thee I have not forgotten thy benefits!"

The assurance of Abdalla was presently confirmed; for the young prince,
seeing the action of the Moor, lowered his weapon, and merely surveying
the cavalier with an earnest look, passed by him on his course, and was
followed by the two others. Meanwhile Don Amador, regarding the
Almogavar, said,--

"I know not, good Sidi,--notwithstanding this present service, for which
I thank thee,--not so much because thou hast stepped between me and
danger, (for, it must be apparent to thee, I could, with great ease,
have defended myself from such feeble assailants,) but because thou hast
freed me from the necessity of hurting this poor prince;--I say,
notwithstanding all this, Abdalla, I know not whether I should not now
be bound to detain thee, and compel thee to return to the general; for
it is not unknown to me, that thou art, at this moment, a deserter and
traitor."

"Señor!" said the Moor, withdrawing a step, as if fearing lest the
cavalier would be as good as his word, "my treason is against my
misfortunes, and I desert only from injustice; and if my noble lord
knows thus much, he knows also, that to detain me, would be to give me
to the gallows."

"I am not certain," said Don Amador, "that my intercession would not
save thy life; unless thou hast been guilty of more crimes than I have
heard."

"Guilty of nothing but misfortune!" said the Moor, earnestly; "guilty of
nothing but the crimes of others, and of griefs, which are reckoned
against me for sins!--"

"Guilty," said the cavalier, gravely, "of treating in secret with these
barbarians, who are esteemed the enemies of thy Christian friends; and
guilty of seducing into the same crime thy countrymen, the Moriscos; one
of whom, I am persuaded, did but now pass me with the Indians, and one
of whom, also, hath charged thee with tempting him."

"Señor," said Abdalla, hurriedly, "I cannot now defend myself from these
charges, for I hear my enemies in pursuit."

"And guilty," added Don Amador, with severity, "as I think, of deserting
thine own flesh and blood,--thy poor and friendless boy, Abdalla!"

The Almogavar flung himself at the feet of the cavalier, saying,
wildly,--

"My flesh and blood! and friendless indeed! unless thou wilt continue to
protect him. Señor, for the love of heaven, for the sake of the mother
who bore you, be kind and true to my boy! Swear thou wilt protect him
from malice and wrong; for it was his humanity to thy kinsman, the
knight, that has robbed him of his father."

"Dost thou confess, thou wert about to steal him from his protector?
Now, by heavens, Moor, this is but an infidel's ingratitude!"

"Señor!" said Abdalla, "you reproached me for forsaking him; and now you
censure me for striving not to forsake him! But the sin is mine, not
Jacinto's. I commanded him to follow me, señor; and he would have obeyed
me, had he not found thy knight Calavar swooning among the ruins. He
tarried to give him succour, and thus was lost; for the soldiers came
upon him."

"Is this so, indeed? My kinsman left swooning! Thou wert but a knave,
not to tell me this before."

"The knight is safe--he has robbed me of my child," said Abdalla,
throwing himself before the neophyte. "Go not, señor, till thou hast
promised to requite his humanity with the truest protection."

"Surely he shall have that, without claiming it."

"Ay, but promise me! swear it to me!" cried the Moor, eagerly. "Don
Hernan will be awroth with him. The cavaliers will call him mine
accomplice."

"They will do the boy no wrong," said Amador; "and I know not why thou
shouldst ask me the superfluity of an oath."

"Señor, I am a father, and my child is in a danger of which thou knowest
not! For the love of God, give me thy vows thou wilt not suffer my child
to be wronged!"

"I promise thee this; but acquaint me with this new and unknown peril.
If it be the danger of an accusation of witchcraft, I can resolve thee,
that that is not regarded by the general."

"Señor, my pursuers are nigh at hand," cried Abdalla, "and I must fly! A
great danger besets Jacinto, and thou canst preserve him. Swear to me,
thou wilt not wrong him, and suffer me to depart."

"Wrong him!" said the cavalier. "Thou art beside thyself.--Yet, as it
does appear to me, that the soldiers are approaching us, I will give
thee this very unreasonable solace.--I swear to thee very devoutly,
that, while heaven leaves me my sword and arm, and the power to protect,
no one shall, in any way, or by any injustice, harm or wrong the boy
Jacinto."

"I will remember thy promise, and thee!" cried the Almogavar, seizing
his hand and kissing it.

"Tarry, Abdalla. Reflect;--thou rushest on many dangers. Return, and I
will intercede for thy pardon."

But the Moor, running with great speed after his companions, was almost
already out of sight; and Don Amador, musing, again turned his face
towards Cholula.

"If I meet these soldiers," he soliloquized, "I must, in honour,
acquaint them with the path of the Moor; whereby Abdalla may be
captured, and put to death on the spot. I am resolute, I cannot, by
utterly concealing my knowledge of this event, maintain the character of
a just and honest gentleman; yet, it appears to me, my duty only compels
me to carry my information to the general. This will I do, and by
avoiding the pursuers, preserve the obligations of humanity to the
fugitive, without any forfeit of mine honour."

Thus pondering, and walking a little from the path, until the pursuers
had passed him, he returned to the quarters.



CHAPTER XXXI.


The day that followed after the flight of Abdoul-al-Sidi, beheld the
army of Cortes crossing that ridge which extends like a mighty curtain,
between the great volcano and the rugged Iztaccihuatl; and many a hardy
veteran shivered with cold and discontent, as sharp gusts, whirling rain
and snow from the inhospitable summits, prepared him for the contrast of
peace and beauty which is unfolded to the traveller, when he looks down
from the mountains to the verdant valley of Mexico. Even at the present
day, when the axe has destroyed the forest; when the gardens of
flowers--the cultivation of which, with a degree of passionate affection
that distinguished the Mexicans from other races, seemed to impart a
tinge of poetry to their character, and mellow their rougher traits with
the hues of romance,--when these flower gardens have vanished from the
earth; when the lakes have receded and diminished, and, with them, the
fair cities that once rose from their waters, leaving behind them
stagnant pools and saline deserts; even now, under all these
disadvantages, the prospect of this valley is of such peculiar and
astonishing beauty as, perhaps, can be nowhere else equalled among the
haunts of men. The providence of the Spanish viceroys in constructing a
road more direct and more easy of passage, to the north of the great
mountains, has robbed travellers of the more spirit-stirring impressions
which introduced them to the spectacle, when pursuing the ancient
highway of the Mexicans. It ascends among gloomy defiles, at the
entrance of which stand, on either hand, like stupendous towers guarding
the gate of some Titan strong-hold, the two grandest pinnacles of the
interior. It conducts you among crags and ravines, among clouds and
tempests, now sheltering you under a forest of oaks and pines, now
exposing you to the furious blasts that howl along the ridges. A few
dilapidated hamlets of Indians, if they occasionally break the solitude,
destroy neither the grandeur nor solemnity of the path. You remember, on
this deserted highway, that you are treading in the steps of Cortes.

As the army proceeded, Don Amador, alive to every novelty, took notice
that, regularly, at short distances from each other, not excepting even
in the wildest and loneliest places, there were certain low and rude but
strong cabins of stone built by the wayside, but without inhabitants.
These, he was told, were the houses that were always constructed by the
Mexican kings on such friendless routes, to shelter the exposed
traveller. He thought such benignant provision betokened some of the
humaner characteristics of civilization, and longed eagerly to make
acquaintance with those nobler institutions which might be presented
below. This desire was not the less urgent, that the frozen winds,
penetrating his mailed armour, made him shiver like a coward on the back
of his war-horse. He felt also much concern for his kinsman, who rode at
his side with a visage even wanner and more wo-begone than ordinary. But
in the deep and death-like abstraction that invested his spirits, Don
Gabriel was as insensible to the assaults of the blast, as to the
solicitude of his friend. The page Jacinto, moreover, caused him no
little thought; for the flight of his father, though this had exposed
him neither to the anger nor inquiries of Don Hernan, (who affected to
treat the desertion of the Moors as an affair of little consequence,
save to themselves,) had left the boy so dejected and spiritless, that,
as he trudged along between the two cavaliers, he seemed to follow more
with the instinct of a jaded house-dog, than with the alacrity of a
faithful servant. To the pity of his young master he returned but a
forced gratitude, and to his benevolent counsel that he should ride
behind Lazaro, he rendered the oft-repeated excuse, 'Señor mio, I am
afraid of horses; and 'tis better to walk than ride over these cold
hills.'

"There is much wisdom in what thou sayest, as I begin now to perceive,"
said Amador, dismounting and giving his steed to Lazaro: "'tis better to
be over-warm with marching on foot, than turned into an icicle on
horseback. My father!" he said, gently and affectionately, to Calavar,
"wilt thou not descend, and warm thyself a little with exercise?" But
the knight only replied with a melancholy and bewildered stare, which
convinced the novice that entreaty and argument upon this subject, as,
at present, upon all others, would be alike unavailing. Sighing
therefore, and, with a gesture, directing Baltasar to assume his station
at the side of Don Gabriel, he took the page by the hand, and removing
to a little distance from the group as well as from all other persons,
he walked on, entering into discourse with Jacinto.

"I do not marvel at thee, Jacinto," he said, "nor can I altogether
censure thee, for grieving thus at the flight of thy father. Nor will I,
as was, last night, my resolve, reprimand thee for leaving me, contrary
to my bidding, at the chamber of my good knight; for, besides finding
thee in grief enough at present, I perceive thou wert instigated to this
disobedience by anxiety for thy parent, which would have excused in thee
a greater fault. But let me ask thee, not so much as a master as a
friend, two or three questions.--First, Jacinto," he continued, "art
thou dissatisfied with thy service? or with thy master, who loves thee
as well as myself?"

"Service--master!--Señor!" said the boy, confused.

"I demand of thee, art thou discontented with thy duties, or grieved by
any unkindness which has been manifested to thee by thy master, or by
any of us, who are his followers?"

"I cannot be discontented with my duties," said the boy, a little
cheerfully, for it was not possible long to withstand the benevolence of
his patron;--"I cannot be discontented with my duties; for, in truth, it
seems to me, there are none imposed upon me, except such as are prompted
by my own fancies. I am very skilless in the customs of service, never
having been in service before; yet, señor, I like it so well, that with
such masters, methinks, I could remain a contented servant to the end of
my days. That is,--that is"--But here the page interrupted himself
abruptly. "As for any unkindness, I own with gratitude, I have never
received from my lord, from my master, nor from his people, any thing
but great favour, as well as forgiveness for all my faults."

"Thou answerest well," said the novice gravely. "I did not apprehend
anybody could treat thee rudely, except Lazaro, who is a rough fellow in
his ways, and being in some sort a wit, is oft betrayed into saying
sharp things, in order that people may laugh at them. Nevertheless,
Lazaro has a good heart; for which reason I pardon many of his freedoms;
but, I vow to thee, though he is a brave soldier, and albeit it is
opposed to all my feelings and principles to degrade a serving-man by
blows, nevertheless, had I found him venting his wit upon thee, I should
have been tempted to strike him even with the hardest end of my lance."

"I never had a better friend than Lazaro," said the page, with a faint
smile; "and I love him well, for he affects my singing, and praises me
more than anybody else. Then, as for Marco and Baltasar, though they
delight more in cleaning armour than listening to a lute;--and as for
the secretary, señor Lorenzo, who cares for nothing but tilting with any
one who will take the trouble to unhorse him,--they are all good-natured
to me, and they never scold me."

"This, then, being the case," said Amador, "and allowing thy first and
most natural obedience to be to thy father, rather than to a master, how
dost thou excuse to thyself the intention of deserting the service of
thy friends, without demanding permission, or at least acquainting us
with thy desires."

"Señor!" exclaimed Jacinto, surprised and embarrassed.

"It is known to me, that such was thy resolution," said the cavalier,
with gravity; "for it was so confessed to me, last night, by thy father.
But, indeed, though I cannot avoid expressing my displeasure at such
intention, which seems to me both treacherous and ungrateful, I led thee
aside less to scold thee, than to give thee intelligence of Abdalla, I
myself being, as I think, the last Christian that beheld him."

"Oh, señor! and he escaped unharmed?" cried the boy.

"Verily without either bruise or wound, save that which was made on his
soul, when I reproached him for deserting thee."

"I am deserted by all!" exclaimed Jacinto, clasping his hands.

"For the thousandth time, I tell thee, no!" said his patron: "And thy
father made it apparent to me he abandoned thee unwillingly; nor would
he leave me, though the pursuers were approaching fast, until he had
exacted of me the very superfluous vow, that I would give thee a double
protection from all wrong and injustice. Dry thy tears: I have already
obtained of Cortes a promise of full pardon for Abdalla, when he returns
to us, as doubtless he will, at Tenochtitlan."

"I hope so! I pray he may!" said Jacinto, hurriedly; "or what, oh! what
shall become of us!"

"I will have him sought out, and by-and-by take thee, and him along, to
Cuenza. 'Tis hard by to Granada."

The boy remained silent, and Amador continued:--

"Thy father also showed me, that it was thy faithful love, in remaining
by my kinsman during a swoon, which prevented thee from escaping with
him. This, though it does not remove the fault of thy design, entirely
forces me to pardon it; and indeed, Abdalla did as much as acknowledge
thou wert averse to the plan."

"Señor, I was: for though our degradation was great, I knew not how much
greater it might be among the pagans."

"Degradation! dost thou talk of degradation! In good faith, thou
surprisest me!"

"Señor," said the boy, proudly, "though you will deride such vanity in
poor barbarians of the desert, yet did we ever think ourselves, who had
always been free and unenslaved, debased by servitude. At least, my
father thought so; and I myself, though speedily solaced by the kindness
which was shown me, could not but sometimes think it had been better to
have perished with my father in the sea, along with our unhappy people,
than to remain as I was,--and as I am,--a _servant_ in the house of my
master!"

"A silly boy art thou, Jacinto," said Amador, surveying him with
surprise: "for, first, thy office as the page of a most noble and
renowned knight, is such a one as would be coveted by any grandee's son,
however noble, who aspired to the glory of arms and knighthood; and I
admonish thee, that, had not his infirmity driven Don Gabriel from Spain
entirely without the knowledge of his servants, thou shouldst have seen
the son of a very proud and lofty nobleman attending him in the very
quality which thou thinkest so degrading. I did myself, though very
nearly related to him, and though sprung of such blood as acknowledges
none superior, not even in the king that sits on the throne, enter first
into his service in the same quality of page; and, trust me, I esteemed
it great honour. In the second place, I marvel at thee, having already
confessed that thy service is both light and pleasant."

"It is even so, señor," said the boy, meekly, "and I am not often so
foolish as to repent me. It was not because I thought so yesternight,
but because my father bade me, that I strove to escape from it; for he
was in danger, or feared he was, and it was my duty to follow him
without repining."

"I come now to ask thee another question," said the neophyte. "By what
good fortune was it, that thou stumbledst upon my kinsman, among the
ruins of that profane pyramid?"

"It was there, señor, that the princes met us."

"Hah! Oh, then, thou wert plotting with my bold prince, hah! Faith, a
very valiant pagan! and in no wise resembling the varlets of Cuba. If
thou knowest aught of these men that may concern our leader to know, it
will be thy duty to report the same to him Jacinto, and that without
delay."

"Nothing, señor," said the page, hastily. "I discovered that my father
was to fly with the ambassadors; that he was to seek them at the
pyramid; and it was there we found my master swooning."

"Didst thou see aught there that was remarkable, or in any way
inexplicable?"

"I saw my lord fainting, my father and the princes flying, and the
soldiers pursuing and shooting both with cross-bow and musket."

"'Tis already," said the cavalier, turning his eye askaunt to Don
Gabriel, "yet I know not by what revealment, whispered through the army,
that my kinsman saw a spectre,--some devilish fiend, that, in the moment
of his doubt, struck him to the earth!"

"Ay!" said Jacinto, turning towards the knight, and eyeing him with a
look of horror; "he thought 'twas Zayda, whom he slew so barbarously
among the Alpujarras!"

The cavalier laid his hand upon Jacinto's shoulder, sternly,--

"What art thou saying?--what art thou thinking? Hast thou caught some of
the silly fabrications of the soldiers? I warn thee to be guarded, when
thou speakest of thy master."

"He confessed it to me!" said the page, trembling but not at the anger
of his patron. "He killed her with his own hands, when she screened
from his cruel rage her husband Alharef, his vowed and true friend!"

"Peace!--thou art mad!--'Twas the raving of his delirium.--There is no
such being as Zayda."

"There is not, but there _was_," said Jacinto, mournfully.

"And how knowest thou that?" demanded Amador, quickly. "Thou speakest as
if she had been thy kinswoman. Art thou indeed a conjuror? There is no
dark and hidden story, with which thou dost not seem acquainted!"

"She was of my tribe," said Jacinto, mildly, though tremulously,
returning the steadfast gaze of his patron: "I have heard my father
speak of her, for she was famous among the mountains. Often has he
repeated to me her sorrowful story,--how she drew upon herself the anger
of her tribe, by preserving their foe, and how their foe repaid her
by--oh heaven! by murdering her! Often have I heard of Zayda; but I knew
not 'twas Calavar who killed her!"

"Can this be true?" said Amador, looking blankly towards his unconscious
kinsman. "Is it possible my father can have stained his soul with so
foul, so deadly, so fearful a crime! And he confessed it to thee? to
thee, a boy so foolish and indiscreet that thou hast already babbled it
to another?"

"I could not help speaking it _this_ time," said Jacinto, humbled at the
reproach; "but if my lord will forgive me, I will never speak it more."

"I do forgive thee, Jacinto, as I hope heaven will my father. This then
is the sin unabsolved, the action of wrath, the memory of sorrow, that
has slain the peace of my kinsman? May heaven have pity on him, for it
has punished him with a life of misery. I forgive thee, Jacinto: speak
of this no more; think of it no more; let it be forgotten--now and for
ever,--Amen!--I have but one more question to ask thee; and this I am,
in part, driven to by thy admission of the most wondrous fact, that Don
Gabriel confessed to _thee_ his secret. Many of thine actions have
filled me with wonder; thy knowledge is, for thy years, inexplicable;
and thou minglest with thy boyish simplicity the shrewdness of years.
Dost thou truly obtain thy knowledge by the practice of those arts,
which so many allow to be possessed by Botello?"

"Señor!" exclaimed the boy, startled by the abruptness of the question.

"Art thou, indeed, an enchanter, as Yacub charged thee to be?--Give me
to understand, for it is fitting I should know."

The exceeding and earnest gravity with which the cavalier repeated the
question, dispelled as well the grief as the fears of the page. He cast
his eyes to the earth, but this action did not conceal the humour that
sparkled in them, while he replied,--

"If I were older, and had as much acquaintance with the people as
Botello, I think I could prophesy as well as he; especially if my lord
Don Hernan would now and then give me a hint or two concerning his
designs and expectations, such as, it has been whispered, he sometimes
vouchsafes to Botello. I have no crystal-imp like him indeed, but I
possess one consecrated gem that can call me up, at any time, a thousand
visions. It seems to me, too, that I can recall the dead; for once or
twice I have done it, though very much to my own marvelling."

"Thou art an enigma," said Don Amador. "What thou sayest of Botello,
assures me the more of thy subtle and penetrating observation; what thou
sayest of thyself, seems to me a jest; and yet it hath a singular
accordance, as well with my own foolish fancies and the charges of that
Moorish menial, as with the events of the two last nights. Either there
is, indeed, something very supernatural in thy knowledge, or the
delirium of my kinsman is a disease of the blood, which is beginning to
assail my own brain. God preserve me from madness! Hearken in thine ear,
(and fear not to answer me:)--Hadst thou any thing to do with the
raising of the phantom thou callest Zayda?--or is it the confusion of my
senses, that causes me to suspect thee of the agency?"

"Señor!" said the boy, in alarm, "you cannot think I was serious?"

"What didst thou mean, then, by acknowledging the possession of that
consecrated and vision-raising jewel?"

"I meant," responded the youth, sadly, "that, being a gift associated
with all the joys of my happiest days, I never look at it, or pray over
it, without being beset by recollections, which may well be called
visions; for they are representations of things that have passed away."

"And the story of Leila?--Pho--'tis an absurdity!--I have heard that the
cold which freezes men to death, begins by setting them to sleep. Sleep
brings dreams; and dreams are often most vivid and fantastical, before
we have yet been wholly lost in slumber. Perhaps 'tis this most biting
and benumbing blast, that brings me such phantoms. Art thou not very
cold?"

"Not very, señor: methinks we are descending; and now the winds are not
so frigid as before."

"I would to heaven, for the sake of us all, that we were descended yet
lower; for night approaches, and still we are stumbling among these
clouds, that seem to separate us from earth, without yet advancing us
nearer to heaven."

While the cavalier was yet speaking, there came from the van of the
army, very far in the distance, a shout of joy, that was caught up by
those who toiled in his neighbourhood, and continued by the squadrons
that brought up the rear, until finally lost among the echoes of remote
cliffs. He pressed forward with the animation shared by his companions,
and, still leading Jacinto, arrived, at last, at a place where the
mountain dipped downwards with so sudden and so precipitous a declivity,
as to interpose no obstacle to the vision. The mists were rolling away
from his feet in huge wreaths, which gradually, as they became thinner,
received and transmitted the rays of an evening sun, and were lighted up
with a golden and crimson radiance, glorious to behold, and increasing
every moment in splendour. As this superb curtain was parted from before
him, as if by cords that went up to heaven, and surged voluminously
aside, he looked over the heads of those that thronged the side of the
mountain beneath, and saw, stretching away like a picture touched by the
hands of angels, the fair valley imbosomed among those romantic hills,
whose shadows were stealing visibly over its western slopes, but leaving
all the eastern portion dyed with the tints of sunset. The green plains
studded with yet greener woodlands; the little mountains raising their
fairy-like crests; the lovely lakes, now gleaming like floods of molten
silver, where they stretched into the sunshine, and now vanishing away,
in a shadowy expanse, under the gloom of the growing twilight; the
structures that rose, vaguely and obscurely, here from their verdant
margins, and there from their very bosom, as if floating on their placid
waters, seeming at one time to present the image of a city crowned with
towers and pinnacles, and then again broken by some agitation of the
element, or confused by some vapour swimming through the atmosphere,
into the mere fragments and phantasms of edifices,--these, seen in that
uncertain and fading light, and at that misty and enchanting distance,
unfolded such a spectacle of beauty and peace as plunged the neophyte
into a revery of rapture. The trembling of the page's hand, a deep sigh
that breathed from his lips, recalled him to consciousness, without
however dispelling his delight.

"By the cross which I worship!" he cried, "it fills me with amazement,
to think that this cursed and malefactious earth doth contain a spot
that is so much like to paradise! Now do I remember me of the words of
the señor Gomez, that 'no man could conceive of heaven, till he had
looked upon the valley of Mexico,'--an expression which, at that time, I
considered very absurd, and somewhat profane; yet, if I am not now
mistaken, I shall henceforth, doubtless, when figuring to my imagination
the seats of bliss, begin by thinking of this very prospect."

"It is truly a fairer sight than any we saw in Florida, most noble
señor," said a voice hard by.

The cavalier turned, and with not less satisfaction than surprise, (for
the delight of the moment had greatly warmed his heart,) beheld, in the
person of the speaker, the master of the caravel.

"Oho! señor Capitan!" cried Don Amador, stretching out his hand to the
bowing commander. "I vow, I am as much rejoiced to see thee, as if we
had been companions together in war. What brings thee hither to look on
these inimitable landscapes? Art thou come, to disprove thy accounts of
the people of Tenochtitlan? I promise thee, I have heard certain
stories, and seen certain sights, which greatly shake my faith in thy
representations.--What news dost thou bring me of my kinsman, the
admiral?"

"Señor," said the master, "the stars have a greater influence over our
destinies, than have our desires. It seems to me, that that very
astonishing victory of the most noble and right valiant señor, Don
Hernan, at Zempoala, did utterly turn the brains of all the sailors in
the fleet: and his excellency the admiral having declared himself a
friend to the conqueror, they were all straightway seized with such an
ambition to exchange the handspike for the halbert, and mine own
thirteen vagabonds among them, that, in an hour's time after the news,
my good caravel was as well freed of men as ever I have known her
cleared of rats, after a smoking of brimstone. So, perceiving the folly
of remaining in her alone, and receiving the assurance from my knaves
that, if I went with them, I should be their captain, and his excellency
consenting to the same, I forthwith armed myself with these rusty
plates, (wherein you may see some of the dints battered by the red
devils of Florida,) and was converted into a soldier,--the captain of
the smallest company in this goodly army, and perhaps the most cowardly;
for never did I before hear men grumble with such profane discontent, as
did these same knaves, this very day, at the cold airs of the mountain.
If they will fight, well; if they will not, and anybody else will, may I
die the death of a mule, if I will not make them; for one hath a better
and stronger command in an army than in a ship. Last night I came to
that great town they call Cholula, and was confirmed in my command by
the general.--His excellency, the admiral, bade me commend his love to
your worship; and hearing that you have enlisted his secretary into your
service, sends, by me, a better suit of armour for the youth, and prays
your favour will have him in such keeping, that he shall be cured of his
fit of valour, without the absolute loss of life, or his right hand,
which last would entirely unfit him for returning to his ancient
duties,--as, by my faith! so would the former. But, by'r lady, my
thoughts run somewhat a wool-gathering at this prospect; for I see very
clearly, 'tis a rich land here, that hath such admirable cities; and, I
am told, we shall have blows enow, by and by, with the varlets in the
valley. Nevertheless, I am ready to wager my soul against a cotton
neck-piece, that, if these infidels have half the spirit of the savages
of Florida, we shall be beaten, and sent to heaven, Amen!--that is, for
the matter of heaven, and not the beating!"

"I applaud thy resolution, mine ancient friend," said the cavalier, "and
methinks thou art more vigorous, both of body and mind, on land than
thou wert at sea. I will, by and by, send the secretary to receive the
armour, and will not forget his excellency's bidding, as far as is
possible. But let us not, by conversation, distract our thoughts from
this most lovely spectacle; for I perceive it will be soon enveloped in
darkness; and how know we, we shall ever look upon it again?"

Thus terminating the interview, the neophyte, as he descended, watched
the unchanging yet ever beautiful picture, till the sun buried himself
among the mountains, and the shadows of night curtained it in obscurity.



CHAPTER XXXII.


Passing the night in a little hamlet on the mountain side, the army was
prepared, at the dawn of the following day, to resume its march. But the
events of this march being varied by nothing but the change of prospect,
and the wonder of those by whom the valley was seen for the first time,
we will not imitate the prolixity of our authority, the worthy Don
Cristobal, but despatch, in a word, the increasing delight and
astonishment with which Don Amador de Leste, after having satiated his
appetite with views of lake and garden, surveyed the countless villages
and towns of hewn stone that rose, almost at every moment, among them. A
neck of land now separates the lakes of Chalco and Xochimilco; and the
retreat of the waters has left their banks deformed with fens and
morasses, wherein the wild-duck screams among waving reeds and
bulrushes. Originally, these basins were united in one long and lovely
sheet of water, divided indeed, yet only by a causey built by the hands
of man, which is now lost in the before-mentioned neck, together with
its sluices and bridges, as well as a beautiful little city, that lay
midway between the two shores, called by the Spaniards Venezuela,
(because rising, like its aristocratic godmother, from among the
waters,) until they discovered that this was a peculiarity presented by
dozens of other cities in the valley. Here was enjoyed the spectacle of
innumerable canoes, paddled, with corn and merchandise, from distant
towns, or parting with a freight of flowers from the _chinampas_, or
floating gardens. But this was a spectacle disclosed by other cities of
greater magnitude and beauty; and when, from the streets of the royal
city Iztapalapan, the army issued at once upon the broad and straight
dike that stretched for more than two leagues in length, a noble
highway, through the salt floods of Tezcuco; when the neophyte beheld
islands rocking like anchored ships in the water, the face of the lake
thronged with little piraguas, and the air alive with snowy gulls; when
he perceived the banks of this great sheet, as far as they could be
seen, lined with villages and towns; and especially when he traced far
away in the distance, in the line of the causeway, such a multitude of
high towers and shadowy pyramids looming over the waters, as denoted the
presence of a vast city,--he was seized with a species of awe at the
thought of the marvellous ways of God, who had raised up that mighty
empire, all unknown to the men of his own hemisphere, and now revealed
it, for the accomplishment of a destiny which he trembled to imagine. He
rode at the head of the army, in a post of distinction, by the side of
Cortes, and fell moved to express some of the strange ideas which
haunted him; but looking on the general attentively, he perceived about
his whole countenance and figure an expression of singular gloom,
mingled with such unusual haughtiness, as quickly indisposed him to
conversation.

The feelings that struggled in the bosom of the Conqueror were, at this
instant, akin to those of the destroyer, as he sat upon 'the Assyrian
mount,' overlooking the walls of Paradise, almost lamenting, and yet
excusing to himself, the ruin he was about to bring upon that heavenly
scene. Perhaps 'horror and doubt' for a moment distracted his thoughts;
for no one knew better than he the uncertain chances and tremendous
perils of the enterprise, or mused with more fear upon the probable and
most sanguinary resistance of his victims, as foreboded by the tumults
that followed after the late massacre. But when he cast his eye backward
on the causey, and beheld the long train of foot and horse following at
his beck; the many cannons, which, as they were dragged along, opened
their brazen throats towards the city; the rows of spears and arquebuses
bristling, and the banners flapping, over the heads of his people, and
behind them the feathered tufts of his Tlascalans; and heard the music
of his trumpets swell from the dike to the lake, from the lake to the
shores, and die away, with pleasant echoes, among the hills; when he
surveyed and listened to these things, and contrasted with them the
imperfect weapons and naked bodies of his adversaries; the weakness of
their institutions; the feebleness of their princes; the general
disorganization of the people; and counted the guerdon of wealth and
immortal renown that should wait upon success; he stifled at once his
apprehensions and his remorse, ceased to remember that those, whose
destruction he meditated, were, to him, 'harmless innocence,' and
satisfied himself, almost with the arguments of the fiend, that--

                        Public reason just,
    Honour and empire, with revenge enlarged,
    By conquering this new world, compels me now
    To do what else, though damn'd, I should abhor.

Triumph and regret were at once dividing his bosom; he knew he was a
destroyer, but felt he should be a conqueror.

There were many things in Don Hernan, which notwithstanding the
gratitude and the desires of the neophyte, prevented the latter from
bestowing upon him so much affection as he gave to one or two of his
followers. The spirit of the leader was wholly, and, for his station,
necessarily, crafty; and this very quality raised up a wall between him
and one who was of so honourable a nature that he knew no concealment.
The whole schemes and aims of the general were based upon such a
foundation of fraud and injustice, that, he well knew, he could not,
without expecting constant and vexatious opposition, give his full
confidence to any truly noble spirit; and the same wisdom that estranged
him from the lofty, taught him to keep aloof from the base. While artful
enough to make use of the good qualities of the one, and the bad
principles of the other class, he was satisfied with their respect; he
cared not for their friendship. It was enough to him, that he had
zealous and obedient followers: his situation allowed him no friends;
and he had none. Of all the valiant cavaliers who shared with him the
perils and the rewards of the invasion, there was not one who, after
peace had severed the bonds of companionship, did not, at the first
frown of fortune, or the first invitation of self-interest, array
himself in arms against his leader.

While the general gave himself up to his proud and gloomy imaginings,
the novice of Rhodes again cast his eyes over the lake. It seemed to
him, that, notwithstanding the triumphant blasts of the trumpet, the
neighing of horses, and the multitudinous tread of the foot-soldiers, as
well as the presence of so many canoes on the water, there was an air of
sadness and solitude pervading the whole spectacle. The new soldiers
were perhaps impressed with an awe like his own, at the strange
prospect; the veterans were, doubtless, revolving in their minds some of
the darker contingencies, over which their commander was brooding. Their
steps rung heavily on the stone mole; and as the breeze curled up the
surface of the lake into light billows, and tossed them against the
causeway, Don Amador fancied, they approached and dashed at his feet
with a certain sullen and hostile voice of warning. He thought it
remarkable, also, that, among the throngs of canoes, there rose no
shouts of welcome: the little vessels, forming a fleet on either side of
the dike, were paddled along, at the distance of two or three hundred
yards, so as to keep pace with the army; and the motion of the rowers,
and the gleaming of their white garments, might have given animation, as
well as picturesqueness, to the scene, but for the death-like silence
that was preserved among them. The novelty of everything about the
cavalier gave vigour to his imagination--he thought these paddling
hordes resembled the flight of ravens that track the steps of a wounded
beast in the desert,--or a shoal of those ravenous monsters that scent a
pestilence on the deep, and swim by the side of the floating hospital,
waiting for their prey.

"What they mean, I know not," mused the cavalier. "After what De Morla
has told me, I shall be loath to slay any of them; but if they desire to
make a dinner of me, I swear to St. John! I will carve their brown
bodies into all sorts of dishes, before I submit my limbs to the
imprisonment of their most damnable maws! And yet, poor infidels!
methinks they have some cause, after that affair of the festival, to
look upon us with fear, if not with wrath; for if a garrison of an
hundred men could be prompted to do them such a foul and murderous
wrong, there is much reason to apprehend this well-appointed thousand
might be, with as little provocation and warning, incited to work them a
still more deadly injury. I would, however, that they might shout a
little, were it only to make me feel more like a man awake; for, at
present, it seems to me, that I am dreaming all these things which I am
looking at!"

The wish of the cavalier was not obeyed; and many a suspicious glance
was cast, both by soldier and officer, to the dumb myriads paddling on
their flanks; for it could not be denied, though no one dared to give
utterance to such a suggestion, that were these countless barbarians
provided with arms, as was perhaps the case, and could they but conceive
the simple expedient of landing both in front and rear, and thus cut off
their invaders from the city and the shore, and attack them at the same
time, with good heart, in this insulated and very disadvantageous
position, there was no knowing how obscure a conjecture the historian
might hazard for the story of their fate. But this suspicion was also
proved to be groundless; no sort of annoyance was practised, none indeed
was meditated. The thousands that burthened the canoes, had issued from
their canals to indulge a stupid curiosity, or, perhaps, under an
impulse which they did not understand, to display to their enemies the
long banquet of slaughter which fate was preparing for them.

The army reached, at last, a point where another causeway of equal
breadth, and seemingly of equal length, coming from the south-west, from
the city Cojohuacan, ruled by a king, (the brother and feudatory of
Montezuma,) terminated in the dike of Iztapalapan. At the point of
junction was a sort of military work, consisting of a bastion, a strong
wall, and two towers, guarding the approach to the imperial city. It was
known by the name of Xoloc, (or, as it should be written in our tongue,
Holoc,) and was in after times made famous by becoming the head-quarters
of Cortes, during the time of the siege. It stood at the distance of
only half a league from the city; and from hence could be plainly seen,
not only the huge pyramids, with their remarkable towers rising aloft,
but the low stone fabrics whereon, among the flowers (for every roof was
a terrace, and every terrace a garden,) stood the gloomy citizens,
watching the approach of the Christian army.

At this point of Xoloc, at a signal of the general, every drum was
struck with a lusty hand, every trumpet filled with a furious blast, and
the Christians and Tlascalans, shouting together, while two or three
falconets were at the same time discharged, there rose such a sudden and
mighty din as startled the infidels in their canoes, and conveyed to the
remotest quarters of Tenochtitlan, the intelligence of the advance of
its masters.

Scarcely had the echoes of this uproar died away on the lake, when
there came, faintly indeed, but full of joyous animation, the response
of the Christian garrison; and as the army resumed its march, they
repeated their shouts loudly and blithely, for they now perceived, by
the waving of banners and the glittering of spears, that their friends,
rescued, as they all understood, by their presence, from the fear of a
miserable death, were coming forth to meet them. Two or three mounted
cavaliers were seen to separate themselves from this little and distant
band, and gallop forwards, while the causeway rung to the sound of their
hoofs. Don Amador, being in advance, was able, as they rushed forwards
with loud and merry halloos, to observe their persons, as well as the
reception they obtained from Don Hernan. His eye was attracted to him
who seemed to be their leader, and who, he already knew, was Don Pedro
de Alvarado, a cavalier that had no rival (the gallant Sandoval
excepted,) in fame and in the favour of his general. He was in the prime
of life, of a most noble stature, and of a countenance so engaging and
animated, that this, in addition to the constant splendour of his
apparel, whether the gilded mail of a warrior, or the costly vestments
of a courtier,--had won him from the Mexicans themselves the flattering
title of _Tonatiuh_, or the Sun; a compliment which his friends did not
scruple to perpetuate, nor he to encourage. He rode immediately up to
Cortes, and stretching out his hand, said gayly, and indeed,
affectionately,--

"Long life to thee, Cortes! I welcome thee as my saint. God be praised
for thy coming--Amen! Thou hast snatched me from a most ignoble and
hound-like death; for Sir Copilli, the emperor, has been starving me!"

Don Hernan took the hand of the cavalier, and eyeing him steadfastly and
sternly, while his old companions gathered around, said with a most
pointed asperity,--

"My friend Alvarado! thou hast done me, as well as these noble
cavaliers, thy friends, and also thy lord the king, a most grievous
wrong; for, by the indulgence of thy hot wrath and indiscretion, thou
hast, as I may say, dashed the possession of this empire out of our
hands: and much blood shall be shed, and many Christian lives sacrificed
in a war that might have been spared us, before we can remedy the
consequences of thy rashness!"

A deep gloom that darkened to a scowl, instantly gathered over the
handsome visage of Don Pedro; and snatching his hand roughly away, he
drew himself up, and prepared to reply to his general with wrath, and
perhaps with defiance. But it was no part of the policy of Cortes to
carry his anger further than might operate warningly on the officer and
on those around; for which reason, offering his hand again, as if not
noticing the discontent of his lieutenant, he said, with an artful
appearance of sincerity,

"I have often thought how thou mightest have been spared the necessity
of slaying these perfidious and plotting hounds; and it seems to me,
even now, if thou couldst, by shutting thyself in thy quarters and
avoiding a contest, have submitted to the foolish imputations some might
have cast on thee, of acting from fear rather than from prudence, this
killing of the nobles might have been avoided. I say, some, indeed,
might have accused thee of being in fear, hadst thou not killed the
knaves that were scheming thine own destruction; but this is an
aspersion which _thou_ couldst have borne with as little injury as any
other brave cavalier in this army, being second to none in a high and
well-deserved reputation; and so well am I persuaded that none could
have better than thyself withstood the uncommon dangers of thy command
in this treasonable city, that I should have excused any precaution of
peace, that might have seemed cowardly to others. Nevertheless, I must
own, thou wert forced to do as thou hast done; for no brave man can
submit to be thought capable of fear; and, I know, 'twas this thought
alone, that drove thee out to kill the nobles."

No cloud in those tropical skies could have vanished more suddenly in
the sunbeam, than did the frown of Alvarado at these complimentary words
of his general. He caught the hand that was still proffered, shook it
heartily, kissed it, and said,--his whole countenance beaming with
delight and pride,--

"I thank your excellency for this just consideration of my actions, and
this expression of a true excuse for what seems, and what perhaps may
have been, a great indiscretion. Your excellency, and these noble
señores, my friends, would have esteemed me a coward, had I sat securely
and quietly in the palace, watching, without attempting to forestall,
the conspiracy of the lords of Mexico; and I have great hopes, when I
have permission to explain all these things to your excellency, though I
do not much plume myself on wisdom, but rather on fighting, (which is
the only thing I have ever studied with diligence,) that you will say I
acted as wisely as, in such case, was possible."

"I have no doubt of it," said Cortes, smiling, as he rode
onwards.--"But, nevertheless, there is more wisdom in thy knocks than in
thy noddle," he muttered to himself.--The shame of the reproof, though
dispelled by the flattery of the rebuker, did not wholly disappear from
the bosom of Alvarado. A word of sarcasm will live longer than the
memory of a benefit. Alvarado was, in after days, a traitor to his
general.

But without now giving himself leisure for consideration, the cavalier
addressed himself to his old companions; and even, (for his joy at being
so rescued out of peril, warmed his heart to all,) made up with much
satisfaction to the knight Calavar. But since the confession at Cholula,
the distemper of Don Gabriel had visibly increased; and his fits of
abstraction were becoming, every hour, so frequent and so profound, as
to cause the greatest alarm and anxiety to his kinsman. He neither heard
nor saw the salutations of Don Pedro; nor indeed did he seem at all
sensible to any part of the strange scene that surrounded him. Foiled in
this attempt, the courteous and vivacious soldier turned himself to Don
Amador, as presenting the appearance of a noble and gallant hidalgo, and
would speedily have been on a footing of the most perfect friendship
with him, had it not been that the neophyte still freshly remembered the
story of the massacre, and met his advances with a frigid haughtiness.

"By'r lady!" said the offended cavalier, "it seems to me that the devil,
or the cold mountain, has got into the bosoms of all; for here am I,
with my heart at this moment as warm as a pepper-pod, or a black cloak
in the sunshine, and ready to love everybody, old and young, vile and
virtuous, base and gentle; and yet everybody, notwithstanding, meets me
with a most frosty unconcern. I swear to thee, valiant cavalier,
whosoever thou art, my breast is open to thee, and I crave thy
affection; for, besides perceiving that thou art assuredly an hidalgo, I
see thou hast a Moorish page at thy side, with a lute at his back; and
if his pipe be half so good as his face, I cannot live without being thy
friend; for I love music!"

Jacinto shrunk away from his admirer, alarmed as much at the suddenness
of his praise, as at the many evolutions of the lance, which, by way of
gesticulation, he flourished about him in a very vigorous manner. But
Don Amador, greatly amused at the freedom, and, in spite of himself,
gained by the frankness, of Don Pedro, replied with good-humour.

"Señor," said he, "I am Amador de Leste, of the castle Del Alcornoque,
near to Cuenza; and having heard certain charges against you, in the
matter of the Mexican nobles, I replied to you, perhaps, with prejudice.
Nevertheless, what the general has said, does, in some sort, seem to
lessen the force of the charge; and if you will, at your leisure,
condescend to satisfy my doubts, as I begin to be assured you can, I
will not hesitate to receive your friendship, and to tender you my own
in return. Only, previous to which, I must beg of you to turn your
lance-point another way, so that the boy Jacinto, who is somewhat afraid
of its antics, may be enabled to walk again at my side."

"Señor Don Amador de Leste," said the soldier, taking this speech in
good part, "I avow myself satisfied with your explanation, and so
determined to pursue your friendship, (inasmuch as I have not heard any
good singing since the little Orteguilla, the page of the Indian
emperor, or, what is the same thing, of Cortes, lost his voice in a
quinsy,) that I will give you the whole history of the nobles, their
atrocious conspiracy and their just punishment, as soon as we have
leisure in our quarters. And now, if you will have the goodness to ride
with me a little in advance, I will have much satisfaction, as I
perceive you are a stranger, to introduce you to this great and
wonderful city, Tenochtitlan, of which I have been, as I may say, in
some sort, the king, for two long and tumultuous months; and I swear to
you, no king ever clutched upon a crown with more good will and joy than
do I, this moment, abdicate my authority."

Thus invited by his courteous and jocund friend, the neophyte rode
onwards so as to reach the heels of Cortes, just as the garrison,
inspired by the sight of their leader, broke their ranks, and rushed
forwards to salute him.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


The soldiers of Alvarado differed in no wise from those veterans whom
Don Amador had found standing to their arms on the banks of the River of
Canoes; only that they presented, notwithstanding their loudly vented
delight, a care-worn and somewhat emaciated appearance,--the consequence
of long watches, perpetual fears, and, in part, of famine. They broke
their ranks, as has been said, as soon as they beheld their general, and
surrounded him with every expression of affection; and, while stretching
forth their hands with cries of gratitude and joy, invoked many
execrations on their imperial prisoner, the helpless Montezuma, as the
cause of all their sufferings. Among them, Don Amador took notice of one
man, who, though armed and habited as a Spaniard, seemed, in most other
respects, an Indian, and of a more savage race than any he had yet seen;
for his face, hands, and neck were tattooed with the most fantastic
figures, and his motions were those of a barbarian. This was Geronimo de
Aguilar, a companion of Balboa, who, being wrecked on the coast of
Yucatan, had been preserved as a slave, and finally, adopted as a
warrior, among the hordes of that distant land; from which he was
rescued by Don Hernan,--happily to serve as the means of communication,
through the medium of another and more remarkable interpreter, with the
races of Mexico. This other interpreter, who approached the general with
the dignified gravity of an Indian princess, and was received with
suitable respect, was no less a person than that maid of Painalla, sold
by an unfeeling parent a slave to one of the chieftains of Tobasco,
presented by him to Cortes, and baptized in the faith under the
distinguished title of the señora Doña Marina; who, by interpreting to
Aguilar, in the language of Yucatan, the communications that were made
in her native tongue, thus gave to Cortes the means of conferring with
her countrymen, until her speedy acquisition of the Castilian language
removed the necessity of such tedious intervention. But at this period,
many Spaniards had acquired a smattering of her tongue, and could play
the part of interpreters; and, for this reason, Doña Marina will make no
great figure in this history. Other annalists have sufficiently
immortalized her beauty, her wisdom, and her fidelity; and it has been
her good fortune, continued even to this day, to be distinguished with
such honours as have fallen to the lot of none of her masters. Her
Christian denomination, Marina, converted by her countrymen into
_Malintzin_, (a title that was afterwards scornfully applied by them to
Cortes himself,) and this again, in modern days, corrupted by the
Creoles into _Malinche_, has had the singular fate to give name both to
a mountain and a divinity: the sierra of Tlascala is now called the
mountain of Malinche; and the descendants of Montezuma pay their
adorations to the Virgin, under the title of Malintzin.

Don Amador de Leste, attended by De Morla, as well as his new
acquaintance, Alvarado, was able to understand, as well as admire, many
of the wonders of the city, as he now, for the first time, planted his
foot on its imperial streets.

The retreat of the salt waters of Tezcuco has left the present
republican city of Mexico a full league west of the lake. In the days of
Montezuma, it stood upon an island two miles removed from the western
shore, with which it communicated by the dike or _calzada_ of
Tlacopan,--now called Tacuba. The causeway of Iztapalapan, coming from
the South, seven miles in length, passed over the island and through the
city, and was continued in a line three miles further to the northern
shore, and to the city Tepejacac, where now stand the church and the
miraculous picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Besides these three great
causeways, constructed with inconceivable labour, there were two
others,--that of Cojohuacan, which, as we have mentioned, terminated in
the greater one of Iztapalapan, at the military point Xoloc, a half
league from the city; and that, a little south-ward of the dike of
Tacuba, which conveyed, in aqueducts of earthenware, the pure waters of
Chapoltepec to the temples and squares of the imperial city. The island
was circular, saving that a broad angle or peninsula ran out from the
north-west, and a similar one from the opposite point of the compass: it
was a league in diameter; but the necessities of the people, after
covering this ample space with their dwellings, extended them far into
the lake; and perhaps as many edifices stood, on piles, in the water as
on the land. The causeways of Iztapalapan and Tacuba, intersecting each
other in the heart of the island, divided the city into four convenient
quarters, to which a fifth was added, some few generations before, when
the little kingdom of Tlatelolco, occupying the north-western peninsula,
was added to Tenochtitlan. On this peninsula and in this quarter of
Tlatelolco, stood the palace of an ancient king, which the munificence
of Montezuma had presented to Cortes for a dwelling, and which the
invader, six days after the gift, by an act of as much treachery as
daring, converted into the prison of his benefactor.

The appearance of this vast and remarkable city so occupied the mind of
the neophyte, that, as he rode staring along, he gave but few thoughts,
and fewer words, either to his kinsman or the page. It was sunset, and
in the increasing obscurity, he gazed, as if on a scene of magic, on
streets often having canals in the midst, covered alike with bridges and
empty canoes; on stone houses, low indeed, but of a strong and imposing
structure, over the terraces of which waved shrubs and flowers; and on
high turrets, which, at every vista, disclosed their distant pinnacles.
But he remarked also, and it was mentioned by the cavaliers at his side
as a bad omen, that neither the streets, the canals, nor the house-tops
presented the appearance of citizens coming forth to gaze upon them. A
few Indians were now and then seen skulking at a distance in the
streets, raising their heads from a half-concealed canoe, or peering
from a terrace among the shrubs. He would have thought the city
uninhabited, but that he knew it contained as many living creatures,
hidden among its retreats, as some of the proudest capitals of
Christendom. Even the great square, the centre of life and of devotion,
was deserted; and the principal pyramid, a huge and mountainous mass,
consecrated to the most sanguinary of deities, though its sanctuaries
were lighted by the ever-blazing urns, and though the _town_ of temples
circumscribed by the great Coatepantli, or _Wall of Serpents_, which
surrounded this Mexican Olympus, sent up the glare of many a devotional
torch,--yet did it seem, nevertheless, to be inhabited by beings as
inanimate as those monstrous reptiles which writhed in stone along the
infernal wall. In this light, and in that which still played in the
west, Don Amador marvelled at the structure of the pyramid, and cursed
it as he marvelled. It consisted of five enormous platforms, faced with
hewn stone, and mounted by steps so singularly planned, that, upon
climbing the first story, it was necessary to walk entirely round the
mass, before arriving at the staircase which conducted to the second.
The reader may conceive of the vast size of this pagan temple by being
apprised, that, to ascend it, the votaries were compelled, in their
perambulations, to walk a distance of full ten furlongs, as well as to
climb a hundred and fourteen different steps. He may also comprehend the
manner in which the stairways were contrived, by knowing that the first,
ascending _laterally_ from the corner, was just as broad as the first
platform was wider than the second; leaving thus a sheer and continuous
wall from the ground to the top of the second terrace, from the bottom
of the second to the top of the third, and so on, in like manner, to the
top.

But the pyramid, crowned with altars and censers, the innumerable
temples erected in honour of nameless deities at its foot, and the
strange and most hideous Coatepantli, were not the only objects which
excited the abhorrence of the cavalier. Without the wall, and a few
paces in advance of the great gate which it covered as a curtain, rose a
rampart of earth or stone, oblong and pyramidal, but truncated,
twenty-five fathoms in length at the base, and perhaps thirty feet in
height. At either end of this tumulus, was a tower of goodly altitude,
built, as it seemed at a distance and in the dim light, of some
singularly rude and uncouth material; and between them, occupying the
whole remaining space of the terrace, was a sort of frame-work or cage
of slender poles, on all of which were strung thickly together, certain
little globes, the character of which Don Amador could not penetrate,
until fully abreast of them. Then, indeed, he perceived, with horror,
that these globes were the skulls of human beings, the trophies of ages
of superstition; and beheld, in like manner, that the towers which
crowned the Golgotha, (or _Huitzompan_, as it was called in the Mexican
tongue,) were constructed of the same dreadful materials, cemented
together with lime. The malediction which he invoked upon the builders
of the ghastly temple, was unheard; for the spectacle froze his blood
and paralyzed his tongue.

It was not yet dark, when, having left these haunts of idolatry, Don
Amador found himself entering into the court-yard of a vast, and yet not
a very lofty, building,--the palace of Axajacatl; wherein, with drums
beating, and trumpets answering joyously to the salute of their friends,
stood those individuals of the garrison who had remained to watch over
their prisoners and treasures. The weary and the curious, thronging
together impatiently at the gate, mingling with the garrison and some
two thousand faithful Tlascalans, who had been left by Cortes as their
allies, and who now rushed forward to salute the viceroy of their gods,
as some had denominated Don Hernan, made such a scene of confusion,
that, for a moment, the neophyte was unable to ride into the yard. In
that moment, and while struggling both to appease the unquiet of Fogoso,
and to drive away the feathered herd that obstructed him, his arm was
touched, and, looking down, he beheld Jacinto at his side, greatly
agitated, and seemingly striving to disengage himself from the throng.

"Give me thy hand," cried Don Amador, "and I will pull thee out of this
rabble to the back of Fogoso."

But the page, though he seized upon the hand of his patron, and covered
it with kisses, held back, greatly to the surprise of Don Amador, who
was made sensible that hot tears were falling with the kisses.

"I swear to thee, my boy! that I will discover thy father for thee, if
it be possible for man to find him," said the cavalier, diving at once,
as he thought, to the cause of this emotion.

But before he had well done speaking, the press thickening around him,
drew the boy from his side; and when he had, a moment after, disengaged
himself, Jacinto was no longer to be seen. Not doubting, however, that
he was entangled in the mass, and would immediately appear, he called
out to him to follow; and riding slowly up to Cortes, he had his whole
attention immediately absorbed by the spectacle of the Indian emperor.

Issuing from the door of the palace, surrounded as well by Spanish
cavaliers as by the nobles, both male and female, of his own household,
who stood by him,--the latter, at least,--with countenances of the
deepest veneration,--he advanced a step to do honour to the dismounting
general.

In the light of many torches, held by the people about him, Don Amador,
as he flung himself from his horse, could plainly perceive the person
and habiliments of the pagan king. He was of good stature, clad in white
robes, over which was a huge mantle of crimson, studded with emeralds
and drops of gold, knotted on his breast, or rather on his shoulder, so
as to fall, when he raised his arm, in careless but very graceful folds;
his legs were buskined with gilded leather; his head covered with the
_copilli_, or crown, (a sort of mitre of plate-gold, graved and chased
with certain idolatrous devices,) from beneath which fell to his
shoulders long and thick locks of the blackest hair. He did not yet seem
to have passed beyond the autumn of life. His countenance, though of the
darkest hue known among his people, was good, somewhat long and hollow,
but the features well sculptured; and a gentle melancholy, a
characteristic expression of his race, deepened, perhaps, in gloom, by a
sense of his degradation, gave it a something that interested the
beholder.

In the abruptness with which he was introduced to the regal barbarian,
Don Amador had no leisure to take notice of his attendants, all princely
in rank, and, two or three of them, the kings of neighbouring cities: he
only observed that their decorations were far from being costly and
ostentatious;--a circumstance, which, he did not then know, marked the
greatness of their respect. In the absurd grandeur which attached to the
person of their monarch, no distinction of inferior ranks was allowed to
be traced, during the time of an audience; and in his majestic presence,
a vassal king wore the coarse garments of a slave. So important was
esteemed the observance of this courtly etiquette, that, at the first
visit made him, in his palace, by the Spaniards, the renowned Cortes and
his proud officers did not refuse to throw off their shoes, and cover
their armour with such humble apparel as was offered them. But those
days were passed; the king of kings was himself the vassal of a king's
vassal. Yet notwithstanding this, it had been, up to this time, the
policy of Don Hernan to soften the captivity, and engage the affections,
of the monarch, by such marks of reverence as might still allow him to
dream he possessed the grandeur, along with the state, of a king. Before
this day, Cortes had never been known to pass his prisoner, without
removing his cap or helmet; and indeed, such had been so long the habit
of his cavaliers, that all, as they now dismounted, fell to doffing
their casques without delay, until the action of their leader taught
them a new and unexpected mode of salutation.

The weak spirit of Montezuma had yielded to the arts of the Spaniard;
and forgetting the insults of past days, the loss of his empire, and the
shame of his imprisonment, he had already conceived a species of
affection for his wronger. Cortes had no sooner, therefore, leaped from
his horse, than the emperor, with outstretched arms, and with his
sadness yielding to a smile, advanced to meet him.

"Dog of a king!" said the invader, with a ferocious frown, "dost thou
starve and murder my people, and then offer me the hand of friendship?
away with thee! I defy thee, and thou shalt see that I can punish!" Thus
saying, and thrusting the king rudely aside, he stepped into the palace.

A wild cry of lamentation, at this insult (it needed no interpretation)
to their king, burst from the lips of all the Mexicans; and the
Spaniards themselves were not less panic-struck. The gentle manners of
Montezuma, and his munificence, (for he was in the daily habit of
enriching them with costly presents,) had endeared him to most of his
enemies; and even the soldiers of the garrison, who had so lately
accused him of endeavouring to famish them, had no belief in the justice
of their charges. Many of them therefore, both soldiers and hidalgos,
indignant and grieved at the wanton insult, had their sympathies
strongly excited, when they beheld the monarch roll his eyes upon them
with a haggard smile, in which pride was struggling vainly with a bitter
sense of humiliation. De Morla and several others rushed forwards to
atone, by caresses, for the crime of their general. But it was too late;
the king threw his mantle over his head, and without the utterance of
any complaint, passed, with his attendants, into his apartments. His
countenance was never more, from that day, seen to wear a smile.

Don Amador de Leste was greatly amazed and shocked by this rudeness; and
it was one of many other circumstances, which, by lessening his respect
for the general, contributed to weaken his friendship and undermine his
gratitude. But he had no time to indulge his indignation. He was
startled by a loud cry, or rather a shriek, from the lips of the knight
Calavar; and running to the gate, beheld, in the midst of a confused
mass of men, rushing to and fro, and calling out as if to secure an
assassin, his kinsman lying, to all appearance dead, in the arms of his
attendants.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


The first thought of the young cavalier was, that Don Gabriel had been
basely and murderously struck by some felon hand; an apprehension of
which he was, in part, immediately relieved by the protestations of
Baltasar, but which was not entirely removed until he had assisted to
carry the knight into a chamber of the palace, and beheld him open his
eyes and roll them wildly round him, like one awaking from a dream of
night-mare.

"I say," muttered Baltasar, as he raised the head of the distracted man,
and beckoned to clear the room of many idle personages who had thrust
themselves in, "he was hurt by no mortal man, for I stood close at his
side, and there is not a drop of blood on his body. 'Twas one of the
accursed ghosts, whom may St. John sink down to hell; for they are ever
persecuting us."

"Mortal man, or immortal fiend," whispered Lazaro, knitting his brows,
but looking greatly frighted, "I saw him running away, the moment the
knight screeched; and, I will take my oath, he had such a damnable
appearance as belongs to nothing but the devil, or one of these pagan
gods, who are all devils. Had he been a man, I should have slain him,
for I struck at him with my spear!"

"Miserere mei!" groaned the knight, rising to his feet, "they are all
unearthed,--Zayda at the temple, and _he_ in the palace!"

Don Amador trembled, when he heard his kinsman pronounce the name of
Zayda, for he remembered the words of Jacinto. Nevertheless he said, "be
not disturbed, my father; for we are none here but thy servants."

"Ay!" said the knight, looking gloomily but sanely to his friend; "I
afflict thee with my folly; but I know _now_ that it will end.--Let the
boy Jacinto sing to me the song of the Virgin; I will pray and sleep."

Don Amador looked round, and Jacinto not being present, began to
remember that the page had been separated from him in the crowd, and
that he had not seen him since the moment of separation. None of the
attendants had noticed him enter the court-yard; and a superstitious
fear was mingled with his anxiety, when Don Gabriel, casting his eyes to
heaven, said, with a deep groan,--

"The time beginneth, the flower is broken, and now I see how each branch
shall fall, and the trunk that is blasted, shall be left, naked, to
perish! Seek no more for the boy," he went on to Amador, with a grave
placidity, which, coupled with the extravagance of his words, gave the
youth reason to fear that his mind, wavering under a thousand shocks,
had at last settled down for ever in the calm of insanity,--"seek for
the good child no more, for he is now in heaven. And lament not thou, my
son Amador, that thou shalt speedily follow him; for thy heart is yet
pure, thy soul unstained, and grace shall not be denied thee!"

"Jacinto is not dead, my father," said the neophyte earnestly; "and if
thou wilt suffer Baltasar to remove thy corslet, and make thee a couch
under yonder canopy, I will fetch him to thee presently, and he shall
sing thee to sleep."

"Remove the armour indeed," muttered Don Gabriel, submitting passively,
"for now there is no more need of aught but the crucifix, prayers, and
the grave. Poor children! that shall die before the day of canker, what
matters it? I lament ye not,--ye shall sleep in peace!"

Thus murmuring out his distractions, in which his servants perceived
nothing but the influence of some supernatural warning that boded them
calamity, the knight allowed himself to be disarmed and laid upon a
couch on a raised platform at the side of the chamber, over which the
voluminous arras that covered the walls, were festooned into a sort of
not inelegant tester.

Meanwhile, the neophyte, beckoning Lazaro with him, and charging him to
make good search throughout the palace for the page, began to address
himself to the same duty. And first, attracted by the lights and by the
sounds of many voices coming from a neighbouring apartment, he advanced
to the door, where he was suddenly arrested by the appearance of a
Mexican of very majestic stature, though clad in the same humble robes
which had covered the attendants of Montezuma, issuing from the chamber,
followed by a throng of cavaliers, among whom was the general himself.
At the side of Cortes stood a boy, in stature resembling Jacinto; and in
whom, for a moment, Don Amador thought he had discovered the object of
his desires. But this agreeable delusion was instantly put to flight,
when he heard Don Hernan address him by the name of Orteguilla, and saw
that he exercised the functions of an interpreter.

"Tell me this knave, my merry _muchacho_," said the general,--"tell me
this knave, (that is to say, this royal prince,) Cuitlahuatzin, that I
discharge him from captivity, under the assurance that he shall, very
faithfully, and without delay, command his runagate people to bring me
corn to the market; of which it is not fitting we should be kept in want
longer than to-morrow. And give him to understand, that I hold, as the
hostage of his good faith and compliance, the dog Montezuma; (translate
_that_, the king his brother:) who shall be made to suffer the penalty
of any neglect, on his part, to furnish me with the afore-mentioned
necessary provision."

The little Orteguilla, in part acquainted with the Mexican tongue, did
as he was directed; and the prince Cuitlahuatzin, (or, as it should be
pronounced in English speech, Quitlawátzin,) receiving and understanding
the direction, bowed his head to Cortes with stately humility, and
immediately withdrew.

Not discovering or hearing aught of Jacinto in this throng, Don Amador
continued his search in other parts of the palace, the court-yard, and
even the neighbouring street; but with such indifferent success, that,
when stumbling upon Lazaro, and made acquainted that he had been equally
unfortunate, he began to entertain the most serious fears for the fate
of the boy.

"Perhaps he was carried off by the spectre," muttered Lazaro,
superstitiously, "as his worship Don Gabriel as much as hinted."

"Or perhaps," said the neophyte, with a thrill of horror, "by some of
those bloody cannibals, to be devoured! And I remember now, that there
were many savages about me at the time; though I thought them
Tlascalans. I would to heaven, I had speared the knaves that came
between us; but I swear to St. John of the Desert, if they have truly
robbed me of the boy, and for that diabolical purpose, I will pursue
their whole race with a most unrelenting vengeance."

At this moment, the cavalier was startled by a sudden "Hark!" from
Lazaro, and heard, at a distance in the street, though objects were lost
in the darkness, a great tumult as of men in affray, and plainly
distinguished a voice crying aloud, "Arma! arma! and Christian men, for
the love of God, to the rescue of Christians beset by infidels!"

"Draw thy sword, Lazaro, and follow!" cried the cavalier, "for these are
other victims; and, with God's favour, we _will_ rescue them!"

Thus exclaiming, and without a moment thinking of the unknown perils
among which he was rushing, he ran rapidly in the direction of the
cries, and straightway beheld, a little in advance of a great crowd of
people, a group consisting of four or five persons, several of them
women in strange attire, who stood shrieking with terror, while at their
feet rolled three or four on the ground in close and murderous combat.
The cries of one of these prostrate figures bespoke him a Spaniard, and
while one sinewy pagan seemed to hold him upon the earth, another stood
with his uplifted weapon, in the very act of despatching him. At this
moment, Don Amador rushed forwards, and shouting his war-cry, _Dios, y
buena esperanza!_ (that is, 'God and good cheer!') struck the menacing
savage a blow that sent him yelling away, and seized upon the other by
the shoulder to stab him; when, suddenly, the Spaniard rose to his feet,
with a leap that tumbled the infidel to the earth, and showed him to be
already dead, cried aloud, in the well-remembered voice of the
magician,--

"Tetragrammaton! thou wert a good shield, though a bloody one, sir
carcass!--Save the princesses, and fly, or we are all dead men!--Arma!
arma! to the rescue!"

Thus shouting, and seizing upon one of the women, while Don Amador
snatched the arm of the other, (for he perceived, they were like to be
cut off by the approaching crowd,) the sorcerer, with his rescuers, ran
towards the palace. His cries had reached the quarters; and presently
they were surrounded by a hundred soldiers and cavaliers bearing lights,
in the glare of which Don Amador had scarce time to note the countenance
of his new ward, before she was locked in the arms of De Morla.

"Minnapotzin! Benita!" cried the joyous cavalier. "Amigo mio! thou hast
saved my princess!"

"Stop not to prate and be happy; for the storm comes!" exclaimed
Botello. "To the palace, all of ye! and to the cannon! for were you five
hundred men, there are wolves enow at your heels to devour you!"

Thus admonished, and perceiving, in fact, that a vast, though silent
multitude was approaching, all were fain to fly, and in an instant they
were crowding into the gates of the court-yard.

"This comes of insulting the king!" cried a voice from the melée, as
Cortes, shouting out to clear the gates, was seen himself assisting to
draw a piece of artillery to the opening.

"I see naught,--I hear nothing," cried the general, affecting not to
remark this reproach, (which was indeed just; for it was this
over-refinement of policy, spread with wonderful celerity throughout the
city, which dashed the last scale from the eyes of the Mexicans,
convinced them that their monarch was indeed a slave, and let loose the
long-imprisoned current of fury.) "I see nought, I hear nought; and my
brave Rolands have been flying from shadows!"

"Say not so; the town is alive," cried the magician. "The hounds set on
me, as I was bringing, at your excellency's command, these princesses
from Tacuba; and it was only through the mercy of God, my good star, an
Indian that I killed for a buckler, and the help of this true cavalier,
(whose fate, out of gratitude, I will reveal to him to-morrow,) that we
were not all killed by the way:--for small reverence did the false
traitors show to the maidens."

"Clear the way, then. Discharge me the piece, Catalan, true cannonier!"
said Cortes, "and we will see what our foes look like, so near to
midnight."

The match was applied, the palace shook to the roar,--and the blaze,
illumining the street to a great distance, disclosed it, to the surprise
of all, entirely deserted.

"I will aver upon mine oath," said Don Amador, "that the street was but
now full of people; but where they have hidden, or whither they have
fled, wholly passes my comprehension."

"Hidden, surely, in their beds," cried the general, loudly and
cheerfully, for he perceived the crowds about him were panic-struck.
"They set on Botello, doubtless, because they thought he was haling away
the princesses with violence; and, convinced of their error, they have
now gone to their rest,--a mark of wisdom in which I would advise all
here to follow their example."

Thus cheered by their leader, the soldiers began to disperse; and
Amador, musing painfully on the mysterious fate of the page, was
accosted by Cortes, who, drawing him aside, said,--

"It has been told me, señor, that your Moorish boy has made his escape."

"His escape!" echoed the novice, in surprise. "He did indeed vanish away
from me, and I know not how, though much do I fear, in a manner that it
shocks me to think on. I was about to ask of your excellency, as the boy
is a true Christian, as well as a most faithful servant, for such
counsel and assistance as might enable me, this night, to rescue him out
of the hands of the cannibals; for it would be a sin on the souls of us
all, should we suffer him to come to harm."

"And are you so well persuaded of his faith, as to believe him incapable
of treachery?" demanded Don Hernan, earnestly: "Thou forgettest, he has
a father concealed among these infidels."

"Ay! by my faith!" cried Amador, joyously; "I thought not of that
before. And yet, and yet----" Here his countenance fell. "How should he
be so mad, as to leave us in this strange and huge city, with any hope
of discovering Abdalla?"

"I can resolve thee that," said Cortes: "for it is avouched to me by
Yacub, that he saw this wretch (whom may heaven return to me for
punishment, for he is a most subtle, daring, and dangerous traitor,)
this very knave Abdalla, at thy horse's heels; but he could not believe
'twas he, until made acquainted with the flight of the page."

"Ay! now I see it;" said Amador; "and I remember that he wept, as he
held my hand, as if grieving to desert me. But, methinks, 'twill be well
to seek him out, and reclaim him. Will your excellency allow me the
services of any score or two of men, who, for love or gold, may be
induced to follow me in the search?"

"I will answer thee in thine own words," said Cortes: "Where wouldst
thou look in this strange and huge city, with any hope of discovering
him? Be content, señor; the boy is with the fox, his father. _That_
should convince thee, he is in present safety. And señor, I will tell
thee, what I conceal from my people, (for thou art a soldier, and,
therefore, as discreet as fearless,) that I would not, this night,
despatch an hundred men a mile from the palace, without looking to have
half of them slain outright by the rebels that are around us!"

"And dost thou think," said Amador, "that these besotted, naked madmen,
would dare to assail so many?"

"You will see, by my conscience!" cried the general, with a grim and
anxious smile. "Sleep with thine armour at thy side; and forget not thy
buckler, for I have known a Tlascalan arrow pierce through a good
Biscayan gorget; and they say, the Mexicans can shoot as well. Let not
any noise arouse thee, unless it be that of a trumpet. I would have thee
sleep well, my friend; for I know not how soon I may need thy strong
arm, and encouraging countenance!"

Thus darkly and imperfectly apprising the novice of his fears, (for now,
indeed, a demon had roused a thousand apprehensions in his breast,) the
general departed; and Don Amador disconsolately pursued his way to the
chamber of the knight of Rhodes.



CHAPTER XXXV.


When Don Amador returned to the chamber, he was rejoiced to find his
kinsman asleep, and not offended that the faithful Marco and Baltasar
were both nodding, as they sat at his side. He threw himself softly on a
cot of mats, covered with robes of fine cotton, over which was a little
canopy,--such being the beds of the better orders of Mexico. The crowded
state of the palace (for it is recorded, that the number of Totonac and
Tlascalan allies, who remained in the garrison with Alvarado, now
swelled the army of Cortes to nearly nine thousand men,) left him no
other choice; and he felt, that his presence was perhaps necessary, in
the unhappy condition of his knight. He was mindful to obey the counsels
of Don Hernan, and lie with his weapons ready to be grasped at the first
alarm; and he remembered also the hint that had been given him, not to
be surprised at such tumults, when he heard a sound, continued
throughout the greater part of the night, as of heavy instruments
knocking against the court-yard wall, convincing him as well of the
military vigilance and preparations, as of the fears of his general. In
addition to this disturbance, he was often startled by moans and wild
expressions, coming from the lips of the sleeping knight, showing him
that even slumber brought no repose to his distempered spirit. But,
above all, (and this made manifest the hold that the Moorish boy had got
upon his affections,) he was troubled with thoughts of Jacinto; and
often, as the angel of sleep began to flutter over his eyelids, she was
driven away, by some sudden and painfully intense conception of the
great peril which must surround the friendless lad, now that the events
of the evening proved him to be in the midst, and doubtless in the
power, of an enraged multitude, to whom every stranger was an enemy.
Often, too, as he was sinking into slumber, the first voice of dreams
would cry to him in the tones of Jacinto, or the silent enchanter would
bring before his eyes the spectacle of the boy, confined in the cage of
victims, or dragged away, by the hands of ferocious priests, to the
place of sacrifice. These distractions kept him tossing about in great
restlessness, for a long time; and it was not until the sounds of the
workmen in the yard were no longer heard, and until a deep silence
pervaded the palace, that he was able to drown his torments in sleep.

He was roused from slumber by a painful dream, and fancying it must be
now approaching the time of dawn, he stole softly to the bed-side of
Calavar, without disturbing the attendants. A taper of myrtle-wax,
burning on a little pedestal hard by, disclosed to him the countenance
of the knight, contracted with pain, and flushed as if with fever, but
still chained in repose. He stepped noiselessly away, and gathering his
sword and a few pieces of armour in his hands, left the apartment.

From the door of the palace, he could see, dimly,--for it was not yet
morning,--that vast numbers of Tlascalans were lying asleep in the
court-yard among the horses, while many sentinels were stalking about in
silent watchfulness. He was now able, likewise, to understand the cause
of the heavy knocking, which had annoyed him. The gates were closed; but
in three rude embrasures, which had been broken in the wall by the
workmen, frowned as many pieces of ordnance, commanding the street by
which he had approached the palace.

Entering this again, and attracted by the distant murmur of voices, he
discovered a staircase at the end of a passage, ascending which, he
immediately found himself on the terraced roof of the building. And now
he could perceive the exposed condition of the royal citadel, as well as
the preparations made to sustain it, in the event of a siege.

The palace, itself, extended over a great piece of ground, in the form
of a square, the walled sides of which were continuous, but the centre
divided by rows of structures that crossed each other, into many little
courts. The buildings were all low, consisting, indeed, of but one
floor, except that, in the centre, were several chambers on the roofs of
others, that might be called turrets or observatories. The terraces were
so covered with flowers and shrubs, that they seemed a garden. This mass
of houses was surrounded on all sides by a spacious court, confined by a
wall six or eight feet high, running entirely round the whole. The
palace, with its outer court, did not yet occupy all of the great square
upon which it stood. It was a short bow-shot from the battlements to
the houses, which lined the four sides of the square. Opposite to each
side or front of the fabric, was a great street, along which the eye, in
full daylight, could traverse, till arrested by the surrounding lake.
Directly opposite, likewise, to each of these streets, as Don Amador
soon discovered, the careful general had caused to be broken as many
embrasures as he had seen on the quarter of the principal entrance; and,
now, there were no less than twelve pieces of artillery (with those who
served them sleeping in cloaks hard by,) looking with formidable
preparation down the yawning and silent approaches.

The neophyte had not yet given a moment to these observations, when he
perceived on the top of one of the turrets, a group of cavaliers, who,
being relieved against the only streak of dawn that tinged the eastern
skies, were plainly seen, gesticulating with great earnestness, as if
engaged in important debate. He approached this turret, and mounting the
ladder that ascended it, was assisted to the roof by the hand of Cortes.

"I give you good cheer, and much praise for your early rising, Don
Amador," cried the general, with an easy courtesy and pleasant voice,
which did not however, conceal from the novice, that he was really
affected by anxiety and even alarm; "for this, besides convincing me,
that no one is more ready than thyself for a valiant bout with an enemy,
will give thee an opportunity to note in what way these pagan Mexicans
advance to assault; a matter of which I am myself ignorant, though
assured by my friend Alvarado, that nothing can be more warlike to look
upon."

"I vow to God, and to Saint Peter, who cut off a knave's ear," said Don
Pedro, "that there are no such besotted, mad, dare-devils in all the
world beside, as you shall quickly see; and I swear to you, in addition,
my friends, I did sometimes think, of a morning, the very devils that
dwell in the pit, were let loose upon me. But fear not: with my poor
five-score, and the seven thousand Indians, who should not be counted
against more than one hundred Christians, I felt no prick of dismay,
except when I thought of starvation; and with the force that now aids
us, 'twill be but a boy's pastime, to kill ten thousand of the bold
lunatics, each day, before breakfast."

To this valiant speech, which was characteristic of Alvarado,--as
notorious for boasting as for bravery,--Don Amador replied,
complacently,--

"To my mind, nothing could be stronger than this citadel against such
enemies as we may have, especially since the placing of those cannon
opposite to the great streets,--a precaution which should be commended.
Nevertheless, noble cavaliers, it does not appear to me, that we are in
any immediate peril of assault: the infidels are not yet arisen."

"Cast thine eye down yonder street!" said Cortes with a low voice, "keep
it fixed intently, for two or three moments, on the shadows, and tell me
what thou seest among them. And, while thou art so doing, do not shame
to hold thy buckler a little over thy face; for, now and then, methinks,
I have seen on yonder house-tops something unlike to rose-buds, glancing
among the bushes."

"By my faith," said Don Amador, hastily, "it does seem to me, that there
are men stirring afar in the street,--nay, a great body of them, and
doubtless clad in white,--ay, I perceive them now! But I thought 'twas a
dim mist, creeping up from the lake."

"If thou wilt look to the other three streets," said Cortes, knitting
his brows, and scowling around him, "thou wilt see other such vapours
gathering about us. Thus do they surround stags, in the sierras of
Salamanca! but, sometimes, the hunters have found more wolves than deer
among their quarry; and, by my conscience, so will the dogs of Mexico
find their prey, this day, when they come a-hunting against
Castilians!--Hah! did I not warn thee well?" cried the general, as an
arrow, shot from a distant terrace, and by some unseen hand, struck
against the guarding shield with such violence as to shiver its stone
head into a thousand fragments. "'Ware such Cupids; for, when they miss
the heart, they are content to rankle among the ribs. What say ye now,
my masters? The knaves are coming nearer! Such big rain-drops do not
long fall one by one, but show how soon the flood will follow. Cover
yourselves! for by my conscience, that was another, though it fell
short. I see the house it comes from; and I will reward the messenger
shortly with such a cannon-shot as shall leave him houseless.--How now,
_mi trompetero_! art thou nodding? Wake me thy bugle, and let the
sleepers look on the white clouds!"

A trumpeter, who stood ready at the base of the turret, instantly wound
a loud blast on his instrument. It was answered immediately by others
from every part of the court and the building; and, as if by magic, the
dead silence of the palace was straightway exchanged for the loud din
and confusion of thousands rising and springing to their arms. During
this tumult, Cortes descended from the turret.

Don Amador, fascinated by the spectacle, (for now, the light of dawn,
increasing every moment, fully convinced the most sceptical, that
countless barbarians were thronging in the streets, and advancing
against the palace,) remained for a time on the terrace in company with
others, surveying their approach, and kindling into ardour. The four
streets were blocked up with their dusky bodies, for they seemed nearly
naked; and answering the drums and bugles of the Spaniards with the
hollow sound of their huge tabours, and the roaring yells of great
conches, and adding to these the uproar of their voices, and, what
greatly amazed the neophyte, the shrill and piercing din of loud
whistling, they pressed onwards, not fast indeed, but fearlessly, until
they began to pour like a flood upon the open square. Nevertheless, and
notwithstanding their very menacing appearance, not a bow was yet bent,
nor a stone or dart discharged against the Christians; and they were
arraying, or rather grouping themselves, (for they seemed to preserve no
peculiar order,) about the square, as if rather to support some
peaceable demand with a show of strength, than to make an absolute
attack, when the neophyte beheld Don Hernan, clad in complete armour,
spring upon a cannon, and thence to the top of the wall, and wave his
hand towards them with an air of imposing dignity. The vast herds
stilled their cries, and immediately Malintzin, guarded by two soldiers
who held shields before her, was seen to ascend and stand by the side of
her master.

"Ask me these hounds," cried the general, with a voice that seemed meant
by its loudness to strike the infidels with awe, "wherefore they leave
their beds, and come, like howling wolves, to disturb me in my dwelling?
What is their desire? and wherefore have they not come with baskets of
corn, rather than with slings and arrows?"

The clear voice of Doña Marina was instantly heard addressing the
multitude; and was followed by a shout such as may come from thrice a
thousand score men, wherein, and among other inexplicable sounds, Don
Amador heard the word _Tlatoani! Tlatoani!_ repeated with accents in
which intreaty seemed mingled with fury. He could not discover the
meaning of these cries from the imperfect Castilian, and the low voice,
with which Malintzin interpreted them. But he could conjecture their
signification, by the reply of Cortes.

"Tell the traitorous dogs," he exclaimed, sternly, "that their princes
have avowed themselves the vassals of my master, the great monarch of
Spain; that their lord and king, Montezuma, is my friend and contented
guest, and will therefore remain in my dwelling. Tell them also, he
charges them to disperse, throw by their arms, and return laden with
corn and meat. And add, moreover, that, if they do not immediately obey
this command, the thunders which God has given me to punish them, shall
be let loose upon them, and scatter their corses and their city into the
air. Tell we them _this_, and plainly; and, hark'ee, cannoniers! stand
fast to your linstocks!"

No sooner was this haughty and threatening answer made known to the
barbarians, than they uttered a yell so loud and universal that the
palace, and the earth under it, seemed to shake with the din; and
immediately every quarter of the edifice was covered with arrows,
stones, and other missiles, shot off with extraordinary violence and
fury.

Don Amador prepared to descend, but paused an instant to observe the
effect of the artillery, for he heard the strong tones of the general
shouting, "Now cannoniers! to your duty, and show yourselves men!"

The very island trembled, when twelve cannon, discharged nearly at the
same moment, opened their fiery throats, and, aimed full among the
multitude, poured innumerable death into their ranks. The island
trembled, but not so the naked barbarians of Tenochtitlan. If the
screams of a thousand wretches, mangled by that explosion, rose on the
morning air, they were speedily drowned by the war-cries of survivors;
and before the smoke had cleared away, the bloody gaps were filled, and
the infuriated multitudes were rushing with savage intrepidity full upon
the mouths of the artillery.

Don Amador hesitated no longer. He ran down the staircase, paused a
moment at the side of Calavar, whom he found raving in a low delirium,
for he was burned by fever,--paused only long enough to charge Marco not
to leave him, no not even for a moment,--and snatching up and rapidly
donning the remaining pieces of his armour, immediately found himself in
the court-yard, among the combatants.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


The neophyte had been informed by his friend De Morla, as a proof of the
degree of civilization reached by the Mexicans, that their armies were
formed with method, and as regularly divided and commanded as those of
Christendom,--each tribe displaying under a peculiar banner,
representing the arms, or, as we should say of our Northern bands, the
_totem_, of the race, and each tribe separated into squadrons and
companies, led by subalterns of precisely ascertained rank and power. He
perceived none of these marks of discipline among the assailants; and,
while properly appreciating their devoted courage, was obliged to
consider them no better than a furious and confused mob. He was right:
the _warriors_ of Mexico had not yet appeared, and these wild creatures,
who came ungeneralled and unadvised to the attack, were no more than the
common citizens, fired by the distresses of their king, and rushing to
his aid, without any bond of connexion or government, save the unanimity
of their fury. The violence with which they leaped to the attack,
carried them to the gates of the court, and to the mouths of the
artillery, where they fell under the spears of the Spaniards, or were
scattered like chaff at each murderous discharge of the cannon. Added to
this, the Tlascalans, animated by their ancient hatred, and the presence
of him whom they esteemed almost a god, clambered upon the wall, and
with their clubs and lances did bloody execution on the multitudes
below. The Tlascalans were, indeed, almost the only persons of the
garrison who suffered much loss; for the Spaniards, cased in iron and
escaupil, and fenced behind the wall, or the battlements of the terrace,
discharged their cross-bows and muskets, and handled their long spears,
in comparative safety.

The din of yells and screams, mingled with the crash of arquebuses and
the sharp clang of steel cross-bows, was, in itself, infernal; while the
peals of artillery, served with such skill and constancy, that, every
half-minute, there was one or other discharged from some quarter of the
palace, leaving, at each discharge, a long avenue of death among the
crowds, converted what might have seemed a scene of elysium into a
spectacle of hell. No man could reckon, no man could imagine, the
slaughter made by the besieged army, among their foes, in the short
space of half an hour. But the sun rose, and still found the infatuated
barbarians rushing,--now with shouts of defiance, and now with mournful
cries, as if calling upon their imprisoned king,--to add yet another and
another layer to the bloody ridges growing in the paths of the
cannon-shot.

All this time, the captive monarch, unseen by his people, though quickly
detected by the sharp eye of Cortes, sat in one of the turrets,
witnessing the devoted love of his people, and feeling, with sharp
pangs, that he had not deserved it. And now too (for the suddenness of
the punishment had convinced him of the impolicy of the fault,) did Don
Hernan himself feel a touch of compunction for the wanton injury he had
done his prisoner; and, fearing lest the work of this day should be but
the prelude of a storm it might not be in his power to allay, he sent to
him De Morla, a cavalier whom more than others he seemed to favour, to
persuade him, if indeed he might be persuaded, to exercise his
authority, and by commanding his people to disperse, preserve them from
that destruction, which, the general avowed, he was loath to bring upon
them.

No smile lit the countenance of Montezuma, at the appearance of his
favourite; and to the demand of Don Hernan, he replied, with dignity,
yet with a bitter sorrow,--

"The _Teuctli_," (so they called Don Hernan, not because they esteemed
him a divinity, but a great prince, this being the title of one of the
classes of nobility,) "has made me a slave: my subjects are his. Let
the king govern his people."

So saying, and immediately descending from the roof, he shut himself in
his apartments, and resolutely refused to admit another messenger to his
presence.

"And the dog denies me, then!" cried Cortes, when this answer was
repeated to him. "He says the truth: he _is_ my slave; his people are
mine; and I will straightway convince them of their subjection. To
horse, to horse, brave cavaliers!" he shouted aloud. "Let it not be
said, we wasted powder on miserable naked Indians, when we have swords
to strike them on the neck, and horses' hoofs to tread them to the
earth!"

No one was more ready to obey this call, than Don Amador de Leste. He
had stood upon the wall, occasionally striking down some furious
assailant with his spear, but oftener cheering others with his voice,
and yet remaining more as a spectator than a combatant, disdaining to
strike, except when personally attacked, until his blood was heated by
the spectacle.

"Mount, now, my knave Lazaro! and perhaps we shall find my poor Jacinto,
among these outrageous infidels. Get thee to horse, Fabueno; for to-day
thou shalt see what it is to be a soldier!"

Fogoso stood, in his mail, like the steed of a true knight, champing the
bit and whinnying, for he longed to be in the midst of the combat; and
loud was the sound of his neighing, when he felt the weight of his
master, and turned his fierce eyes towards the gate.

Before the cavaliers, forming three abreast, (as many as could at once
pass through the gates,) loosing their sabres in the scabbards, and
couching their spears, had yet received the signal to dash upon the
opposing herds, there came from the great pyramid, which was seen
rearing its mountainous mass above the houses of the square, the sound
as of a horn, sad and solemn, but of so mighty a tone, that it swelled
distinctly over all the din of the battle, and sent a boding fear to the
heart of the Christians. They knew, or they thought it the sacred bugle
of Mexitli, sounded only during the festivals of that ferocious deity,
or on the occasion of a great battle, when, it was supposed, that
Mexitli himself spoke to his children, and bade them die bravely. There
was not a Spaniard present, who had not heard that the effect of this
consecrated trumpet, so sparingly used, was to nerve even the vanquished
with new spirit, and those fighting with additional rage; and that the
meanest Mexican, however overpowered, thought not of retreat, when thus
cheered by his god. The surprise of all was therefore great, when, at
the first blast, the Mexicans ceased their cries, and stood as if turned
into statues; and they were still more amazed, when, as the brazen
instrument again poured its lugubrious roar over the city, the
barbarians, responding with a mournful shriek, turned their backs upon
the besieged, and instantly began to fly. A third blast was sounded, and
nothing was seen upon the great square, or the four streets, save heaps
of carcasses, and piles of human beings, writhing in the death-agony.

"Here is diabolical magic!" cried Cortes, joyfully. "There are more
signals made by that accursed horn than we have heard of; and it seems
to me, Huitzilopochtli may be sometimes a coward! Nevertheless, we will
look a little into the mystery; for I perceive shining cloaks, as well
as priestly gowns, on the temple, which we will make claim to; for
doubtless the traitor Cuitlahuatzin is under one of them.--Take thou thy
party, Sandoval, and scour me the streets that lie eastward. We meet at
the temple!--For ourselves, my masters! we are fifty horse, and three
hundred foot, all good Christian men; for in this work we shall need no
Tlascalans. Let us go, in the name of God, and God will be with
us.--Only, 'tis my counsel and command, that we keep together, with our
eyes wide open, lest we should have company not so much to our liking."

The cavaliers cheered, as they rode from the gates,--and, with a savage
delight, urged their horses over the piles of dead, or smote some dying
struggler with the spear,--an amusement in which they were occasionally
imitated by the foot-soldiers, who followed at their heels.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


The same solitude, which had covered the city the preceding evening, now
seemed again to invest it. Corses were here and there strown in the
street, as of fugitives dying in their flight; and once a wounded man
was seen staggering blindly along, as if wholly insensible to the
approach of his foes. The sight of this solitary wretch did more to
disarm the fury of Don Amador, than did the spectacle of thousands lying
dead on the square; and certain grievous reflections, such as sometimes
assailed him, after a battle, were beginning to intrude upon his mind,
when a cavalier, darting forward with a loud cry, and couching his
lance, as if at a worthier enemy, thrust the wounded barbarian through
the body, and killed him on the spot. A few hidalgos, and most of the
footmen, rewarded this feat of dexterity with a loud cheer; but there
were many, who, like the neophyte, met the triumphant looks of the
champion, Alvarado, with glances of infinite disgust and frowning
disdain.

As the party approached the neighbourhood of the great temple, they
began to perceive in the streets groups of men, who, being altogether
unarmed, commonly fled at the first sight of the Christians; though,
sometimes, they stood aside, with submissive and dejected countenances,
as if awaiting any punishment the Teuctli might choose to inflict upon
them. But Cortes, reading in this humility the proofs of penitence, or
willing to suppose that these men had not shared in the hostilities of
the day, commanded his followers not to attack them; and thus
restrained, they rode slowly and cautiously onwards, their fury
gradually abating, and the fears which had been excited by the late
assault, giving place to the hope, that it indicated no general spirit,
and no deep-laid plan, of insurrection.

The groups of Mexicans increased, both in numbers and frequency, as the
Christians proceeded, but still they betrayed no disposition to make use
of the arms, which were sometimes seen in their hands; and the
Spaniards, regulating their own conduct by that of the barbarians, rode
onwards with so pacific an air, that a stranger, arriving that moment in
the city, might have deemed them associated together on the most
friendly terms, and proceeding in company, to take part in some general
festivity. Nevertheless, the same stranger would have quickly observed,
that these friends, besides keeping as far separated as the streets
would allow, and even, where that was possible, removing from each
other's presence, entirely, eyed each other, at times, with looks of
jealousy, which became more marked as the Mexicans grew more numerous.
In truth, the feelings which had so quickly passed from rage to
tranquillity, were now in danger of another revulsion; and many an eye
was riveted on the countenance of the general, as if to read a
confirmation of the common anxiety, as, ever and anon, it turned from
the prospect of multitudes in front, to the spectacle of crowds
gathering, at a distance, on the rear.

"All that is needful," whispered, rather than spoke, Don Hernan, though
his words were caught by every ear, "is to trust in God, and our sharp
spears. There is, doubtless, some idolatrous rite about to be enacted in
the temple, which draws these varlets thitherward; and the gratitude
with which they remember our exploits of this morning, will account for
their present hang-dog looks. If they mean any treachery, such as a
decoy and ambuscado, why, by my conscience! we must e'en allow them
their humour, and punish them, when 'tis made manifest. I counsel my
friends to be of good heart; for, I think, the dogs have had fighting
enough to-day. Nevertheless, I will not quarrel with any man, who keeps
his hands in readiness, and puts his eyes and ears to their proper
uses."

As if to set them an example, Don Hernan now began to look about him
with redoubled vigilance; and it was remarked that he passed no house,
without eyeing its terrace keenly and steadfastly, as if dreading more
to discover an enemy in such places than in the street. This was, in
fact, a situation from which an enemy might annoy the Spaniards with the
greatest advantage, and at the least risk.

The houses of this quarter were evidently inhabited by the rich, perhaps
by the nobles, of Mexico. They were of solid stone, spacious, and
frequently of two floors, lofty, and their terraces crowned with
battlements and turrets. Each stood separated from its neighbour by a
little garden or alley, and sometimes by a narrow canal, which crossed
the great street, and was furnished with a strong wooden bridge of such
width that five horsemen could pass it at a time. Often, too, the
dwelling of some man of power stood so far back, as to allow the canal
to be carried quite round it, without infringing upon the street; but
more frequently it was fronted only with a little bed of flowers. The
stones of which such structures were composed, were often sculptured
into rude reliefs representing huge serpents, which twined in a
fantastic and frightful manner about the windows and doors, as if to
protect them from the invasion of robbers. Indeed, these were almost the
only defences; for the green bulrush lying across the threshold, could
deter none but a Mexican from entering; and, perhaps, none but a
barbarian would have seen, in the string of cacao berries, or of little
vessels of earthenware, hanging at the door, the bell to announce his
visitation. A curtain commonly hung flapping at the entrance; but
neither plank nor bar gave security to the sanctity of the interior.

Notwithstanding the fears of the general, he beheld no Mexicans lurking
among the terraces, or peering from the windows, but his anxiety was not
the less goading for that reason; for having now drawn nigh to the great
square, it seemed to him that he had, at last, thrust himself into that
part of the city, where all the multitudes of Tenochtitlan were
assembled to meet him,--and whether for purposes of pacification or
vengeance, he dared not inquire.

The appearance of things, as the party issued upon the square, and faced
the House of Skulls, was indeed menacing. That enormous pyramid, which
Don Amador had surveyed, with awe, in the gloom of evening, was now
concealed under a more impressive veil;--it was invested and darkened by
a cloud of human beings, which surged over its vast summit, and rolled
along its huge sides like a living storm. The great court that
surrounded it, was also filled with barbarians; for though the
Coatepantli, or Wall of Serpents, with its monstrous battlements and
gloomy towers, concealed them from the eye, there came such a hum of
voices from behind, as could not have been produced alone, even by the
myriads that covered the temple. In addition to these, the great square
itself was alive with Mexicans; and the sudden sight of them brought a
thrill of alarm into the heart of the bravest cavalier.

The people of Tenochtitlan, thus, as it were, hunted by their invaders,
even to their sanctuaries, turned upon them with frowns, yet parted away
from before them in deep silence. Nevertheless, at this spectacle, the
Christians came to an immediate stand, in doubt whether to entangle
themselves further, or to take counsel of their fears, and retreat,
without delay, to their quarters. While they stood yet hesitating, and
in some confusion, suddenly, and with a tone that pierced to their
inmost souls, there came a horrid shriek from the top of the pyramid;
and fifty Castilian voices exclaimed, "A sacrifice! a human
sacrifice!--and under the cross of Christ, that we raised on the
temple!"

"The place of God is defiled by the rites of hell!" cried Cortes,
furiously, his apprehensions vanishing, at once, before his fanaticism.
"Set on, and avenge! Couch your lances, draw your swords; and if any
resist, call on God, and slay!" So saying, he drew his sword, spurred
his dun steed, and rushed towards the temple.

The half-naked herds fled, yelling, away from the infuriated Christian,
opening him a free path to the walls; and had that fearful cry been
repeated, there is no doubt he would have led his followers even within
the Coatepantli, though at the risk of irretrievable and universal
destruction. Before, however, he had yet reached the wall, he had time
for reflection; and, though greatly excited, he could no longer conceal
from himself the consequences of provoking the pagans at their very
temple, and during the worship of their god. He was, at this moment,
well befriended, and numerously, indeed; but at a distance from the
garrison, without cannon, and almost without musketry, surrounded by
enemies whom the eye could not number, and who had not feared to assail
him, even when fortified in a situation almost impregnable, and assisted
by three times his present force, as well as several thousand bold
Tlascalans; and in addition to all these disadvantages, there came
neither such sound of trumpet, nor such distant commotion among the
Indians, as might admonish him of the approach of Sandoval.

He checked his horse, and waving to his followers to halt, again cast
his eyes around on the multitude as if to determine in what manner to
begin his retreat, for he felt that this measure could be no longer
delayed. The Mexicans gazed upon him with angry visages, but still in
silence. Not an arm was yet raised; and they seemed prepared to give him
passage, whichever way he might choose to direct his course.

While hesitating an instant, Don Hernan perceived a stir among the
crowds, close under the Wall of Serpents, accompanied by a low but
general murmur of voices; and immediately the eyes of the pagans were
turned from him towards the Coatepantli, as if to catch a view of some
sight still more attractive and important. His first thought was, that
these movements indicated the sudden presence of Sandoval and his party;
a conceit that was, however, immediately put to flight by the events
which ensued.

The murmurs of the multitude were soon stilled, and the pagans that
covered the pyramid were seen to cast their eyes earnestly down to the
square, as the sound of many flutes, and other soft wind-instruments,
rose on the air, and crept, not unmusically, along the Wall of Serpents,
and thence to the ears of the Spaniards. Before these had yet time to
express their wonder at the presence of such peaceful music amidst a
scene of war and sacrifice, the crowds slowly parted asunder, and they
plainly beheld (for the Mexicans had opened a wide vista to the
principal gate,) a procession, seemingly of little children, clad in
white garments, waving pots of incense, conducted by priests, in gowns
of black and flame colour, and headed by musicians and men bearing
little flags, issue from the throng, and bend their steps towards the
savage portal. In the centre of the train, on a sort of litter, very
rich and gorgeous, borne on men's shoulders, and sheltered by a royal
canopy of green and crimson feathers, stood a figure, which might have
been some maiden princess, arrayed for the festival, or, as she seemed
to one or two of the more superstitious Castilians, some fiendish
goddess, conjured up by the diabolical arts of the priests, to add the
inspiration of her presence to the wild fury of her adorers. She stood
erect, her body concealed in long flowing vestments of white, on which
were embroidered serpents, of some green material; in her hand she held
a rod, imitative of the same reptile; and on her forehead was a coronet
of feathers, surrounding what seemed a knot of little snakes, writhing
round a star, or sun, of burnished gold.

As this fair apparition was carried through their ranks, between the
great wall and the House of Skulls, the Mexicans were seen to throw
themselves reverently on the earth, as if to a divinity; and those that
stood most remote, no sooner beheld her, than they bowed their heads
with the deepest humility.

Meanwhile, the Spaniards gazed on with both admiration and wonder, until
the train had reached the open portal; at which place, and just as she
was about to be concealed from them for ever, the divinity, priestess,
or princess, whichever she was, turned her body slowly round, and
revealed to them a face of a paler hue than any they had yet seen in the
new world, and, as they afterwards affirmed, of the most incomparable
and ravishing beauty. At this sight, all uttered exclamations of
surprise, which were carried to the ears of the vision: but Don Amador
de Leste, fetching a cry that thrilled through the hearts of all, broke
from the ranks, as if beset by some sudden demon, and dashed madly
towards the apparition.

Before the Spaniards could recover from their astonishment, the members
of the procession,--deity, priests, censer-bearers, and musicians,--with
loud screams vanished under the portals; and the infidels, starting up
in a rage that could be suppressed no longer, rushed upon the novice, to
avenge, in his blood, the insult he had offered to their deity.

"Quick, a-God's name! and rescue!" cried Cortes, "for the young man is
mad!"

There seemed grounds for this imputation; for, besides the inexplicable
folly of his first act, Don Amador appeared now, for a moment, to be
lost in such a maze, that blows of the heavy maquahuitl were rained upon
his stout armour, and several furious hands had clutched not only upon
his spear, but upon himself, to drag him from the saddle, before he
bethought him to draw his sword and defend his life. But his sword was,
at last, drawn, his fit dispelled; and before his countrymen had yet
reached him, he was dealing such blows around him, and so urging his
courageous steed upon the assailants, as quickly to put himself out of
the danger of immediate death.

The passions of the multitude, restrained, for a moment, by their
superstition or their rulers, were now fully and unappeasably roused;
and with yells that came at once from the pyramid, from the temple yard,
from the great square, and the neighbouring streets, they rushed upon
the Christians, surrounding them, and displaying such ferocious
determination, as left them but small hopes of escape.

"God and Spain! honour and fame!" cried Alvarado, spearing a barbarian
at each word, "what do you think of my Mexicans now, true friends?"

His cheer was lost in the roar of screams; and nothing but the voice of
Don Hernan, well known to be as clear and powerful in battle as the
trumpet which he invoked, was heard pealing above the din.

"Now show yourselves Spaniards and soldiers, and strike for the blood of
Christ!--Ho, trumpeter! thy flourish! and find me where lags my lazy
Gonzalo?"

As he spoke, he fought; for so violent had been the attack of the
infidels, that they were mingled among, and fighting hand to hand with
the Christians,--a confused and sanguinary chaos. Scarcely, indeed, had
the trumpeter time to wind his instrument, before it was struck out of
his hand by a brawny savage; and the same blow which robbed him of it,
left the arm that held it a shattered and useless member. The blast,
however, had sounded; and, almost instantaneously, it was answered by a
bugle, afar indeed, and blown hurriedly as if the musician were in as
much jeopardy as his fellow, but still full of joy and good cheer to the
Christian combatants.

"Close and turn!--Footmen, to your square!" cried Cortes; "and, valiant
cavaliers, charge me now as though ye fought against devils, with angels
for your lookers-on!"

"To the temple! to the temple!" cried Amador, with a voice rivalling the
general's in loudness, and turning in a frenzy towards the pyramid, down
whose sides the infidels were seen rushing with frantic speed.

But the head of Fogoso was seized by two friendly followers, and while
Don Amador glared fiercely at the pale but not affrighted secretary, he
heard, on the other side, the tranquil voice of Lazaro:

"Master," said the faithful servant, "if we separate from our friends,
we are dead men; and Don Gabriel is left without a kinsman in this land
of demoniacs."

"Close, and turn, I bid ye!" cried Cortes, furiously. "Heed not the
wolves that are fast to your sides. Charge on the herds, charge on the
herds! and over-throw with the weight of your hoofs! Charge, I bid ye;
and care not though ye should find your lances striking against the
breast of Sandoval. Charge on the herds!--charge on the herds!"

So saying, Don Hernan set an example, followed by the cavaliers; and as
the fifty horsemen spurred violently upon the mob, shouting and
cheering, the naked multitudes quailed from before them, though only to
gather again on their flanks with renewed desperation.

"Will ye desert us that are afoot?" cried voices from behind, with
dolorous cries.

"Ho, Sandoval! art thou sleeping?"

"Santiago! and God be thanked!--'tis the voice of the general!" cried
Sandoval, in the distance. His voice came from the surge of battle, like
the cheer of a sailor who recks not for the tempest. It filled the
cavaliers with joy.

"Good heart now, brave hearts!" shouted Cortes; "for my son Sandoval
answers me! Rein me round and charge me back to the infantry!"

Backwards galloped the fifty cavaliers, strewing the earth with trampled
pagans; and the footmen shouted with delight, as they again beheld their
leader. But the relief and the joy were only momentary.

"Fight ye, my dogs! and slay your own sheep! Be firm; wall yourselves
with spears; and presently ye shall be lookers-on.--Sweep the square
again, brave cavaliers! Goad flanks! couch spears! and, this time, let
me see the red face of my lieutenant!"

Turning, and shouting with a louder cheer, (for the experience of the
two first charges had warned the Mexicans of their destructive efficacy,
and they now recoiled with a more visible alarm,) the cavaliers again
rushed through their foes like a whirlwind; and brushing them aside, as
the meteor brushes the fogs of evening, they dashed onwards, until their
shouts were loudly re-echoed, and they found themselves confronted with
Don Gonzalo and his party.

The greetings of the friends were brief and few, for the same myriads,
attacking with the same frenzied desperation, invested them with a
danger that did not seem to diminish.

"Bring thy foot in front," cried Cortes, "and, while they follow me,
charge thou behind them. Be quick, and be brave. March fast, ye idle
spearmen: and stare not, for these are not devils, but men!--God and
Spain!--Santiago, and at them again, peerless cavaliers!--We fight for
Christ and immortal honour!"

The valiant band of cavaliers again turned at the voice of their leader,
and again they swept the corse-encumbered square, rushing to the relief
of their own infantry. Following the counsel he had given to Sandoval,
the wary general passed by his foot-soldiers, and bidding them march
boldly forwards, and join themselves with the infantry of Don Gonzalo,
he charged the infidels from their rear with a fury they could not
resist; and then rushing backwards with equal resolution, discovered the
foot-soldiers in the position in which it had been his aim to place
them. The united infantry, full seven hundred men in number, were now
protected, both in front and rear, by a band of cavalry; their flanks
looking, on one side, to the temple, and, on the other, to a great
street that opened opposite. Arranging them, at a word, in two lines,
standing back to back, and seconding himself the manoeuvre which he
dictated to Sandoval, the general swept instantly to that flank which
bordered on the Wall of Serpents, while Gonzalo rode to the other. Thus
arranged, the little army presented the figure of a hollow square, or
rather of a narrow parallelogram, the chief sides of which, were made by
double rows of spearmen, and the smaller by bands of horsemen. Thus
arranged, too, the Christians fought with greater resolution and
success; for, parting at once from a common centre, the infantry drove
the assailants from before them on two sides, while the cavalry carried
death and horror to the others; until, at a given signal, all again fell
back to their position, and presented a wall altogether inexpugnable to
the weak though untiring savages.

It was the persuasion of Don Hernan, that, in this advantageous
position, he could, in a short time, so punish his enemies, as to teach
them the folly of contending with Christian men, and perhaps end the war
in a day. But, for a full hour, he repeated his charges, now pinning his
foes against the wall, or the steps of the House of Skulls, now falling
back to breathe; and, at each charge, adding to the number of the dead,
until their corses literally obstructed his path, and left it nearly
impassable. At every charge, too, his cavaliers waxed more weary, and
struck more faintly, while the horses obeyed the spur and voice with
diminishing vigour; and it seemed that they must soon be left unable,
from sheer fatigue, to continue the work of slaughter. The pagans
perished in crowds at each charge, and at each volley of bow-shots; but
neither their spirit, nor their numbers, seemed to decrease. Their yells
were as loud, their countenances as bold, their assaults as violent as
at first; and the Spaniards beheld the sun rising high in the heavens,
without any termination to their labours, or their sufferings. Twenty
Christians already lay dead on the square, or had been dragged, perhaps,
while yet breathing, to be sacrificed on the pyramid. This was a
suspicion that shocked the souls of many; for, twice or thrice, they
heard, among the crowds, who still stood on the lofty terrace, shooting
arrows down on the square, such shouts of triumphant delight as, they
thought, could be caused by nothing but the immolation of a victim.

Grief and rage lay heavily on the heart of Cortes; but though the
apprehension, that, if much longer over-worn by combat, his followers
might be left unable even to fly, added its sting to the others, shame
deterred him, for a time, from giving the mortifying order. Harassed,
and even wounded, (for a defective link in his mail had yielded to an
arrow-head, and the stone was buried in his shoulder,) he nevertheless
preserved a good countenance; cheered his people with the assurance of
victory; fought on, exposing himself like the meanest of his soldiers;
and several times, at the imminent risk of his life, rescued certain
foot-soldiers from the consequences of their foolhardiness.

There was among the infantry, a man of great courage and strength, by
the name of Lezcano, whose only weapon was a huge two-handed sword, the
valiant use of which had gained him among his companions, the title of
_Dos Manos_, or Two-Hands. No spearman of his company advanced to the
charge with more readiness than did this fellow with his gigantic
weapon, and none retreated with more constant reluctance. Indeed, he
commonly fell back so leisurely as to draw three or four foes upon him
at once; and it seemed to be his pleasure, to meet these in such a way,
as should call for the praises of his companions. His daring, that day,
would have left him with the additional name of the bravest of the
brave, had it been tempered with a little discretion. But inflamed by
the encomiums of his comrades, and not less by the complimentary rebukes
of his captain, his rashness knew no bounds; and twice or thrice he
thrust himself into situations of peril, from which he was rescued with
great difficulty. He had been saved once by Don Hernan. It was his fate,
a second time, to draw the notice of the general; who, falling back on
the infantry, beheld him beset by a dozen foes, surrounded, and using
his great scimitar furiously, yet, as it seemed, in vain; for he was
unhelmed.

"What ho, Don Amador!" cried Cortes to the cavalier, who was at his
side, "let us rescue _Dos Manos_, the mad!"

In an instant of time, the two hidalgos had reached the group, and
raised their voices in encouragement, while each struck down a savage.
At that moment, and while Lezcano elevated his scimitar, to ward off the
blow of a maquahuitl, the massive blade, shivered as if by a
thunderbolt, fell to the earth; but, before it reached it, the sharp
glass of the Indian sword had entered his brain. The cavaliers struck
fast and hard, on either hand; the barbarians fled; but, Lezcano, the
Two-handed, lay rolling his eyes to heaven, his head cloven to the
mouth.

"If we slay a thousand foes for every Christian man that dies, yet shall
we be vanquished!" said Cortes, turning an eye of despair on his
companion, and speaking the feelings he had concealed from all others.
Indeed, he seemed to rejoice that destiny had given him one follower, to
whom he might unbosom himself without the apprehension of creating
alarm--he hesitated not to relieve himself of his grief to Don Amador;
for he knew him to be inaccessible to fear. "Be of good heart, my
friend. I have drawn thee into a den of devils. We must retreat, or
die."

"I will advance or retreat, as thou wilt," said Amador, with a visage,
in which Don Hernan now for the first time, beheld an expression so wild
and ghastly, that he was reminded of Calavar. "It matters nothing--here
or at the palace! But it is my duty to assure thee of mine own
persuasion: Retreat may bring us relief--there is no victory for us,
to-day."

"God help thee! art thou wounded?" cried Cortes.

"A little hurt by the skilless hand of Fabueno," said the novice,
tranquilly, "who, not yet being perfected in the use of the spear,
thrust his weapon into my back, while aiming at the throat of a
cacique.--But that is not it. I have, this day, seen a sight, which
convinces me we are among magicians and devils; and persuades me, along
with certain other recent occurrences, that the time of some of us is
reckoned. Therefore I say to thee, I will advance with thee or retreat,
as thou thinkest best. To me it matters not. But my counsel is, to fly.
We may save others."

"It is needful," replied Don Hernan, mournfully.--He gave his orders to
certain officers; and the retreat was commenced in the order in which
they had fought,--that is to say, the infantry, drawing their lines
closer together, and facing to the flank, began to march down the
street, preceded by Sandoval, charging the opponents from the front,
while Cortes and his band, at intervals, rushing back upon the pursuers,
kept the triumphant barbarians from the rear.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


The distance between the great temple and the palace of Axajacatl was by
no means great; though Cortes, for the purpose of prying into many
streets, had led his followers against it by a long and circuitous
course,--a plan which had been followed by Don Gonzalo, though in
another direction. Indeed they were not so far separated, but that a
strong bowman or a good slinger might, from the top of the pyramid,
drive his missile upon the roof of the garrison, to the great injury of
the besieged, as was, afterwards, fully made manifest. The distance,
therefore, to be won by the retreating Spaniards, was small; but it took
them hours to accomplish it. It seemed as if the infidels, fearing lest
their foes might escape out of their hands, if they slackened their
efforts for a moment, were resolved to effect their destruction at any
cost, while they were still at a distance from succour. They pressed
ferociously and rapidly on the fugitives; they gained their front; and
thus encompassed them with a compact mass of human beings, against which
the cavaliers charged, as against a stone wall; slaying and trampling,
indeed, but without penetrating it for more than a few yards. Each step
gained by the van, was literally carved by the cavalry, as out of a
rock; while the utmost exertions of Don Hernan could do nothing more
than preserve his rear band in the attitude of a dike, slowly moving
before the shocks of a flood, which it could not repel.

In addition to these alarming circumstances, there were others now
developed, of a not less serious aspect. The canals that, in two or
three places, intersected the street, were swarming with canoes, from
which the savages discharged their arrows with fatal aim, or sprang, at
once, upon the footmen, striking with spear and maquahuitl, and were
driven back only after the most strenuous efforts. They had destroyed
the bridges, and the canals could only be passed by renewing them with
such planks as the infantry could tear from the adjoining houses, and
hastily throw over the water,--a work of no less suffering than time and
labour. Besides all this, the annoyance which Don Hernan had first
dreaded, was now practised by the crafty barbarians. The terraces were
covered with armed men, who, besides discharging their darts and arrows
down upon the exposed soldiers, tore away, with levers, the stones from
the battlements, and hurled them full upon the heads of their enemies.

The sound of drums and conches, the fierce yells, the whistling, the
dying screams, the loud and hurried prayers, the neighing of horses--and
now and then the shriek of some beast mangled by a rough spear,--the
rattling of arrow-heads, the clang of clubs upon iron bucklers, the
heavy fall of a huge stone crushing a footman to the earth, the plunging
of some wounded wretch strangling in a ditch, and the roar of cannon at
the palace, showing that the battle was universal,--these together, now
made up such a chorus of hellish sounds as Don Amador confessed to
himself he had never heard before, not even among the horrors of Rhodes,
when sacked by other infidels, then esteemed the most valiant in the
world. But to these dismal tumults others were speedily added, when
Cortes, raging with a fury that increased with his despair, commanded
the footmen to fire every house, whose top afforded footing to the
ferocious foe,--a command that was obeyed with good will, and with
dreadful effect; for though, from the nature of its materials, and the
isolated condition of each structure, it was not possible to produce a
general conflagration, yet the great quantity of cotton robes, of dry
mats, and of resinous woods about each house, left it so combustible,
that the application of a torch to the door-curtains, or the casting of
a fire-brand into the interior, instantly enveloped it in flames. Among
these, when they burst through the roofs of light rafters, and the
thatching of dried reeds, the pagan warriors perished miserably; or,
flinging themselves desperately down, were either dashed to pieces, or
transfixed by the lances of the Spaniards.

But the same agent which so dreadfully paralyzed the efforts of the
Mexican, brought suffering scarcely less disastrous to the Christian
ranks. They were stifled with the smoke, they were scorched by the
flames of the burning houses; and, ever and anon, some frantic
barbarian, perishing among the fires of his dwelling, and seeking to
inflict a horrid vengeance, grasped, even in his death-gasp, a flaming
rafter in his arms, and sprang down with it upon his foes, maiming and
scorching where he did not kill.

Thus fighting, and thus resisted, weary and despairing, their bodies
covered with blood, their garments sometimes burning, the Spaniards at
last gained the square that surrounded the palace; and fighting their
way through the herds that invested it, (for, almost at the same moment
that they had been attacked at the temple, the quarters were again
assailed,) and shouting to the cannoniers, lest they should fire on
them, they placed their feet in the court-yard, and thanked God for this
respite to their sufferings.

It was a respite from death, for behind the stone wall they were
comparatively secure; but not a respite from labour. The Mexicans abated
not a jot of their ardour. The same herds that covered the square at
dawn, were again yelling at the gates, and with the same unconquerable
fury; and the soldiers, already fainting with fatigue, with famine, and
thirst, (for they had taken no refreshment since the preceding evening,)
were fain to purchase, painfully, a temporary safety, by standing to the
walls, and keeping the savages at bay, as they could.

The artillery thundered, the cross-bows twanged, the arquebuses added
their destructive volleys to the other warlike noises; but the Mexicans,
disregarding these sounds, as well as the havoc made among their ranks,
rushed, in repeated assaults, against the walls, and, sometimes, with
such violence, that they drove the besieged from the gate, and entered
pell-mell with them into the court-yard. Then, indeed, ensued a scene of
murder; for the Christians, flying again to the portal, cut off the
retreat of such desperadoes, and slew them within the walls, without
loss, and almost at their leisure.

On such occasions, no one showed more spirit in attacking, or more fury
in slaying, than the young secretary. The suit of goodly armour sent him
by the admiral, and his rapid proficiency in the practice of arms, had
inflamed his vanity; and he burned to approve himself worthy the
companionship of cavaliers. The native conscientiousness which filled
him with horror at the sight of the first blood shed, the first life
destroyed, by his hand, had vanished as a dream; for it is the
excellence of war, that, while developing our true nature, and
remaining, itself, as the link which binds man to his original state of
barbarism, it preserves him the delights of a savage, without entirely
depriving him of the pleasures of civilization. The right of shedding
blood, mankind enjoy in common with brutes; and, doubtless, a
conformable philosophy will not frown on the privilege, so long as the
loss of it would contract our circle of enjoyments. There is something
poetical in the diabolism of a fiend, and as much that is splendid in
the ferocity of a tiger; and though these two qualities be the chief
elements of heroism, they bring with them such accompaniments of
splendour and sentiment, that he would rob the world of half its glory,
as well as much of its poetry, who should destroy the race of the great,
and leave mankind to the dull innocence of peace.--There are more
millions of human beings, the victims of war, rotting under the earth,
than now move on its surface.

The pain of wounds had also produced a new effect in the bosom of
Lorenzo; for, instead of cooling his courage, it now inflamed his rage,
and helped to make him valiant. The mild and feeling boy was quite
transformed into a heartless ruffian; and so great had become his love
of slaughter, and so unscrupulous his manner of gratifying it, that,
once or twice, Don Amador noticed him, and would have censured him
sharply, but that his attention was immediately absorbed by the
necessity of self-defence. The cavaliers had dismounted, and the
neophyte fought at the gates on foot. In the midst of an assault, in
which the defenders had been driven back, but which disgrace they were
now repairing, he beheld his ward struggling with a wounded savage, who
grasped his knees and hand, but in intreaty, not hostility; and greatly
was Don Amador shocked, when he beheld the secretary disengage his arm,
and, with a shout of triumph, plunge his steel into the throat of the
supplicating barbarian.

"Art thou a devil, Lorenzo?" cried the cavalier, indignantly. "That was
a knave's and a coward's blow! Thou shalt follow me no longer."

While he spoke, and left himself unguarded, a gigantic pagan, taking
advantage of his indiscretion, leaped suddenly upon him, and struck him
such a blow with a maquahuitl, as, but for the strength of his casque,
would have killed him outright. As it was, the shock so stunned him, as
to leave him for a moment, incapable of defence. In that moment, the
savage, uttering a loud yell, sprang forward to repeat the blow, or to
drag him off a prisoner; when Fabueno, perceiving the extremity of his
patron, and fired with the opportunity of proving his valour, rushed
between them, and with a lucky blow on the naked neck of the Mexican,
instantly despatched him.

"A valiant stroke, Lorenzo!" said the neophyte, losing somewhat of his
heat, as he recovered his wits. "But it does not entirely wipe out the
shame of the other. Moderate thy wrath, curb thy fury, and remember that
cruelty is the mark of a dastard. Strike me no more foes that cry for
mercy!"

As his anger had been changed into approbation, so now were his censures
abruptly ended by exclamations of surprise. For at that instant,
Fabueno, grasping his arm with one hand, and with the other pointing a
little to one side, turned upon him a countenance full of alarm. He
looked around, and beheld with amazement, his kinsman, Don Gabriel,
entirely unarmed, except with sword and buckler, mingled with the
combatants, shouting a feeble war-cry, striking faintly, and, indeed,
preserved less by his courage than his appearance, from the bludgeons of
the infidels. His grizzly locks (for he was entirely bare-headed,) fell
over his hollow and bloodless cheeks, whereon glittered, black and
hideous, a single gout of gore. His face was like the face of the dead;
and the savages recoiled from before him, as if from a spirit rousing
from Mictlan, the world of gloom, to call them down to his dark
dwelling.

In a moment the neophyte, followed by Fabueno, and Lazaro, who answered
to his call, and Marco, who seemed to have been separated by the melée
from his master, was at the side of Calavar. The mind of the knight was
wholly gone; and he seemed as if, at the point of death, raised from his
couch by the clamours of the contest, and urged into it by the instinct
of long habit, or by the goadings of madness.

He submitted patiently, and without words, to the gentle violence of his
kinsman, and was straightway carried to his apartment.



CHAPTER XXXIX.


After much search and persuasion, a surgeon was found and induced to
visit the knight. He despatched his questions almost in a word, for he
was a fighting Bachelor, and burned with impatience to return to the
contest. He mingled hastily a draught, which he affirmed to be of
wondrous efficacy in composing disordered minds to sleep, gave a few
simple directions, and excusing his haste in the urgency of his other
occupations, both military and chirurgical, he immediately departed.

"Marco!" said the neophyte, when the draught was administered, and Don
Gabriel laid on the couch, "thou deservest the heaviest punishment for
leaving thy master an instant, though, as thou sayest, while fast
asleep. Remain by him now, and be more faithful. As for thee, Lorenzo,"
he continued, to the secretary, who stood panting at his side, "there
is good reason thou shouldst share the task of Marco, were it only to
repose thee a little; but more need is it, that thou suffer thy blood to
cool, and reflect, with shame, that thou hast, this day, cancelled all
thy good deeds, by killing a prostrate and beseeching foe. Remain,
therefore, to assist Marco; and by-and-by I will come to thee, and
declare whether or not thou shalt draw thy sword again to-day."

And thus leaving his kinsman to the care of the two followers, and
beckoning Lazaro along, Don Amador returned to the court-yard and the
conflict.

The history of the remainder of the day (it was now noon,) is a weary
tale of blood. Wounds could not check, nor slaughter subdue, the
animosity of the besiegers; and the Spaniards, tired even of killing,
hoped no longer for victory over men who seemed to fight with no object
but to die, and who rushed up as readily to the mouth of a cannon, whose
vent was already blazing under the linstock, as to the spears that
bristled with fatal opposition at the gates.

But night came at last, and with it a hope to end the sufferings that
were already intolerable. The hope was vain. The barbarians, apparently
incapable of fatigue, or perhaps yielding their places to fresh
combatants, continued the assault even with increasing vigour and
boldness. They rushed against the court-wall with heavy beams,--rude
battering-rams,--with which they thought to shake it to its foundations,
and thus deprive the Christians of their greatest safeguard. In certain
spots they succeeded; and the soldiers cursed the day of their birth, as
the ruins fell crashing to the ground, and they saw themselves reduced
to the alternative of filling the breaches with their bodies, or
remaining to perish where they stood. It is true, that in this kind of
defence, as well as under other urgent difficulties, they received good
and manly aid from their numerous allies, the Tlascalans, who fought,
during the whole day, with a spirit and cheerfulness that put many a
repining Castilian to shame. But these, though battling equally for
their lives, were incapable of withstanding long the unexampled violence
of the assaults; and it was soon found that the naked bodies of the
Tlascalans offered but slight impediment to the frenzied Mexicans.

The Spaniards, in the expedient used to drive the citizens from their
house-tops, had taught them a mode of warfare which they were not slow
to adopt. The palace was of a solid structure, and seemed to bid
defiance to flames. But the same cedars that finished the interior of
meaner houses, formed its floors and ceilings; every chamber was covered
with mats, and most of them were hung with the most inflammable kind of
tapestry. In addition to this, the five thousand Tlascalans, who had
been left with Alvarado, and who slept in the court-yard, besides
strewing the earth with rushes--their humble couches--had constructed
along the walls of the palace itself, many rude arbours, or rather
kennels, of reeds from the lake, to shelter them from the vicissitudes
of the rainy season, which had, already, in part, set in. And, to crown
all, the cavaliers, whose horses, as they well knew, were each worth a
thousand Tlascalans, had caused stalls to be constructed for them,
wherein they were better protected from the weather, than their
fellow-animals, the allies. With these arrangements, the Mexicans were
well acquainted.

No sooner, therefore, had they succeeded in beating down several
breaches in the wall, and found that they could sometimes drive the
besieged from them, than they made trial of the expedient. They rushed
together against the walls in a general assault, waving firebrands and
torches, which those who forced their way through the breaches, applied
to the stalls and arbours, or scattered over the beds of the Tlascalans.
The dying incendiary, pierced with a dozen spears, ended his life with a
laugh of joy, as he beheld the flames burst ruddily up to his brand.

The misery of the Spaniards was now complete. They were parched with
thirst. The sweet fountains of Chapoltepec gushed only over the square
of the temple. A well, dug by Alvarado, in his extremity, furnished a
meager supply of water, and that so brackish, that even the brutes
turned from it in disgust, till forced to drink, by pangs that would
allow them to be fastidious no longer. The nearest canal, conducting the
briny waters of Tezcuco, was shut out by ramparts of savages. The
Spaniards, with one universal voice, sent up a cry of despair, as they
beheld the flames run over the court, the stalls, the kennels, and up
the palace walls, and knew not how to extinguish them. The cry was
answered from without, with such yells of exultation, as froze their
blood; and in the glare of the sudden conflagration, they saw the
barbarians rushing again to the attack, darting through the breaches,
and leaping over the walls.

In this strait, beset at once by two foes, equally irresistible, equally
pitiless, they struck about them blindly and despairingly, cursing their
fate, their folly, and the leader who had seduced them from their island
homes, to die a death so ignoble and so dreadful.

For a moment, the spirit of the general sunk, and turning to Don Amador,
whose fate it was again to be at his side, he said, with a ghastly
countenance, rendered hideous by the infernal glare,--

"We die the death of foxes in a hole, very noble friend! Commend thy
soul to God, and choose thy death; for we have no water to quench this
hell!"

"God help my kinsman and father, and all is one!" said Amador, with a
desperate calmness. "The flames are hot, but the grave is cold."

"_The grave is cold!_" shouted Cortes, with the voice of a madman. "Live
in my heart for ever! Cold grave, moist earth! and Santiago, who strikes
for a true Christian, speaks in thy words!--What ho, mad Spaniards!" he
continued, shouting aloud, and running as he spoke round the palace;
"earth quenches flames, like water! Swords and hands to the task; and he
works best, who delves as at the grave of his foeman!"

If there was obscurity in the words of the general, it was dispelled by
his actions; for, dashing the rushes aside, he loosened the damp soil
with his sabre, and flung the clods lustily on the nearest flames. Loud
and joyous were the shouts of his people, as hope dawned upon them with
the happy idea; and, in a moment, the hands of many thousand men were
tearing up the earth of the court, and casting it on the flames, while
the savages, confidently expecting the result of their stratagem,
intermitted their efforts for awhile, leaving the gates and breaches
nearly unguarded.

It is probable, that even this poor resource, in the hands of so great a
multitude of men, toiling with the zeal of desperation, might have
sufficed to quell the flames. But, as if heaven had at last taken pity
on their sufferings, and vouchsafed a miracle for their relief, there
came, almost at the same moment, the pattering of rain-drops, which were
quickly followed by a heavenly deluge; and as the flames vanished under
it, the Christians fell upon their knees, and, with devout ardour,
offered up thanks to the Providence, that had so marvellously preserved
them.

They sprang from their knees, with bolder hearts, as the Mexicans again
advanced to the assault. But this was the last attack. As if satisfied
with the toils of the day, or commanded by some unknown ruler, the
barbarians, uttering a mournful scream, suddenly departed.--They were
heard during the night; and in the morning, when the waning moon shone
dimly through the rack, were seen stirring about the square, but in no
great numbers; and as they did not attempt any annoyance, but seemed
engaged in dragging away the dead, Don Hernan forbade his sentinels to
molest them.

The guards were set, and the over-worn soldiers retired, at last, to
throw their wounded bodies on their pallets. But throughout the whole
night, the noises of men repairing the breaches, and constructing
certain military engines, assured those who were too sore or too fearful
to sleep, that the leader they had cursed was sacrificing a second night
to the duties of his station.



CHAPTER XL.


Don Amador sought out the apartment of his kinsman, with a troubled
heart. A deep dejection, in part the effect of extreme fatigue, but
caused more by the strange and melancholy events of the last twenty-four
hours, weighed upon his spirits, and had increased, ever since the
spectacle of the divinity, notwithstanding the bustle and excitement of
the conflicts which ensued.

In the passage, before he had yet reached the chamber, he stumbled upon
Fabueno. The secretary looked confused and abashed, as if caught in a
dereliction of duty; but before the cavalier could upbraid him, he
commenced his excuses.

'The opiate was strong; the knight was in a deep slumber,' he said;
'and, as Marco was sitting at his side, he thought he might leave him
for a moment, to discover wherefore the soldiers had ceased fighting. He
hoped his noble patron would pardon him: he would presently return.'

"Seek thy pleasure now, Lorenzo," said the novice, with a heavy sigh.
"Return when thou wilt,--or not at all, if thou preferrest to rest with
thy companions of last night. I will now, myself, watch by Don Gabriel."

His head sunk upon his breast, as he went on, for his heart was full of
painful reflections. Near the door of the chamber, he was roused by a
step, and looking up, he beheld the padre Olmedo approaching.

"Holy father, it rejoices me to see thee," he said "I had, indeed,
thoughts to seek thee out, and claim thy benevolent counsels and
aidance, but that I deemed me there were many among the wounded, and
perchance the dying, who had stronger claims on thy good offices."

"Thou art not hurt, my son?"

"I have a scratch, made by the unlucky spear of a friend, but no harm
from the enemy," said the cavalier. "I had indeed a blow also on the
head, that made my brain ring; but both, I had quite forgotten. I am
well enough in body, reverend father; and perhaps may be relieved in
mind, if thou wilt vouchsafe me thy ghostly counsels."

The good Bartolomé, making a gesture of assent, followed the youth into
the chamber.

The knight was, as Fabueno had declared, lost in a deep and, his kinsman
was pleased to see, a placid, slumber; but Marco, instead of watching,
lay sleeping full as soundly, hard by. This circumstance seemed to
embarrass the cavalier.

"Father," said he, "I thought no less than to find the serving-man
awake; and it was my intent to discharge him a moment from the chamber,
not fearing that what I might say to thee, would disturb my afflicted
friend. But I have not the heart to break the rest of this old man,--a
very faithful servant,--who closes not his eyes, except when to keep
them open would no longer be of service to Don Gabriel."

"He sleeps as soundly as his master," murmured the priest. "A good
conscience lies under his rough breast, or it would not heave so
gently."

"My father breathes gently, too," said Amador, mournfully.

"May heaven restore him," said the padre. "His guilt lies deeper in his
imagination than in his soul."

"Dost thou think so indeed, father?" said Amador warmly, though in a low
voice.

The father started--"The history of thy kinsman is not unknown to
thee?"

"What I know is but little, save that my friend is the unhappiest of
men," said the novice. "But heaven forbid I should seek to fathom the
secrets of the confessional. I was rejoiced to hear thee say, my kinsman
was not so miserable as he deems himself; for indeed I have begun to
think there is something in the blood that courses in both our veins, so
inclined to distemperature, that a small sin may bring us the pains of
deep guilt, and a light sorrow pave the way to madness."

The knight and the man-at-arms lay in a slumber not to be broken by the
whispers of confession. The father retired to the remotest corner of the
apartment, and Don Amador knelt humbly and penitentially at his feet. A
little taper shed a flickering ray over his blanched and troubled
forehead, as he bent forward to kiss the crucifix, extended by the
confessor.

"Buen padre," said he, "the sins I have to confess, I know thou wilt
absolve, for they are sins of a hot blood, and not a malicious heart. I
have been awroth with those who wronged me, and thirsted to shed their
blood. For this I repent me. But the sins of pride and vanity are deep
in my heart. I look about me for those acts of darkness, which should
have caused the grief wherewith I am afflicted; but, in my self-conceit,
I cannot find them. And yet they must exist; for I am beset with devils,
or bewitched!"

The father gazed uneasily from the penitent to the sleeping knight; but
the look of suspicion was unnoticed.

"We are all, as I may say, my son, beset by devils in this infidel land.
They are worshipped on the altars of the false gods, and they live in
the hearts of the idolaters. But if thou hast no heavy sin on thy soul,
these are such devils as thou canst better exorcise with the sword, than
I, perhaps, with prayers. I think, indeed, thou hast no such guilt; and,
therefore, no cause for persecution."

"Holy father, I thought so myself, till late. But cast thine eyes on
Don Gabriel. Thou seest him, once the noblest of his species, yet, now,
the shadow and vapour of a man,--a wreck of reason,--a living
death,--for his mind hath left him. This I say to thee with much
anguish. I could strike another who said it; but it is true--He is a
lunatic!--It is I that have robbed him of reason. This is my sin; and I
feel that it is heavy."

"Thou ravest, good youth. Thy love and devotion are well known; and he
hath, out of his own mouth, assured me, that thy affection surpasses the
love of man. Rest thee content. A deeper cause than this, and one
wherein thou hast no part, has afflicted him. An accident of war,
tortured, by a moody imagination, into wilful guilt, hath turned him
into this ruin."

"It _was_ an accident, then, and no murder!" said the cavalier,
joyously, though still in a whisper. "I thank God that my father is
unstained with the blood of a woman."

"I may not repeat to thee secrets revealed only to God," said the
confessor; "but this much may I say, to allay thy fears,--that the blow
which destroyed a friend, was meant for a foe; for rage veiled his eyes,
and the steel was in the hands of a madman. This will assure thee, that
thou hast had no agency in his affliction, but hast ever proved his
truest comfort."

"This indeed is the truth," murmured the novice, "and this convinces me,
that by robbing him of his comfort, I gave him up to the persecution of
those thoughts and memories, which have destroyed him. When I fought by
his side at Rhodes, when I followed at his back through Spain, his
malady was gentle. It brought him often fits of gloom, sometimes moments
of delirium; he was unhappy, father, but not mad. I had acquired the art
to keep the evil spirit from him; and, while I remained by him, he was
well. I left him,--at his command, indeed, but he did not command me to
forget him. The servant slept, and the sick man perished. While I was
gone, his infirmity returned; and the madness that brought him to this
infidel world, though I follow him, I am not able to remove. I found him
changed; and, by my neglect, he is left incurable."

"I think, indeed, as thou sayest," replied the confessor, mildly, "there
is something in thy blood, as well as in Calavar's, which inclines to
convert what is a light fault, into a weighty sin. Thou wrongest
thyself: this present misery is but the natural course of disease, and
thou hast no reason to upbraid thyself with producing it."

"Father, so thought I, myself, till lately," said the cavalier,
solemnly; "for we have ever in our hearts some lying spirit, that
glosses over our faults with excuses, and deludes us from remorse. But
it has been made manifest to me, by strange revealments and
coincidences, by griefs of my own as well as of others, that my neglect
was a grievous sin, not yet forgiven. And verily, now do I believe, that
had I remained true to my knight, much sorrow would have been spared to
both him and me."

"I cannot believe that thy unfaithfulness was a wrong of design," said
the father. "If it be, make me acquainted with it, and despair not of
pardon. Thou wert parted from the knight at his own command?"

"To gather him followers for the crusade meditated against the infidels
of Barbary," said the novice,--"a brave and pious enterprise, from which
the emperor was quickly diverted by other projects. This change being
proclaimed, there remained nothing for me to do, but, like a faithful
friend and servant, to return to my kinsman. Had I done so, what present
affliction and disturbing memories might not have been prevented! Know,
father, for I tell thee the truth, that it was my fortune, or rather my
unhappiness, to discover, at the sea-port in which I sojourned, a
Moorish maiden, of so obscure, and, doubtless, so base, a birth, that
even the noble lady who gave her protection, knew not the condition of
her parents. Yet, notwithstanding this baseness of origin, and the great
pride of my own heart, (for truly I am come of the noblest blood in the
land!) I was so gained upon by the beauty and excellent worth of this
maiden, (for I swear to thee, her superior lives not in the world!) that
I forgot even that she was the daughter of an idolater, and loved her."

"A Moorish infidel!" said the confessor. "It is not possible thou
couldst pledge thy faith to an unbeliever?"

"Holy father," said Don Amador, "this sin was at least spared me. The
maiden was a Christian, tenderly nurtured in all the doctrines of our
faith, and almost ignorant that the race from which she drew her blood,
knew any other; and, father, I thought, until this day, that the soul of
Leila dwelt among the seraphs. Moreover, if the plighting of troth be
sinful, I am again innocent; for, before I had spoken of love, she was
snatched away from me."

"She is dead, then?" demanded the padre.

"Surely, I think so," said the cavalier, mournfully; "yet I know not the
living creature that wots of her fate. Father! the sin of deserting my
kinsman was first visited to me through her; and because I was a sinner,
Leila perished.--_How_, father, I cannot tell thee. She vanished away by
night,--carried off, as some averred, by certain Moorish exiles, who,
that night, set sail for Barbary; or, as others dreamed, murdered by
some villain, and cast into the sea; for the veil she wore, was found
the day after, dashed ashore by the surf. But, whether she be dead, or
yet living, again I say, I know not; though I affirm on the cross which
I hold in my hand, I beheld her this day, or some fiend in her likeness,
under the similitude of a priestess, or a divinity, I know not which,
carried on the shoulders of the infidels, and by them worshipped!"

The confessor started back in alarm, surveying the excited features of
the penitent, and again cast his eyes towards Don Gabriel. Then, laying
his hand on the head of the cavalier, he said, gently, but warningly,--

"Cast such thoughts from thee, lest thou become like to thy kinsman!"

"Ay!" cried the cavalier, clasping his hands, and turning an eye of
horror on the father,--"thou speakest confirmation of mine own fears;
for I have said to myself, this is a frenzy, and therefore I have come,
at last, to be like my kinsman! The thing that I have seen, is _not_;
and the reason that made me a man, has fled from me!"

"Nay, I meant not that," said the padre, endeavouring to soothe the
agitation he had, in part, caused. "I desired only to have thee guard
thyself against the effects of thy fancy, which is, at present, greatly
over-excited. I believe that thou didst indeed see some pagan maiden,
strongly resembling the Moorish Leila;--a circumstance greatly aided by
the similarity of hue between the two races."

"And dost thou think," said the cavalier, his indignation rising in
spite of his grief, "that the adored and most angelic Leila could, in
any wise, resemble the coarse maids of this copper-tinted, barbarous
people? I swear to thee, she was fairer than the Spanish girls of
Almeria, and a thousand times more beautiful!"

"In this I will not contend with thee," said the father, benignantly,
well satisfied that anger should take the place of a more perilous
passion. "But I may assure thee, that, among the princesses of the royal
household, whom, I think, thou hast not yet seen, there are many
wondrous lovely to look upon; and, to show thee that even a barbarian
may resemble a Christian, it is only needful to mention that when, at
our first coming to these shores, the portrait of Cortes, done by an
Indian painter, was carried to Montezuma, he sent to us, by the next
messengers, with rich presents, a noble of his court so strongly
resembling Don Hernan, both in figure and visage, that we were all
filled with amazement."

"Well, indeed, thou speakest to me words of comfort," said Don Amador,
more composedly, though still very sadly; "but I would to heaven I might
look again on this woman, or this fiend, for I know not if she may not
be a devil! In truth, I thought I beheld a spectre, when she turned her
eyes upon me; and, oh father! you may judge my grief, when thus
thinking, and beholding her a spirit worshipped by idolaters, I knew she
must be of the accursed!"

"I have heard of this woman from others who beheld her," said the
father, "and, I doubt not, she is a mortal woman, esteemed holy, because
a priestess, and therefore received by the people with those marks of
respect, which thou didst mistake for adoration. It was reported to me,
that she was of marvellous great beauty."

"Marvellous, indeed!" said the youth. "But, father, here is another
circumstance that greatly troubled me; and, in good sooth, it troubles
me yet. It is known to thee that my kinsman had, until yesternight, a
little page,--a Moorish boy, greatly beloved by us both. As for myself,
I loved him because he was of the race of Leila; and I protest to thee,
unnatural as it may seem, I bore not for my young brother a greater
affection than for this most unlucky urchin. A foolish fellow charged
him to be an enchanter; and sometimes I bethink me of the accusation,
and suppose he has given me magical love-potions. Last night he was
snatched away, I cannot say how; but what is very wonderful, my kinsman
and two of his people saw, almost at the same moment, a terrific
phantom. Father, you smile! If it were not for my sorrow, I could smile
too, and at myself; for greatly am I changed, since I set foot on this
heathen land. A month since, I held a belief in ghosts and witchcraft to
be absurd, and even irreligious. At this moment, there is no menial in
this palace more given over to doubts and fears, and more superstitious.
Is not this the first breathing of that horrible malady?"

"It is the first perplexity of a scene of novelty and excitement.
Fatigue doth itself produce a temporary distraction, as is very evident
when we come to fling our over-worn bodies on our couches, to sleep.
This is the land of devils, because of idolaters; and I may not deny,
that the fiends have here greater power to haunt us with supernatural
apparitions, than in the lands of our true religion. Yet it is not well
to yield too ready a belief to such revelations; for heaven will not
permit them, without a purpose. Rather think that the infirmity of thy
kinsman, and the ignorance of his people, were deluded by an accidental
deception, which a cooler observer might have penetrated, than by any
real vision. But what wert thou saying of the Moorish page?"

"Father," said Amador, earnestly, "at the moment, when the train that
surrounded that wonderful priestess, alarmed to see me rush towards
them, (for that supernatural resemblance did greatly move me,) fled into
the temple, I heard the voice of Jacinto screaming aloud among the
infidels, as if, that moment, offered by them a victim to their accursed
divinities."

"God be with his soul, if it be so!" said the confessor, "for barbarous
and bloody in their fanaticism are the reprobates of Tenochtitlan. Yet I
would have thee, even in this matter, to be of good heart; for it is
believed among us, that Abdalla, his father, has been received into the
service of the Mexican nobles, to teach them how to resist our arts, and
how to compass our destruction; and it must be evident, that for that
traitor's sake, they will spare his boy, stolen away from us, as it
appears to me to be proven, by the knave Abdalla himself. But think thou
no more of the boy. He was born to inherit the perfidy of his race;
deception and ingratitude have rendered him unworthy of thy care; and
if, some day, the nobles should yield him to the priests for a victim,
it will be but a just punishment for his baseness. Give thy mind to
other thoughts, and refresh thy body with sleep; for much need have we
of all the assistance thou canst now render us. Sleep, and prepare for
other combats; for this day is but the prologue of a tragedy, whose end
may be more bloody and dreadful than we have yet imagined. Thy soul is
without stain, and heaven absolves thee of sin. Brood over no more
gloomy thoughts; believe that Providence overshadows thee; sleep in
tranquillity; and be prepared for the morning."

The good father concluded the rite of absolution with a blessing
parental and holy, and stole away from the chamber. Don Amador sighed
heavily, but with a relieved mind, as he rose from his knees. He gazed
upon the marble features of the sleeping knight, smoothed the covering
softly and tenderly about his emaciated frame, and then crept to his own
couch. His thoughts were many and wild, but exhaustion brought slumber
to his eyelids; and starting, ever and anon, at some elfin
representation of the captive page, or the lost maid of Almeria, bending
over him with eyes of wo, he fell, at last, into a sleep, so profound,
that it was no longer disturbed by visions.



CHAPTER XLI.


At the earliest dawn, Don Amador arose from his couch, refreshed, but
not reanimated, by slumber. An oppressive gloom lay at his heart, with
the feeling of physical weight; and without yet yielding to any definite
apprehension, he was conscious of some presentiment, or vague foreboding
of sorrow. The taper had expired on the pedestal, but an obscure light,
the first beam of morning, guided him to the bed-side of his kinsman.
The form of Baltasar was added to that of Marco on the floor; and the
serving-men slept as soundly as their master. He bent a moment over Don
Gabriel, and though unable to perceive his countenance in the gloom, he
judged, by the calmness of his breathing, that the fever had abated.
"Heaven grant that the delirium may have departed with it!" he muttered
to himself, "and that my poor friend may look upon me rationally once
more! If we are to perish under the knives of these unwearying
barbarians, as now seems to me somewhat more than possible, better will
it be for my kinsman's soul, that he die with the name of God on his
lips, instead of those of the spirits which torment him."

While the cavalier gave way to such thoughts, he heard very distinctly,
though at a great distance, such sounds as convinced him that 'the
unwearying barbarians' were indeed rousing again for another day of
battle. He armed himself with the more haste that he heard also in the
passage, the sound of feet, as if the garrison had been already
summoned, and were hurrying to the walls.

As he passed from the apartment, he found himself suddenly in the midst
of a group of cavaliers, one of whom grasped his hand, and pressing it
warmly, whispered in his ear, "I will not forget that I owe thee the
life of Benita!--Come with me, my friend, and thou shalt see how pride
is punished with shame, and injustice with humiliation."

"I thought," said Don Amador, "that we were about to be attacked, and
that my friends were running to the defence."

"Such is the case," said De Morla. "The millions are again advancing
against the palace, and we go to oppose them, though not to the walls.
We have raised devils, and we run to him we have most wronged, and most
despised, to lay them. In an instant, you will hear the shrieks of the
combatants. If we find no other way to conquer them than with our arms,
wo betide us all!--for we are worn and feeble, and we know our fate."

Several of the cavaliers had lights in their hands, but the chamber,
into which Don Amador followed them, was lit with a multitude of
torches, chiefly of the knots of resinous wood, burning with a smoky
glare, and scattering around a rich odour. The scene disclosed to the
neophyte, was imposing and singular. The apartment was very spacious,
and, indeed, lofty, and filled with human beings, most of them Mexican
nobles of the highest rank, and of both sexes, who stood around their
monarch, as in a solemn audience, leaving a space in front, which was
occupied by the most distinguished of the Spaniards, among whom was Don
Hernan himself. A little platform, entirely concealed under cushions of
the richest feathers, supported the chair, (it might have been called,
the throne,) on which sat the royal captive, closely invested by those
members of his family who shared his imprisonment. A king of Cojohuacan,
his brother, stood at his back, and at either side were two of his
children, two sons and two daughters, all young, and one of them,--a
princess,--scarce budding into womanhood. Their attire, in obedience to
the law's of the court, was plain, and yet richer than the garments of
the nobles. But it was their position near the king, the general
resemblance of their features, and the anxious eyes which they kept ever
bent on the royal countenance, which pointed them out as the offspring
of Montezuma.

As for Montezuma himself, though he sat on his chair like an emperor, it
was more like a monarch of statuary than of flesh and blood. The
Christian general stood before him, dictating to the interpreter Marina,
the expressions which he desired to enter the ear of his prisoner; but,
though speaking with as much respect as earnestness, the Indian ruler
seemed neither to hear nor to see him. His eye was indeed fixed on Don
Hernan, but yet fixed as on vacancy; and the lip, fallen in a ghastly
contortion, the rigid features, the abstracted stare, the right hand
pressed upon his knee, while the left lay powerless and dead over the
cushions of his chair, as he bent a little forward, as if wholly
unconscious of the presence of his people and his foes, made it manifest
to all, that his thoughts were absorbed in the contemplation of his own
abasement.

The neophyte heard the words of Don Hernan.

"Tell his royal majesty, the king," said the general, with an accent no
longer resembling that which had fixed the barb in the bosom of his
prey, "that it mislikes me to destroy his people, like so many dumb
beasts; and yet to this end am I enforced by their madness and his
supineness. Bid him direct his subjects to lay down their arms, and
assail me no further; otherwise shall I be constrained to employ those
weapons which God has given me, until this beauteous island is converted
into a charnel-house and hell, and the broad lake of Tezcuco into the
grave of his whole race!"

The mild and musical voice of Marina repeated the wish in the language
of Anahuac; and all eyes were bent on the monarch, as she spoke. But not
a muscle moved in the frame or the visage of Montezuma.

"Is the knave turned to stone, that he hears not?" muttered the chief.
"Speak thou, my little Orteguilla. Repeat what thou hast heard, and see
if thine antics will not arouse the sleeper."

The youthful page stepped up to the king, seized his hand, which he
strove to raise to his lips, and looking up in his face, with an
innocent air, endeavoured to engage his attention. This boy had, from
the first days of imprisonment, been a favourite with Montezuma; and
being very arch and cunning, Don Hernan did not scruple to place him as
a spy about the king, under colour of presenting him as a servant. In
common, Montezuma was greatly diverted with his boyish tricks, and
especially with his blundering efforts to catch the tongue of Mexico.
But there was no longer left in the bosom of the degraded prince, a
chord to vibrate to merriment. Habit, however, had not yet lost its
hold; and as the boyish voice stammered out the accustomed tones, he
gradually turned his eyes from the person of the general, and fixed
them on the visage of Orteguilla. But as he gazed, his brows contracted
into a gloomier frown, he laid his hand on the prattler's shoulder, and
no sooner had the urchin ceased speaking, than he thrust him sternly,
though not violently, away. Then drawing himself erect, he folded his
arms on his bosom, and without uttering a word, fixed his eyes on the
face of Cortes, and there calmly and sorrowfully maintained them.

"This is, doubtless, a lethargy," said the general; "but it suits not
our present occasions to indulge it. Where is my friend, De Morla? He
was wont to have much influence with this humorous man."

"I am here," said De Morla, stepping forward; "and if you demand it, I
will speak to the king; though with no hopes of persuading him to show
us any kindness."

As De Morla spoke, Don Amador, who had followed him to the side of
Cortes, observed one of the princesses turn from her sire, and look
eagerly towards his friend. In this maiden, he doubted not, he perceived
the fair Minnapotzin; and he ceased to wonder at the passion of his
countryman, when he discovered with his own eyes how little her beauty
had been overrated. Though of but small stature, her figure, as far as
it could be perceived through the folds of peculiar vestments, was
exceedingly graceful. The cymar was knotted round her bosom with a
modest girdle, and left bare two arms prettily moulded, on which shone
bracelets of gold, fantastically wrought. Her hair was long, and fell,
braided with strings of the same metal, on her shoulders, on which also
was a necklace of little emeralds alternating with crystals, and
suspending a silver crucifix of Spanish workmanship. These were her only
decorations. Her skin was rather dark than tawny, and the tinge of
beautifying blood was as visible on her cheeks as on those of the maids
of Andalusia. Her features were very regular; and two large eyes, in
which a native timidity struggled with affection at the sight of her
Christian lover, rendered her countenance as engaging as it was lovely.
She hung upon De Morla's accents with an air of the deepest interest, as
he expressed, in imperfect language, the desires of his general.

As he spoke, the infidel king surveyed him with a frown,--a notice that
he now extended to all the Christians present, but without deigning to
reply. It was evident that he understood the desires of his jailor, and
equally plain that he had resolved to disregard them. The angry spot
darkened on the brow of Cortes; and he was about to degrade the captive
with still more violent marks of his displeasure; when, at this moment,
the roar of his artillery, mingled with the shouts of the besiegers,
suddenly shook the palace to its foundations, and drowned his voice in
the shrieks of the women.

Montezuma started to his feet, and cast a look upon Cortes, in which
horror did not wholly conceal a touch of ferocious satisfaction. His
people were, indeed, falling under those terrific explosions, like
leaves before the mountain gust; but well he read in the dismayed
visages of the Spaniards, that fate was, at last, avenging his injuries
on the oppressors.

"Speak _thou_ to thy father, my Benita!" cried De Morla, in her own
language, to the terrified princess, "and let him stay the work of
blood; for none but he has the power. Tell him, we desire peace, repent
the wrongs we have done him, and will redress them. If he will regain
his liberty and his empire,--if he will save his people, his children,
and himself, from one common and fearful destruction, let him forget
that we have done him wrong, and pronounce the words of peace."

The Indian maiden threw herself at the feet of the king, and bathing his
hands with tears, repeated the charge of the cavalier.

Montezuma gazed upon her with sorrow, and upon his other children; then
looking coldly to Don Hernan, he said, with a tranquil voice, while
Doña Marina rapidly interpreted his expressions,--

"What will the Teuctli have? He commands a captive to shield him from
the darts of free warriors: Montezuma is a prisoner. He calls upon me to
quiet a raging people: Montezuma has no people. He commands me to regain
my liberty: the Mexican that hath been once a slave, can be a freeman no
more. He bids me save my children: I have none! they are servants in the
house of a stranger.--He that is in bonds, hath no offspring!"

While he spoke, the din increased, as if the yelling assailants were
pressing up to the very walls of the palace; and many cavaliers,
incapable of remaining longer inactive, and despairing of his
assistance, rushed from the apartment to join in the combat.

"Why does he waste time in words?" cried Cortes. "At every moment, there
are slain a thousand of his subjects!"

"If there were twenty thousand," said the captive, assuming, at last,
the dignity that became his name, and speaking with a stately anger,
"and if but one Christian lay dead among them, Montezuma should not
mourn the loss. Happier would he be, left with the few and mangled
remnants, with his throne on the grave of the strangers, than, this
moment, were he restored to his millions, with the children of the East
abiding by him in friendship.--Thou callest upon me to appease _my_
people. Thou knowest that they are thine. Why should they not listen to
_thee_?"

"Ay, why should they not?" said Don Hernan, speaking rather to himself,
than to Montezuma, and flinging sarcasms on his own head. "By my
conscience, I know not; for though I was somewhat conceited, to grasp at
the sceptre so early, I think I may hold it with as much dignity as any
infidel, were he a Turkish sultan.--Hearken, Montezuma; thou art
deceived: thy people are not mine, but thine, and through thee, as his
sworn vassal, the subjects of my master, the king of Spain. Confirm thy
vassalage to him, by tribute, be true to thy allegiance, and remain on
thy throne for ever; and, if such be thy desire, I will straightway
withdraw my army from the empire, so that thou mayest reign according to
thine own barbarous fancies."

"I trust thee not," said the king, "for already hast thou deceived me! I
revoke my vows of vassalage; for he that has no kingdom, cannot be a
king's deputy.--Do thy worst," continued the monarch, with increasing
boldness, no longer regarding the furious looks of Don Hernan, and
learning, at last, to deserve the respect of his foes. "Do thy worst:
Thou hast degraded me with chains, and with words of insult; nothing
more canst thou do, but kill! Kill me, then, if thou wilt; and in
Mictlan will I rejoice, for I know that my betrayers shall follow me!
Yes!" he added, with wild energy, "I know that, at this moment, your
heart is frozen with fear, and your blood turned to water, seeing that
revenge has reached you, and that your doom is death! The wronger of the
lords of Tenochtitlan has learned to tremble before its basest herds;
and let him tremble,--for the basest of them shall trample upon his
body!"

"Am I menaced by this traitor to his allegiance?" cried Cortes.

"Señor," said De Morla, "let us trifle the time with no more deception.
There is no one of our people, who does not perceive that we can
maintain our post in this city no longer, and that we cannot even escape
from it, without the permission of our foes. This knows Montezuma, as
well as ourselves. Why incense him, why strive to cajole him further?
Let us tell him the truth, and buy safety by restoring, at once, what we
cannot keep; and what, otherwise, we must yield up with our lives."

"Ay, faith,--it cannot be denied: we are even caught in a net of our own
twisting. Tell the knave what thou wilt. We will leave his accursed
island.--But how soon we may return, to claim the possessions of our
master, thou needst not acquaint him. But, by my conscience, return we
will, and that right briefly!"

A thousand different expressions agitated the visage of Montezuma, while
listening to the words of De Morla. Now a flash of joy lit his dusky
features; now doubt covered them with double gloom; and now he frowned
with a dark resolution, as if conceiving the fate of the Christians, if
left to themselves, still caged in their bloody prison. The memory of
all he had suffered, mingled with the imagination of all the vengeance
he might enjoy, covered his countenance with a mingled rage and
exultation. While he hesitated, his eye fell upon his children, for all
had thrown themselves at his feet; and he beheld them, in fancy, paying
the penalty of his ferocity. The stern eye of Cortes was upon him; and
he thought he read, in its meaning lustre, the punishment which awaited
his refusal.

"Will the Teuctli depart from me," he cried, eagerly, "if I open a path
for him through my incensed people?"

"I will depart from him," replied Don Hernan, "if his people throw down
their arms, and disperse."

"They will listen to me no more!" exclaimed Montezuma, suddenly clasping
his hands, with a look and accent of despair, "for I am no longer their
monarch. The gods of Anahuac have rejected the king that has submitted
to bonds; a great prophetess has risen from Mictlan, bearing the will of
the deities; and, by the bloody pool Ezapan, that washes the wounds of
the penitent, the people have heard her words, and sworn faith to a new
ruler, beloved by heaven, and reverenced by themselves. They have seen
the degradation of Montezuma, and Cuitlahuatzin is now the king of
Mexico!"

"He speaks of the strange priestess we saw at the temple," said De
Morla. "It is, indeed, said among all the Mexicans, (but how they have
heard of her, I know not,) that she has been sent by the gods, to
dethrone our prisoner, and destroy the Christians."

"Thou art deceived," said Cortes, to the monarch, without regarding this
explanation; "there is no king, but thyself, acknowledged by thy people;
and, at this moment, they are fighting to rescue thee from what they
falsely consider bondage;--falsely I say, for thou knowest, thou art my
guest, and not my prisoner,--free to depart whenever thou wilt,--that
is, whenever thou wilt exert thy authority to appease the insurrection.
It is their mad love for thee, that reduces us to extremity."

"And thou swearest, then," cried Montezuma, catching eagerly at the
suggestion and the hope, "thou swearest, that thou wilt depart from my
empire, if I appease this bloody tumult?"

"I swear, that I will depart from thy city," said the crafty Spaniard;
"and I swear, that I hope to depart from thy empire--one day, at least,
when I am its master." He muttered the last words to himself.

"Give me my robes--I will speak to my people!"

No sooner was this speech interpreted, than the Spaniards present
uttered exclamations of pleasure; and some of them running out with the
news to their companions, the court-yard soon rung with their shouts.
Despair, at once, gave place to joy; and even to many of those who had
been most sick of battle, the relief came, with such revulsions of
feeling, that they seemed loath to lose the opportunity of slaying.

"Quick to your pieces! charge, and have at the yelling imps!" cried
divers voices, "for presently we shall have no more fighting!"



CHAPTER XLII.


The cannoniers, moved by this new feeling, discharged their last volley
with good will, and, at the same moment, the crossbowmen and musketeers
shot off their pieces from the wall and the terraces. The four sides of
the palace were thus, at the same instant, sheeted with flame; and the
effect of the combined discharge was incalculably great and fatal among
the dense bodies of besiegers. As they staggered, and fell back a
little, to recover from their confusion, the mounted men, who had placed
themselves in readiness for the final charge, rushed at once, spear in
hand, on the disordered multitude, dealing death at every thrust, and
almost at every tramp of their chargers.

It was precisely at this moment, that the Indian emperor, arrayed in the
pompous and jewelled robes, in which he was wont to preside at the
greater festivals of the gods, with the _Copilli_ on his head, and the
golden buskins on his feet, preceded by a noble bearing the three rods
of authority, and attended by half a dozen valiant cavaliers, (of whom
the neophyte was one,) holding their bucklers in readiness to protect
him from any ill-directed missile,--stepped upon the terrace and
advanced towards the battlements. The spectacle that presented itself in
the dawning light, was, to him at least, grievous and horrid. The earth
of the square, and the dwellings that surrounded it, were torn by the
cannon-shots, and many of the houses had tumbled into ruins. From this
height, also, could be seen the blackened wrecks, which marked the path
of the army, returning, the previous day, from the temple. But a more
sorrowful sight was presented to the unfortunate monarch, in the
prospect of his people, great numbers already lying dead on the furrowed
square, while the survivors were falling fast under the lances of the
horsemen.

Don Hernan enjoyed for a moment, with malicious satisfaction, the
exclamations of grief, with which his prisoner beheld this sight; for it
was his pleasure to believe, that Montezuma was himself the planner of
the insurrection. Then, giving a sign to a trumpeter, who was with the
party, to wind a retreat, the horsemen instantly reined round their
steeds, and galloped back to the court-yard. With a loud yell of
triumph, the Mexicans, thinking their pursuers fled from fear, prepared
to follow them, and poised their weapons as a prelude to the assault. At
that critical period, the cavaliers moved aside from their prisoner, and
he stood confronted with his people. The great cry with which the
barbarians beheld their monarch, had something in it that was touching,
for it expressed a childish joy; but there was something still more
affecting in the result, to those whose hearts were not utterly steeled,
when they beheld the universal multitude, as with one accord, fling
themselves upon their knees, and, dropping their weapons and pronouncing
the name of the king, extend their hands towards him, as to a father.

"Is it possible then," muttered, or rather thought, Don Amador de Leste,
smothering a sudden pang of remorse, "that these blood-thirsty
barbarians are only seeking our lives, to liberate their king? Surely,
we do a great sin, to slay them for their love.--I would that my knight,
my people, and myself, were fighting the Turks again."

The sudden change from the furious tumult of war to such stillness as
belongs to midnight, was impressive and even awful; and solemn looks,
both from his subjects and his foes, from those who fought in the
court-yard, and those who manned the roof and the turrets, were bent on
the royal captive, as he stepped upon the battlement, and addressed
himself to his people.

"My children!" said Montezuma, for so his words were rapidly interpreted
by De Morla,--"if ye are shedding your blood, to convince me of your
affection, know that I feel its constancy, without approving its
rashness. Though I be a prisoner----" He paused, for the word stuck in
his throat, and groans and lamentations showed how unpalatable it was to
his subjects. "Though I be a prisoner with the Teuctli, yet have you to
know, it is, in a great measure, with mine own consent; and, at this
moment, I remain not by enforcement, but by choice."

The unhappy monarch, by so expressing his address as to steer clear of
offence to the Spaniards, (for well he knew they dreaded lest his
confessions should still more inflame the citizens,) committed the more
fatal error of displeasing his people. A murmur of indignation ran
through the mass, when Montezuma, with his own lips, confirmed his
abasement. Several rose, frowning, to their feet, and a young man,
parting quickly from the crowd, advanced so near to the palace, that his
features could be plainly distinguished. He was of noble stature,
countenance, and mien, evidently of the highest order of nobility, and
enjoyed the distinction of a principality in the House of Darts, as was
shown by the red fillet in his hair, suspending the tufts of honour. His
trunk and shoulders were invested in a coat of armour, either of scales
of copper or of leather, richly gilt, bordered at the bottom with
lambrequins of green and red feathers. His limbs were naked, saving only
the bright sandals on his feet, and the glittering bracelets on his
arms. His left arm supported a light buckler, doubtless of wicker-work,
though painted with many bright and fantastic colours; and, from the
bottom of it, waved a broad penacho, as well as a bulky maquahuitl,
which he held in his left hand, while balancing a copper javelin in his
right. A tall plume of the most splendid hues nodded majestically on his
head.

As this bold and noble-looking youth stepped up to the very mouths of
the cannon, and raised his fiery eyes to the king, Don Amador de Leste
thought that he recognized in him the princely ambassador of
Cholula,--the young fugitive, who had been so ready to dispute the path
with him, under the walls of the holy city.

"Dost _thou_ say this, thou that wert once their lord, to the people of
Mexitli?" said the young prince, (for, as has been recorded by other
historians, it was the valiant Quauhtimotzin, the nephew of the king,
who now so sharply rebuked him.) "Dost _thou_ indeed confess, son of
Axajacatl! that thou art, by thine own consent, the friend of a
perfidious stranger? by thine own choice, O conqueror of many nations!
the serf and slave of him who is the brother of Tlascala? Then art thou,
indeed, what we have called thee,--the slayer of thy people,--for this
blood has flown at thy bidding; a traitor to thy throne,--for thou hast
surrendered it to a master; an apostate to thy gods,--for thou hast shut
thine ears, when they called upon thee for vengeance. Miserable
king!--and yet a king no more! When thy people wept to see thee
degraded, thou gavest them up to slaughter; and while they come to
restore thee to thy rights, thou confessest, that thou lovest these less
than the shame of captivity! Know then, that, for thy baseness, the gods
have pronounced thee unworthy to be their viceroy, and thy people have
confirmed the decree. We break the rods of authority; we trample upon
the robes of state: and Montezuma is no longer a king in Tenochtitlan!"

The unhappy monarch trembled, while he listened to this insulting
denunciation, for he felt that he had deserved it. But his people still
lay prostrate on the earth; and, hoping that they shared not the
indignation of his kinsman, he elevated his voice again, and spoke
sternly:--

"Why doth Quauhtimotzin forget that he is the son of my brother, and my
slave? Is the young man that smiles in jewels, wiser than he that hath
gray hairs? and the people that delve in canals and build up the
temples, have they more cunning than the king who councils with the
spirits at the altar? Know that what has been done, has been done
wisely, for it was according to the will of heaven; and heaven, which
has tried our fidelity, is about to reward it with happiness and peace.
The strangers have promised to depart from us: throw down your arms, and
let them be gone."

"And wilt thou," said the prince, elevating his voice to a still angrier
pitch, "who hast been so many times deluded, counsel us to listen to
their lies? O fallen Montezuma! thou leaguest with them against us. Wilt
thou suffer them to escape, when we have them enclosed in nets, as the
birds that sing in thy gardens? O degraded chief! thou hast not the
courage to desire the blood of them that have dethroned thee! Thou art
not he that was Montezuma; thy words are the words of a Christian; thou
speakest with the lips of a slave, and the heart of a woman; thou art a
Spaniard, and thy fate shall be the fate of a Spaniard! Cuitlahuatzin is
our king; and we strike thee as a foeman!"

As the prince concluded his indignant oration, he swung round his head
the javelin, which, all this time, he had balanced in his hand, and
launched it, with all his force, full at the breast of Montezuma. The
shield of the novice, quickly interposed before the body of the king,
arrested the sharp weapon, and it fell, innocuous, on the terrace. At
the same moment, the Mexicans all sprang to their feet, with loud cries,
as if giving way to repressed fury, and brandished their arms. The
bucklers of the cavaliers were instantly extended before the monarch, to
protect him from the dreaded missiles. But, as if desperation had robbed
him of his fears, and restored to him, for his last hour, some share of
that native spirit which had elevated him to the throne, he pushed them
immediately aside, and raising himself to his full height, and spreading
forth his arms, gazed majestically, though with a ghastly countenance,
on his people. The words of mingled intreaty and command were already on
his lips, but they were lost even to the Spaniards who stood by, in the
thunder of shouts coming from twenty thousand voices; and the warning
cry of Cortes was equally unheard, bidding the Spaniards to "Save the
king!" The shields were interposed, however, without command, and caught
many of the missiles,--stones, arrows, and darts,--which fell like a
shower on the group,--but not all. An arrow pierced the right arm, a
stone maimed the right leg, and another, striking upon the left temple
of the abandoned monarch, crushed the bone in upon the brain; and he
fell into the arms of the cavaliers, like a dead man.

The cannoniers, at that moment, seeing the returning rage of the
barbarians, shot off their pieces. But the battle was done. No sooner
had the Mexicans beheld their monarch fall under the blows of their own
weapons, than they changed their cries of fury to lamentations; and
throwing down their arms, as if seized with a panic, they fled from the
square, leaving it to the Christians and the dead.



CHAPTER XLIII.


In great grief and consternation of mind, the cavaliers carried the king
to his apartments, and added their own sharp regrets to the tears of his
children, when the surgeon pronounced his wounds mortal. Even the señor
Cortes did not disdain to heave a sigh over the mangled form of his
prisoner; for, in his death, he perceived his innocence, and remembered
his benefactions; and, in addition, he felt, that, in the loss of
Montezuma, he was deprived of the strongest bulwark against the
animosity of his people.

"I have done this poor infidel king a great wrong," he said, with a
remorse that might have been real, and yet, perhaps, was assumed, to
effect a purpose on his followers; "for now, indeed, it is plain, he
could not have been unfaithful to us, or he would not thus have
perished. I call God to witness, that I had no hand in his death; and I
aver to yourselves, noble cavaliers, that, when I have seemed to treat
him with harshness and injustice, I have done so for the good of my
companions, and the advantage of our king; for barbarians, being, in
some sort, children, are to be governed by that severity which is
wholesome to infancy. Nevertheless, I do not wholly despair of his life;
for there are some score or two lusty fellows in the garrison, who have
had their skulls cracked, and are none the worse for the affliction. I
trust much in thy skill, señor _boticario_," he continued, addressing
the surgeon; "and I promise thee, if thou restore Montezuma to his life
and wits, I will, on mine own part, bestow upon thee this golden chain
and crucifix, valued at ninety pesos, besides recommending thee,
likewise, to the gratitude of my brother captains, and the favourable
notice of his majesty, our king,--whom God preserve ever from the wrath
and impiety of such traitorous subjects as have laid our Montezuma low!
I leave him in thy charge. As for ourselves, valiant and true friends,
it being now apparent to you, that we have none but ourselves to look to
for safety, and even food, (the want of which latter would, doubtless,
create many loud murmurs, were it not for the jeopardy of the former,) I
must recommend you to betake you to your horses, and accompany me in a
sally which it is needful now to make, both for the sake of
reconnoitring the dikes, and gathering food.--What now, Botello!" he
cried, observing the enchanter pressing through the throng; "what doest
thou here?--Thou never madest me a prophecy of this great mishap!"

"I never cast the horoscope, nor called upon Kalidon-Sadabath, to
discover the fate of any but a Christian man," said Botello, gravely;
"for what matters it _what_ is the fate of a soul predoomed to flames,
whether it part with violence, or in peace? I have sought out the
destiny of his people, because I thought, some day, they should be
baptised in the faith; but I never cast me a spell for the king."

"Wilt thou adventure thine art in his behalf, and tell me whether he
shall now live or die?"

"It needs no conjuration to discover that," said the magician, pointing
significantly to the broken temple. "The king will die, and that before
we are released from our thraldom. But hearken, señor," he continued,
solemnly, "I have sought out the fate that concerns us more nearly. Last
night, while others buried their weariness in sleep, and their sorrows
in the dreams of home, I watched in solitude, with prayers and fasting,
working many secret and godly spells, and conversing with the spirits
that came to the circle----"

The wounded monarch was forgotten, for an instant, by the cavaliers, in
their eagerness to gather the revelations of the conjurer; for
scepticism, like pride, was yielding before the increasing difficulties
of their situation, and they grasped at hope and encouragement, coming
from what quarter soever.

"And what have the spirits told thee, then?" demanded the general,
meaningly.--"Doubtless, that, although there be a cloud about us now,
there shall sunshine soon burst from it; and that, if we depart from
this city, it will only be like the antique battering ram, pulled back
from a wall, that it may presently return against it with tenfold
violence."

"I have not questioned so far," replied Botello earnestly. "I know, that
we must fly. What is to come after, is in the hands of God, and has not
been revealed. Death lies in store for many, but safety for some. The
celestial aspects are unfavourable, the conjunctions speak of suffering
and blood;--dreams are dark, Kalidon is moody, and the fiends prattle in
riddles. Day after day, the gloom shall be thicker, the frowns of fate
more menacing, retreat more hopeless. Never before found I so many black
days clustered over the earth! In all this period, there is but one
shining hour; and if we seize not that, heaven receive us! for, beyond
that, there is nothing but death.--On the fifth day from this, at
midnight, a path will be opened to us on the causeway; for then, from
the house Alpharg, doth the moon break the walls of prisons, and light
fugitives to the desert. But after that, I say to thee again, very noble
señor, all is hopelessness, all is wo!--starvation in the palace, and
shrieking sacrifices on the temple!"

"On the fifth night, then," said Cortes, gravely, "if the fates so will
it, we must take our departure,--provided we die not of famine, on the
fourth. I would the devils that thou hast in command, had revealed thee
some earlier hour, or some good means of coming at meat and drink. Get
thee to thy horoscopes again, thy prayers and thy suffumigations; and
see if thou hast not, by any mischance, overlooked some favourable
moment for to-morrow, or the day after."

"It cannot be," said Botello; "my art has disclosed me no hope; but,
without art, I can see that, to-morrow, the news of Montezuma's death,
(for surely he is now dying,) will fill the causeways with mountaineers,
and cover the lake with navigators, all coming to avenge it."

"I like thy magic better than thy mother wit," said Don Hernan, with a
frown. "Give me what diabolical comfort thou canst to the soldiers; but
croak no common-sense alarms into their ears."

"I have nothing to do with the magic that is diabolic," said the
offended enchanter. "God is my stay, and the fiends I curse! If I have
fears, I speak them not, save to those who may handle them for wise
purposes. This, which I have said, will surely be the fate of to-morrow;
and the besiegers will come, in double numbers, to the walls. What I
have to speak of to-day, may be of as much moment, though revealed to me
neither by star nor spirit.--The Mexicans are struck with horror, having
slain their king; they hide them in their houses, or they run, mourning,
to the temples; the soldiers are fresh, and the streets are empty. What
hinders, that we do not gird on our packs, and, aiming for the near and
short dike of Tacuba, which I so lately traversed, with the king's
daughters, make good our retreat this moment?"

"By Santiago!" cried Cortes, quickly, "this is a soldier's thought, and
honoured shalt thou be for conceiving it. What ho, Sandoval, my friend!
get the troops in readiness. Prepare thy litters for the sick and
wounded;--have all ready at a moment's warning. In the meanwhile, I will
scour the western streets, and if all promise well, will return to
conduct the retreat in person."

"We can carry with us," said Botello, "the wounded king, and his sons
and daughters; and if it chance we should be followed, we will do as the
tiger-hunter does with the cubs, when the dam pursues him,--fling a
prisoner, ever and anon, on the path, to check the fury of our
persecutors.--The king will be better than a purse of gold."

"Ay! now thou art my sage soldier again!" said the general. "Get thee to
the men, and comfort them. Apothecary, look to the emperor; see that he
have the best litter.--Forget not thy drugs and potions. And now,
Christian cavaliers, and brothers, be of good heart.--Let us mount
horse, and look at the dike of Tacuba."

The officers, greatly encouraged at the prospect of so speedy a release
from their sufferings, followed the general from the apartment. Their
elation was not shared by Don Amador de Leste. He rejoiced, for his
kinsman's sake, that he was about to bear him from the din and privation
of a besieged citadel; but he remembered that the Moorish boy must be
left behind to perish; and it seemed to him, in addition, that certain
mystic ties, the result of a day's adventure, which began to bind his
thoughts to the pagan city, were, by the retreat, to be severed at once,
and for ever.

But if his gloom was increased by such reflections, It was, in part,
dispelled, when he reached the chamber of his kinsman. The delirium had
vanished, and the knight sat on his couch, feeble, indeed, and greatly
dejected, but quite in his senses. He turned an eye of affection on the
youth, and with his trembling hand grasped Don Amador's.

"I have been as one that slept, dreaming my dreams," he said, "while
thou hast been fighting the infidel. Strange visions have beset me; but
thanks be to heaven! they have passed away; and, by-and-by, I will be
able to mount and go forth with thee; and we will fight, side by side,
as we have done before, among the Mussulmans."

"Think not of that, my father," said the novice, "for thou art very
feeble. I would, indeed, thou hadst but the strength, this day, to sit
on the saddle; for we are about to retreat from Tenochtitlan.
Nevertheless, Baltasar shall have thy couch placed on a litter, which we
can secure between two horses."

"Speakest thou of retreating?" exclaimed Don Gabriel.

"It is even so, my friend. The numbers, the fury, and the unabating
exertions of the Mexicans, are greater than we looked for. We have lost
many men, are reduced to great extremities for food, altogether
dispirited, and now left so helpless, by the disaster of the king, that
we have no hope but in flight."

"Is the king hurt?--and by a Spaniard?"

"Wounded by the stones and arrows of his own people, and now dying. And,
it is thought, we can depart to best advantage, while the Mexicans are
repenting the impiety that slew him."

"And we must retreat?"

"If we can;--a matter which we, who are mounted, are about to determine,
by riding to the nearest causeway. This, dear father, will give Marco
and Baltasar time to prepare thee. I will leave Lazaro and the secretary
to assist them. Presently, we will return; and when we march, be it
unopposed, or yet through files of the enemy, I swear to thee I will
ride ever at thy side."

"And my boy?--my loving little page, Jacinto?" exclaimed the knight,
anxiously: "Hath he returned to us? I have a recollection, that he was
stolen away. 'Twill be a new sin to me, if he come to harm through my
neglect."

"Let us think no more of Jacinto," said the novice with a sigh. "If he
be living, he is now in the hands of Abdalla, his father, who has
deserted from us, and is supposed to be harboured by the Mexicans. God
is over all--we can do him no good--God will protect him!"

Don Gabriel eyed his kinsman sorrowfully, saying,

"Evil follows in my path, and overtakes those who follow after me. Every
day open I mine eyes upon a new grief. I loved this child very well;
and, for my punishment, he is taken from me. I love thee, also, Amador,
whom I may call my son; for faithful and unwearying art thou; and,
belike, the last blow will fall, when _thou_ art snatched away. Guard
well thy life, for it is the last pillar of my own!"

A few moments of affection, a few words of condolence, were bestowed
upon Don Gabriel; and then the novice left him, to accompany the
cavaliers to the causeway.

As he was stepping from the palace door into the court-yard, his arm was
caught by the magician, who, looking into his face with exceeding great
solemnity, said,--

"Ride not thou with the cavaliers to-day, noble gentleman. Thou art
unlucky."

A faint smile lit the countenance of the youth. It was soon followed by
a sigh.

"This is, indeed, a truth, which no magic could make more manifest than
has the history of much of my life. I am unfortunate; yet not in affairs
of war;--being now, as you see, almost the only man in this garrison,
who is not, in part, disabled by severe wounds. Yet why should I not
ride with my friends?"

"Because thou wilt bring them trouble, and thyself misery.--I cannot
say, señor," added Botello, with grave earnestness, "that thou didst
absolutely save my life, when thou broughtest me succour in the street;
seeing that this is under the influence of a destiny, well known to me,
which man cannot alter.--It was not possible those savages could slay
me. Nevertheless, my gratitude is as strong, for thy good will was as
great. I promised to read thee thy fortune; but in the troubles which
beset me, I could not perfect thy horoscope. All I have learned is, that
a heavy storm hangs over thee; and that, if thou art not discreet, thy
last hour is nigh, and will be miserable. The very night of thy good and
noble service, I dreamed that we were surrounded by all the assembled
Mexicans, making with them a contract of peace; to which they were about
swearing, when they laid their eyes upon thee, and straightway were
incensed, at the sight, as at the call of a trumpet, to attack us. Thou
knowest, that it was thy rash attack on the accursed prophetess, which
brought the knaves upon us! Thrice was this vision repeated to me: twice
has it been confirmed--once at the temple, and, but a moment since, on
the roof. Hadst _thou_ not stood before the king with thy shield, the
rage of the Mexicans would not have destroyed him! Therefore, go not
out, now; for he that brings mischief, twice, to his friends, will, the
third time, be involved in their ruin!"

The neophyte stared at Botello, who pronounced these fantastic
adjurations with the most solemn emphasis. His heart was heavy, or their
folly would have amused him.

"Be not alarmed, Botello," he said, good-humouredly,--"I will be very
discreet. My conscience absolves me of all agency in the king's hurts;
and if I did, indeed, draw on the attack at the pyramid, as I am by no
means certain, I only put match to the cannon, which, otherwise, might
have been aimed at us more fatally. I promise thee to be rash no
more,--no, not even though I should again behold the marvellous
prophetess, who, as Montezuma told us, has risen from his pagan hell."

The enchanter would have remonstrated further; but, at this moment, the
trumpet gave signal that the cavaliers were departing, and Don Amador
stayed neither to argue nor console. He commanded the secretary, whom
he found among the throng, to return to Don Gabriel; and Lorenzo
reluctantly obeyed. Lazaro was already with the knight.

Thus, without personal attendants, Don Amador mounted, this day, among
the cavaliers, prepared to disprove the enchanter's predictions, or to
consummate his destiny.



CHAPTER XLIV.


The sufferings of the Spaniards in the streets, when returning from the
pyramid, had admonished the general of the necessity of devising some
plan of protection against those citizens who fought from the
house-tops, whenever constrained to attempt a second sortie.
Accordingly, the artisans, in obedience to his commands, had spent the
preceding night in the construction of certain wooden turrets,
sufficiently lofty to overlook the commoner houses, and strong enough to
bid defiance to the darts of the enemy. They were framed of timbers and
planks, torn from different parts of the palace. Each was two stories in
height, and, in addition, was furnished with a guard, or battlement over
the roof, breast-high, behind which, some half a score musketeers might
ensconce themselves to advantage, while nearly as many crossbowmen could
be concealed in either chamber, discharging their weapons from narrow
loop-holes. A little falconet was also placed in the upper chamber. They
were mounted on gun-carriages, and meant to be drawn by the Indian
allies. They were called at first _mantas_, or blankets; but afterwards
were nicknamed _burros_,--either because they were such silly
protections as might have been devised by the most stupid of animals,
which is one signification of the word, or, because the cannon-wheels,
revolving under the mass, reminded the soldiers of the great wheel of a
mill, which is another meaning. One of these machines had been
completed, and was now ordered to be taken out,--not from any
apprehension that it might be needed, but because it appeared to the
sagacious general, that, if fate should imprison him longer in
Tenochtitlan, the present was the best opportunity to instruct his
soldiers in the management of it.

It was already lumbering slowly and clumsily over the broken square,
drawn by some two hundred Tlascalans, and well manned with soldiers,
when Don Amador passed from the gates. As the cavaliers rode by, its
little garrison, vastly delighted with their safe and lazy quarters,
greeted them with a merry cheer, the gayest and most sonorous strain of
which was sounded by those who defended the roof. As Don Amador looked
curiously up, he was hailed by a voice not yet forgotten, and beheld,
perched among others, whom he seemed to command, on the very top of the
manta, the master of the caravel.

"I give you a good day, noble Don Amador!" said this commander, with a
grin. "I am not now aboard of such a bark as the little Sangre de
Cristo; but, for navigating through a beleagured city, especially among
such cut-throats as we have here in Tenochtitlan, perhaps a better ship
could not be invented."

"Thou art then resolved," said the cavalier, with a smile, "that this
people is not far behind the race of Florida?"

"Ay! I cannot but believe it; and I ask their pardon, for having so
greatly belied them," said the captain; "for more ferocious devils than
these, never saw I;--they dwell not among the lagoons of the north."

"And dost thou remember thy wager?" said Don Amador, losing the little
gayety that was on his visage, at the recollection.

"Concerning my soul, (which heaven have in keeping!) and the cotton
neck-piece?" cried the sailor, with a grim look.--"Ay, by my faith, I
do. If we fly this day, the first part of the venture is accomplished;
for true valour must acknowledge a defeat, as well as boast a victory.
And if we do not, I am even ready to wager over again for the second,
touching heaven. Three more such days as yesterday, and God bless us
all! But it is a good death to die, fighting the heathen! At the worst,
I have cheated the devil;--for the padre Olmedo absolved me this
morning."

Don Amador rode forward, relapsing into gloom.

The streets were, for a time, deserted and silent, as if the inhabitants
had fled from the island; and when, now and then, the cavaliers halted,
to deliberate on their course, to list for the cries of human voices, or
to watch the progress of the tottering manta, already far behind, the
sound of shrubs rustling together on the terraces, came to their ears
with the melancholy cadences of a desert. Sometimes, indeed, in these
pauses, they heard, from the recesses of a dwelling, which otherwise
seemed forsaken, faint groans, as of a wounded foeman dying without
succour; and, occasionally, to these were added the low sobs of women,
lamenting a sire or brother. But they had approached the limits of the
island, and almost within view of the causeway, without yet beholding an
enemy, when a warning gesture from the hands of Don Hernan, at the
front, brought them to a halt; and, as they stood in silence, they
heard, coming faintly on the breeze, and, as it seemed, from a street
which crossed their path, a little in advance, such sounds of flutes and
tabours as had, the day before, conducted the mysterious priestess to
the pyramid.

Don Amador's heart beat with a strange agitation as he listened; and he
burned again to look on the countenance of this divine representative of
a pagan divinity. Whether it was the dejection of his spirits which gave
its own character to the music; or whether indeed this was now breathed
from the lips of mourners, he thought not to inquire; but others were
struck with the wild sadness of the strain, and gazed inquisitively
upon one another, as if to gather its meaning. While they thus exchanged
looks, and awaited the issue of the event, the sounds approached,
growing louder, but losing none of their melancholy; and a train of
priests, in long black robes, and with downcast eyes, followed by boys
with smoking censers, at last stole on their view, slowly crossing the
street on which they had halted. At this moment, and just as the
prophetess (for it was she who stood, as before, under the feathered
canopy, carried by the devotees,) came into sight, the roar of a cannon,
bellowing afar from the palace, startled the cavaliers from their
tranquillity; and, in the assurance of new conflicts, destroyed, at
once, their hope of peaceful escape. This explosion, as was afterwards
discovered, was rather the cause than the consequence of hostilities;
for the Mexicans, after the sortie of Cortes, approaching the citadel in
great numbers, to beseech the body of their king, not doubting that he
was slain, the Spaniards had mistaken their grief for renewing rage, and
immediately fired upon them.

A furious scowl darkened the visage of Don Hernan, as this distant
discharge swept away his hopes; and rising on his stirrups, he cried to
his companions,

"Let us seize the person of this accursed priestess,--demon, or
woman,--who profanes the holiness of Our Lady, and incenses the hearts
of the rabble! On, and be quick; for 'tis an easy prize, and may replace
the emperor!"

Until this moment, the train, casting their eyes neither to the right
nor left, and raising them not even at the roar of the cannon, had been
ignorant of the presence of the Spaniards. But when the harsh voice of
the Christian drowned the breathings of the flutes, they paused, looking
towards him in affright; and again, for an instant, the lustrous eyes of
the prophetess fell upon the visage of Don Amador. His heart heaved with
a sickening sensation; and the impulse which had before driven to flight
his better judgment, assailed him anew with violence. His voice shouted
with the rest, but it uttered the name of Leila; and, as if, indeed, he
beheld the lost maid of Almeria, or her phantom, he spurred towards the
prophetess full as madly as when she vanished, before, under the Wall of
Serpents. But the train, scattering at once, fled in horror from the
Spaniards, escaping into the neighbouring houses. The object of the
outrage, nevertheless, seemed in the power of the cavaliers; for though
the bearers deserted her not they fled but slowly under their burden.

But there were protectors nigh, of whom the Spaniards had not dreamed;
and even Cortes himself reined back his horse with dismay, when,
suddenly, there sprang from the intersecting street a multitude of armed
nobles, interposing their bodies between him and his victim; and his
eye, running an instant down the street, beheld them followed by a
myriad of pagans without end.

"Back to the manta!" cried the general, hastily; "for these dogs are
armed, and the men of the turret have no aid!--Hark! hear ye not the
howls? Rein round, and back! They are slaying my Tlascalans!"

Before the neophyte could recover from his confusion of mind, he found
himself turned round and borne along with the mass of galloping
horsemen. The Mexicans uttered a cry, as with one impulse, and followed
furiously after.

In the crowd of thought that distracted him, Don Amador remembered the
words of Botello, and believed that he was, indeed, labouring under some
enchantment, which made him a misfortune to his friends. But not long
had he leisure for such meditations. The loud yells of combatants, and
the sounds of arquebuses, in front, increased at each step; and, quickly
turning an angle in the street, he found himself in the midst of
conflict.

An immense herd of men had surrounded the manta, and were engaged hand
to hand with the Tlascalans who drew it; while the Spaniards on its top
defended themselves, at a disadvantage, from many Mexicans, stationed on
the terrace of a lofty house, the dwelling of some superb Tlatoani. So
near indeed was the turret to the walls of this edifice, and so high
above it was the latter, that the huge stones tumbled from the
battlements, fell with great certainty on its roof, crushing the men of
the caravel, and beating down both the wooden parapet and the platform.
At the same time, certain savages, with long poles, struck at the
defenders, and thrusting the points of their weapons into its breaches,
endeavoured to topple it to the ground. As it rocked thus to and fro,
the violent motion entirely prevented the little garrison from making
use of their arms; and with wild cries to their friends, to seize the
ropes, dropped by the Tlascalans, and drag the manta from the palace,
they were seen holding by its sides as well as they could, receiving,
without returning, the blows of their adversaries. The necessity of
obeying their prayer was seen more plainly than the means; for the crowd
of mingled Tlascalans and Mexicans that surrounded the crazy machine,
was impenetrable; and had it been so, the appearance of the manta,
threatening each moment to fall, would have deterred the boldest from
approaching its dangerous vicinity.

As it was, the cavaliers gave what aid they could. They thrust their
spears into the mass of Indians, shouting to the Tlascalans to disengage
themselves from the enemy. But these shouts, if the allies did not
indeed receive them rather as encouragement to fight the more fiercely,
dissolved not the bloody melée into its components of friend and foe;
and many a Tlascalan died, that day, pierced through the heart by
spears, which their bearers thought were thrust through the breasts of
Mexicans.

In the meanwhile, the heavy burro was shaken still more violently; and
Don Amador, looking up, beheld the master of the caravel alone on the
top, (for his sailors were already slain) grasping despairingly at a
fragment of the parapet; while stones and darts were showered upon him
from the adjoining terrace, and a heavy pole, aimed by a lusty
barbarian, struck him with merciless severity. His countenance was pale,
his eye haggard, and his honourable scars now livid, and almost black,
were relieved, like fresh wounds, on his ghastly brow. His helmet had
fallen to the ground; and the sight of his gray hairs shaking over his
scarred front, as he was tossed up and down, like one bound hand and
foot on the back of a wild animal, inflamed the neophyte with both rage
and pity.

"Loose thy hold! drop upon the Indians, and take thy chance among them!"
he cried at the top of his voice. "What ho! friend Gomez! wilt thou lie
there, and perish?"

It seemed as if the voice of the cavalier had not passed unheard; for
the wretched man was seen to raise himself on his knees, and look down
to the fighting men below, as if meditating a leap; when suddenly a
great stone fell on the platform with a crashing noise, and, at the same
moment, the manta, lurching like an ill-ballasted ship before a
hurricane, staggered over its balance, and fell with a tremendous shock
to the ground. The neophyte thought not of the miserable combatants,
crushed in its fall. He beheld the voyager, at the instant of its
destruction, hurled from the ruin, as if from some mighty balista of
ancient days, clear over the heads of the Indians, and dashed, a mangled
and hideous corse, almost at his feet.

"God pity thee!" he cried, with a shudder; "thy words are made good, thy
wager is won,--and the saints that died for the faith, take thee to
paradise!"

"Do ye hear! Ho! to your lances, and back upon the wolves that are
behind us!" cried the trumpet-voice of Don Hernan. The neophyte turned,
and clapping spurs to Fogoso, charged, with the cavaliers, upon those
squadrons which had pursued them;--but, like his companions, he checked
his horse with surprise, and no little consternation, when he beheld in
what manner the infidels were prepared to receive them. The street was
packed with their bodies, as far as the eye could see; and darts and
swords of obsidian were seen flashing above the heads of the most
distant multitude; but he perceived that those combatants who stood in
front, stretching from wall to wall, were armed with long spears,
mostly, indeed, with wooden points, sharpened, and fire-hardened, though
some few were seen with copper blades, full a yard in length, which they
handled with singular and menacing address. Thus, no sooner did the
cavaliers approach them, than those of the first rank, dropping, like
trained soldiers, to their knees, planted the buts of their weapons on
the ground, while those held by others behind, were thrust over the
shoulders of the kneelers, and presented, together, such a wall of
bristling spines, as caused the bravest to hesitate.

"Have we Ottomies of the hills here!" cried Don Hernan, aghast. "Or are
these weapons, and this mode of using them, the teaching of the traitor
Moor?"

A loud shout, mingled with laughs of fierce derision, testified the
triumph of the barbarians; and Cortes, stung with fury, though
hesitating to attack, called for his musketeers, to break the line of
opponents.

"Our musketeers are in heaven! carried up in the fiend of a burro!"
cried Alvarado, waving his sword, and eyeing the vaunting herd. "Before
the days of saltpetre, true men were wont to shoot their foes without
it.--All that is to be done, is to conceive we are hunting foxes, and
leaping over a farmer's wall. Soho! Saladin, mouse! And all that are
brave gentlemen, follow me! Hah!"

As he concluded, the madcap soldier spurred his steed Saladin, and,
uttering a war-cry, dashed fearlessly on the spearmen. Before he had yet
parted from his companions, Don Amador de Leste, fired, in spite of his
melancholy, by the boldness of the exploit, and unwilling to be outdone
by a cavalier of the islands, brushed up to his side, and spurring
Fogoso at the same moment, the two hidalgos straightway vaulted among
the barbarians.

The show of resolution maintained by the exulting spearmen, while the
Christians stood yet at a distance, vanished when they beheld those
animals, which they always regarded with a superstitious awe, rushing
upon them with eyes of fury, and feet of thunder. To this faltering,
perhaps, it was owing, that the two Dons were not instantly slain; for,
though the heavy armour that guarded the chests and loins of the steeds,
could repel the thrust of a wooden spear as well as the corslets of
their riders, no such protection sheathed their bellies; and had they
been there pierced, their masters must instantly have perished. As it
was, however, the front rank recoiled, and when it closed again, the
cavaliers were seen wielding their swords, (for in such a melée their
spears were useless,) and striking valiantly about them, but entirely
surrounded.

"Shall we be thus shamed, my masters?" cried Don Hernan,
sharply. "Methinks there are two _more_ such cavaliers in this
company?--Santiago, and at them!"

Thus saying, and, with a word, inflaming their pride, he leaped against
the foe, followed by all the horsemen.

The two leaders in this desperate assault had vanished,--swallowed up,
as it were, in the vortex of contention; and it was not until his
friends heard the voice of Alvarado exclaiming, wildly, as if in
extremity, "Help me, De Leste, true friend! for I am unhorsed! Help me,
or the hell-hounds will have me to the temple!"--that they were
convinced the young men were living.

"Be of good heart!" cried Don Amador, (for he was at his side,) drawing
his sabre, with a dexterous sleight, over the sinewy arms that clutched
his companion, and releasing, without doing him harm. "If thou art
disarmed, draw my dagger from the sheath and use it; and fear not that I
will leave thee, till rescued by others."

"Who gets my sword, takes the arm along with it!" cried Alvarado,
grasping again his chained weapon, and dealing fierce blows, as he
spoke. "I will remember the act--Ho! false friends! forsworn soldiers!
condemned Christians! why leave ye us unsupported?"

"Courage, and strike well! we are near," answered Don Hernan. "Press on,
friends; trample the curs to death! Join we our true cavaliers; and then
sweep back for victory!"

"Where goest thou, now, mad Amador?" they heard the voice of Alvarado
exclaiming; "Return: thy horse is shoed with piraguas; but mine sticks
fast in this bog of flesh. Return; for, by heaven, I can follow thee no
further!"

"Come on, as thou art a true man; for I am sore beset, and wounded!"
These words, from the lips of the neophyte, came yet through the din of
yells; but it seemed to those who listened, that there was feebleness in
the voice that uttered them.

"Onward!" cried Cortes, with a voice of thunder, and urging his dun
steed furiously over the trampled barbarians; "the young man shall not
perish!"

A wolf-hound, weary and spent with the chase, suddenly surrounded by a
whole pack of the destroyers he has been tracking, and falling under the
fangs of his quarry, may figure the condition of Don Amador de Leste,
surrounded and seized upon by the enemy. Nothing but the vigour of
powerful and fiery-spirited steeds could have carried the two cavaliers
so far into a crowd of warriors almost compacted. While the neophyte
gave assistance to his friend, a dozen blows of the maquahuitl were
rained upon his body; and so closely was he invested immediately after,
(when, as Alvarado reined in his steed to await the rest, the two
cavaliers were separated,) that he thought no longer of warding off
blows; but giving himself up to smiting, he trusted to the strength of
his mail for protection. But the heavy bludgeons bruised where they
could not wound; and his armour being, at last, broken by the fury of
the blows, the sharp glass penetrated to his flesh, and he began to
bleed. He cast his eye over his shoulder, for his strength was failing;
but the plume of Don Pedro waved at a distance behind, and the shouts of
Cortes seemed to come from afar. He turned his horse's head, to retreat;
but half a dozen savages, emboldened by this symptom of defeat, clutched
upon the bridle; and the hand he raised to smite at them, was seized by
as many others. It was at this moment that he called out to his
companion, in the words we have recorded; but the answer, if answer were
made, was drowned in the savage yells of exultation, with which his foes
beheld him in their power. He collected all his energies, struggled
violently, and striking the rowels deep, and animating Fogoso with his
voice, hoped, by one bound, to spring clear of his capturers. The
gallant steed vaulted on high, but fell again to the earth, under the
weight of the many that clung to him: and a dozen new hands were added
to those that already throttled the rider.

"Rescue me, if ye be men!" he cried, with a voice that prevailed over
the uproar.--The cry was echoed by twenty Christian voices hard by, and
a gleam of hope entered into his heart. Another furious struggle,
another plunge of Fogoso, and he thought that the hands of his enemies
were at last unclenching. A bright weapon flashed before his eyes--It
was steel, and therefore the falchion of a friend!--It fell upon his
helmet with irresistible weight; his brain spun, his eyes darkened, and
he fell, or rather was dragged, like a dead man, from his horse. But ere
his eyes had yet closed, their last glance was fixed on the visage of
the striker; and the sting of benefits forgotten was added to the
bitterness of death, when, in this, he perceived the features of
Abdalla, the Moor.

In an instant more, the barbarians parted in terror before the great
Teuctli.

"Where art thou, De Leste?" he cried. "We are here, to rescue thee!"

As he spoke, there sprang, with a fierce bound, from among the Mexicans,
the well-known bay, Fogoso, his foamy sides streaked with gore, the
stirrups rattling against his armed flanks, the reins flying in the
air,--but no rider on the saddle.

"By heaven, false friends! craven gentlemen! you have lost the bravest
of your supporters!" cried Don Hernan. "On! for he may yet live: on! for
we will avenge him!"

The band, resolute now in their wrath, plunged fiercely through the mob.
They struck down many enemies,--they trampled upon many corses; but,
among them, they found not the body of De Leste.



CHAPTER XLV.


Whether it was that this attack was caused by an ebullition of popular
fury, which yielded to some mysterious and religious revulsion of
feeling, or whether, indeed, the leaders of the barbarians, persuaded of
the madness of fighting the Christians hand to hand, and resolved to
conquer them rather by famine than arms, had called off their
forces,--was a secret the Spaniards could never penetrate. No sacred
horn was sounded on the pyramid; but, in the very midst of what seemed
their triumph, when the cavaliers were nearly exhausted and despairing,
it became manifest that the Mexicans were giving way, and vanishing, not
one by one, but in great clusters, from the field.

The Christians had no longer the spirit to pursue. They found the street
open; and, dashing through the few foemen that lingered on the field,
they made their way good to the palace. Before they reached it, they
were joined by a powerful detachment, sent out to their assistance. They
returned together. At the gate of the court-yard, stood Baltasar,
Lazaro, and the secretary, looking eagerly for the appearance of Don
Amador. His horse was led by a cavalier, whose countenance was more
dejected than the rest. It was De Morla; and as he flung the bridle to
Lazaro, he said,--

"Hadst _thou_ been with thy master, this thing had not happened; for,
though a serving-man, thou wouldst have remained behind him, when a
cavalier deserted."

"Dost thou accuse _me_ of deserting the noble youth?" said Alvarado,
fiercely. "God forbid, I should shed Christian blood! but, with my
sword's point, I will prove upon thy body, that thou liest!"

"And upon thine," said De Morla, with calm indignation, "I will make
good the charge I have uttered, that thou didst abandon in extremity,
when he called upon thee for aid, the man who had just preserved thine
own life."

"Are there not deaths enow among the infidels?" cried Cortes, angrily,
"that ye must lust after one another's blood?--Peace! and be ye friends,
lamenting our valiant companion together; for, De Morla, thou doest a
wrong to Alvarado; and, Don Pedro, thou art a fool, to quarrel with the
peevishness of a mourning friend."

The secretary listened to the cavaliers with a face of horror; not a
word said Lazaro, but as he wiped the foam from the steed, and, with it,
the blood of his master, he eyed Don Pedro with a dark and vindictive
scowl. As for Baltasar, his rugged features quivered, and he did not
hesitate to stand in the way of the Tonatiuh, saying,--

"If any cavalier have, indeed, been false to my young lord, I, who am
but a serving-man, will make bold to say, he has played false to a
gentleman who would have perilled his life for any Christian in need;
and the act, though it be answered to man, God will not forgive.--Who
will tell this to my master, Don Gabriel?"

Alvarado, extremely enraged, had raised his spear to strike the old
soldier; but he dropped his arm, at the last words, and said with great
mildness,--

"Thou art a fool to say this.--I lament thy lord; I loved him, and I did
not desert him----"

For the remainder of that day, the garrison were left in peace. No foes
appeared on the square; but, twice or thrice, when parties were sent out
to reconnoitre, they were met, at a distance from the palace, by herds
of Mexicans, and driven back to their quarters.

The desperate situation of the army was now evident to the dullest
comprehension. The barbarians had removed from the reach of the
artillery, and drawn, with their bodies, a line of circumvallation round
their victims, patiently waiting for the moment, when famine should
bring them a secure vengeance. All day, there were seen, on the top of
the pyramid, priests and nobles, now engaged in some rite of devotion,
and now looking down, on the besieged, like vultures on their prey; but
without attempting any annoyance.

The murmurs of the garrison, exasperated by despair and want of food,
were loud and stern; but Don Hernan received them only with biting
sarcasms. He bade those who were most mutinous, to depart if they would;
and laughed scornfully at their confessions of inability. To those who
cried for food, he answered by pointing grimly to the stone walls, and
the carcasses that lay on the square; or he counselled them to seek it
among their foes. In truth, the general knew their helplessness, and in
the bitterness of his heart at being thus foiled and jeoparded, he did
not scruple to punish their discontent, by disclosing the full misery of
their situation. They were dependent upon him for life and hope, and he
suffered this dependence to be made apparent. He revealed to them no
scheme of relief or escape; for, in fact, he had framed none. He was,
himself, as desperate as the rest, seeing nothing before him but
destruction, and not knowing how to avoid it; and what measures he did
take, during these sorrowful hours, were rather expedients to divert his
thoughts, than plans to diminish the general distress.

Notwithstanding the memorable fate of the burro, and the disinclination
of the soldiers to die the death of its garrison, he obstinately
commanded those which were unfinished to be completed, with some
additional contrivances to increase their strength and mobility. He sent
out parties to ransack the deserted houses in the vicinity, for
provisions, though hopeless of obtaining any; and he set the idlers to
mending their armour of escaupil, and the smiths to making arrow-heads,
as if still determined rather to fight than fly. He held no councils
with his officers, for he knew they had no projects to advise; and the
desperate resort over which he pondered, of sallying out with his whole
force, and cutting his way through the opposing foe, was too full of
horror to be yet spoken. Moreover, while Montezuma yet lived, he could
not think his situation entirely hopeless. The surgeon, upon a
re-examination of the king's wounds, had formed a more favourable
prognostic; and this was strengthened, when Montezuma at last awoke from
stupor, and recovered the possession of his intellects. It was told him,
indeed, that the royal Indian, as if resuming his wits only to cast them
away again, had no sooner become sensible of his condition, and
remembered that his wounds had been inflicted by his people, than he
fell into a frenzy of grief and despair, tearing away the bandages from
his body, and calling upon his gods to receive him into Tlacopan, the
place of caverns and rivers, where wandered those who died the death of
the miserable. Don Hernan imagined that these transports would soon rave
themselves away, and persuaded himself that his captive, yielding at
last to the natural love of life, would yet remain in his hands, the
hostage of safety, and perhaps the instrument of authority.

Sorrow dwelt in the palace of Axajacatl; but her presence was more
deeply acknowledged in the chamber of Calavar. From the lips of
Baltasar,--and the rude veteran wept, when he narrated the fall of the
young cavalier, whom he had himself first taught the knowledge of
arms,--Don Gabriel learned the fate of his kinsman. But he neither wept
like Baltasar, nor joined in the loud lamentations of Marco. His eyes
dilated with a wild expression, his lip fell, he drooped his head on his
breast, and clasping his hands over his heart, muttered an
unintelligible prayer,--perhaps the ejaculation which so often, and so
piteously, expressed his desolation. Then falling down upon his couch,
and turning his face to the wall, he remained for the whole day and
night without speaking a word.



CHAPTER XLVI.


The fate of Don Amador de Leste, though so darkly written in the hearts
of his companions, was not yet brought to a close. Some of his late
friends deemed only that he had been overpowered and slain; but others,
better acquainted with the customs of the foe, shuddered over the
assurance of a death yet more awful. They knew that the pride of the
Mexican warrior was, not to slay, but to capture; as if, indeed, these
demi-barbarians made war less for the glory of taking life, than for the
honour of offering it in sacrifice to the gods. Such, in truth, was the
case; and to this circumstance was it owing that the Christians were not
utterly destroyed, in any one encounter in the streets of Tenochtitlan.
The fury of their foes was such as may be imagined in a people goaded to
desperation by atrocious tyranny and insult, and fighting with foreign
oppressors at their very firesides; yet, notwithstanding the deadly
feeling of vengeance at their hearts, they never forgot their duties to
their faith; and they forbore to kill, in the effort to take prisoner.
Twice or thrice, at least, in the course of the war that followed after
these events, the life of Cortes, himself, was in their hands; and the
thrust of a javelin, or the stroke of a bludgeon, would have freed them
from the destroyer. But they neither struck nor thrust; they strove to
bear him off alive, as the most acceptable offering they could carry to
the temple; thus always giving his followers an opportunity to rescue
him out of their grasp. Every captive thus seized and retained, died a
death too terrible for description; and high or low,--the base boor, and
the noble hidalgo, alike,--expiated, on the stone of sacrifice, the
wrongs done to the religion of Mexitli.

Knowing so much of the customs of Anahuac, and not having discovered his
body, the more experienced cavaliers were convinced that Don Amador de
Leste had not yet enjoyed the happiness of death; they persuaded
themselves that he had been taken alive, and was preserved for
sacrifice. Many a Castilian eye, that afternoon, was cast upon the
pyramid, watching the steps, and eagerly examining the persons of all
who ascended.--But no victim was seen borne upon their shoulders----

When the cavalier of Cuenza opened his eyes, after the stunning effects
of the blow were over, it was in a confusion of mind, which the objects
about him, or, perhaps, the accession of a hot fever,--the result of
many severe wounds and contusions,--soon converted into delirium. He
lay,--his armour removed,--on a couch in a spacious apartment, but so
darkened, that he could not distinguish the countenances of two or three
dusky figures which seemed to bend over him. His thoughts were still in
the battle; and, in these persons, he perceived nothing less than
Mexican warriors still clutching at his body. He started up, and calling
out, "Ho, Fogoso! one leap more for thy master," caught fiercely at the
nearest of the individuals. But he had overrated his strength; and,
almost before a hand was laid upon him, he fell back, fainting, on the
bed.

"Dost _thou_ strike me, too, false villain?" he again exclaimed, as his
distempered eyes pictured, in one silent visage, the features of
Abdalla. "Be thou accursed for thy ingratitude, and live in hell for
ever!"

A murmur of voices, followed by the sound of retreating steps, was
heard; and in the silence which ensued, his fancy became more
disordered, presenting him phantasms still more peculiar.

"Is this death?" he muttered, "and lie I now in the world of shadows?
God be merciful to me a sinner! Pity and pardon me, O Christ, for I have
fought for thy faith. Take me from this place of blackness, and let me
look on the light of bliss!"

A gentle hand was laid upon his forehead, a low sigh breathed on his
cheek; and suddenly a light, flashing up as from some expiring cresset,
revealed to his wondering eyes the face and figure of the mysterious
prophetess.

"O God! art thou indeed a fiend? and dost thou lead me, from the land of
infidels, to the prison-house of devils?" he cried, again starting up,
clasping his hands, and gazing wildly on the vision. "Speak to me, thou
that livest not; for I know, thou art Leila!"

As he uttered these incoherent words, the figure, bending a little away,
and fastening upon his own, eyes of strange meaning, in which pity
struggled with terror, seemed, gradually, to fade into the air; until,
as suddenly as it had flashed into brightness, the light vanished, and
all was left in darkness.

From this moment, the thoughts of the cavalier wandered with tenfold
wildness; and he fell into a delirium, which presented, as long as it
lasted, a succession of exciting images. Now he struggled, in the hall
of his own castle of Alcornoque, or the Cork-tree, with the false
Abdalla, the knee of the Almogavar on his breast, and the Arab poniard
at his throat--while all the time, the perfidious Jacinto stood by,
exhorting his father to strike; now he stood among burning sands,
fighting with enraged fiends, over the dead body of his knight, Calavar,
to protect the beloved corse from their fiery fingers; now the vanished
Leila sat weeping by his side, dropping upon his fevered lips the juice
of pleasant fruits, or now she came to him in the likeness of the pagan
Sibyl, beckoning him away, with melancholy smiles, to a distant bay;
while, ever, when he strove to rise and follow, the page Jacinto,
converted into a giant, and brandishing a huge dagger, held him back
with a lion's strength and ferocity.

With such chimeras, and a thousand others, equally extravagant,
disturbing his brain, he passed through many hours; and then, as a
torpor like that of death gradually stole over him, benumbing his
deranged faculties, the same gentle hand, the same low suspiration,
which had soothed him before, but without the countenance which had
maddened, returned to him, and made pleasant the path to annihilation.



CHAPTER XLVII.


From a deep slumber, that seemed, indeed, death, for it was dreamless,
the cavalier, at last, awoke, somewhat confused, but no longer
delirious; and, though greatly enfeebled, entirely free from fever. A
yellow sunbeam,--the first or the last glimmering of day, he knew not
which,--played through a narrow casement, faintly illuminating the
apartment, and falling especially upon a low table at his side, whereon,
among painted and gilded vessels of strange form, he perceived his
helmet, and other pieces of armour as well as a lute, of not less
remembered workmanship. He raised his eyes to the attendant, who sat
musing, hard by, and, with a thrill and exclamation of joy, beheld the
Moorish page, Jacinto.

"Is it thou, indeed, my dear knave Jacinto! whom I thought in the maws
of infidels?" he cried, starting up. "And how art thou; and how is thy
lord, Don Gabriel, to-day? Tell me, where hast thou been, these two
troubled days? and how didst thou return? By my faith, this last bout
was somewhat hard, and I have slept long!"

"Leave not thy couch, and speak not too loud, noble master," said the
page, kneeling, and kissing his hand,--"for thou art sick and wounded,
and here only art thou safe."

"Ay, now indeed!" said Don Amador, with a sudden and painful
consciousness of his situation, "I remember me. I was struck down, and
made a prisoner. What good angel brought me into thy company? Thanks be
to heaven! for my hurts are not much; and I will rescue thee from
captivity."

"I am not a captive, señor," said the boy, gently.

"Are we, then, in the palace?--Where are our friends?--Am I not a
prisoner?"

"Señor, we are far from the palace of Axajacatl. But grieve not; for
here thou art with thy servants."

"Thou speakest to me in riddles," said the novice, with a disturbed and
bewildered countenance. "Have I been dreaming? Am I enchanted? Am I
living, and in my senses?"

"The saints be praised, thou art indeed," said the page, fervently;
"though, both nights, and all day, till the blessed potion set thee
asleep, I had no hopes thou wouldst ever recover."

"Both nights!" echoed Don Amador, fixing his eyes inquiringly on the
boy; "Has a night--have two nights passed over me, and wert thou, then,
with me, during it all?--Ha! Was it thine acts of sorcery, which brought
me those strange and melancholy visions? Didst _thou_ conjure up to me
the image of Leila?--That priestess, that very supernatural
prophetess--By heaven! as I see thee, so saw I her standing at my
bed-side, in some magical light, which straightway turned to darkness.
Didst thou not see her? Tell me boy, art thou indeed an enchanter?
Prepare me thy spells again, reveal me her fate, and let me look on the
face of Leila!"

As the cavalier spoke, he strove in his eagerness to rise from the
couch.

"Señor," said the page, a little pleasantly, "if thou wilt have me
satisfy thy questions, thou must learn to acknowledge me as thy
physician and jailor; and give me such obedience as thou wouldst,
formerly, have claimed of me. Rise not up, speak not aloud, and give not
way to the fancies of fever; for here are no priestesses, and no Leilas.
I will sing to thee, if that will content thee with bondage. But now
thou must remain in quiet, and be healed of thy wounds."

"I tell thee, my boy Jacinto," went on the cavalier, "wounds or no
wounds, jailed or not jailed, I am in a perplexity of mind, which, if
thou art able, I must command, or, what is the same thing, beseech thee
to remove. First, therefore, what house is this? and where is it?
(whether on the isle Mexico, the lake side, the new world, or the old,
or, indeed, in any part of the earth at all?) Secondly, how got'st thou
into it? Thirdly, how came I hither myself?--and especially, what good
Christian did snatch my body out of the paws of those roaring lions, the
Mexicans, when I was hit that foul and assassin-like blow by--by----"

"Señor," said the page, not doubting but that his patron had paused for
want of breath, "to answer all these questions, is more than I am
allowed. All that I can say, is, that if prudent and obedient, (I say
obedient, noble and dear master," continued the boy archly, "for now you
are my prisoner,) you are safer in this dungeon than are your Spanish
friends in their fortress,--reduced to captivity, indeed, but preserved
from destruction----"

"By the false, traitorous, and most ungrateful knave, Abdalla, thy
father!" exclaimed the neophyte, with a loud and stern voice; for just
as he had hesitated to wound the ears of the boy, he beheld, slowly
stalking into the apartment, and eyeing him over Jacinto's shoulder, the
Almogavar himself; and the epithets of indignation burst at once from
his lips. Jacinto started back, alarmed; but Abdalla approached, and
regarding the wounded cavalier with an unmoved countenance, motioned the
boy to retire.--In an instant the Moor of Barbary and the Spaniard of
Castile were left alone together.

"Shall I repeat my words, thou base and cut-throat infidel?" cried Don
Amador, rising so far as to place his feet on the floor, though still
sitting on the platform which supported his mattress, and speaking with
the most cutting anger. "Was it not enough, that thou wert a renegade to
the rest, but thou must raise thy Judas-hand against thy benefactor?"

"My benefactor indeed!" said Abdoul calmly, and with the most musical
utterance of his voice. "Though I wear the livery of the pagans;" (He
had on an armed tunic, somewhat similar to that of Quauhtimotzin, though
without a plume to his head, and looked not unlike to a Mexican warrior
of high degree;) "and though I am, by birth, the natural enemy of thee
and thine, yet have I not forgot that thou _art_ my benefactor! I
remember, that, when a brutal soldier struck at me with his lance, thy
hand was raised to protect me from the shame; I remember, when a
thousand weapons were darting at my prostrate body on the pyramid of
Zempoala, that thou didst not disdain to preserve me; I remember, that,
when I fled from the anger of Don Hernan, thou offeredst me thine
intercession. Señor, I have forgotten none of this; nor have I
forgotten," he went on, with earnest gratitude, "that, to these favours,
thou didst add the greater ones, of shielding my feeble child from
stripes, from ruin, and perhaps from death. This have I not forgotten,
this can I never forget! The name of Spaniard is a curse on my ears; I
hate thy people, and, when God gives me help, I will slay, even to the
last man! but I remember, that thou art my benefactor, and the
benefactor of my child."

"And dost thou think," said the neophyte, "that these oily words will
blind me to thy baseness? or that they can deceive me into belief, when
thy actions have so foully belied them? Cursed art thou, misbelieving
Moor! an ingrate and apostate; and, had I no cause, in mine own person,
to know thy perfidy, it should be enough to blazon thy villany, that
thou hast, on thine own confession, deserted the standard of Christ, and
the arms of Spain, to enlist in the ranks of their pagan foes!"

"The standard of Christ," said the Moor, with emphasis, "waves not over
the heads of the Spaniards, but the banner of a fiend, bloody, unjust,
and accursed, whom they call by His holy name, and who bids them to
defile and destroy; while the Redeemer proclaimeth only good-will and
peace to all men. Have thy good heart and thy strong mind been so
deluded? Canst thou, in truth, believe, that these oppressors of a
harmless people, these slayers, who raise the cross of heaven on the
place of blood, and call to God for approval, when their hands are
smoking with the blood of his creatures, are the followers of Christ the
peaceful, Christ the just, Christ the holy? These friends whom thou hast
followed, are not Christians; and God, whom they traduce and belie in
all their actions, has given them over to the punishment of hypocrites
and blasphemers, to sufferings miserable and unparalleled, to deaths
dreadful and memorable! May it be accomplished,--Amen!"

"Dost thou speak this to _me_, vile Almogavar! of my friends and
countrymen? Dost thou curse them thus in my presence, most unworthy
apostate?"

"Sorrowful be their doom, and quickly may it come upon them!" cried
Abdalla, with ferocious fervour, "for what are they, that it should not
be just? and what am I, that I should not pray that it be accomplished?
I remember the days of Granada! I remember the sack of the Alhambra! I
remember the slaughter of the Alpujarras! and I have not forgotten the
mourning exiles, driven from those green hills, to die among the sands
of Africa, the clime of their fathers, but to them a land of strangers!
I remember me how the lowly were given to the scourge, and the princely
to the fires of Inquisitors,--our children to spears, our wives to
ravishers and murderers!--Cursed be they that did these things, even to
the last generation!"

The cavalier was amazed and confounded at the vehement and lofty
indignation of the Morisco; and as the form of Abdoul-al-Sidi swelled
with wrath, and his countenance darkened under the gloomy recollection,
he seemed to Don Amador rather like one of those mountain princes, who
had defied the conquerors, to the last, among the Alpujarras, than a
poor herdsman of Fez, deriving his knowledge, and his fury, only from
the incitations of exiles. His embarrassment was also increased by a
secret consciousness, that the Moor had cause for his hate and his
denunciations. He answered him, however, with a severe voice:--

"In these ills and sufferings, _thou_ hadst no part, unless thou hast
lied to me; having been a child of the desert, afar from the sufferers
of Granada."

"I _lied_ to thee, then," said Abdalla, elevating his figure, and
regarding the cavalier with proud tranquillity. "From the beginning to
the end, was I a chief among the mourners and rebels,--the first to
strike, as I am now the last to curse, the oppressor,--a child of the
desert, only when I had no more to suffer among the Alpujarras; and thou
mayst know, now, that my fury is as deep as it is just,--for the poor
Abdalla is no Almogavar of Barbary, but a Zegri of Granada!"

"A Zegri of Granada!" cried Don Amador, with surprise.

"A Zegri of Granada, and a prince among Zegris!" said the Moor, with a
more stately look, though with a voice of the deepest sorrow; "one whose
fathers have given kings to the Alhambra, but who hath lived to see his
child a menial in the house of his foe, and both child and father
leagued with, and lost among, the infidels of a strange land, in a world
unknown!"

"I thought, by heaven!" said the cavalier, eyeing the apostate with a
look almost of respect, "that that courage of thine in the pirate rover,
did argue thee to be somewhat above the stamp of a common boor; and
therefore, but more especially in regard of thy boy, did I give thee
consideration myself, and enforce it, as well as I could, to be yielded
by others. But, by the faith which thou professest, sir Zegri! be thou
ignoble or regal in thy condition, I have not forgotten that, by the
blow which has made me (as it seems to me, I am,) thy prisoner, thou
hast shown thyself unworthy of nobility; and I tell thee again, with
disgust and indignation, that thou hast done the act of a base and most
villanous caitiff!"

"Dost thou still say so?" replied the Zegri, mildly. "I have
acknowledged, that no gratitude can repay thy benefactions; this do I
still confess; and yet have I done all to requite thee. Thou lookest on
me with amazement. What is my crime, noble benefactor?"

"What is thy crime? Art _thou_ bewitched, too?--Slave of an ingrate,
didst thou not, when I was already overpowered, smite me down with thine
own weapon?"

"I did,--heaven be thanked!" said the Moor, devoutly.

"Dost thou acknowledge it, and thank heaven too?" said the incensed
cavalier.

"I acknowledge it, and I thank heaven!" said Abdalla, firmly. "Thou
saidst, thou wert already overpowered. Wert thou not in the hands of the
Mexicans, beyond all hope of rescue?"

"Doubtless, I was," replied the neophyte; "for Cortes was afar, and
Alvarado full three spears' length behind. Nevertheless, I did not
despair of maintaining the fight, until my friends came up to my
relief."

"Thou wert a captive!" cried the Zegri, impetuously,--"a living captive
in the hands of Mexicans! Dost thou know the fate of a prisoner in such
hands?"

"By my faith," said Don Amador, "I have heard, they put their prisoners
to the torture."

"They sacrifice them to the gods!" cried the Moor. "And the death," he
continued, his swarthy visage whitening with horror, "the death is of
such torment and terror as thou canst not conceive; but _I_ can, for I
have seen it! Now hear me: I saw my benefactor a captive, and I knew his
life would end on the stone of sacrifice, offered up, like that of a
beast, to false and fiendish gods! I say, I saw thee thus; I knew this
should be thy doom; and I did all that my gratitude taught me, to save
thee. I struck thee down, knowing, that if I slew thee, the blow would
be that of a true friend, and that thou shouldst die like a soldier, not
like a fatted sheep. Heaven, however, gave me all that I had dared to
hope: I harmed thee not; and yet the Mexicans believed that death had
robbed them of a victim. I harmed thee not; and the heathens suffered me
to drag away what seemed a corse; but which lived, and was _my
benefactor_,--the saviour of myself, and the protector of my child!"

As Abdalla concluded these words, spoken with much emphasis and feeling,
a tear glistened in his eye; and the neophyte, starting up and eagerly
grasping his hand, exclaimed,--

"Now, by heaven! I see all the wisdom and truth of thy friendship; and I
beg thy pardon for whatever insulting words my folly has caused me to
speak. And, now that I know the blow was struck for such a purpose, I
confess to thee, as thou saidst thyself, it would have been true
gratitude and love, though it had killed me outright."

"I have done thee even more service than this," said the Zegri, calmly;
"but, before I speak it, I must demand of thee, as a Christian and
honourable soldier, to confess thyself my just and true captive."

"Thy captive!" cried Don Amador. "Dost thou hold me then as a prisoner,
and not as a guest and friend? Dost thou check my thankfulness in the
bud, and cancel thy services, by making me thy thrall?"

"I will not answer thy demands," said Abdalla. "I call upon thee, as a
noble and knightly soldier, fairly captured, in open war, by my hands,
to acknowledge thyself my captive; and, as such, in all things, justly
at my disposition."

"If thou dost exact it of me," said the cavalier, regarding him with
much surprise and sorrow, "I must, as a man of honour, so acknowledge
myself. But I began to think better of thee, Abdalla!"

"And, as a prisoner, to whose honour is confided the charge of his own
keeping, thou engagest to remain in captivity, without abusing the
confidence which allows such license, by any efforts to escape?"

"Dost thou demand this much of me?" said Don Amador, with mortified and
dejected looks. "If thou art thyself resolved to remain in the
indulgence of thy treason, thou surely wilt not think to keep me from my
friends, in their difficulties? and especially from my poor kinsman; who
is now greatly disordered, and chiefly, I think, because thou hast
robbed him of Jacinto."

"This am I not called upon to answer," said Abdalla, gravely. "I only
demand of thee, what thou knowest thou canst not honourably refuse,--thy
knightly gage, to observe the rules of captivity, until such time as I
may think proper to absolve and free thee."

"Sir Almogavar, or sir Zegri, or whatsoever thou art," said the
cavalier, folding his arms, and surveying his jailor sternly, "use the
powers which thou hast, thy chains, and thy magical arts; for I believe
thou dealest with the devil;--get me ready thy fetters, and thy dungeon.
Thou hast the right so to use me, and I consent to the same; but I will
gage thee no word to keep in bonds, inglorious and at ease, while my
friends are in peril. However great the service thou hast done to me, I
perceive thou art a traitor. I command thee, therefore, that thou have
me chained and immured forthwith; for, with God's will and help, I will
escape from thee as soon as possible, and especially, whensoever my
friends come to assist me."

"I grant thee this privilege, when thy friends come near to us," said
Abdalla, coolly, "whether thou art chained or not. It is not possible
thou canst escape, otherwise, at all. Thou art far from the palace,
ignorant of the way, and, besides, divided from it by a wall of
Mexicans, who cannot be numbered. What I ask thee, is for thy good, and
for the good of myself, and Jacinto. If thou leave this house, thou wilt
be immediately seized, and carried to the stone of sacrifice."

Don Amador shuddered, but said,--

"I trust in God! and the thought of this fate shall not deter me."

"Go then, if thou wilt," said the Zegri, haughtily. "The service I have
done thee, has not yet released me from thy debt; and thou canst yet
command me. Begone, if thou art resolute: the door is open; I oppose
thee not. Preserve thy life, if thou canst; and when thou art safe at
the garrison, remember, that Abdoul-al-Sidi, and the boy Jacinto, have
taken thy place on the altar of victims."

"What dost thou mean? I understand thee not.--What meanest thou?"

"Even that thou canst not escape, without the same being made known to
the Mexicans; and that it cannot be made known to this vindictive
people, that I have robbed them of their prey, without the penalty of my
own life, and that of Jacinto, being immediately executed. When thou
fliest, the father and the son perish."

"Dost thou speak me this in good faith?" said the cavalier, greatly
troubled. "God forbid I should bring harm to thee, and especially to the
boy. If I give thee my gage,--thou wilt not hold me bound to refrain
from joining my friends, should I be so fortunate as to see them pass
by, and am persuaded, the Mexicans will not discover thou hast harboured
me?"

"If they pass by, I will myself open the doors," said Abdalla; "for I
protest to thee, I keep thee here only to ensure thy security."

"Hark'ee, sir Moor--Don Hernan is about to retreat. Dost thou intend I
shall remain in captivity--a single victim among the barbarians--while
my countrymen are flying afar, perhaps returning to Christendom?"

"I swear to thee, señor," said the Zegri, earnestly, "that, when the
Spaniards fly from this city, thou shalt be free to fly with them. I
repeat, I make thee a prisoner, to prevent thy becoming a victim."

"And what hinders that we do not fly together to the palace? Thy
knowledge may conduct us through the streets by night; and, with my
head, I will engage thee a free pardon, and friendly reception."

"God hath commissioned me to the work, and it shall go on!" said the
Moor, with solemn emphasis. "I know that thou couldst not save me from
the fury of Don Hernan: he would grant thee my life at midnight, and, on
the morrow, thou wouldst find me dead in the court-yard. Fly, if thou
wilt, and leave me to perish by the hands of Mexicans: Spaniards shall
drink my blood no more!"

"I give thee my gage," said the cavalier, "with this understanding,
then, that I am free to fly, whenever I may do so without perilling thy
life, and the life of Jacinto."

"And thou wilt hold to this pledge, like a true cavalier?" demanded
Abdalla, quickly.

"Surely, I cannot break my plighted word!"

"God be thanked!" cried the Zegri, grasping the hand of the cavalier,
"for, by this promise, thou hast saved thy life! Remain here; Jacinto
shall be thy jailor, thy companion, thy servant. Be content with thy
lot, and thank God; for thou art the only brand plucked out of the
burning, while all the rest shall perish.--God be praised!--I save my
benefactor!"

With these exclamations of satisfaction, Abdalla departed from the
chamber.



CHAPTER XLVIII.


The cavalier pondered, in perplexity, over the words of Abdalla; and,
the longer he reflected, the more he began to lament his captivity, and
doubt the wisdom of his gage.

"It is apparent to me," he soliloquized, "that my countrymen are in
greater jeopardy than I before apprehended, and that it has been the
plot of this subtle Moor, (whom I confess, however, to have something
elevated and noble in his way of thinking, and much gratitude of heart,
though of a mistaken character,) to keep me out of harm's way, while the
Mexicans are murdering my companions. Heaven forgive me my rash parole,
if this be true; for such safety becomes dishonour and ignominy. I will
talk with him further on the subject; and if I find he hath thus schemed
to preserve me, at such a price of degradation, I will straightway
revoke my engagement, as being wrung from me by deceit, and quite
impossible to be fulfilled.--I marvel where loiters the boy, Jacinto?
Methinks I could eat something now, for I know not how long it is since
I have tasted food:--an orange, or a bunch of grapes, were not
amiss.--But, heaven save me! I have heard oranges do not grow in this
land; and, perhaps these poor Moriscos are no better off than my friends
at the palace. God help them! for the Mexicans fight like Turks; and,
once or twice, that evening of the conflagration, I thought I had got me
again into the trenches of Rhodes; and as for those knaves that wounded
me, never did I see more valiant devils. I am glad I left my knight so
possessed of his wits.--That Botello doth seem very clearly to have
apprehended my fate, though the mishap be not so miserable as death.
Truly, there did, a third time, war come out of peace; and yet, I assure
myself, that, this time, it was brought about by Don Hernan rushing
against that supernatural creature, that looks on me in the street, and
eyes me even by my bed-side."

The cavalier was startled from his revery by a light step, and as the
curtain was drawn aside from the door, he almost thought, for an
instant, that he beheld the visage of the priestess, peering through its
folds. A second glance, however, showed him the features of the Moorish
page, who came in, bearing a little basket of fruits and Indian
confections, as if anticipating his wants. These Jacinto placed before
him, and then sat down at his feet.

For a few moments, Don Amador, in the satisfaction of the boy's presence
forgot many of his perplexities; but observing, at last, that Jacinto's
smiles were ever alternating with looks of distress and alarm, and that,
sometimes, he surveyed his imprisoned master with eyes of great
wildness, the cavalier began again to recur to his condition, to the
mysteries which surrounded him, and especially to the suspicions, which
so often attributed to the page the possession of magical arts.

"Thou saidst, Jacinto," he abruptly exclaimed, after thrusting aside the
almost untasted food, and regarding the boy with a penetrating look,
"that thou wert for the two last nights at my bed-side?--God be good to
me! for 'tis an evil thing to be benighted so long!"

"Señor, I was."

"And, during all that time, I was entirely dispossessed of my wits?"

"Señor mio, yes. But, now, heaven be thanked your honour will recover!"

"And, thou art sure, I did not labour more under enchantment than
fever?"

The page smiled, but very faintly, and without replying.

"To me, it seems no longer possible to doubt," said the cavalier, "that
I have been, divers times, of late, entirely bewitched; and that thou
hast had some agency in my delusions."

Jacinto smiled more pleasantly, and seemed to forget the secret thoughts
which had agitated him.

"Dost thou," demanded the cavalier, "know aught of a certain
supernatural priestess, that goes about the streets of this town, in
pagan processions, followed by countless herds of nobles and warriors?"

The page hesitated, while replying--

"I have indeed heard of such a creature, and--I may say,--I have seen
her."

"Thou hast seen her!--Is she mortal?"

"Surely, I think so, noble señor," replied Jacinto, with increasing
embarrassment.

"For my part," said the novice, with a deep sigh and a troubled aspect,
"I am almost quite convinced, that she is a spectre, and an inhabitant
of hell, sent forth upon the earth to punish me with much affliction,
and, perhaps, with madness. For I think she is the spirit of Leila; and
her appearance in the guise of a pagan goddess, or pagan priestess,--the
one or the other,--shows me, that she whom I loved, dwells not with
angels, but with devils. This is a thought," continued the cavalier,
mournfully, "that burns my heart as with a coal; and if God spare my
life, and return me to mine own land, I will devote my estates to buy
masses for her soul; for surely she cannot have fallen from sin into
irreparable wo, but only into a punishment for some heresy, the fault of
bad instruction, which may be expiated."

Jacinto regarded the distressed visage of his patron with concern, and
with indecision, as if impelled, and yet afraid, to speak what might
remove his anguish. Then, at last, moved by affection, and looking up
with arch confidence to Don Amador, he said,--

"Señor, I can relieve you of this unhappiness. This is no spirit, but a
woman, as I know full well, for I am in the secret.--I am not sure that
it will not offend my father, to divulge such a secret to any Spaniard:
yet can its revealment prejudice none. Know, señor, and use not this
confession to my father's injury, that all this interlude of the
prophetess, devised by the Mexican nobles and priests, with my father's
counsel and aid, is a scheme to inflame the people with fresh devotion
and fury against the Spaniards, your countrymen. For, being very
superstitious and credulous, the common people are easily persuaded that
their gods have sent them a messenger, to encourage and observe their
valour; as, it is fabled, they have done in former days. The prophetess
is but a puppet in their hands."

The cavalier eyed the young speaker steadfastly, until Jacinto cast his
looks to the earth.

"Set this woman before me; let me look upon her," he said, gravely, and
yet with earnestness.

The page returned his gaze with one of confusion, and even affright.

"Thou wilt not think to deceive me," continued his patron, "after
confiding to me so much? Know thou, that it will rejoice me, relieving
my mind of many pangs, to find that thy words are true, and to look upon
this most beauteous, and, to my eyes, this most supernatural, barbarian.
If she be a living creature, thou hast it in thy power to produce her,
for she dwells in this house. I say this, Jacinto, on strong persuasion
of the fact, for last night I beheld her, and did almost touch her!"

"Señor," said the boy, briskly, "that was one of the fancies of thy
delirium. It was my poor self thou wert looking on. Twenty times, or
more, didst thou call to me, as being the prophetess; and as often
didst thou see in me some other strange creature. Now, I was my lord Don
Gabriel, your worship's kinsman; now, some lady that your honour loved;
now, an angel, bringing you succour in battle; now, my lord's little
brother; now, his enemy;--and, twice or thrice, I was my own poor self,
only that I was killing my lord with a dagger,--as if I could do any
wrong to my master!"

"Is this the truth, indeed?" said the cavalier, dolorously. "I could
have sworn, that I saw that woman, and that I was very sane, when I saw
her. As for the after-visions, I can well believe, that they were the
phantasms of fever, being very extravagant, and but vaguely
remembered.--Thou deniest, then, that thou hast the power of casting
spells?"

The page smiled merrily, for he perceived his patron was relieved of one
irrational distress, and, banteringly, replied,--

"I will not say _that_;--I can do many things my lord would not think,
and I know many he would not dream."

The cavalier was too sad and too simple-minded to jest.

"I believe thee," he said, seriously; "for, in every thing, thou art a
miracle and mystery. Why is it, that thou hast obtained such a command
over my affections? Why is it, that I have come to regard thee, not as a
boy, young and foolish, but as one ripe in years and wisdom? It must
needs be, because thou derivest thy power and thy knowledge from those
astral and magical arts, which I once esteemed so vain; for I remember
me, that, at thy years, I was, myself, not half so much advanced in
intelligence and art, but was, on the contrary, quite a dull and foolish
boy."

"It all comes of my music," said the page: "for that is a talent which
matures faster than any other, and drags others along with it; besides
giving one great skill in touching hearts. Your worship remembers how
soon young David gained the love of the Jewish king, and how he would
have cured him of his melancholy, but that Saul had a bad heart. Now, my
lord seems, to me, to have, like this king, an evil spirit troubling
him; and perhaps, if he will let me, I can sing it away, with the ballad
of the Knight and the Page; for my lord's heart is good."

"The Knight and the Page? I have never heard thee sing that," said Don
Amador, somewhat indifferently. "What is it about?"

"It is about a brave cavalier, that loved a noble lady, who loved him;
but being made to believe her false to her vows, he went to the wars to
die, followed by a little page, whom he thought the only true friend he
had left in the world."

"By my faith," said Don Amador, regarding the boy kindly, "in this
respect, methinks, I am, at present, somewhat like that knight; for
thou, that art, likewise, a little page, seemest to be the only friend I
have left in the world--that is, in this city,--that is to say, in this
part of it; for I have much confidence in the love of several at the
palace, notwithstanding that I think some others were a little backward
in supporting me, when beset, that evil day, by the barbarians.--Was he
a Spanish knight? and of what parts?"

"Of the Sierra Morena, at some place where the Jucar washes its foot."

"In good truth!" cried the cavalier, "that is the very river that rolls
by Cuenza; and herein, again, is there another parallel.--But I should
inform thee, that, when the mountain reaches so far as the Jucar, and
runs up along its course, it is then called the Sierra of Cuenza, and
not Morena. But this is a small matter. I shall be as glad to hear of
the knight of Jucar, as of one of my ancestors."

"He resembled my lord still more," said the page, "for he had fallen,
fighting the infidel, very grievously wounded; and his little page
remained at his side, to share his fate."

"That _I_ have, in a manner, fallen, and, as I may say, fighting the
infidel, is true; but by no means can it be said, that I am grievously
wounded. These cuts, that I have on my body, are but such scratches as
one might make with a thorn; and, were it not for my head, which doth
ever and anon ring much like to a bell, and ache somewhat immoderately,
I should think myself well able to go out fighting again; not at all
regarding my feebleness, which is not much, and my stiff joints, which a
little exercise would greatly reduce into suppleness."

"It was the resemblance of my lord's situation to the knight of Jucar's,
that reminded me of the roundelay," said Jacinto, taking up his lute,
and stringing it into accord; "and now your worship shall represent the
wounded knight, and I the young page that followed him.--But your
worship should suppose me, instead of being a boy, to be a woman in
disguise."

"A woman in disguise!" said the cavalier: "Is the page, then, the false
mistress? There should be very good cause to put a woman in disguise;
for, besides that it robs her, to appearance, if not absolutely, of the
natural delicacy of her sex, it forces her to be a hypocrite. A
deceitful woman is still more odious than a double-faced man."

"But this lady had great cause," said Jacinto, "seeing that love and
sorrow, together, forced her into the henchman's habit, as my lord will
presently see."

So saying, with a pleasant smile, the minstrel struck the lute, and sang
the following little

            ROMANCE OF THE KNIGHT AND THE PAGE.

                          1.

    A Christian knight, in the Paynim land,
      Lay bleeding on the plain;
    The fight was done, and the field was won,
      But not by the Christian train:
    The cross had vail'd to the crescent,
      The Moorish shouts rose high,--
    '_Lelilee! Lelilee!_'--but the Christian knight
      Sent up a sadder cry.
    "My castle lies on Morena's top,
      Jucar is far away:----
    My lady will rue for her vows untrue
      But God be good for aye!----
    Young page! thou followest well;
      These dog-howls heed not thou."--
    '_Lelilee! Lelilee!_'----
      "Get thee hence to my lady now.
    Tell her this blood, that pours a flood,
      My heart's true faith doth prove--
    My corse to earth, my sighs to thee,--
      My heart to my lady love!"

                          2.

    The page, he knelt at the Christian's side,
      And sorely sobb'd he then:
    "The faithless love can truer prove
      Than hosts of faithful men.
    The cross has vail'd to the crescent,
      The Moorish shouts are high,"----
    '_Lelilee! Lelilee!_'--"but the love untrue
      Hath yet another cry.
    Thy castle lies on Morena's top,
      Jucar is far away;
    But dies the bride at her true lord's side,--
      Now God be good for aye!
    The page that followeth well,
      Repeats the unbroken vow"--
    '_Lelilee! Lelilee!_'--
      "Oh, look on thy lady now!
    For now this blood, that pours a flood,
      Doth show her true love's plight.----
    My soul to God, my blood to thine----
      My life for my dying knight."

"Is that _all_?" said the cavalier, when Jacinto had warbled out the
last line. "There should have been another stanza, to explain what was
the cause of separation, as well as how it happened that the lady came
to follow the knight, as a servant; neither of which circumstances is
very manifest."

"Señor," said Jacinto, "if all the story had been told, it would have
made a book. It is clear, that an evil destiny separated the pair, and
that love sent the lady after her lord."

"Be thou a conjuror or not," said Don Amador, musingly, "thou hast the
knack ever to hit upon subjects, as well in thy songs as in thy stories,
which both provoke my curiosity, and revive my melancholy. _My_ castle,
as I may say, doth 'lie on Morena's top,'--that is to say, on the ridge
of Cuenza;--and Jucar is, indeed, 'far away;' but heaven hath left me no
lady-love, either to die with me among the infidels, by whom I am made
to bleed, or to lament me at home. An evil destiny (_how_ evil I know
not, and yet do I dread, more dark than that which prevails with a
jealous heart,) hath separated me from one whom I loved,--and,
doubtless, hath separated me for ever." The cavalier sighed deeply, bent
his eyes for a moment on the ground, and then raising them, with a
solemn look, to the page, said abruptly, "I have come to be persuaded,
altogether beyond the contradiction of my reason, that thou hast,
somehow, and, perhaps, by magical arts, obtained a knowledge of the
history of my past life. If thou knowest aught of the fate of Leila, the
lamented maid of Almeria, I adjure thee to reveal thy knowledge, and
without delay! Thou shakest thy head.--Wherefore didst thou refuse to
finish the story of her who bore her name, and who dwelt in the same
city?"

"My lord will be angry with me," said the page, rising in some
perturbation,--"I have deceived him!"

"I am sorry to know thou couldst be, in any way, guilty of deceit,
though I do readily forgive thee; charging thee, however, at all times,
to remember, that any deceitfulness is but a form of mendacity, and
therefore as mean and degrading as it is sinful.--In what hast thou
deceived me?"

"When I told my lord the story of Leila, and perceived how it disturbed
him," said Jacinto, with a faltering voice, "I repented me, and told him
a thing that was not true, to appease him. The Leila of whom I spoke,
had dwelt in Almeria within a year past; and, perhaps, she was the maid
that my lord remembered."

As the page made this confession, Don Amador sprang eagerly to his feet,
and, as he seized the speaker's arm, cried, with much agitation,--

"Dost thou tell me the truth? and does she live? God be praised for
ever! doth the maiden live?"

"She lived, when my father brought me from Barbary--"

"Heaven be thanked! I will ransom her from the infidels, though I give
myself up to captivity as the price!"

"Señor," said the page, sorrowfully, "you forget that you are now a
prisoner in another world."

The cavalier smote his breast, crying, "It is true! and the revealment
comes too late!--Silly boy!" he continued, reproachfully, "why didst
thou delay telling me this, until this time, when it can only add to my
griefs? Why didst thou not speak it, at Tlascala, that I might have
departed forthwith from the land, to her rescue?"

"My lord would not have deserted his kinsman, Don Gabriel?"

"True again!" exclaimed Don Amador, with a pang. "I could not have left
my knight, even at the call of Leila. But now will I go to Don Gabriel,
and confessing to him my sorrow, will prevail upon him straightway to
depart with me; for here, it must be plain to him, as it is to me, that
God is not with us.

"Alas! señor," said the page, "it is not possible that you should go to
Don Gabriel, nor that you should ever more leave this heathen land."

"Dost thou confess, then," demanded the novice, "that Abdalla has
deceived me, and that I am held to perpetual captivity?"

"Señor," said the boy, clasping his hands, and weeping bitterly, "we
shall never more see Spain, nor any land but this. The fate of Don
Hernan, and of all his men, is written; they are in a net from which
they cannot escape; and we, who are spared, obtain our lives only at the
price of expatriation. My father remembered his protector,--my lord is
saved; but he shares our exile!"

At this confirmation of his worst suspicions, the countenance of Don
Amador darkened with despair and horror.

"And Abdalla, thy father, has plotted this foul, traitorous, and most
bloody catastrophe? And he thinks, that, for my life's sake, I will
divide with him the dishonour and guilt of my preservation?"

"My lord knows not the wrongs of my father," said Jacinto, mournfully,
"or he would not speak of him so harshly."

"Thy father is a most traitor-like and backsliding villain," said Don
Amador, "and this baseness in him should entirely cancel in thee the
bonds of affection and duty; for thou art not of his nature. Hark thee,
then, boy: it is my purpose straightway to depart from this house, and
this durance. I desire to save thee from the fate of a pagan's slave.
Better will it be for thee, if thou shouldst die with me, in the attempt
to reach the palace, (and I swear to thee, I will protect thee to the
last moment of my life,) than remain in Tenochtitlan, after thy
Christian friends have left it, or after they are slain. It is my hope,
and, indeed, my belief, that, when the valiant general, Don Hernan,
comes to be persuaded of his true condition, he will, immediately, and
at any cost, cut his way out of this most accursed city. In this manner
will we escape, and thou shall find, in me, a father who will love thee
not less truly, and more in fashion of a Christian, than the apostate
Zegri."

"If my lord could but protect my father from the anger of Don Hernan,
and prevail upon him to return with my lord!" said Jacinto, eagerly.

"I have already proposed this to him, and, in his fury, he denies me."

"Heaven help us then!" cried Jacinto, "for there is no other hope; and
we must dwell with the barbarians!"

"Dost thou think, that I will rest here, when they are murdering Don
Gabriel?--Hark thee! what knave has stolen away my sword?--Know, that I
will straightway make my escape, and carry thee along with me; for God
would not forgive me, did I leave thee abandoned to barbarians, to the
eternal loss and perdition of thy soul. I say to thee again, thou shalt
accompany me."

"I will remain with my father!" said the boy, stepping back, and
assuming some of that dignity and decision, which the neophyte had so
lately witnessed in Abdalla; "and so will my lord, likewise; for my lord
has given him a pledge, which he cannot forfeit."

"Miserable wretch that I am!" said the cavalier;--"in either case, I am
overwhelmed with dishonour. My gage was sinful, and the infraction of it
will be shame. Bring me hither Abdalla; I will revoke my promise to him
in person; and, after that, I can depart, without disgrace."

"Thou canst not escape, without shedding blood, at least," said the boy,
with a pale and yet determined countenance, "for, first, thou must slay
my father, who saved thee from the death of sacrifice. If thou goest, in
his absence, then must my lord strike down the son;--for with what
strength I have, I will prevent him!"

The amazement with which the warlike cavalier heard these words, and
beheld the stripling throw himself manfully before the door of the
apartment, entirely disconcerted him for a moment. Before he could find
words to express his anger, or perhaps derision, the page, with a sudden
revulsion of feeling, ran from the door, and flinging himself at his
patron's feet, embraced his knees, weeping and exclaiming, with much
passion,

"O my dear master! be not incensed with me: for I am but weak and silly,
and I have no friends but my father and thee! If thou takest me from my
father, then shall he be left childless, to live and to die alone; if
thou goest without us, we shall be deserted to perish without a friend;
for no one has smiled on us but my lord; and if thou goest while my
father is absent, he will curse me, and I will curse myself,--for thou
must needs die in the streets!"

The novice was touched, not so much by the last and undeniable
assurance, as by the pathetic appeal of the Morisco.

"Be comforted, Jacinto," he cried; "for now, indeed, it appears to me,
that, whether I had passed my gage or not, I could not take advantage of
the weakness of such a jailor, and fly, without the greatest shame. And,
in addition, it seems to me inhuman and unjust, that I should think of
escaping, without doing my best to snatch thee and thy father also,
(whose sinfulness does, in this case, at least, spring from affection,)
out of thraldom. Be thou therefore content: I will remain thy patient
prisoner, until such time as Abdalla returns; hoping that I can, then,
advance such remonstrance and argument, as shall convert him from his
purpose, and cause him to repent what wrongs he has already done Don
Hernan, and to accept his mercy, which I do again avow myself ready to
secure with my life, and even with my honour. But I warn thee, that I
can by no means remain a captive, while my friends are given up to
destruction."

"Señor," said Jacinto, rising, "there is a hope they will be spared, if
the king should recover; for greatly have the Mexicans mourned the rage
which wounded their monarch. If he live, and again command peace, there
will be peace; and all of us may yet be happy."

"God grant that this may be so!" said the cavalier, catching at the
hope. "I will therefore remain with thee a little; for if my friends be
not starved outright, I have no fear but that they can easily maintain
themselves a week in the palace."

"And besides, señor," said the page, returning to his playful manner,
"if you were to leave me, how should you hear more of the maid of
Almeria?"

"Of Leila?" cried the cavalier, forgetting at once his honour and his
friends; "now do I remember me, that you have not yet told me how you
acquired your most blessed and blissful knowledge. Heaven forgive me! I
did not think it possible,--but, I believe, I had entirely forgotten
her! How comest thou to know aught of her? Answer me quickly, and be
still more quick to tell me all you know."

"Will not my lord be satisfied with my knowledge, without seeking after
the means of acquiring it?" demanded the page, hesitatingly.

"If, indeed," said Don Amador, solemnly, "thou hast obtained it by the
practice of that land of magic which is forbidden, though my curiosity
will not permit me to eschew its revelations, yet must I caution thee,
from this time henceforth, to employ it no more; for, herein, dost thou
peril thy soul. But, if it be by those arts, which are not in themselves
sinful, thou shouldst not be ashamed to confess them; for the habit of
concealment is the first step in the path of deception; and I have
already assured thee, that a deceiver is, as one may say, a lie in the
face of his Maker. But of this I will instruct thee more fully
hereafter: at present, I burn with an unconquerable desire to hear thee
speak of Leila."

"But how know I," said the page, again hesitating, "that she of whom I
speak, is the Leila after whom it pleases my lord to inquire?--And why
indeed, now that I think of it, should my lord inquire at all after one
of a persecuted and despised race?"

"Wilt thou still torment me? Have I not told thee that I forgot her
origin, and loved her?"

"And did she love my lord back again?"

"Thou askest me what I cannot with certainty answer," replied the
cavalier, "for she was snatched away from me, before I had yet overcome
the natural scruples of my pride to discourse of love to one who seemed
so much beneath the dignity of my birth and fortunes."

"And my lord gave her no cause to think she had obtained favour in his
eyes?"

"In this thou dost not err; for, saving some gifts, which were, indeed,
more the boons of a patron than the tribute of a lover, I did nothing to
address me to her affections. In all things, as I may say, I did rather
assume the character of one who would befriend and protect her from
wrong, than of a man seeking after her love."

"But, if she accepted my lord's gifts, she must have loved him," said
Jacinto.

"They were very trifles," rejoined the cavalier, "saving only one,
indeed, which, as she must have perceived, could not have been more
properly bestowed than upon one so innocent and friendless as herself.
This was a very antique and blessed jewel,--a cross of rubies,--fetched
by mine ancestor, Don Rodrigo of Arragon, more than three hundred years
ago, from the Holy Land, after having been consecrated upon the
Sepulchre itself. It was thought to be a talisman of such heavenly
efficacy, in the hands of an unspotted virgin, that no harm could ever
come to her, who wore it upon her neck. For mine own part, though I
could tell thee divers stories of its virtue, recorded in our house, yet
was I ever inclined to think, that a natural purity of heart was, in all
cases, a much better protection of innocence than even a holy talisman.
Nevertheless, when I beheld this orphan Moor, I bethought me of the
imputed virtues of those rubies; and I put them upon her neck, as
thinking her friendless condition gave her the strongest claim to all
such blessed protection."

"A cross of rubies!" cried the page; "it is she!"

"And thou canst tell me of her resting-place? and of her present
condition?" cried the overjoyed cavalier. "I remember, that, at the
temple of Tlascala, thou didst aver, that, notwithstanding the apparent
baseness of her origin, it had been discovered that she was descended of
very noble parentage!"

"What I _can_ tell thee, and what I _will_," said Jacinto, gravely,
"will depend upon thine own actions. If thou leavest this place, without
my father's consent, hope not that thou shalt know any thing more than
has been spoken. If thou art content to remain a little time in
captivity, and to yield me the obedience which I demand, thou shalt
find, that a child of a contemned race may possess wisdom unknown to men
of happier degrees. Thou hast acknowledged thyself the captive of my
father; wilt thou promise obedience to me?"

Don Amador surveyed the boy with a bewildered stare:

"It is possible," said he, "that I am yet dreaming, for it seemeth to me
very absurd, that thou, who art a boy, and wert but yesterday a servant,
shouldst make such a demand of subjection to a man and a cavalier, and,
as I may say, also, thy master."

"My lord will not think I would have him become a servant," said
Jacinto. "The subjection I require, is for the purpose of securing him
that gratification of his curiosity, which he has sought,--and thus only
can he obtain it. In all other respects, I remain myself the slave of my
lord."

"Provided thou wilt demand me nothing dishonourable nor irreligious,
(and now, that I know, from thy father's confession, that thou art of
noble descent, I can scarcely apprehend in thee any meanness,) I will
make thee such a promise," said Don Amador. "But I must beseech thee,
not to torment me with delay."

"My lord shall not repent his goodness," said the page, with a happy
countenance; "for when he thinks not of it, his wishes shall be
gratified. But, at present, let him be at peace, and sleep; for the
time has not yet come. I claim, now, the first proof of my lord's
obedience. Let him eat of this medicinal confection, and, by a little
rest, dispel the heats of fever, which are again returning to him."

"I declare to thee," said Don Amador, "I am very well; and this fever is
caused by suspense, and not disease."

"Thou must obey," said the page. "While thou art sleeping, I will
inquire for thee the fate of Leila; for it is yet wrapped in darkness,
and it cannot be discovered but by great efforts."

The cavalier obeyed the injunctions of his young jailer, ate of the
confection, and, Jacinto leaving the apartment, he yielded to exhaustion
and drowsiness, and notwithstanding his eager and tormenting curiosity,
soon fell fast asleep.



CHAPTER XLIX.


Gloom and fear still beset the garrison at the palace of Axajacatl; and
the mutiny of soldiers, and fierce feuds among the cavaliers, were added
to other circumstances of distress. Those ancient veterans, who had
followed Don Hernan, from the first day of invasion, and who had shared
with him so many privations and perils, were, in general, still true to
their oaths of obedience, and preserved through all trials, an apparent,
if not a real composure of spirit, as well as a firm reliance on the
wisdom of their leader. But the followers of Narvaez, uninured to
combat, and but lately acquainted with suffering--their sanguine
expectations of conquest without danger, and of wealth without labour,
changed to a mere hope of disgraceful escape, and that hope, as they all
felt, founded, not in reason, but imagination,--turned their murmurs
into the most bitter execrations, and these again into menaces. The
officers, too, rendered peevish by discontent, and reckoning each the
discomfiture of his neighbour as the evidence of feebleness or fear,
spoke to one another with sarcasms, and even sometimes to Don Hernan
himself with disrespect. The self-command of the general, however, never
deserted him; he rebuked insult with tranquil indignation, and so far
prevailed over his fiery subordinates, as to compose most of their
quarrels, without suffering them to be submitted to the ordeal of
honour. One feud had arisen, nevertheless, which his skill could not
allay; and all that he could effect by remonstrance, and even
supplication, was an agreement of the parties to postpone its final
arbitrement, until such time as the providence of heaven should conduct
them afar from Tenochtitlan. The wrath engendered in the bosom of the
Tonatiuh, by the angry reproaches of De Morla, after their return from
the battle of the Manta, had been inflamed by a new circumstance, which,
though of a trivial nature, the pride of Alvarado and the resentment of
his opponent had converted into an affair of importance.

There was among the many kinswomen of Montezuma, who shared his
captivity, (for the policy of the general had reduced nearly all the
royal blood to bonds,) a certain young maiden, a daughter of the lord of
Colhuacan, and therefore a niece of the king; who, in the general
partition which the nobler of the cavaliers had, in prospective, made of
the Indian princesses, had fallen to the lot of Alvarado. In those days
of legitimacy, there was some degree of divinity allowed to hedge the
person of even a barbaric monarch; and happy was the hidalgo, who, by
obtaining a royal maid for his wife, could rank himself, in imaginary
dignity, with the princes of Christendom. At the present moment, the
companions of Cortes had rather made their selections, than endeavoured
to commend themselves to the favour of their mistresses;--dropping,
thereby, so much of their reverence for royalty, as not to suppose the
existence of any will, or opposition, in the objects of their desire.
The Doña Engracia, (her native title has entirely escaped the
historians,) was, therefore, beloved by Don Pedro; but, not having been
made acquainted with the hidalgo's flame, she stooped, at the first
promptings of affection, to a destiny less brilliant and lofty. Her
heart melted at the handsome visage of the young Fabueno; and the
secretary, flattered by the love of so noble a maiden, and emboldened by
his success in arms, did not scruple to become the rival of the
Tonatiuh. The rage of Don Pedro would have chastised, in blood, the
presumption of such a competitor; but De Morla, remembering the novice,
did not hesitate, for his sake, to befriend his servant; and, when he
avowed himself the champion of Lorenzo, he dreamed that he was about to
avenge the fall of his brother-in-arms.

The result of this opposition to the humours of Alvarado, was a quarrel,
so fierce and unappeasable, that, as has been said, all which the
general could effect, was a postponement of conflict; and when Don Pedro
surrendered the princess to her plebeian lover, it was with the
assurance, that, as soon as the army had left the city and lake, he
should reckon her ransom out of the life-blood of his companion.

The discovery of the unfaithfulness of his betrothed, (for, in this
light did the cavaliers regard the captive princesses,) had been made
the preceding evening; and the angry contest of the cavaliers, and the
arrangements for combat, occurred at the moment while Don Amador was
lamenting the backwardness of his friends to support him, when he became
a captive.

To allay the heart-burnings of his officers, who had arrayed themselves,
according to their friendships, on either side, the general caused his
trumpets to sound, and bade all to prepare for an expedition of peril.
He had, all along, eyed the great pyramid, frowning over his fortress,
with peculiar anxiety. This was caused, in part, by his consciousness of
the advantage it would give his enemies, as soon as they should dare to
profane its sanctity, by making it the theatre of conflict. This very
morning, it was made apparent, by the presence of many barbarians
thronging up its sides, and by an occasional arrow or stone discharged
from its top, that the Mexicans were aware of its usefulness. In
addition to this cause for attempting to gain possession of it, the
leader was moved by a vague hope, that, once master of the holiest of
temples, he might obtain the same advantages, through the superstition
of his foes, which he had lately possessed, in the person of Montezuma,
through their reverence for the king. He meditated an assault, and
resolved to attempt it, before the pyramid should be covered with
Mexicans.

The strength of the army, both horse and foot, was straightway displayed
upon the square; and the war-worn Christians once more marched against
the triumphing infidel.

The knight of Calavar, sitting on his sable steed, with an air of more
life than was ordinary, appeared in this band; and the three
serving-men, with the secretary, followed at his back.



CHAPTER L.


In his sleep, the wounded cavalier was no longer a captive. Memory and
imagination, acting together, bore him to the shores of the
Mediterranean; and as he trode the smooth beach, his eye wandered, with
transport, to the blue Alpujarras, stretching dimly in the interior. But
not long did he gaze on those mountains, which intercepted the view of
his distant castle. He stepped joyously along over the sands, obeying
the voices and gestures of his conductors; for, it seemed to him, that
his hands were grasped, the one by the page Jacinto, the other by the
priestess of Mexico, both of whom urged him on with smiles, while
pointing to a group of palm-trees, under which reclined the long-lost
maid of Almeria. The cross of rubies shone upon her breast, and her
downcast eyes regarded it with a gaze of sadness; but, ever and anon, as
the cavalier vainly strove to approach, and called to her with his
voice, they were raised upon him in tears; and the hand of Leila was
uplifted, with a melancholy gesture, towards heaven. With such a vision,
repeated many times in his brain, varied only by changes of place, (for
now the scene was transferred to the deserts of Barbary, now the fair
vales of Rhodes, and now the verdant borders of Tezcuco,) he struggled
through many hours of torture; and, at last, awoke, as a peal of
thunder, bursting on the scene, drove, terrified away, as well his
guides as the maid of his memory.

As he started from his couch, confused and bewildered, the thunder
seemed still to roll, with distant murmurs, over the city. His practised
ear detected, in these peals, the explosions of artillery, mingled with
volleys of musketry; but for awhile, in his disorder, he was unable to
account for them; and in a few moments they ceased.--Night had succeeded
to day; no taper burned on the table, and scarcely enough light shone
through the narrow casement into the apartment, to show him that he
occupied it alone.

His lips were parched with thirst; he strode to the table, and finding
nothing thereon to allay the burnings of fever, he called faintly on
Jacinto. No answer was made to the call; he seemed to be the only tenant
of the house; and yet he fancied that the deep silence, which succeeded
his exclamation, was broken by distant and feeble lamentations. He
listened attentively; the sounds were repeated, but yet with so low a
tone, that they would have escaped him entirely, had not his senses been
sharpened by fever.

Obeying his instincts of benevolence, rather than his reason, for this
had not yet recovered from the disorder of slumber, he stepped from the
chamber; and, following not so much the sounds, which had become nearly
inaudible, as a light that gleamed at a little distance, he found
himself soon at the door of an apartment, through the curtain of which
streamed the radiance.

The image of Leila, surveying the cross of rubies, had not yet departed
from his imagination, when he pushed aside the flimsy arras, and stood
in the room; and his feelings of amazement and rapture, of mingled joy
and terror, may be imagined, when he beheld, at the first glance, what
seemed the incarnation of his vision.--Before a little stool, which
supported a taper of some vegetable substance, burning with odours and
smoke, there knelt, or seemed to kneel, a maiden of exquisite beauty,
whose Moorish character might have been imagined in her face, but not
detected in her garments, for these were of Spanish fashion. The light
of the taper streamed full upon her visage, from which it was not two
feet removed, and showed it to be bathed in tears. Her eyes were fixed
upon some jewel held in her hands, close to the light, which was
attached, by a chain of gold, to her neck; and the same look which
revealed to Don Amador the features of the maid of Almeria, showed him,
in this jewel, the well-known and never to be forgotten cross of rubies.
The cavalier stood petrified; a smothered ejaculation burst from his
lips, and his gaze was fixed upon the vision as on a basilisk.

At his sudden exclamation, the maiden raised her eyes, gazed at him an
instant, as he stood trembling with awe and delight; and the next
moment,--whether it was that she struck the light out with her hand, or
whether the taper and the figure were alike spectral, and snatched away
by the same enchantment which had brought them into existence,--the
chamber was left in darkness, and the pageant of loveliness and sorrow
had vanished entirely away.

No sooner had this unlooked for termination been presented, than Don
Amador recovered his strength, and, with a cry of grief, rushed towards
the spot so lately occupied by the vision. The stool still stood on the
floor, but no maiden knelt by it. A faint gleam of dusky light shone
suddenly on the opposite wall, and then as suddenly disappeared. It had
not been lost to the cavalier; he approached it; his outstretched hands
struck upon a curtain hung before another door, which admitted him into
a passage, where a pleasant breeze, burdened with many perfumes, as from
a garden, puffed on his cheeks. The sound of steps, echoing at the end
of the gallery, and the gleaming of a light, struck at once upon his
ears and eyes; he rushed onwards, with a loud cry, gained the door,
which, he doubted not, would again reveal to him the blessed vision, and
the next moment found himself arrested by the Zegri.

Behind Abdalla stood the slave Ayub, bearing a torch, whose light shone
equally on the indignant visage of the renegade Moor, and the troubled
aspect of his captive.

"Hath the señor forgot that he made me a vow?" cried Abdalla, sternly:
"and that, in this effort to escape, he covers himself with dishonour?"

To this reproach, Don Amador replied only by turning a bewildered and
stupified stare on his host; and the Zegri, reading in this the evidence
of returning delirium, relaxed the severity of his countenance, and
spoke with a gentler voice.

"My lord does not well," he said, "to leave his chamber, while the fever
still burns him."

He took the cavalier by the arm, and Don Amador suffered himself to be
led to his apartment. There, seating himself on the couch, he surveyed
the Moor with a steadfast and yet disturbed look, not at all regarding
the words of sympathy pronounced by his jailer. At last, rousing
himself, and muttering a sort of prayer, he said,

"Are ye all enchanters? or am I mad? for either this thing is the
fabrication of lunacy, or the illusion of unearthly art!"

"Of what does my lord speak?" said the Moor, mildly, and soothingly. "He
should not think of dreams."

"Dost thou say, dreams?" cried the cavalier, with a laugh. "Surely mine
eyes are open, and I see thee. Dost thou not profess thyself flesh and
blood?"

The Moor regarded his captive with uneasiness, thinking that his wits
had fled.

"My noble patron does not ask me of his countrymen and friends," he
said, willing to divert his prisoner's thoughts. "This day, did I behold
his followers, and, in addition, his kinsman, the knight of Calavar."

At this name, the neophyte became more composed. He eyed the speaker
more attentively, and now remarked, that, besides the leathern mail
which he wore in the manner of the Mexicans, his chest was defended by
an iron corslet, which, as well as the plumes of his tunic, was spotted
with blood. As the Moor spoke, Don Amador perceived him to lay upon the
table, along with the torch, which he had taken from Ayub, a sword dyed
with the same gory ornament; and he started to his feet, with a feeling
of fierce wrath, which entirely dispelled his stupefaction, when he
recognized in this, his own vanished weapon.

"Knave of a Zegri!" he cried, "hast thou used my glave on Spaniards, my
friends and brothers?".

"When I struck thee the blow which saved thy life," said Abdalla,
calmly, "I was left without a weapon; for the steel shivered upon thy
casque. I borrowed the sword, which, to thee, was useless, and I return
it, not dishonoured, for it has drunk the blood of those who are, in the
eyes of heaven, idolaters and assassins. I give it back to thee, and
will not again use it, even in a just and righteous combat; for, thanks
be to God! it has been the means of providing me a store, which I hope
to increase into an armoury."

"Thou avowest this to me? and with exultation?" said the cavalier,
passing at once, in the excitement of anger, from the effects, and even
the remembrance, of the vision.

"If my lord will listen," replied Abdalla, not unrejoiced at the change,
and willing to confirm the sanity of the prisoner, "he shall hear what
good blows this rich and very excellent weapon hath this day struck. A
better never smote infidel or Christian."

"I will hear what thou hast to say," said the novice, with a stern
accent; "and, wondering what direful calamity shall befall thee, for
having thus profaned and befouled the sword of a Christian soldier, I
hope thou wilt tell me of such things as will prove to me that God has
punished the same, if not upon thy head, yet, at least, upon the heads
of divers of thy godless companions."

"There are many of the godless, both heathen and Christian, who have
slept the sleep of death this day," said Abdalla, knitting his brows
with the ardour of a soldier; "many shall die to-morrow, some the next
day, but few on the last--for who shall remain to perish? Every day do I
look down from the pyramid, and hearken to the groans of those who
destroyed Granada; and every day, though the lamentings be wilder and
louder, yet are they fewer. Heaven be thanked! a few days more, and not
a bone shall be left to whiten on the square, that does not speak of
vengeance for the Alpujarras!"

"Moor!" said the frowning Spaniard, "have a care that thy ferocious and
very unnatural triumph do not cause me to forget that I am thy prisoner.
It was, perhaps, proper, that thou shouldst fly from Don Hernan, seeing
that the slanders of very base caitiffs had prejudiced thee, and left
thy life in jeopardy; perhaps, also, the necessity to gain the favour of
Mexicans for thyself and Jacinto, by fighting with them against their
foes, may, in part, extenuate the sin of such impiety; but I warn thee,
thou leapest wantonly into superfluous crime, when, instead of mourning
thy cruel fate, thou rejoicest over the blood thou art shedding."

"Whose fault is it? and who shall account for my crime?" said the Zegri,
with energy. "I came to these shores against my will; when I landed upon
the sands of Ulua, my heart was in the peace of sorrow. I besought those
who held me in unjust bondage, to discharge me with my boy: had they
done so, then had I left them, and no Spaniard should have mourned for
his oppression; the wrongs of Granada had not been repaid in Mexico. My
prayers were met with mockery; the Zegri that hath sat in the seat of
kings, was doomed to be the bearer of a match-stick; and the boy, whose
blood runs redder and purer than that in the veins of the proudest
cavalier of all, was degraded into the service of a menial, in the house
of the bitterest enemy of his people! What was left for me? To choose
between slavery and exile, contempt and revenge.--The señor thinks that
the base Yacub belied me: Yacub spoke the truth. From the moment when I
perceived I could not escape from the land, then did I know, that God
had commissioned me to the work of revenge; and I resolved it should be
mighty. I meditated the flight I have accomplished, the treason I have
committed, the revenge I have obtained. I saw that I should remain in
wo, with benighted barbarians; but I saw, also, that I should be afar
from Spaniards. God be thanked! It was bitter to be parted, for ever,
from the land of my birth, and the people of my love; but it is goodly
and pleasant, to see the Castilian perish in misery, and remember
Granada!"

Throughout the whole of this harangue, Don Amador de Leste preserved a
countenance of inflexible gravity.

"Sir Zegri," said he, with a sigh, when it was concluded, "I perceive,
that heaven hath erected a wall between us, to keep us for ever asunder.
Whether thy bitter hatred of Spaniards be just or not, whether thy
appetite for revenge be allowable or accurst, still is it apparent,
that, while thou indulgest the one, and seekest to gratify the other, it
is impossible I should remain with thee on any terms, except those of
enmity and defiance; for those whom thou hatest, and dost so bloodily
destroy, they are my countrymen. I love thy boy, but thee I detest. And
now, having discovered that thou art of very noble blood, and being
impelled to punish on thee the very grievous and unpardonable wrongs,
which thou art doing to my country, I beg thou wilt release me from my
parole, and fetch hither one of those swords which thou hast rifled from
Spanish corses, I arming myself with my own weapon, here befouled with
Spanish blood. We will discharge upon each other, the obligations we are
under, thou to hate and slay Spaniards, and I to punish the haters and
slayers of the same; for it is quite impossible I can live longer in
peace, suffering thee to destroy my friends. Fetch hither, therefore, a
sword, and let us end this quarrel with the life of one or the other;
and, to ease thee of any anxiety thou mayest have, in regard to Jacinto,
I solemnly assure thee, that, if thou fall, I will myself take thy
place, and remain a father to him to the end of my days."

As the cavalier made this extraordinary proposal, Abdalla surveyed him,
first with surprise, then with gloomy regret; and when he had finished,
with a glistening eye. Before Don Amador had yet done speaking, the
Zegri unbuckled his corslet, and, flinging it on the floor, at the last
word, said, with mild and reproachful dignity,--

"Behold! thy sword is within reach, and my breast is naked. What hinders
that thou shouldst not strike me at once? Thou speakest of Jacinto--It
is enough that thy hand saved him from the blow of thy countryman: at
that moment, I said, in my heart, though I spoke it not, 'Thou hast
bought my life.' If thou wilt have it, it is thine. If thou hadst killed
my father, I could not aim at thine!"

"Of a truth," said the cavalier, moodily, "I should not slay thee out of
mere anger, but duty: yet I would that thou mightest be prevailed upon
to assault me, so as to enforce me into rage; for, I say to thee again,
so long as thy hostile acts continue, I must very violently abhor thee."

"They will not continue long," said Abdalla. "After a few days, there
will remain in my bosom no feeling but gratitude; and, then, my lord
shall see, that the fury which has slain all others, has been his own
security."

"Of this," said Don Amador, "I will have a word to speak with thee anon.
At present, I am desirous, that thou shouldst relate to me the fate of
this day's battle, which I am the more anxious to know, since thou hast
spoken the name of Calavar."

"I am loath to obey thee," said the Zegri, struggling with the fierce
satisfaction that beset him at the thought, "for it may again excite
thee to anger."

"Nevertheless, I will listen to thy story, with such composure as I can,
as to a thing, it may be needful for me to know; after which, I have
myself a matter of which it is quite essential I should acquaint thee."

Thus commanded, the Moor obeyed; and his eyes sparkled, as he conned
over in his mind the events of a day so dreadful to the Spaniards.



CHAPTER LI.


"Yesterday, when thou wert sleeping," said the Zegri, "or lay as one
that slept----"

"That day, then," muttered Amador, "is a blank in my existence! and
very grievous it is, to think that so great a space of so short a
period as life, should be lost in a stony lethargy.--It seems to me,
that that blow thou gavest me, was somewhat rounder than was
needful.--Nevertheless, I am not angry, but grateful."

"Yesterday was a day of comparative peace," continued the Zegri. "The
Spaniards shut themselves in their citadel, preparing for the greater
exploit of to-day. It was evident to the dullest of the nobles, that Don
Hernan had cast an evil eye on the temple."

"Did he so?" cried the cavalier. "It was the thought of a good
Christian: and, methinks, my countrymen had not been judged with so many
of these present torments, if they had sooner torn down that strong-hold
of the devil, which is detestable in the eye of heaven."

"To-day, they marched against it," said Abdalla, "with all their force,
both of Spaniards and Tlascalans; and, I will say for them, that they
marched well, fought boldly, and revenged their own heavy losses, in the
blood of many barbarians, as well on the pyramid as in the temple-yard
and the streets. They came against us, with four such turrets, moving on
wheels----"

"Is it possible," cried Amador, "that the general was not sufficiently
warned of the inefficacy of those engines, by the doleful fate of the
manta, that day, when it was my mishap to be vanquished?--I shall
remember the death of the ship-master, Gomez, to the end of my
life.--Twice or thrice, did I long to be with him among the
fire-worshippers, who must be a very strange people. But the Mexicans
are very valiant."

"Of a truth, they are," said the Zegri. "I will not detain my lord with
the account of the battle in the streets, wherein the mantas were again,
in great part, destroyed; nor will I relate, with what suffering the
Castilians won their way to the Wall of Serpents, and the temple-yard.
It was here, that I beheld my lord's kinsman, the knight of Calavar,
unhorsed, and in the hands of the infidel----"

"Accursed assassin!" cried the neophyte, springing to his feet, "and
hast thou kept me in bonds, that my knight should perish thus, without
succour?"

"The foe of Granada did not perish, and he was not without succour,"
said the Zegri, loftily. "When his steed, slipping on the polished
stones, with which that yard is paved, fell to the earth, and many
savage hands were fastened on his body, there was a friend hard by, who
raised both the knight and charger, and preserved them from
destruction."

"Give me the name of that most noble friend," cried Don Amador,
ardently,--"for, I swear, I will reckon this act to him, in my
gratitude, as the salvation of my own life. Tell me, what true Christian
was he?"

"One," said Abdalla, calmly, "who hated him as the slayer of his people,
but remembered that he repented his evil acts with misery and
distraction,--one, who abhorred him for these deeds of sin, and yet
loved him, because he was, like his kinsman, the protector of childhood
and feebleness."

"I doubt not, that _thou_ wert the man," said the cavalier, faltering,
"and, therefore, I return thee my thanks. But I would have thee know,
that, whatever blood was improperly shed by my kinsman, was shed by
accident and not design; for, no man is more incapable of cruelty than
the noble knight, Don Gabriel. But, this shows me, that thou art really
of lofty blood; for none but a magnanimous soul can render justice to a
hated enemy."

"Why should I dwell upon the conflict in the yard?" continued the Moor,
hastily. "Through the flames of the many chapels, that filled it,--with
shouts and the roar of muskets,--the Christians, ever victorious, and
yet ever conquered even by victory, rushed against the steps of the
pyramid, disregarding the stones tumbled on them from the terraces, the
darts flung down from the little barbicans or niches in the wall, and
the flaming logs shot down, endwise, from the steps. Terrace after
terrace, stair after stair, were won; and the Christians stood, at last,
on the summit, fighting hand to hand with the four thousand nobles who
defended it. My lord cannot think, that even these numbers of naked men
could long withstand a thousand Christians, robed in iron, and
infuriated by desperation. Score after score were slain, and tumbled
from the top; the flames burst from the altar of Mexitli,--the priest
died in the sanctuary, the Tlatoani at the downfallen urns; and, in an
hour's time, the Spaniards were masters of the pyramid."

"Thanks be to heaven, which fought with them!" cried Amador, devoutly.
"And thus may the infidel fall!"

"Does not my lord pity the wretches, who die for their country?" said
the Zegri, reproachfully. "This is not a war of heaven against hell, but
of tyranny against freedom.--I did see some sights, this day, upon the
pyramid, which caused me to remember those noble Roman generals, who, in
ancient times, were wont to devote themselves to death, for the good of
the state. At the very moment when the condition of the Mexicans was
most dreadful, when, despairing of the usefulness of longer resistance,
they rushed frantically upon the Spanish spears, transfixing themselves
by their own act, or flung themselves from the pyramid, to be dashed to
pieces below,--at this moment, I beheld, with mine own eyes, two very
young and noble Tlatoani, to whom I had myself just shown a means of
escape, rush upon Don Hernan, who fought very valiantly throughout the
day. They cast away their arms, flung themselves at his feet, as if to
supplicate for mercy; and having thus thrown the general off his guard,
they seized him, on a sudden, in their arms, and hurried him to the edge
of the terrace. From that dizzy brink they strove to drag him, willing,
themselves, to die dreadfully, so that the great enemy of Tenochtitlan
should fall with them. But the strength of boys yielded to the iron
grasp of the Christian; and, flinging them from him like drops of water,
or gouts of blood from his wounded hand, he beheld them fall miserably
to the earth,--dead, but not yet avenged."

"Thanks be to God again!" cried the cavalier, warming with excitement;
"for, though these youths met their death very bravely, they were guilty
of a most vile treachery; for which, death was but a just punishment.
And so, my true and excellent friends did win this battle? By heaven! it
galls me to the marrow, to think that I lie here idle, while such things
are doing around me!"

"They won the temple top," said Abdalla, with a laugh of scorn, "that
they might look down from that height, and behold themselves surrounded
by an hundred thousand men, who were busy slaying their Tlascalan
slaves, and waiting for the masters. Very plainly did I hear their cries
of despair at that sight; and these were goodly music. For myself, I
escaped, as did some few others, by dropping from terrace to terrace,
upon the dead bodies, which, being tumbled, in great numbers, from the
top, lay, in some places, in such heaps along the galleries, as greatly
to lessen the dangers of a fall. Well were the Mexicans revenged for
this slaughter," continued the Moor, his eyes glittering with ferocious
transport, "when the Spaniards descended, to cut their way to the
quarters, encumbered with captive priests, and such provisions as they
had gathered in the chapels. How many fell in the squares and streets,
how many were suffocated in the canals,--how few were able to pierce
through the myriads that invested the palace, (for, all this time, had
there been thousands assailing the weak garrison, and tearing down the
court-yard wall)--why should I speak of these? It is enough, that the
gain of the pyramid,--lost as soon as gained,--cost them irreparable wo;
and that the wounded fugitives (for the Mexican glass drank of the blood
of all,) now lie in their desolate house, their court-walls prostrate,
the buttresses of their palace cracked by fire, their steeds unfed and
starving, their ammunition expended--hopeless and helpless, calling to
the leaders who cannot relieve, the saints who will not hear, and
waiting only for death. Death then! for it cometh; death! for it is
inevitable; death! for it is just; and death! for it repays the wrongs
of Granada!"

As the triumphing Moor concluded his fiery oration, the cavalier, whose
excitement was raised to the last pitch, and whose indignation and
remorse were alike kindled by a full knowledge of the condition of his
countrymen, cried aloud,--

"Hark thee, sir Moor! with these friends, thus reduced to extremity and
despairing, it is needful I should straightway join myself, to endure
what they endure, to suffer as they suffer, to die as they die. I refuse
to save my life, when the forfeit of it to an honourable purpose, may
relieve them of their distresses. I repent me of the gage which I gave
thee, I revoke my promise of captivity, and am, therefore, free to make
my escape; which I hereby attempt,--peacefully if I can,--but warning
thee, if thou oppose, it shall be at the peril of thy life!"

So saying, the cavalier snatched up the sword from the table, and sprang
towards the door. So quickly, indeed, did he act, and so much did he
take his jailer by surprise, that he had nearly arrived at the curtain,
before Abdalla had time to intercept him. His brain was in a ferment of
passion, and the various excitements of the evening had inflamed him
again into fever; so, that, in the fury of the moment, when the Zegri
leaped before him, endeavouring to catch him in his arms, he forgot
every thing but his purpose, and the necessity of escaping. He caught
the Moor by the throat, and struggling violently, raised the crimson
steel to strike. The life of Abdalla seemed not to have a moment's
purchase,--the weapon was already descending on his naked head,
when,--at that very instant,--the curtain was drawn from the door, and
dimly, but yet beyond all shadow of doubt, in the light of the torch,
the cavalier beheld the pale visage of the maid of Almeria, shining over
the shoulders of the Moor.

The sword fell from his hand, and his whole frame shook, as, with wild
eyes, he returned the gaze of the vision. The Zegri, amazed, yet not
doubting that this sudden change was the mere revolution of delirium,
took instant advantage of it, snatched the leathern strap from the lute
of Jacinto; and when the curtain, falling again, had concealed the
spectral countenance, the arms of the cavalier were bound tightly behind
him. This was a superfluous caution. His strength had been supplied by
fury, and the instant that this had subsided, the exhaustion of two
days' illness returned; and had not his spirits been otherwise unmanned,
he would now have been as a boy in the hands of Abdalla.

The Moor conducted him to the couch, on which he suffered himself to be
placed without opposition, and without speaking a word. His whole
faculties seemed lost in a sudden and profound stupor; and Abdalla began
to fear that, in his prisoner, he had found, in more respects than one,
a true representative of his kinsman, Don Gabriel.



CHAPTER LII.


A certain degree of monotony prevails among all the vicissitudes of
life, and even the most exciting events fail, after a time, to interest.
A paucity of incidents will not much sooner disgust us with the pages of
history, than the most abundant stores of plots and battles, triumphs
and defeats, if too liberally dispensed;--for these are composed of the
same elements, and have, on the whole, the same wearisome identity of
character. For this reason, though the many battles fought in the
streets of Mexico, during the seven days which intervened betwixt the
second coming and the second departure of Cortes, have something in them
both of interest and novelty, we have not dared to recount them in full,
nor, indeed, to mention all of them; being satisfied to touch only
such, and, in truth, only such parts of such, as, in themselves, have
each some peculiar variety of characteristic. We pass by, with a word,
the increased sufferings of the Christians,--their murmurs and
lamentations,--their despair and frenzy.

The day that followed after the fatal victory of the pyramid, brought
its battles like others. That day it became apparent that the last fibre
which bound hope to the palace wall, was about snapping--it was known to
all, that the Indian monarch was expiring. The prediction of Botello had
made all acquainted with the day on which a retreat might be
accomplished. That day was drawing nigh; but the impatience of the
soldiers, and the anxiety of the officers to prepare, or, at least, to
reconnoitre, the path of retreat, again drove them from their quarters.
A weak, but well chosen and trusty garrison was left in charge of the
palace; while Don Hernan, with all the forces that could be spared of
his reduced army, sallied from the court-yard, and fought his way to the
dike of Iztapalapan.

In this exploit, new difficulties were to be overcome, and new proofs
were exhibited of the sagacity and determination of the barbarians.
Besides the obstacles offered by the ditches, robbed of their bridges,
the Mexicans had heaped together across the streets, the fragments of
their demolished houses, thus forming barriers, which were not passed
without the greatest labour and suffering. Nevertheless, the Spaniards
persevered, and not only gained the causeway, but approached nigh to
Iztapalapan, before a Tlascalan messenger, creeping in disguise through
the crowds of enemies, recalled them to the palace, which was furiously
assailed, and in imminent danger of being carried by storm.

It is not to be supposed, that this attempt on the great dike, and the
return, were effected without the most bloody opposition. The lake
suddenly swarmed with canoes full of fighting men, and when Don Hernan
again turned his face towards Tenochtitlan, he beheld the causeway
covered with warriors, who, besides disputing his passage with
unappeasable rage, broke, as well as they could, the bridges over the
sluices, seven in number, wherein were mingled the floods of Chalco and
Tezcuco. His valour, however, or his good fortune, prevailed; and by
night-fall he reached the square of Axajacatl, and fell with renewed
fury upon the savages who still struggled with the garrison. When he had
carved his way through them, and had directed the exertions of his
united forces against the besiegers, who still raved, like wolves,
around him, he gave some thought to those companions, whose fate it had
been, to lay their bodies on the causeway, or to take their rest, with
such exequies as could be rendered in the lamentations of men expecting
each instant to share their fate, under the salt bosom of Tezcuco.

It became known, that, among these unhappy victims, was the knight of
Calavar,--but how slain, or where entombed, no one could relate. From
the day of the loss of his kinsman, he had been reckoned by all,
entirely insane. He held communion with none, not even his attendants;
but casting aside his abstraction, and resuming his armour, he was
present in every conflict which ensued, fighting with an ardour, fury,
and recklessness, as astonishing as they were maniacal. All that was
remembered of his fate, this day, was, that, when at the farthest part
of the causeway the trumpets were ordered to sound a retreat, he was
seen, without attendants, for they were wedged fast in the melée,
dashing onwards amid the dusky crowds that came rushing upon the front
from the suburbs of Iztapalapan. Cortes had, himself, called to the
knight to return, and not doubting that he would extricate himself
without aid, had then given all his attention to the Mexicans attacking
on the rear. This was known; it was known also that Don Gabriel had not
returned: beyond this, all was mystery and gloom.



CHAPTER LIII.


Two hours after night-fall, and while the Spaniards were still engaged
in close battle with the besiegers, who, this night, seemed as if their
rage was never to be appeased, the cavalier Don Amador de Leste rested
in his chamber, (the Moorish boy sitting dejected at his feet,) now
starting up with cries of grief and impatience, as the continued
explosions of artillery admonished him of the straits of his friends,
and now, as these seemed to die away and be followed by silence, giving
his mind to other not less exciting thoughts, and questioning the page
of the events of the past day.

"Not now, not now,--ask me not _now_!" replied the page, with great
emotion to one of his demands; "for now can I think of naught but my
father. It is not his custom to leave me so long by night, even when the
battle continues. Heaven protect him! for at any moment, he may die; and
what then am I, in this land, and among this people? Would to heaven we
had perished in Spain,--nay, in Barbary,--in the sea along with our
friends; for, then, might we have died together!"

"Give not way to this passion," said the cavalier, with an attempt at
consolation, which drove not the gloom from his own countenance; "for
thou knowest, that, whatever evil may happen to Abdalla, I will myself
befriend thee."

"My father is slain!" cried Jacinto, wringing his hands, "or long since
would he have been with us."

"If this be the case," said Amador, with grave benevolence, "and I will
not deny that Abdalla doth keep his life in constant jeopardy, it
plainly shows, that I am bound to make a father's effort to protect
thee, and thou to follow my counsels. Hark!" he exclaimed, as a furious
cannonade, seemingly of all the pieces shot off together, brought its
roar and its tremor to his prison-house,--"dost thou not hear how
ferocious is the combat, at this moment? Know, Jacinto, that every
explosion seems like a petard fastened to and bursting upon mine own
bosom,--so very great are the shock and pang of mind with which, at such
time, I bethink me of the condition of my countrymen. Much longer I
cannot endure my captivity; I have resolved that it shall end, even, if
that be needful, by the breach of my solemn vow; for, I am persuaded,
the dishonour and compunction which must follow upon that, will be but
light, compared with the great ignominy of my present inactivity, and
the unspeakable remorse which rends my vitals, while submitting to it.
But I can by no means escape, while thou art left alone to be my jailer;
if I escape by force of arms, it shall be when thy father is here to
oppose me. I counsel thee, however, as thinking, with thee, that Abdalla
may be dead----"

Here Jacinto burst into the most bitter lamentations.

"Be not thus afflicted; for I speak to thee only of a possibility which
may be feared, and not of a certainty to be mourned. What I mean is,
that this possibility should be enough to release thee, as well as
myself, from this house; for if Abdalla be really deceased, it must be
evident to thee, nothing could be more foolish, and even dangerous, than
to remain in it alone; seeing that, if we be not found out and murdered
by the Mexicans, we must surely expect to be starved. Guided by the
sounds of battle, we can easily find our way to the palace; and perhaps,
by wrapping ourselves in some of these cotton curtains, we may make our
way through the herds of Mexicans, without notice, as being mistaken for
some of their fellow-combatants. Once arrived within earshot of the
palace, I have no fear but that we shall be very safe; and I pledge my
vow to thee, that I will so faithfully guard thee on the way, that no
weapon shall strike thee, that has not first pierced my own bosom."

The page clasped his hands, and regarded his master with looks in which
affection struggled with despair.

"But if my father should live--oh, if my father should live! and
returning to this desolate house, should find that his child has
deserted him!"

"If he live," said the cavalier, "then shall he know, that thou hast
taken the only step to preserve him from destruction, both temporal and
eternal. I will not rest, till I have procured for him a free pardon; I
will hold thee as a hostage, which, in addition to the assurance of
forgiveness, will speedily bring him into the garrison: for, knowing his
love to thee, I know he cannot live without thee. Besides, I will
obtain, for I will demand it, permission for him to return with thee to
Spain; and if my knight consent, we will depart together; for now I am
convinced that heaven doth fight against us, even to upholding the
godless heathen. Let us therefore depart, making our trust in God, who
will cover us, this night, as with shields, to protect our weakness."

"Alas, alas!" cried the boy, faltering with grief and fear, "my lord is
sick and wounded, feeble and helpless."

"That I have not all the vigour, which, a few days since, was mine,"
said the cavalier, snatching up his sword, and brandishing it, once or
twice, in the air, as if to make trial of his strength, "I cannot deny.
Nevertheless, I am stronger than yesterday; and besides, while placing
great reliance on the protection of heaven, I shall trust less to my
weapon than to such disguises as it may be in our power to adopt. With
these figured curtains wrapped about us, and, if there be any feathers
about the house, a bunch or two tied to our heads, I have no doubt, we
can delude the Mexican fighting men, and, in the tumult of battle, pass
through their ranks, entirely unmolested."

While the page hesitated and wept, visibly struggling between his wishes
and his fears, there occurred a sudden interruption in the cannonade;
and, in the dead silence that followed, both heard the sound of rapid
footsteps approaching the door, accompanied by smothered groans.

The page started--In an instant, the steps were heard in the passage,
followed by a heavy sound, as of a man falling upon the floor.

"Oh God! my father! my poor father!" cried Jacinto, springing to the
door.

He was arrested by the arm of the neophyte, who plainly distinguished,
along with the groans that came from the passage, a noise as if the
sufferer were struggling to his feet; and in a moment after, as he
pushed aside the curtain, to go out himself, the slave Ayub, covered
with blood, rushed by him into the apartment, and again fell prostrate.

"My father, Ayub! my father?" cried the page, kneeling at his side.

"Allah il Allah! praised be God, for now I am safe!" said the Morisco,
raising on his arm, and, though his whole frame shook as in the ague of
death, regarding the pair with the greatest exultation. "I thought they
had shot me through the liver with a bullet; but Allah be praised! 'twas
naught but an arrow. Help me up, noble señor--Eh? ay? Trim the taper a
little, and give me a morsel of drink."

"Thou sayest naught of my father, Ayub?" said Jacinto, eagerly and yet
with mortal fear,--for he knew by the gesture of Don Amador, as he
ceased his unavailing attempt to lift the wounded man, but more by the
countenance of Ayub himself, that he was a dying man.

"How can I speak without light?" cried the Moor, with a sort of chuckle.
"Trim the torch, trim the torch, and let me see where these boltheads be
rankling.--Praise be to Allah, for I thought myself a dead man!"

"Wilt thou not speak to me of my father?" exclaimed Jacinto, in agony.

"A brave night! a brave night!" muttered Ayub, fumbling at his
garments--"Valiant unbelievers!--Praised be God--The Wali----"

"Ay, the Wali! the Wali, thy master!" cried Jacinto, his voice dwindling
to a hoarse and terrified whisper;--"my father, thy master, Ayub?"

"The Wali----Hah!" exclaimed the unbeliever, roused by the distant
explosions;--"At it yet, brave pagans? Roar, cannon! Shout, infidel!
shout and whistle--shout, whistle, and kill!--Save me the Wali, save me
the Wali!"

"Oh heaven, Ayub!--thou sayest nothing of him,--of my father!"

"They took him a prisoner--but we'll have him again!--Lelilee!
Lelilee!--Strike fast, pagan!--A brave day for Granada!"

At these words, Jacinto seemed not less like to die than the fugitive.
But as he neither fell to the floor, nor screamed, Don Amador still held
fast to Ayub, who was now struggling in the most fearful convulsions,
and yet, strange to hear, still uttering broken expressions of joy.

"A prisoner, a prisoner!--A little drink, for the sake of Allah!" he
cried, incoherently. "Ha, ha! one runs not so far with a bullet in the
liver!--Now they are at it! now they are killing the great señores!
now, they murder 'em!--Great joy! a great sight for a Moor!
great--great--great revenge!--Many days agone--Great--great revenge!
says the Wali--They killed my mother--Great revenge--great--great--Oho!
great revenge for Granada!"

With these accents on his lips, mingled with sounds of laughter, and
horrid contortions of countenance, the infidel Moor, (for such was
Ayub,) sprang suddenly to his knees; and flinging abroad his arms, and
uttering a yell of agony, fell back instantly upon the floor, quivered a
moment, and then lay a disfigured corse.

"Dost thou see, Jacinto!" said Don Amador, taking the shivering boy by
the arm. "Ayub is dead, and thy father a prisoner. If thou wilt save the
life of Abdalla, the Wali, (I never before knew that Abdalla, though
noble, was of this dignity--but this shall help me to plead for him;)
get thyself instantly in readiness, and let us begone."

The page turned a tearless countenance on his patron, and replied, with
a tranquillity that seemed to come from desperation,--

"I will go with my lord, for I have no friend now but him,--I will go
with my lord, to look upon my father's dead body; for I know the
Spaniards will not spare his life a moment,--I will go with my
lord,--and would that I had gone sooner! for now, it is too late."

As Jacinto pronounced these words, he began to weep anew, though
hearkening passively to the instructions of the cavalier.

"If thou canst find me any plumes," said Amador, "fetch them to me
straight; and if thou hast about the house, any Mexican garment, which
thou canst wear, haste thou to don it. As for myself, I will first arm,
and then robe me in the tunic of this poor dead misbeliever. Be of good
heart, I charge thee--God will protect us."

"There are robes enough, both for my lord and me," said the sobbing
boy,--"and shrouds too--It is too late.--But I can die with my lord!"

"Why, that is spoken with more valour than I thought thou hadst," said
the cavalier. "But bring me the robes, without thinking of thy shrouds;
and be very quick, for I must have thee to buckle some of these straps
of my jambeux."

The page took up a little taper that lay near the flambeau, and,
shuddering as he passed by the body, instantly departed on his errand.



CHAPTER LIV.


When the boy returned, bearing a bundle of garments, and two or three
such crests as were worn by the nobler Mexicans, in time of war, the
cavalier had more than half-armed himself. He sighed, as he flung the
habergeon over his shoulders, to find the many rents made among the
Flemish links by the Mexican glass; but he sighed more, when he
discovered how greatly his bodily powers were enfeebled, by feeling,
almost for the first time in his life, the oppressive weight of the
mail. Nevertheless, the cannon still roared at the palace, every moment
was expediting the doom of Abdalla, perhaps, also, that of his friends
and kinsman; and he seized upon cuish and greave, gauntlet and helm,
with activity and eagerness.

"What is that huge mantle thou placest upon the table?" he demanded of
the page, without relaxing in his efforts.

"A _tilmatli_, or Indian cloak, large enough to hide my lord's armour,"
replied Jacinto, hurriedly. "If the Mexicans should see the gleaming of
but a single link, death on the spot, or, still more horrid, on the
pyramid, will be the fate of my lord."

"Now that I know, that such would be the consequence of captivity," said
the cavalier, fiercely, "I swear to God and St. John, I will die
fighting--that is, if it please heaven, that I shall be struck no more
blows that overpower without killing."

"And this great penacho," said the boy, "I will tie to my lord's crest,
so that it shall entirely veil the helmet. I have fastened some of the
red tufts among the feathers, whereby the pagans may think my lord is a
war-chief, and noble, if they should see them."

"Of all boys that I have ever yet seen, thou art by far the shrewdest
and wisest," said Don Amador with complacency, but without ceasing a
moment to do on his armour, "What disguise hast thou provided for
thyself?"

"A garment," said Jacinto, "which, being flung about my body and hooded
over my head, will cause the Mexicans to think me a woman devoted to the
service of one of their gods."

"A most damnable delusion," said the novice, "and I would thou hadst
fallen upon some other device. But, perhaps, thou hadst no choice; and,
now that I think of it, thy small stature, and very smooth and handsome
visage, will, perhaps, suit this disguise better than another. If there
be any sin in assuming it, heaven will allow the necessity, and forgive
the commission. Quick, and don it,--for I would have thee tighten these
greave-straps, before I pull on my boots."

"It will but encumber me: I will fling it over me in the passage," said
Jacinto, kneeling, and endeavouring, with an unsteady hand, to perform
the office required of him.

"Be of good heart, I charge thee, and tremble not. Thou art unused to
this service; but think not, though thou beest the son of a Moorish
Wali, of the noblest blood, that this duty can dishonour thee. I have
performed it myself, times without number, to my good knight, Don
Gabriel. I would thou wert somewhat stronger, though. Fear not to pull
with all thy strength. I have shrunk somewhat with the fever,--greatly
to the disparagement of my leg,--and the strap is of the stiffest."

"It is stiffened with my lord's blood!" said the page, trembling more,
but succeeding, at last, in securing it. Then rising, and knotting a
broad and shadowy plume over his patron's helmet, so as, in a great
measure, to conceal the gleaming iron, he assisted to fasten it. There
remained nothing, then, for the cavalier, but to arrange the tilmatli
about his person; a feat, in which, with the aid of the page, he
succeeded so well, as quite to hide his martial equipments, without yet
depriving him of the power, in case of necessity, of using the sword,
which he held naked in his hand.

"Thy woman's weeds! Why dost thou hesitate, Jacinto?" he cried,
prepared, and now eager to make his departure. "Thou thinkest of thy
lute? By my faith, I shall be loath thou shouldst lose it, for much good
has it done, and yet may do, to Don Gabriel. I will bear it under my
arm."

"Think not of the lute," said Jacinto, sorrowfully. "What need have we
now of music? It will but overburden my lord, whose hands should be
free; and in mine, it would only serve to expose the deception of my
apparel."

"Cast it aside, then; and now, in God's name, let us depart!"

Jacinto stepped, faltering, up to the body of Ayub, lying stiff and
cold, the countenance, illuminated by the slanting torch-light, still
mingling a grin of exultation with the contortion of the death-agony. A
tear dropped upon the swarthy cheek, and a deep sob burst from the bosom
of Jacinto, when he gazed his last upon the dead Morisco.

"Why dost thou tarry to weep?" said Amador, impatiently.--"Ayub was an
infidel."

"My lord does not know how those who have not many friends, can value
the few," said the page. "This man was faithful to my father; and
therefore do I lament him, as one whose loss is a sore misfortune; and,
infidel though he were, yet was he of the faith of my ancestors."

"Remember, however, that, while thou weepest over a dead friend of
Abdalla, thou deprivest him of the services of a living one."

Thus rebuked, Jacinto moved rapidly into the passage, and flinging, as
he went, the garment he held about his person, stepped with the cavalier
into the street.

A thick scud, threatening rain, careered over the heaven, and the smoke
of cannon, mingling with the mists of the lake, covered the city with a
gloom so deep, that Don Amador could not easily distinguish the
peculiar habiliments of his companion. Nevertheless, he could well
believe that his appearance was that of an Indian maiden. He bade
Jacinto to take him by the hand, adding an injunction, under all
circumstances that might arise, to maintain his grasp. To this, Jacinto
answered,--

"Let it not be so,--at least, not until we are so environed, as to be in
danger of separating. My lord must now consent to be guided by me." (He
spoke with singular coolness, as if restored, by the urgency of the
occasion, to all that self-command and discretion, which had so often
excited the wonder of his patron.) "I will walk a little before; and if
the people should approach, let my lord take no notice, but follow
calmly in my steps, as though he were a great noble, disdaining to look
upon his inferiors. Be not amazed at what may happen, and, especially,
do not speak a word until close by the Spaniards."

"Dost thou mean," said the cavalier, suddenly struck with the memory of
the vision, not yet accounted for by the page,--"dost thou mean to
practise any arts of magic? for if so----"

"I beseech my lord not to speak," said the boy, with a hurried voice;
"for, if a word be heard, neither valour nor magic can save us from
destruction. By-and-by, my lord shall see the wisdom of this counsel;
and all that is strange in its consequences, shall be explained to him."

Thus speaking, Jacinto strode forwards, and Don Amador, wondering, yet
yielding to his instructions, followed in silence.

The cannon still roared at the palace, and the shouts of the infuriated
combatants were plainly heard, in the intervals of the discharges; so
that, as the cavalier had hinted, there could be no difficulty in
determining their path. Nevertheless, it appeared to him, that Jacinto
walked forwards with the boldness and certainty of one familiar with the
streets he was treading.

For a time, their course lay through a street entirely deserted; but,
by-and-by, passing into one of greater magnitude, they beheld shadowy
masses, now of single figures, now of groups, darting about, many of
them with lights, as if flying, some from the scene of combat, and
others, like themselves, approaching it. It was apparent that this
street was one of the four great avenues leading to the square of
Axajacatl; for no sooner had the two Christians stepped upon it, than
the sounds of conflict came to them with tenfold loudness; and they
could behold, ever and anon, as the deadly discharges burst from the
artillery, the flames flashing luridly up through the mists, like the
jets of a distant volcano.

With the consciousness that he now trod a principal street, Don Amador
became aware that he was, of a certainty, advancing full upon the mouth
of, at least, one piece of ordnance; and, as Jacinto paused suddenly, as
if dismayed at his peril, (for at that moment a ruddy flame shot out of
the mist, and a falconet bellowed down the street,) he approached the
boy, and said,--

"For thy sake, Jacinto,--(it does not become me to say for my own;
though I confess some repugnance to advance thus on the cannon of my
friends,)--I should wish thou couldst find some other path, not so much
exposed to be raked as this."

"Speak not,--we have no choice," muttered the boy. "But God be thanked!
the bullet that strikes my lord, will first pass through my own body."

This little expression of devotion was pronounced with an earnestness
that touched the heart of the cavalier; and he was about to utter his
satisfaction, when a gesture of Jacinto, who immediately began to resume
his pace, warned him into silence. The usefulness of the caution was
soon made manifest; for two or three Mexicans suddenly brushed by,
though without seeming to notice them. An instant after, there passed
several groups, bearing wounded men in their arms; and, by-and-by, while
every moment seemed to surround them yet more with isolated
individuals, there came a party in some numbers, uttering lamentations,
as if over the body of a great noble. Several of these bore torches in
their hands, wherewith they were enabled to descry the pair; and Don
Amador's heart beat quick, as he saw three or four detach themselves
from the group, and run forwards, as if to make sure of a prey. He
grasped at his weapon, invoked his saint, and moved quickly up to
Jacinto, to give him what protection he could. But, at the very moment
when he feared the worst, he was amazed to behold the barbarians come to
a dead halt, and, at the waving of Jacinto's hand, part from before him
with countenances of reverence and fear. The same remarkable change was
observed in those who composed the party bearing the corse, with the
addition of new marks of homage; for, leaving the body in the hands of a
few, they seemed about to follow the page in a tumultuous procession,
until he turned round, waving his hand again; at which gesture, nearly
all immediately fell on their knees, and so remained until he passed.
All this time, the wondering cavalier was conscious that he was himself
unregarded.

Little by little, while the screams and cannon-shots grew louder at each
step, Don Amador perceived that the groups began to grow into crowds,
and then into dense masses, every moment; while, every moment, also, it
became still more apparent, that his guide exercised some powerful,
though, to him, inscrutable, influence, over the mob; for, no sooner did
their torches reveal his figure, than all were straightway seized with
admiration, falling upon their knees, or returning on their path, and
following him towards the battle.

The gestures of Jacinto served no longer to repel them; and in a few
moments there were hundreds of men, their numbers increasing at each
step, who pressed after him eagerly, though reverentially,--uttering, at
first, low murmurs, and then, at last, shouts of joy and triumph. These
reaching the ears and drawing the attention of others in front, they, in
turn, added their respect to the homage of the rest.

However surprising, and, indeed, confounding, this notice, and these
salutations, to Don Amador, they were far from agreeable; for the train
followed so close upon his heels, that he dreaded, every moment, lest
some derangement of his mantle or plumes might expose to their gaze the
hidden ensigns of a Christian. Greatly was he rejoiced, therefore, when
the steady and persevering advance of the page had carried him so deeply
into the crowd, that it was scarcely practicable for more than one or
two individuals, at a time, to look upon him, and quite impossible that
the noisy train should follow. He ceased, therefore, to lament his
proximity to the cannon-mouths, which still, at intervals, flung death
among the besiegers; for he thought that in that alone there was safety.
His desire, in this particular, was soon gratified; for he was, at last,
wedged, with the page, among a mass of men so dense and so disordered,
that he no longer feared a scrutiny. He was in sight of the palace, his
foot planted upon the square, and but a few paces separated from his
friends and his knight.

In the flash of the arquebuses, but more particularly in the fiendish
glare of the cannon, when disemboguing their contents upon the
barbarians, he beheld the terraces covered with his countrymen,
resisting as they could, and with every shot from the musket, every bolt
from the arbalist, adding a life to the reckoning of their revenge, and
yet fainting with fatigue over a slaughter which had no end. The square
was filled with men, as with a sea, and when the fiery flashes of the
ordnance lit it up as with a momentary conflagration, the commotion
following upon each, made him think of those surges of fire which roll
in the crater of a volcano, and of the billows of blood that dash upon
the shores of hell. A more infernal spectacle could not, indeed, have
been imagined; and when the harsh yells of the pagan myriads were
added, the tophet was complete, and man appeared,--as he yet
appears,--the destroyer and the demoniac.

This spectacle, however horrible it might have been to one accustomed to
look upon man as the image of his maker, and the blow struck at the life
of man, as a stroke aimed at the face of God, had the effect to stir the
blood of Don Amador de Leste to such a degree, that, had he not been
checked by the cold hand and the deadly pale visage of his companion, he
would have followed the impulse of his valour, uncovered his weapon,
and, shouting a war-cry, dashed at once upon the throat of the nearest
infidel. The look of Jacinto recalled him to his senses; he made him a
signal to clutch upon his mantle and follow, and then plunged again into
the gory crowd.

The tempest, both physical and mental, which beset all that rout of
pagans, reduced the intelligence of each to but two objects of
thought,--his enemy and himself. Not one turned to wonder or observe,
when the strong shoulders--strong from excitement--of the cavalier
thrust him aside, or the hard touch of an iron-cased elbow crushed into
his bosom; nor, perhaps, was a look cast upon the effeminate figure,
that seemed a girl, at the back of this impetuous stranger. Thus, then,
unresisted and disregarded, the cavalier made his way, step by step,
taking advantage of every moment when the barbarians gave way before an
explosion of artillery, or a charge of the garrison,--hoping, at each
effort, to issue upon the open space betwixt the besiegers and the
besieged, and, at each, arrested by a denser crowd,--speaking words of
encouragement to the horror-struck page, for well he knew he might speak
without fear in such a din,--and, feeling, at each moment, his strength
melting away, like burning wax, under the prolonged exertion. He toiled
for his life, for the life of the boy, perhaps for the life of Don
Gabriel; but human nature could not sustain the struggle much longer.
Despair came to his heart, for he knew not how far he stood from the
palace wall, and felt that he could labour no more. His eye darkened, as
he looked back to Jacinto,--the boy was swooning where he stood.

"God be merciful to us both! But, at least, thou shalt die in my arms,
poor boy!" he muttered, making one more effort, and raising the page
from the earth. "God be merciful to us,--but especially to this child,
for he is sinless, and, I fear me, fatherless."

At this moment, a dreadful scream burst from the lips of all around the
novice, and immediately he felt himself borne back by the barbarians as
they recoiled, seemingly, from a charge of cavalry. The thought was
hope, and hope again renewed his strength. He planted his feet firmly on
the earth, and with his elbow and shoulder dashed aside the fleeing
pagans, pressed the senseless boy to his heart, raised his voice in a
shout, and the next moment stood free from the herd, ten feet from the
muzzle of a cannon, from which the Mexicans had been recoiling. His eye
travelled along the tube;--the magician Botello stood on the broken wall
at its side, and the linstock he held in his hand was descending to the
vent.

"For the love of God, hold!" shouted the cavalier, "or you will kill
Christian men!"

The match fell to the earth, and the cavalier sprang forward. But if his
voice had reached the ears of friends, it had not escaped the organs of
foes. A dozen savages, forgetful of their fears, sprang instantly
towards him, endeavouring to lay hold upon him. A back-handed blow of
his weapon loosed the grasp of the most daring, and the hands of others
parted along with the flimsy disguise of Jacinto. He left this in their
grasp, tottered forward, and the next moment, as the cannon belched
forth its death upon the pursuing herds, stood in the court-yard of the
palace.



CHAPTER LV.


As the cavalier sprang among his countrymen almost fainting with
exhaustion, he loosened, with as much discretion as dexterity, the knot
of the tilmatli, and dropped it to the earth, so that he might not be
mistaken for a foe. The sudden gleam of his armour, and the sight of his
wan visage, struck all those who had rushed against him with horror.
Among the foremost of all, was the man-at-arms Lazaro, who no sooner
perceived that he had raised his trusty espada against what he doubted
not was the spectre of the novice, than he fell upon his knees, yelling
aloud,

"Jesu Maria! my master! my master's ghost!" with other such exclamations
of terror.

At this moment, the page revived in the arms of his patron, but only to
add to the cry of Lazaro a shriek so wild and heart-piercing, that it
drove all other sounds from the ears of Don Amador. The cavalier
observed the cause of this cry, and again his eye lighted up with the
fires of passion. A group of soldiers, agitated by some tumult, which
had no part in the conflict around, stood against the palace wall, under
a casement, from which was projected a bundle of partisans. Round this
extempore gibbet was fixed a rope, one end of which being pulled at by
those below, the cavalier beheld, shooting up above the heads of the
mass, a human being, to all appearance, bound hand and foot; and in the
blackened and horribly convulsed countenance of the sufferer, he
perceived the features of Abdalla, the Wali.

With a bound, that carried him at once into their midst, and with a
rapidity that prevented opposition he rushed up to the wall, and before
the Morisco was elevated above his reach, struck the halter with his
weapon. The Zegri fell to the earth;--the executioners looked upon the
visage of his bold preserver, and being persuaded, like Lazaro, that the
very ghastly apparition before them was nothing less than the ghost of
an hidalgo, universally reckoned dead, they recoiled in affright. Before
they had recovered from their confusion, the culprit rose to his feet,
glared a moment on the cavalier, and then springing away, was instantly
lost among the combatants. A wild and exulting cry of "Moro! Moro!
Tlatoani Moro!" rose among the barbarians; and the Spaniards knew that
their prey was beyond pursuit.

"Santos santísimos! Holy Mother of heaven! grace upon all, and Amen! if
thou beest a living creature, speak,--or I will smite thee for a devil!"

These words came from the lips of Alvarado, who had himself commanded
the body of hangmen, and who now, though his teeth chattered with
terror, advanced his rapier towards the bosom of his late companion. As
he gazed and menaced, Don Amador, yielding, at last, to the consequences
of labours altogether above his enfeebled powers, sunk swooning to the
earth; and Jacinto, rushing from the crowd, flung himself upon his body.

"Viva! praise God, and let the cry go round; for we have saved the noble
De Leste!" shouted Don Pedro, with a voice of joy, raising the senseless
cavalier. "Now shall ye hear from his own mouth, ye caitiffs that have
belied me, that I played not the foul companion. Viva! I swear it
rejoices me to behold thee!--Why, thou little rascal traitor, art thou
here, too! It was God's will thy vagabond father should purchase me my
brother; for which reason, I am not incensed he has escaped me. One day
is as good as another for hanging.--How now, my noble friend! art thou
hurt beyond speaking! God's lid! but I would hug thee, if thou didst not
look so dismal!"

All this time, the neophyte surveyed the astounded visages around him
with a bewildered eye; and, doubtless, his obtuse senses could not, at
that moment of clamour, detect the accents of Don Pedro.

"Tetragrammaton! did I not tell thee the truth?" cried the harsh voice
of Botello.

"Master! dear master!" exclaimed Lazaro, as he embraced the knees of the
novice.

"Thanks be to God! the noble señor has escaped!" shouted the secretary.

"God be praised! but would it had been yesterday! for then might it have
been better for Don Gabriel."

The name of his kinsman, spoken by the well-known voice of Baltasar,
dispelled at once the dreamy trance of the cavalier.

"How fares my noble kinsman?" he cried.

The head of Baltasar fell on his breast, and a loud groan came from his
fellow-servitor. Don Amador looked to the Tonatiuh, and witnessed the
change from blithe joy to gloomy hesitation, which instantly marked his
handsome aspect; the face of Fabueno darkened; and the magician strode
away.

"Clear for me, if ye will not speak!" said the cavalier, with sudden
sternness; "for there is no sight of wo I cannot now look upon."

He grasped the arm of Jacinto, and pushing into the palace, made his way
toward the chamber of the knight.--The hand of devastation had been upon
the walls of the passage; beams and planks had been torn away to supply
the materials for the mantas and other martial engines; and Don Amador
no longer knew the apartment of his kinsman. A dim light, and a low
sound of wailing, came from a curtained door. Before the secretary and
the other attendants who followed, could intercept him, he stepped into
the room.

The sight that awaited him instantly fastened his attention. He was in
the chamber of Montezuma, and the captive monarch lay on the bed of
death. Around the low couch knelt his children, and behind were the
princes of the empire, gazing with looks of awe on the king. In front
were several Spanish cavaliers, unhelmed and silent; and Cortes himself,
bare-headed and kneeling, gazed with a countenance of remorse on his
victim; while the priest Olmedo stood hard by, vainly offering, through
the medium of Doña Marina and the cavalier De Morla, the consolations
of religion.

The king struggled in a kind of low delirium, in the arms of a man of
singular and most barbarous appearance. This was a Mexican of gigantic
stature, robed in a hooded mantle of black; but the cowl had fallen from
his head, and his hair, many feet in length, plaited and twisted with
thick cords, fell like cables over his person and that of the dying
king. This was the high-priest of Mexico, taken prisoner at the battle
of the temple.

The countenance of Montezuma was changed by suffering and the
death-throe; and yet, from their hollow depths, his eyes shot forth
beams of extraordinary lustre. As he struggled, he muttered; and his
broken exclamations being interpreted, were found to be the lamentations
of a crushed spirit and a broken heart.

"Bid the Teuctli depart," were some of the words which Don Amador
caught, as rendered by the lips of Marina: "before he came, I was a king
in Mexico.--But the son of the gods," he went on, with a hoarse and
rattling laugh, "shall find that there are gods in Mexico, who shall
devour the betrayer! They roar in the heavens, they thunder among the
mountains,"--(the continued peals of artillery, shaking the fabric of
the palace, mingled with his dreams, and gave a colour to them)--"they
speak under the earth, and it trembles at their shouting. Ometeuctli,
that dwelleth in the city of heaven, Tlaloc, that swimmeth on the great
dark waters, Tonatricli and Meztli, the kings of day and night, and
Mictlanteuctli, the ruler of hell,--all of them speak to their people;
they look upon the strangers that destroy in their lands, and they say
to me, 'Thou art the king, and they shall perish!'--Wo! wo! wo!" he
continued, with an abrupt transition to abasement and grief; "they look
upon me and laugh, for I have no people! In the face of all, I was made
a slave; and, when they had spit upon me, they struck me as they strike
the slave; so struck my people. Come, then, thou that dwellest among
the rivers of night; for, among the rivers, with those who die the death
of shame, shall I inhabit. Did not Mexico strike me, and shout for joy?
Wo, wo! for my people have deserted me! and, in their eyes, the king is
a slave!"

"Put thy lips to this emblem of salvation," said the Spanish priest,
extending his crucifix, eagerly; "curse thy false gods, which are
devils; acknowledge Christ to be thy master; and part,--not to dwell
among the rivers of hell, which are of fire, but in the seats of bliss,
the heaven of the just and happy."

"I spit upon thy accursed image!" said the monarch, rousing, with
indignation, into temporary sanity, and endeavouring to suit the action
to the word; "I spit upon thy cross, for it is the god of liars and
deceivers! of robbers and murderers! of betrayers and enslavers! I curse
thy god, and I spit upon him!"

All the Spaniards present recoiled with horror at the impiety, which was
too manifest in the act to need interpretation; and some, in the moment,
half drew their swords, as if to punish it by despatching the dying man
at once. But they looked again on the king, and knew that this sin was
the sin of madness.

As they started back, the person of De Leste, whom, in their fixed
attention to Montezuma, none of them had yet perceived, was brought into
the view of the monarch. His glittering eye fell upon the penacho, which
the cavalier had not yet thought to remove from his helmet, and which
yet drooped, with its badges of rank, over his forehead. A laugh, that
had in it much of the simple exultation of childhood, burst from the
king's lips; and, raising himself on the couch, he pointed at the ruddy
symbols of distinction. The cavaliers, following the gesture with their
eyes, beheld, with great agitation, their liberated companion; and even
Cortes, himself, started to his feet, with an invocation to his saint,
when his eye fell upon the apparition.

The words of Amador,--"Fear me not, for I live,"--though not lost, were
unanswered; for, notwithstanding that many of the cavaliers immediately
seized upon his hands, to express their joy, they instantly cast their
regards again upon Montezuma, as not having the power to withdraw them
for a moment from him.

"Say what they will," muttered the king, still eyeing the penacho with
delight, "I, also, am of the House of Darts; and in Tlascala and
Michoacan, and among the Otomies of the hills, have I won me the tassels
of renown. Before I was a king, I was a soldier: so will I gather on me
the armour of a general, and drive the Teuctli from my kingdom. Ho,
then, what ho! Cuitlahuatzin! and thou, son of my brother,
Quauhtimotzin! that are greater in war than the sons of my body, get ye
forth your armies, and sound the horns of battle! Call upon the gods,
and smite! on Mexitli the terrible, on Painalton the swift! call them,
that they may see ye strike, and behold your valour! Call them, for
Montezuma will fight at your side, and they shall know that he is
valiant!"

The struggles of the king, as he poured forth these wild exclamations,
were like convulsions. But suddenly, and while the Spaniards thought he
was about to expire in his fury, the contortions passed from his
countenance, his lips fell, his eyes grew dim, and his voice was turned
to a whisper of lamentation.

"I sold my people for the smile of the Teuctli; I bartered my crown for
the favour of the Christian; I gave up my fame for the bonds of a
stranger; and now what am I? I betrayed my children--and what are they?
Let it not be written in the books of history,--blot the name of
Montezuma from the list of kings; let it not be taught to them that are
to follow.--Tlaloc, I come!--Let it be forgotten."

Suddenly, as he concluded, and as if the fiend of the world of waters he
had invoked, had clutched upon him, he was seized with a dreadful
convulsion, and as his limbs writhed about in the agony, his eyes,
dilating with each struggle, were fixed with a stony and basilisk glare
upon those of Cortes; and thus,--his gaze fixed to the last on his
destroyer,--he expired.

When the neophyte beheld the last quiver cease in the body, and knew by
the loud wail of the Mexicans, that Montezuma was no more, he looked
round for Don Hernan; but the general had stolen from the
apartment.--The visage of Cortes revealed not the workings of his mind;
but his heart spoke to his conscience, and his soul recorded the
confession;--"I have wronged thee, pagan king;--but thy vengeance
cometh!"

Don Amador's arm was touched by his friend De Morla.

"In the chamber of death," said the cavalier, sadly, "thou mightest best
hear of death: but I cannot discourse to thee, while Minnapotzin is
mourning. Let us depart, brother."

Don Amador motioned to the page, and followed his friend out of the
apartment.



CHAPTER LVI.


On the following morning, it was known to all the garrison, that they
were, at night, to depart from Tenochtitlan. The joy, however, that
might have followed the announcement, was brief; for, at the same moment
that the exhausted Christians were roused from slumber and bidden to
prepare, the warders sent down word from the turrets, that their enemies
were again approaching. The shrewdest of all could perceive no other
mode of retreat than by cutting their way through the besiegers; and it
required but little consideration in the dullest, to disclose the
manifold dangers of such an expedient. They manned the walls and the
court-yard, therefore, with but little alacrity, and awaited the
Mexicans in sullen despair.

But Don Hernan, quick to perceive, and resolute to employ the subtle
devices of another, had not forgotten the words of Botello, when that
worthy counselled him to make such use of Montezuma and his children, as
had been made of the golden apples, by Hippomenes, when contending in
the race with the daughter of Schoeneus.

The Mexicans advanced, as usual, with whistling and shouts, filling the
square with uproar; and, as usual, the cannoniers stood to their pieces,
and the Tlascalans to their spears; but before a dart had been yet
discharged, those who looked down from the battlements, beheld a funeral
procession issue from the court-yard.

A bier, constructed rudely of the handles of partisans, but its rudeness
in a measure concealed by the rich robes of state flung over it, was
borne on the shoulders of six native nobles, all of them of high degree
in Tenochtitlan. It supported the body of the emperor, which was covered
only by the tilmatli, leaving the countenance exposed to view. The royal
sandals were on his feet, and the copilli, with the three sceptres, lay
upon his breast. The pagan priest in his sable garment, his face covered
by the cowl, and his head bending so low, that his hideous locks swept
the earth, stepped upon the square, chanting a low and mournful requiem;
and the bearers, stalking slowly and sorrowfully under their burden,
followed after.

The murmurs were hushed in the palace; and the square, so lately filled
with the savage shouts of the enemy, became suddenly as silent as the
grave. The monotonous accents of the priest were alone heard, conveying
to the Mexicans, in the hymn that ushered a spirit into the presence of
the deities, the knowledge of the death of their king.

For awhile, the barbarians stood in stupid awe; but, at last, as the
train approached them, and they perceived with their own eyes the
swarthy features of their monarch fixed in death, they uttered a cry of
grief, low indeed, and rather a moan than a lament, but which, being
caught and continued by the voices of many thousand men, was heard in
the remotest parts of the city. They parted before the corse of one, to
whom, before the days of his degradation, they had been accustomed to
look as to an incarnate divinity. They fell upon their knees, and bowed
their faces to the earth, as he was carried through them; and again the
Spaniards beheld the impressive spectacle, of a great multitude
prostrate in the dust, as if in the act of adoration.

When the bearers and the body were alike concealed from their view, the
Mexicans rose, and turning towards the palace, brandished their weapons
with fierce gestures, and many exclamations of hatred, against the
destroyers of their king. For a moment, Cortes doubted if his expedient
had not served rather to increase, than to divert, the fury of his
opponents; and he beckoned from his stand on the terrace, to the
cannoniers, to prepare their matches. But an instant after, he revoked
the command: the Mexicans were retiring; a great army was suddenly
converted into a funeral train, and thus they departed from the square,
after the body of their ruler, without striking a blow at the invader.

This circumstance reassured the garrison; and the prospect of speedy
release from intolerable suffering and from destruction, wrought such a
change over all, that visages, emaciated by famine, and haggard from
despair, were lit up with smiles; and songs and laughter re-echoed
through chambers, which, but the night before, had resounded with
prayers, groans, and curses. Nothing was now thought of but the bread
and fruits of Tlascala, the mines and fandangos of Cuba; and many a
sedate and sullen veteran clapped his hands with a sudden joy, as he
bethought him of the urchins sporting in the limpid Estero, or climbing
the palm that grew at his cabin door. Escape from the miseries which
had environed them, and the privilege to discourse for life of the
marvels of Tenochtitlan,--of the beauty of its valleys, the magnificence
of its cities, the wealth of its rulers, the ferocious valour of its
citizens,--to wondering listeners, were the only offsets thought of to
the many labours, sufferings, and risks of the campaign. The little
property amassed by each--the share of Montezuma's presents, and the
spoils stripped from the dead, were stored, along with such trifles as
might add the interest of locality to legends of battle, in the sacks of
the soldiers. All made their preparations, and all made them in hope.

The only melancholy men in the palace, that day, were Cortes and Don
Amador de Leste. The latter remembered his knight, falling ingloriously
and alone on the causeway; and the general pondered over the griefs of
defeated ambition.

But whatever were the pangs of Don Hernan, he forgot not the duties of a
general. Besides other precautions, he caused his carpenters to
construct a portable bridge of sufficient strength to support the weight
of his heaviest artillery, and yet, not so ponderous but that it might
be carried on the shoulders of some half a hundred strong men. This he
provided, fearing lest the barbarians had destroyed the bridges not only
of the great dike of Iztapalapan, but of that of Tacuba, on which it was
his determination to attempt his flight, and which, running westward
from the island, was, as has been intimated, but two miles in length.

In accordance with the advice of the necromancer, the hour of departing
was put off until midnight,--a period of time which had the double
advantage of being recommended by Botello, and of ensuring the least
molestation. Each individual, therefore, made his preparations, and
looked forward to that hour.

The melancholy that oppressed the spirits of the neophyte, was so great,
that he betrayed little curiosity either to acquaint himself with the
events which had occurred during his captivity, or even to inquire
further into the mysterious knowledge and acts of the page. But, however
indisposed to conversation, he could not resist the attentions of De
Morla. From him he learned the imputation he had cast on the valour and
gratitude of Alvarado; a charge which the novice removed, by
magnanimously confessing, that his own indiscretion had carried him
beyond the reach of Don Pedro, who should be in no wise held accountable
for his misfortune. He heard with more interest, and even smiled with
good-natured approbation, at the story of Fabueno's fortune; but a frown
darkened on his visage, when De Morla pictured the anger and domineering
fury of the Tonatiuh; and this was not diminished, when his friend
confessed himself the champion of the secretary, announced that Cortes
had sanctioned the quarrel, and claimed of him the offices of a friend.

"If blood must be shed in this quarrel," he said, "it must be apparent
to you, my very noble and generous friend, (for, surely, your kindness
to Lorenzo merits this distinction,)--it must be apparent, I say, that I
am he who is called upon to shed it. The youth is my own follower; for
which reason, I am bound to give him protection, and support him in all
his just rights, whereof one, I think, is to love any woman who may
think fit to give him her affections, whether she be a princess or
peasant. I must, therefore, after repeating to thee my thanks for thy
very distinguished generosity, require thee to yield up thy right to do
battle with Don Pedro, if battle must, indeed, be done,--though I have
hopes that his good sense will enforce him to surrender the maid,
without the necessity of bloodshed."

"I cannot yield to thee, hermano mio," said De Morla, quickly; "for
there is deadly feud betwixt the Tonatiuh and myself; and were he to
fight thee a dozen times over, still should he, of a necessity, measure
weapons with me."

"It doth not appear to me, how this difference can call for more than
one combat; and, as I have told thee, I think it can be composed,
provided thou allowest me to assume thy place, entirely without
conflict."

"Know thou, my friend," said De Morla, "that I have already, in the
matter of thy fall and capture, at the fight of the manta, charged
Alvarado with many terms of opprobrium and insult; for which reason, a
duello has become very inevitable."

"Having already heard from myself," said Don Amador, with gravity, "that
Don Pedro cannot justly incur reproach for my mishap, thou canst do
nothing else, as a true cavalier, but instantly withdraw thy charges,
and make him the reparation of apology; after which, there will remain
no need of enmity."

"Thou speakest the truth!" said De Morla, impetuously; "and I am but a
knave, to have said, or even thought, except at the moment when I was
grieved and imbittered by thy supposed death, that Don Pedro could
demean himself, in any battle, like a craven. I freely avow, and will
justly bear witness, that he is a most unexceptionable cavalier. So far,
I am impelled to pronounce by simple veracity. But yet is there mortal,
though concealed, feud betwixt us."

The neophyte looked on his friend with surprise; seeing which, De Morla
took him by the arm, and said, with great heat,--

"I have come to hear, by an accident, that Don Pedro did once, ('tis now
many months ago,) in the wantonness of his merriment, fling certain
aspersions upon the innocence of Benita; a crime that I could not have
forgiven even in thee, amigo querido, hadst thou been capable of such
baseness. I now confess to thee, without having divulged the same to any
one else, that this circumstance did greatly inflame my anger, and that,
from that moment, I have sought out some means to quarrel with Alvarado,
and so slay him, without involving the fame of Minnapotzin: for it is
clear to me, as it must be to any lover, who doth truly reverence his
mistress, that to associate her name with a quarrel, would be at once to
darken it with the shadow of suspicion. If I should say to Alvarado,
'Thou hast maligned my mistress, thou cur, and therefore I will fight
thee,' then should he, for the credit of his honour, aver that he spoke
the truth; and whether he lived or died, the maiden should still be the
sufferer. I have, therefore, resolved, that my cause of vengeance shall
be concealed; and thou wilt see that the present pretext is the
honourable cloak I have been so long seeking. This I confess to thee;
but I adjure thee to keep my counsel."

There was a degree of lofty delicacy and disinterestedness in this
revealment, which chimed so harmoniously with the refined honour of Don
Amador, that he grasped De Morla's hand, and, instead of opposing
further remonstrance, assured him, both of his approval and his
determination to aid him, as a true brother in arms, in the conflict.

"But how comes it, my friend," he demanded, with a faint smile, "thou
darest look so far into futurity, for such employment? Hast thou forgot
the prophecy of Botello? Methinks, to be fulfilled at all, the
consummation should come shortly; for, with this night, we finish the
war in Mexico."

"For a time, señor mio," said De Morla. "Though the griefs of Montezuma
be over, (heaven rest his soul, for he was the father of Minnapotzin!)
the pangs of his race are not yet all written. I will abide with Don
Hernan; and if Botello do not lie, thou shalt yet see me sleep on the
pyramid."

"Heaven forbid!" cried Amador. "I would rather thou wouldst follow mine
own resolutions, and, for once, show Botello that he hath cast a wrong
figure."

"Dost thou mean to desert us?"

"My kinsman sleeps in the lake," said the novice, sadly; "the tie that
bound me to this fair new world is therefore broken. In mine own heart,
I have no desires to fight longer with these infidels, who cannot
injure the faith of Christ, nor invade the churches of Christendom. The
Turks are a better enemy for a true believer; and, if I put not up my
sword altogether, it shall be drawn, hereafter, on them. The little
page, whom I have, by a miracle, recovered, I will convey with me to
Cuenza, after having, in like manner, recovered his father, (a very
noble Morisco,) or been otherwise assured of his death. I would greatly
persuade thee, having made the princess thy wife, to follow with me to
thy native land. 'My castle lies on Morena's top,'--" continued the
cavalier, insensibly falling upon the melody of the Knight and the Page,
and beginning to muse on the singer, and to mutter, "Surely Jacinto is
the most wonderful of boys!"

"My patrimony is worn out," said De Morla, without regarding the sudden
revery of his friend; "and I give it to my younger brothers. By peace or
war, somehow or other, this land of Mexico will be, one day, conquered;
and, then, a principality in Anahuac will count full as nobly as a
sheep-hill in Castile. I abide by Don Hernan. But let us be gone to the
treasury: I hear the ingots chinking, and thou hast not yet looked upon
our spoils."

The exchequer thus alluded to, and to which De Morla speedily conducted
his friend, was the sleeping apartment of the general. Of the wealth
that was there displayed,--the stores of golden vessels and of precious
stones, as well as of ingots melted from the tribute-dust long since
wrung from the unhappy Montezuma,--it needs not to speak. The whole
treasury of an avaricious king, a predecessor of the late captive,
walled up in former days, and discovered by a happy chance, was there
displayed among the meaner gleanings of conquest. An hundred men, as Don
Amador entered, were grasping at the glittering heaps, while the voice
of Don Hernan was heard gravely saying,--

"The king's fifth, here partitioned and committed to the trust of his
true officers, we must defend with our lives; but while granting to all
Christian men in this army, free permission to help themselves here as
they like, I solemnly warn them of the consequences, should we, as
mayhap my fear may prove true, be attacked this night, while making our
way through the city. The richest man shall thereby purchase the
quickest death.--The wise soldier will leave these baubles, till we come
back again to reclaim them. This night, I will insure the life of none
who carries too rich a freight in his pockets."

He spoke with a serious emphasis, and some of the older veterans,
raising their heads, and eyeing his countenance steadfastly for a
moment, flung down the riches they had grasped, and silently retired
from the apartment. But many others bore about their persons a prince's
ransom.



CHAPTER LVII.


At midnight, the Mexican spy, looking over the broken wall, beheld in
the court-yard which it environed, a scene of singular devotion;--or
rather he caught with his ears--for the grave was not blacker than that
midnight--the smothered accents of supplication. The Christians were
upon their knees, listening, with a silence broken only by the fretful
champing of steeds, and the suppressed moans of wounded men, to a
prayer, pronounced in a whispering voice, wherein the father Olmedo
implored of Heaven to regard them in pity, to stupify the senses of
their enemies, and surround his servants with the shields of mercy, so
that, this night, they might walk out of the city which was their
prison-house, and from the island which had been their charnel,
oppressed no more by the weight of His anger.

The prostrate soldiers, to that moment, full of confident hope, and not
anticipating the danger of any opposition, hearkened with solicitude to
the humble and earnest supplication; and when the padre besought the
deity to endow their arms with strength, and their hearts with courage,
to sustain the toils, and perhaps the perils, of retreat, they were
struck with a vague but racking fear. The petition which was meant to
embolden, deprived them of hope; and they rose from their vain
devotions, in unexpected horror.

The gloom that invested the ruinous palace, prevailed equally over the
pagan city. No torch shone from the casements or house-tops, no taper
flickered in the streets; and the urns of fire on the neighbouring
pyramid, the only light visible,--save, now and then, a ghastly gleam of
lightning bursting up from the south,--burned with a dull and sickened
glare, as if neglected by their watchers. A silence, in character with
the obscurity, reigned over the slumbering city; and when, at last, the
steps of those who bore the ponderous bridge, and the creaking of
artillery wheels, were-heard ringing and rolling over the square, the
sounds smote on the hearts of all like the tolling of distant funeral
bells.

The plan of retreat, determined after anxious deliberation, and
carefully made known to all, was adopted with readiness, as these
footsteps and this rolling sound of wheels,--the only signals
made,--were heard; each man knew his place, and, without delay, assumed
it. In little more than half an hour, the whole train of invaders,
Christian principals and Tlascalan abettors, was in motion, creeping,
with the slow and stealthy pace of malefactors, over the street that led
to the dike of Tacuba. Few glances were sent back to the palace, as
those dim sheets of lightning, flashing up over the path they were
pursuing, revealed obscurely, ever and anon, its broken and deserted
turrets. Its gloomy pile associated nothing but the memory of disaster
and grief. Fearful looks, however were cast upon the dusky fabrics on
either side of the street, as if the fugitives apprehended that each
creak of a wheel, each clattering of horses' hoofs, or the rattling of
armour, might draw the infidel from his slumbers; and many an ear was
directed anxiously towards the van, in fear lest the trumpet should, at
last, be sounded, with the signal of enemies already drawn up, a
thousand deep, on the path they were treading. But no sounds were heard,
save those which denoted the continued progress of their own bands; no
wakeful barbarian was seen lurking in the streets; and hope again slowly
returned to the bosoms of the tremblers.

Before they had yet reached the borders of the island, the night became
still more dark than at their outset; for the lightning grew fainter at
each flash, and finally sank beneath the horizon, to continue its lurid
gambols among the depths of the South Sea. This was witnessed with
secret satisfaction; for, with these treacherous scintillations,
departed the dread that many felt, lest they should betray the march of
the army.

It has been mentioned, that the people of Tenochtitlan had not only
covered the surface of the island with their dwellings, but had extended
them, on foundations of piles, into the lake, wherever the shallowness
of the water permitted. This was especially the case in the
neighbourhood of the great dikes; in which places, not only single
houses, but entire blocks, deserving the name of suburbs, were
constructed. Such a suburb jutted out, for some distance, along the
causeway of Tacuba.

The van of the army had already passed beyond the furthest of these
black and silent structures, and yet no just cause existed to suppose
the retreat had been discovered; though many men of sharper ears or
fainter hearts than their fellows, had averred that they could, at
times, distinguish, on the rear, a dull sound, as of men moving behind
them in heavy masses. The wiser, however, were satisfied, that no such
sounds could prevail even over the subdued noise of their own
footsteps; but some of these bent their ears anxiously towards the
front, as if afraid of danger in that quarter. The reason of this was
not concealed. All day, sounds of lamentation had been heard coming from
the dike, upon which they were now marching, or from its neighbourhood.
It was rumoured, that the cemetery of the Mexican kings lay on the hill
of Chapoltepec, under the huge and melancholy cypresses, which
overshadow that green promontory; and that there, this day, Montezuma
had been laid among his ancestors. A whole people had gone forth to
lament him; and how many of the mourners might be now returning by the
causeway, was a question which disturbed the reflections of all.

But this apprehension was dispelled, when the front of the army had
reached the first of the three ditches which intersected the dike of
Tacuba. Its bridge was removed and gone, and the deep water lay
tranquilly in the chasm. The foe, relying on this simple precaution, had
left the dike to its solitude; and the expedient for continuing the
imprisonment of the Spaniards, was the warrant of their security.

A little breeze, dashing occasionally drops of rain, began to puff along
the lake, as the bridge-bearers deposited their burden over the abyss.
This was not the labour of a moment; the heavy artillery, which still
preceded the train of discomfited slayers, like a troop of jackals in
the path of other destroyers, required that the ponderous frame should
be adjusted with the greatest care. While the carriers, assisted by a
body of Tlascalans, who slipped into the ditch and swam to the opposite
side, were busy with their work, the long train of fugitives behind,
halted, and remained silent with expectation. The rumbling of the wood
over the flags of the causeway, the suppressed murmurs of the labourers,
and, now and then, the dropping of some stone loosened by their feet,
into the ditch,--added to the sighs of the breeze, whispering faintly
over casque and spear,--were the only sounds that broke the dismal quiet
of the scene; and there was something in these, as well as in the
occurrence itself, which caused many to think of the characteristics of
a funeral;--the mute and solemn expectation of the lookers-on,--the
smothered expressions of the few,--and the occasional rattle of clods,
dropping, by accident, upon the coffin.

The bridge was, at last, fixed, and the loud clang of hoofs was heard,
as Cortes, himself, made trial of its strength. The breath of those
behind, came more freely, when these sounds reached their ears; and they
waited impatiently till the advance of those who preceded them, should
give motion to their own ranks.

The post of Don Amador de Leste had been assigned, at his own demand, in
the vanguard,--which was a force consisting of twenty horsemen, two
hundred foot, and ten times that number of Tlascalan warriors, commanded
by Sandoval, the valiant; and, up to this moment, he had ridden at that
leader's side, without much thought of unhealed wounds and feebleness,
willing, and fully prepared, to divide the danger and the honour of any
difficulty, which might be presented. But being now convinced, by the
sign we have mentioned,--that is to say, the removal of the original
bridge,--that no enemies lay in wait on the causeway, he descended from
the back of Fogoso, giving the rein to Lazaro, and commanding him to
proceed onward with the party. In this, he was, perhaps, not so much
governed by a desire to escape the tedium of riding in company with the
ever taciturn Sandoval, as to be nearer to the forlorn boy, Jacinto, who
had, until this moment, trudged along at his side. Some little curiosity
to witness the passage of the rout of fugitives, had also its influence;
for, taking the page by the hand, he led him to the edge of the bridge,
where he could observe every thing without inconvenience, and without
obstructing the course of others.

The dike of Tacuba was, like that of Iztapalapan, of stone, and so
broad, that ten horsemen could easily ride on it abreast. Its base was
broad, shelving, and rugged, and the summit was, perhaps, six feet above
the surface of the water.

The thunder of the twenty horsemen, as they rode over the bridge,
interrupted the consolation which the neophyte was about to give to
Jacinto; who, hanging closely to his patron's arm, yet looked back
towards the city, with many sobs for his exiled father. In the gloomy
obscurity of the hour, the cavaliers of the van, as they passed, seemed
rather like spectres than men;--in an instant of time, they were hidden
from sight among the thick shadows in front. Not less phantom-like
appeared the two hundred foot, stealing over the chasm, and vanishing
like those who had preceded them. Then came the two thousand Tlascalans,
their broken and drooping plumes rustling over their dusky backs, as
they strode onwards, with steps quickened, but almost noiseless.

After these, came the cannon,--eighteen pieces of different sizes,
dragged by rows of pagans, commanded by the gunners. The bridge groaned
under their weight; and a murmur of joy crept over the compacted
multitude behind, when they had counted them, one by one, rumbling over
the sonorous wood, and knew that the last had crossed in safety.

Much time was necessarily occupied in the passage of these cumbrous
instruments; and an interval of several minutes was allowed to intervene
betwixt the passage of each, while the cannoniers were looking to the
condition of the bridge and the ropes.

It was on these occasions, that the greatest quiet prevailed; for, then,
even breath was hushed in suspense; and it was on these occasions also,
that the ears of the neophyte were struck by a sound, which had not,
perhaps, at that time, attracted the attention of any other person. The
breeze, which occasionally whispered on his cheek, was so light, as
scarcely to disturb the serenity of the lake; and yet, it appeared to
him, notwithstanding all this, that, in these moments of calm, he could
plainly distinguish, upon either hand, and at a little distance, the
rippling of water, as if agitated by a moderate wind. He strained his
eyes, endeavouring to pierce the gloom, and unravel the cause of this
singular commotion,--but wholly in vain. The circle of vision was
circumscribed into the narrowest bounds; and wo betide the infidel, who,
fishing in the lake, that night, should fall from his canoe in slumber,
and be parted from it but twenty feet, in his confusion.--The cavalier
looked up to the heavens; but the few drops discharged from their stony
vault, pattered with a sound almost inaudible upon the water. While he
was yet wondering, he heard the voice of one passing him, say to a
comrade,--

"Art thou not wroth, Iago, man, to give up yonder rich town to the
kites, and this fair water to the ducks of Mexico?"

This trivial question gave, at once, a new colour to his thoughts, for
he remembered what millions of wild fowl brooded every night on the
lakes; and, almost ashamed that he should have yielded a moment to the
suggestions of fear, he turned, once more, to watch the progress of the
army.

The centre division consisted of but an hundred Christian footmen, and
half a score cavaliers; but two thousand Tlascalans were added to it,
and it was commanded by Cortes in person; who, having ridden across the
bridge, as has been said, to prove its strength, now waited for the
coming of his party, beyond the breach. Along with this division, were
conducted the prisoners, and the king's spoil,--the latter being carried
on the backs of wounded steeds, unfit for other service, as well as on
the shoulders of Tlamémé. The prisoners, comprising all the family of
Montezuma, whom evil fortune had thrown into the hands of Don Hernan,
were environed by the hereditary foes of their race, but protected from
any secret stroke of malice, by three or four cavaliers who rode with
them.

Among these few horsemen, the neophyte perceived one, across whose
saddle-bow there sat what seemed a female, enveloped in thick mantles.
In this cavalier, he thought, by the murmur of the voice with which he
addressed his muffled companion, that he detected his friend, the señor
De Morla.

"Is it thou, Francisco, my brother?" he whispered, inclining towards the
cavalier; "and hast thou Benita thus under thy protection?"

"I thank heaven, yes!" replied De Morla. "But what doest thou on foot,
and so far removed from the van? Has Fogoso cast thee again? I prythee,
walk thou by me a little.--Dost thou remember thy promise?"

"Surely, I do: but speak not of it now; for, this moment, my heart is
very heavy, and I cannot think with pleasure of a contest with Christian
man. I will presently follow thee."

"Speak me not what I have told thee to mortal man, for the sake of her
whom I hold in my arms, and who already owes thee a life. To-morrow," he
continued, exultingly, as he passed,--"to-morrow we shall tread upon the
lake side; and, then, God be with him who strikes for the honour and
innocence of woman!"

"Art _thou_ there too, Lorenzo?" said the novice, perceiving the
secretary riding at the heels of the young cavalier of Cuenza, and
burthened in like manner with the freight of affection. "Guard thy
princess well, and have great care of the bridge, and the rough edge of
the dike; for thy horsemanship is not yet so perfect as De Morla's, nor
can thy charger at all compare with the chestnut gelding. Ride on with
care, and God be thy speed!"

The centre of the army was, at last, over the bridge. The neophyte cast
his eye to the black mass of the rear-guard, which contained the greater
part of the troops, both Christian and allied, commanded by Velasquez de
Leon and the Tonatiuh; the latter of whom, to show his affection for the
island of which he had been, as he said, a king, and to prove his
contempt for his late subjects, chose to ride the very last man in the
army; while De Leon conducted the front of the division. The latter,
stern, decided, and self-willed in all cases, deferred, for a moment, to
give the signal to march, in order that the centre might be well cleared
of the bridge; but more, perhaps, from a natural love of tyranny, to
torture with delay the spirits of his impatient followers.

In this moment of quiet, the sounds, which Don Amador had forgotten,
were repeated with more distinctness than at first; but still they were
of so vague a character, that he could not be certain they were produced
by any cause more important than the diving and flapping of water-fowl.
Nevertheless, feeling a little uneasiness, he clasped the hand of
Jacinto tighter in his own, and strode with him over the bridge. He
paused again, when he had crossed, and was about to give his whole
attention to the mysterious sounds; when, suddenly, he was amazed and
startled by the spectre of a man, rising up as from the lake, and
springing on the causeway close by his side.

He drew his sword, demanding quickly, but with perturbation,--

"Who and what art thou, that comest thus from the depths of the waters?"

"Tetragrammaton! peace!--Dost thou not hear?"

"Hear what, sir conjurer? Hast thou been listening likewise to the wild
fowl. By my troth, I thought thou wert a spirit!"

"Wild fowl!" muttered Botello, with a horse-laugh. "Such wild fowl as
eat carrion, and flap the water like crocodiles.--Hah! dost thou not
hear? Lay thine ear upon the causeway at the water's edge--But thou hast
not time. Get thee to thy horse, and delay not; and if thou seest
Cortes, or any other discreet cavalier, bid him draw and be ready. I
said, that some should escape, but not _all_!--God be with thee! follow
quickly, and sheath not thy sword."

"Surely, this time, thou art mad, Botello! Here are no foes."

But the remonstrance of the cavalier was cut short by the instant flight
of the magician; and ere the words were out of his mouth, a horseman,
crossing the bridge, and riding up to him, said sternly,--

"Who art thou, Sir Knave and Sir Witless! that babblest thus aloud, in
time of peril, contrary to----"

"I am thy very good friend, señor De Leon," said the novice, abruptly;
"and, waiving any difficulty which might spring from the heat of thy
words, if duly considered, I think fit to assure thee, that I have but
just parted from the necromancer, Botello; by whom I am advised to bid
thee, as well as all other discreet officers whom I may see, to draw
sword, and remain in readiness for a foe; there being certain sounds on
the water, which, in his opinion, are ominous of evil. For myself, I bid
God guard thee, meaning, in person, to join the van, as soon as
possible."

The cavaliers parted,--De Leon riding back to his party, without
uttering a word; and Don Amador, with the page, stepping forwards so
fleetly, as soon to find himself among the Tlascalans of the centre.
Through these he made his way, ever and anon casting his eye to the
lake, and looking for the tokens of a foe, but without perceiving
anything at all unusual. He gained the midst of this band of allies,
reached the side of his friend, and laid his hand on De Morla's arm. A
low wailing voice came from the folds of the garments, which veiled the
countenance of Minnapotzin; and some strong agitation shook the frame of
his friend.

"Think not of love _now_, my brother!" cried the neophyte, hurriedly;
"but be warned that thou art in danger, and Minnapotzin with thee. It is
thought, that enemies are at hand."

Having thus spoken, and without waiting for an answer, Don Amador, still
urging Jacinto along, endeavoured to make his way through the dense
bodies of Tlascalans, which separated him from Don Hernan. He reached
their front, he stepped upon the little space left between them and the
general, and placed his eyes upon Cortes. But before he had yet spoken,
it seemed as if the whole moving mass of the army had been converted
into marble, on the causeway; for instantly, as if with one consent, the
train came to a dead halt, and a cry, low, but breathed from the hearts
of men struck with mortal dread, rose from the van to the rear, in one
universal groan.

The cavalier turned where all eyes were turned, and beheld a sudden
pyramid of fire, like one of the many gushes of flame he had already
seen in this volcanic land, save that the blaze was steadier, shoot up,
from a vast height in the air, over the distant city, and plunge its
sanguine point against the heavens; while, at the same moment, its lurid
mass, reflected and reversed on the lake, darted over the water to his
feet, in a path of blood,--as if Mexitli, the Terrible God, had, at
last, roused from slumber, and couched his gigantic spear against the
slayers of his children. The blaze illumined the lake far round, and,
shining on the casques of cavaliers and the plumes of Tlascalans,
disclosed the whole line of the army, stretched along the calzada. In an
instant more, the neophyte, petrified with awe, perceived that this
mighty bale-fire was kindled on the top of the great temple; and, in the
strong and glaring line, which it struck out upon the water, there was
revealed a mass of living objects, floating, like birds, upon the
element, yet speckled with the human colours of Mexico. At the same
moment, and while his eye yet wavered between the flaming pillar and the
moving objects on the water, there came from the pyramid a sound, heard
once before, and never more to be forgotten. The horn of the gods was
winded;--the doleful and dismal note came booming with hideous uproar
over the waters; and before the hills had caught up its echoes, the
whole lake, right and left, in front and on the rear, rang, roared, and
trembled, under the yells of an hundred thousand infidels.



CHAPTER LVIII.


The situation of the Spaniards, at that moment, though sufficiently
frightful to every one, was yet known, in all its horrors, only to the
leaders of the van. As hope is ever independent of judgment, ever
unreasonable and unreflective, the absence of the bridge, at the first
sluice, was not enough to persuade the fugitives, that the passage of
the second might be equally interrupted. But, at the moment when the
signal-fire was kindled on the temple, Sandoval had already reached this
ditch, and perceived that its bridge was also demolished, and, as it
seemed, very recently too; for there yet remained a huge timber lying
across the chasm,--left, as he feared, rather as some decoy and trap,
than, as was more probable, deserted suddenly by workmen, scared from
their labours by the approach of the Spaniards.

The three ditches divided the dike into four portions, of as many
furlongs in extent. On the second of these portions was concentrated the
whole retreating army, its front resting upon a sluice of great depth,
passable by footmen, (for the great beam was soon discovered to be
sound,) but not by the horse and artillery, without the portable bridge,
which yet rested over the first breach. This second obstacle being
overcome, it was apparent, that a third would still remain to be
surmounted; and the passage of both was to be effected in the presence,
and in the midst, of a great enemy.

As we have said, the beacon-light, shooting up from the pyramid, and
continuing to burn with intensity, brought light, where all, before, was
darkness; and revealed such innumerable fleets of canoes, hovering on
both flanks, as the novice had not seen, even on that day when he first
trode upon a dike of Mexico. But the spirit that then slumbered, was now
awake; and as the rowers responded, with their wild cries, to the roar
of the sacred trumpet, they struck the water furiously with their
paddles, until the whole lake seemed to boil up with a spray of fire;
and thus they rushed madly against the causeway.

The novice cast his eye upon the general. The ruddy glare of the beacon
could not change the deadly pallor that covered his cheeks; but,
nevertheless, with this ghastly countenance turned to the foe, he cried
out, cheerily, or, at least, firmly, to those immediately in advance,--

"Who ho, cannoniers! your quoins and handspikes, your horns and matches!
and show me your throats to the lake-rats!" Then, raising his voice to
its trumpet-tones, he continued, as if giving counsel and command to
all: "Be bold and fearless, and strike for the honour of God, brave
Christians! Soho! De Leon, valiant brother! and thou, Alvarado,
matchless cavalier! raise me the bridge, and be quick; for here we need
it."

The voices of other officers were heard, faintly mingled with the din,
but not long; every moment the shouts of the Mexicans, continued without
intermission, became louder, and their canoes were plunging nearer to
the causeway.

A pang rent the bosom of Don Amador:

"I must get me to my companions," he cried, to Jacinto, "and what can I
do for thee this night, young page that I love?"

"I will follow thee," said the page, tremulously; "I will die with my
lord."

"Would that I had thee but upon the back of Fogoso! for methinks that
even De Morla should not strike more truly for Minnapotzin than would I,
this night, for thee."

"Where goest thou, De Leste?" cried Cortes, as the novice pushed by.
"Pause--thou art best among the cannoniers."

A dreadful yell, at that moment, drowned the general's voice: but one
still more dreadful was heard, when, as the pagans drew breath to repeat
the cry, the Christians in front heard the rear-guard exclaiming, with
loud and bitter shrieks, "The bridge!--the bridge!--it is fast and
immoveable!"--The weight of the horses and artillery had sunk it deep
into the chasm, and no human strength could stir it from its foundation.

These words and sights were all the occurrences of a moment. There was
neither time for observation nor lamentation. The infidels on the water
rushed to the attack with the same fury which had so often driven them
upon the spears of the garrison; and, not less by their cries than their
apparent numbers, it was made obvious that the whole strength of the
great city was gathered together for this undertaking; for those who had
caught a little of their language, could distinguish the different
quarters of the island encouraging each other with cries of "Ho,
Tlatelolco! shall Majotla strike first at the foe?--Alzacualco! on; for
Tecpan is swift and mirthful.--On, ho! for Mexitli is speaking; on, for
our gods are on the temple, and they hunger for the Teuctli!" The line
of the army was full half a mile in length; but, as far as it stretched,
and further than the eye could penetrate beyond either extremity, a
triple row of canoes, on each side of the causeway, was seen closing
upon it with the speed and fury of breakers, dashing against a stranded
ship.

"_Now_, cannoniers!" cried Don Hernan, elevating his voice above the
tumult, when the rushing masses were within but a few paces of the
causey; "_now_ to your linstocks, and touch in the name of God!"

The damp gunpowder sparkled and hissed on the vents, but did not fail
the Christians in their need. The roar of the volley was like the peal
of an earthquake; and, right and left, as eighteen horizontal columns of
fire darted from the engines, the lake boiled up with a new fury,
fragments of canoes and the bodies of men were seen flung up into the
air, and yells of agony which chilled the blood, bore witness to the
dreadfulness of the slaughter.

"Quick, and again!" cried Don Hernan, eagerly. "Shoot fast, and shoot
well; and know that I will shortly be back with ye.--Ho, Sandoval! why
dost thou loiter? plunge into the ditch, and swim. Rest where thou art,
De Leste; for thou art too weak for battle. Give thine aid to the
cannoniers."

The confused and huddled Tlascalans, who formed the rear of Sandoval's
party, shouted at the cry of the Teuctli, and made way for him. A
cavalier, bearing a burthen in his arms, spurred after, with a mad
impetuosity, which rendered him regardless of the many naked wretches he
trampled to the earth: it was De Morla. The example thus set by the
apparent flight of the two hidalgos, was followed by others; and the
allies were broken by the hoofs of Christians, while still enduring the
arrows, that came like a driving rain from the lake.

Meanwhile, it was evident, though the cannon, recharged and shot off
again with extraordinary quickness, served to keep the part of the
causeway where they stood free from assailants, that they had effected a
landing, perhaps, both in front and rear,--certainly on the
latter,--where they were already engaged, hand to hand, with the
Spaniards. The thunder of the explosions did not conceal from the novice
the shrieks of his countrymen. His blood boiled with fury:

"Come with me, Jacinto," he cried. "We will reach Fogoso; and then I can
do my duty to my friends, and smite these accursed murderers, without
deserting thee."

He dragged the trembling page after him; he darted among the cannoniers,
and passed the artillery. He reached the Tlascalans, who followed the
van,--but havoc was already among their ranks. As he gained them, he
perceived the shelving sides of the causeway lined with canoes, from
which were springing up, like locusts, a cloud of Mexicans, brandishing
their glassy maces, and rushing with the yells of wolves upon their
ancient foes. Barbarians were mingled with barbarians in one hideous
mass of slaughter, impassable and impenetrable.

His heart sunk within him. "I have prejudiced thy life, as well as my
own, this night," he said. "Would that I had never left the back of
Fogoso!"

Before he had yet time to resolve whether to return to the cannoniers,
or to make one more effort to pierce the bloody mass, he was descried by
the crew of a piragua, which, that moment, was urged upon the dike with
such violence, that it was split in twain by the shock. The eager
warriors rushed up the ascent with a shriek of exultation, and
brandished their spears. The neophyte retreated; but neither the
rapidity of his steps, nor the keenness of his blows, would, perhaps,
have availed against their numbers, enfeebled as he was, and trammelled
by the grasp of the affrighted Jacinto, had not a party of Spanish
footmen, flying from the rear, come that moment to his aid. These,
though they forced the barbarians to give way, were, in their turn,
driven back upon the cannon; and Don Amador was fain to follow them.

The audacity of the foe seemed still to increase rather than diminish;
and, twice or thrice, efforts were made by certain valiant madmen among
them, to spring to land immediately in the mouths of the cannon. These
were instantly speared by the many desperate Spaniards, who, flying from
their posts in the rear, which were now known to be in extremity, took
refuge among the artillery, as the only place of safety, and there
fought with better resolution.

In the meanwhile, the efforts of the enemy still remaining unabated, the
prisoners and many of the rear-guard pressing wildly forward, and Don
Hernan and most of the officers having fled to the front, from which
they had not returned, the gunners were themselves seized with a panic;
and, without regarding the death on which they were thus rushing, began
to leave their pieces, and fly. The representations of Don Amador served
to arrest some of them, and other soldiers taking their places at the
guns, they yielded passively to his instructions; and he found himself,
at once, in the post of a commander.

The many bitter reflections that harrowed his own bosom, he spoke not,
and sharply he reprimanded others, who were yielding to despair.
Whatever might be the difficulty of advancing, he felt that such a
measure was become indispensable, as promising the only hope of
salvation: for every instant the clamours increased on the rear, as if,
there, the barbarians had attacked in the greatest numbers, and were
approaching nearer to the cannon, flushed with slaughter and victory. He
instructed the gunners in what manner they should rush forwards with
their charged pieces, pointed obliquely, so as to sweep the sides of the
dike, shoot them off, when arrested by too determined a front of
resistance, and, loading quickly, take advantage of the confusion
following each discharge, so as to gain as much ground as possible,
while still manfully fighting. He hoped, thus, besides succouring the
Tlascalans in front, and giving room for the rear-guard to follow, to
reach the second ditch, where, as he had heard, the beam still gave
passage to the footmen, but where his most sanguine wishes could point
him out no other hope than to stand by the cannon till relieved, or
abandon them and fly, as, it seemed to him, all had done, who had
already crossed the breach.

He animated the gunners with his voice, and with his actions; and so
great was the effect of the discharges on the Indians landing, that the
artillerymen were able to rush forwards perhaps a score yards, after
each volley; thus convincing all of the wisdom of the measure, and the
probability of escape.

Two circumstances, however, greatly diminished the exultation, which the
cavalier would have otherwise felt at the success of his stratagem.
Though the Tlascalans in front ever responded to the shouts of his
gunners, and though each discharge seemed to bring him nearer to them,
yet ever, when a volley was preceded by the loud "_Viva!_" meant to
encourage the allies, the answer seemed to come from the same distance,
and the mass of feathered warriors, lit up by the discharge, disclosed
the bodies of none but frowning Mexicans. The other circumstance was
still more appalling; the space behind, left vacant by his advance, was
occupied no longer by foot or horse, by treasure-bearer or prisoner, by
Spanish musketeer or Tlascalan spearman. A few dusky groups could be
seen running to and fro, behind; but yet they seemed rather to rush
backwards than to follow after.

"God save the rear-guard!" he muttered, "for it is surely
surrounded.--On, brave cannoniers! Cortes shall not be ignorant of your
deeds this night, and Don Carlos, the emperor, shall know of your fame."

The shout, with which the cannoniers again poured forth the deadly
volley, was repeated with victorious energy, when the Mexicans,
scattered by the discharge, or leaping to avoid it, into the water,
parted away from before them; and they found themselves, suddenly, upon
the brink of the second ditch. The great beam lay in its place; but the
dark water in the chasm was filled and agitated by the bodies of men,
wounded and suffocating. The white tunic of the Mexican was confounded
with the plume of a Christian cavalier; the red arm of an
infidel,--Tlascalan or foeman,--shook by the side of a Castilian spear;
the white visages of dead men rolled on the necks of drowning horses;
bales of rich cotton stuffs,--lances dancing up and down like the leaded
bulrushes of children,--armour of escaupil,--garments, and bodies of
dying and dead,--were floating together in such horrible confusion, that
the water seemed to heave and bubble as with a living corruption.

The sight of the ditch and the beam clear of enemies, fired the
cannoniers with new hopes; and in the frenzy of their joy, they would
instantly have dropped their fuses and handspikes, and taken to flight,
had it not been that Don Amador flung himself upon the beam, and
striking the first man dead, commanded them still to stand to their
pieces.

"Base caitiffs are ye all," he cried, "who, thus having the victory, and
the lives of half the army, in your hands, should so desert your posts,
in the midst of triumph! Wheel round half your pieces, and sweep the
causey sides behind;--for I hear the coming of friends. Would ye give up
your pieces to infidels? They are your safety!"

The reproof of the cavalier, the sight of their dead comrade, and the
sword which had punished him, still commanding the narrow pathway, the
voices of Christians behind, but, more than all, the manifest truth of
the declaration, that their safety depended on their remaining by the
artillery, turned the gunners, at once, from their purpose; and their
resolution received a new confirmation, when a Christian voice was heard
shouting in the front, as if of some cavalier, heading a band of
returning friends, and, when, the next moment, a Spanish soldier was
seen to run towards them, leap on the beam, and then spring from it to
the causeway.

"Santiago, and shoot on!" cried the overjoyed gunners; "for Cortes is
coming!"

"What, ho, knave Lazaro!" cried the novice, as the blaze of the
discharge showed him in the new comer, the countenance of his henchman.
"Where goest thou? Wherefore hast thou left the horses? And where is Don
Hernan?"

"Master! dear master, is it thou?" cried Lazaro, with such a shout of
joy as drowned even the yells of death about him. "Quick, for the love
of God! over the beam, with all these varlets,--for life! for life! for
Don Hernan is fled, and all the cavaliers!"

"Peace, thou villain!--Heed not this trembling fool," exclaimed Amador,
quickly. "You hear!--the last ditch is bridged and free, and ye can, at
any moment, reach the firm land, as the cavaliers have done.--Give me
another volley or two, for God, for the honour of Spain, and for your
friends, who are fast approaching. We will march together with the
whole rear, to ensure safety. Quick!--See ye not how yonder fiends are
rushing into your muzzles? Viva! A bold shot for St. James, and our
people!"

The cavalier turned to Lazaro: he was bleeding, and he cast a look of
despair on his master.

"Why art thou idle? thou wert bred to the linstock, sirrah. Show thyself
a Christian man and true.--Hark! hearest thou not? 'Tis the shout of De
Leon! Bravely, bold hearts! the rear-guard is nigh.--Hah! halon, halon!
Don Pedro!"

"'Tis the voice of the secretary!" cried Lazaro; "and God help me, but
he cries for succour!"

"Ho, señor! señor Don Amador! for the love of Christ!"--the wild shout
of Fabueno, for the neophyte could no longer doubt it was he, was
suddenly interrupted: the shrill shriek of a woman succeeded; and, then,
every thing was lost in a hurricane of yells, so intermingled that no
one could say whether they came from Christians or pagans.

"Stay--drop thy match,--hold me this boy, as thou holdest thy life, and
suffer none to pass the beam----"

"For the sake of the cross thou adorest, the maiden thou lovest!" cried
the terrified boy, clinging to the cavalier, "leave me not, oh leave me
not, in this horror, to die alone! The Mexicans will kill me, for I have
now no gown of a priestess to protect me----"

Notwithstanding the boiling excitement of the novice, these last words
filled his brain with strange thoughts, but still so confused that they
were more like the momentary phantasms of delirium, than the proper
suggestions of reason. But whatever they were, they were instantly
driven out of his mind, by another cry from Fabueno, seemingly hard by,
but so feeble and wailing, that a less acute ear might have supposed it
came from a considerable distance.

He shook the boy off, flung him into the arms of Lazaro, crying, "Answer
his safety with thy life!--with thy life!" and immediately darted
through the cannoniers, and retraced his steps on the causeway.

By this time, the fire on the pyramid had attained its greatest
brilliancy, and the wind having died entirely away, it projected its
lofty spire to heaven, and burned with a tranquillity which seemed to
leave it motionless; while its reflection on that part of the lake which
shared not in the agitations of conflict, produced a spectacle of peace
in singular contrast with the horrible scene of carnage, that moment
represented on the causeway. The light it shed, though it made objects
visible even as far as the second ditch, did not illuminate the furthest
part of the dike; and there, whatever deed of death might be presented,
was hidden from the eyes of all but the actors themselves.

Raising his voice aloud, and running towards the nearest group, Don
Amador sought out the secretary. But this group, before he had yet
reached it, started away, and fled, with loud cries, towards the city,
or to where the tumult was greatest; and he knew by their shouts of
'Tlatelolco! ho, Tlatelolco!' that they were Mexicans. On the spot they
had thus deserted, the novice stumbled over the body of a man, his
throat cut from ear to ear, his cotton armour torn to pieces; and from
the shreds, as the carcass rolled under his foot, there fell out,
rattling and jingling on the stones, divers vessels of gold and jewels,
such as had been grasped in the treasury.

Without pausing to survey this victim of covetousness, the cavalier ran
on; and, hearing many Christian voices, ringing now with curses, now
with prayers, and now with shouts of triumph, he called out at the top
of his voice,--

"On, brothers! on to the artillery! advance!--Strike well, and
forward!--Ho, Lorenzo! comrade! where art thou? and why answerest thou
not?"

A gurgling sound, as of one suffocating in the flood, drew his eye to
the lake almost under his feet. The water rippled, as if lately
disturbed by the falling of some heavy body; and just where the circling
waves washed sluggishly up the shelving dike, there lay a white mass
like a human figure, the head and shoulders buried in the tide. The wash
of the ripple stirred the garments, and, in part, the corse, so that it
still seemed to be living; but when the novice had caught it up, he
beheld the visage of a very youthful girl, her forehead cloven by a
sword of obsidian, and the broken weapon wedged fast in the brain. At
the same instant, the water parted hard by, and there rose up a dark
object, that seemed the back of a horse, across which lay the body of a
man in bright armour, the legs upwards, but the head and breast
ingulfed. For an instant, this dreary sight was presented; but, slowly,
the steed, whose nostrils were still under water, as if held down by the
grasp of the dead rider, rolled over on his side, and the body, slipping
off the other way, sunk headlong and silently into the flood, followed
presently by the horse; and the next moment the waters were at rest.

"God rest thee, Lorenzo!" cried the novice, laying down the corse of
Eugracia. "Thy life and thy hopes, thy ambition and thy love, are ended
together--but now can I not lament thee!"

He started up, as the causeway suddenly shook with the tramp of hoofs,
and a cavalier, without spear or helm, dashed madly by. Almost at the
moment of passing, whether it was that the strength of the fugitive had
suddenly given out, or whether, as seemed more probable, a flight of
arrows had been sent in pursuit, and struck both horse and rider, the
steed made a fierce bound into the air; and then pursued his course,
masterless.

"Follow onwards, ye men of the rear!" cried the novice, struck with a
sudden horror; for now he became conscious that the artillery had been,
for several moments, silent; and when he looked after the flying steed,
though he could not, at that distance, perceive any thing, he could hear
fierce voices mingling together in strife; and presently the riderless
horse, as if driven back by a wall of foes, returned, passing him again
with the speed of the wind.

The limbs of the cavalier were nerved with the strength of fury; for he
thought he heard the screams of Jacinto, ascending with the harsher
cries of the gunners; and scarcely did that frightened charger fly more
swiftly from the battle, than he himself now back to it.

"Thy duty, knave Lazaro!" he cried. "The boy!--save the boy!"

"Don Amador! oh Amador! Don Amador!" came to his ears, in a voice that
rent his heart.

"I come! I come!" shouted the cavalier, redoubling his exertions, but
not his speed, for that was at the highest.

"Oh heaven, Amador! Amador!----"

In his distraction, the neophyte confounded two voices into one; and
while he replied to one, his thoughts flew to another.

"I come! Answer me--where art thou? I am here:--where art thou!"

As he uttered these words, he sprang through the artillery, which was
without servers,--among bodies which were lifeless,--and stood
alone,--for there was no living creature there but himself,--on the
borders of the sluice, the beam over which was broken off in the middle,
and the further portion, only, left standing in its place.

He cast his amazed and affrighted eye from the water, heaving as before
with the struggles of dying men, to the corpse on whose bosom he was
standing.--In the grinning countenance, covered with blood, and horribly
mutilated by a blow which had pierced through the mouth, jaws, and
throat, to the severed spine, he beheld the features of Lazaro, fixed in
death; and looked wildly at his side, to discover the body of the page.
No corse of Jacinto was there; but, on the ground, where he had stood,
on the spot where he had charged him to stand, the novice perceived a
jewel, catching a ray from the distant fire, glittering red, as with
blood, and held by a golden chain to which it was attached, in the
death-grasp of the henchman. He snatched it from the earth and from the
hand of the dead and looking on it with a stare of horror, beheld the
holy and never to be forgotten cross of rubies.

With that sight, the scales fell from his eyes, and a million of wild
thoughts beset his brain. The magical knowledge of the page, coupled
with his childish and effeminate youth,--his garments, so fitted to
disguise,--his scrupulous modesty,--his tears, his terrors, his
affection, and his power over the mind of the cavalier,--the garb of the
priestess, so lately acknowledged,--the vision in the house of the Wali,
Abdalla,--the cross of jewels, doubtless snatched from the neck of
Jacinto, when barbarians were tearing him from the faithful Lazaro,--all
these came to the brain of the cavalier with the blaze and the shock of
a cannon, suddenly discharged at his ears. He looked again to the corses
about him--they were those of the gunners; to the ditch--it writhed no
more; and then, uttering the name of Leila, he sunk, in a stupor, to the
earth.



CHAPTER LIX.


While these scenes of blood were passing in the centre of the army, and
a hideous mystery concealed the fate of the rear, the condition of the
advanced guard, though not altogether hopeless, was scarce less
terrific. When the forces of Sandoval, comprising many of the followers,
both common soldiers and captains, of Narvaez, were made acquainted with
the fate of the bridge, and beheld the vast number of foes that impelled
their canoes towards the further bank of the second ditch, as if to
secure the passage, they waited not for directions to cross over, by
swimming. They imitated the example of their commander, Sandoval, who,
leaping from his horse, and leading him into the water, passed over by
the beam, while still holding and guiding the swimming animal. This mode
of proceeding being necessarily very slow, and the barbarians rushing,
in the meanwhile, against them with unspeakable fury, the impatience of
the cavaliers became so great, that many of them spurred their steeds
down the sides of the dike, and thus, swimming them along by the beam,
passed to the other side. Divers of the footmen, seduced by the example,
leaped, in like manner, into the lake; and the Tlascalans, at all times
less formidable opponents than their armed allies, being, at the same
moment, violently assaulted, sprang also into the water, so that it
became alive with the bodies of man and horse,--as if a herd of caymans,
such as haunt the lower rivers of that climate, were disporting and
battling in the tide. While thus embarrassed and entangled together in
the water, the swimmers were set upon by the Mexicans, who, pushing
their canoes among them, and handling their heavy paddles, as well as
war-clubs, despatched them, almost without labour, and with roars of
exultation.

It was at this instant of confusion, and while those Tlascalans who
still remained on the dike, contended but feebly with the augmenting
assailants, that Don Hernan, followed closely by De Morla, and others,
dashed over friend and foe, and reached the ditch. The scene of horror
there disclosed, the miserable shrieks of Christian comrades, perishing
in the gap and the neighbouring parts of the lake, the increasing yells
of infidels behind, touched the stout heart of Cortes with fear. He
descended from his steed, sprang upon the beam, and crossed, crying out,
at the same time, to those who followed,--

"Hold, cavaliers! Wait ye here for the artillery: leave not this gap to
the murderers. Fight ye here well, and ye shall have help from the van."

So saying, he sprang again upon his horse. De Morla was at his heels,
bearing Minnapotzin in his arms, but on foot: the chestnut gelding was
left drowning in the sluice, entangled and sinking under the weight of a
dozen men, who had seized upon him, in their terror.

"God forgive thee, cavalier!" cried Cortes, as he caught the eye of
Francisco; "for, for this barbarian puppet, thou playest the coward, and
leavest thy friend to perish, without the aid of a blow!"

De Morla answered not, but, with a ghastly smile, uncovered and pointed
at the features of the unconscious princess.

"If she be dead," cried the general, "give her body to the waters of her
native lake; if she live, commit her to the care of the Tlascalans; then
call on thy saints and show that thou art not a craven!"

Then, without waiting for an answer, Don Hernan spurred onwards,
striking down, almost at every step,--for the whole causeway was
beset,--some luckless savage; and, now and then, in his desperation,
smiting at the hands of certain of his own countrymen, who strove to
arrest the galloping steed, and spring behind him.

He reached the third and last ditch; it was bridge-less, like the
others, and, like the others, a theatre of disorder and massacre. The
pillar of fire, here, revealed its figure but luridly and faintly,
through the thick mists and the cannon-smoke, sluggishly driving over
the lake; but he thought he could trace, in the distant gloom, in front,
the outline of those rugged hills, which lie along the western borders
of the lake. He turned his face backwards to the city; a tempest of
yells--the pagan shouts of victory, and the last cries of Spaniards to
God,--came mingling on a gust, that waved the distant flame to and fro,
like a sword of fire in the hands of some colossal fiend. A bolt of ice
smote through his bosom; and when he plunged into the sluice, and,
rising on the opposite bank, drove the sharp spurs into the flanks of
his charger, no man, of all the army, fled with more craven horror than
himself.

An hour afterwards, the moon, diminished to the thinnest crescent, crept
with a sickly and cadaverous visage, to the summit of the eastern hills,
and peeped down into the valley, preceding the dawn that was soon to
look upon its scenes of death.

At this moment of moonrise, those few Christians who had escaped from
the battle, were grouped at the end of the dike, deliberating, in
unspeakable agitation, upon the course they were to pursue. Many advised
that they should instantly resume their flight, and trust to their speed
to put them, before morning, beyond the reach of their merciless
enemies; some insisted upon remaining, to give help to such wretches as,
ever and anon, made their way from the causeway, and, with tears of joy
and loud thanks-givings, threw themselves among their friends; a few,
more honourable, or more insane, among whom were Sandoval and Don
Christobal de Olid, (a very valiant cavalier, to whom other histories
have been juster than this,) demanded, with stern reproaches, that their
leader should conduct them again to the combat, which was still raging
on the lake, and rescue their countrymen out of that fiery furnace, or,
at once, honourably and justly, perish with them.

"Is there one here, who, if I refuse this most mad counsel, will say I
do it from fear?" demanded the general, with a voice broken by agony and
despair. "What I do, I do for the good of heaven, the king, and
yourselves. If I suffer you to return, then will ye perish, Spain lose
an appanage worthy the first-born of an emperor, and, in that accursed
city, God be daily grieved by the sight of idolatry and sacrifice. By
remaining where we are, we shall save many lives; and this land of milk
and honey, of corn and of gold, though now torn from us for our sins,
will be yet the guerdon of our resolution. I aver and protest, that if
we return to the hell that is on the lake, we shall be lost, to a man.
Is there one, then, who says I remain here from fear?"

Notwithstanding the deep grief and agitation which gave their tone to
the words of the general, there was mingled withal a touch of such
sternness, as forbade even the boldest to reply. Great, therefore, was
the surprise of all, when a hollow and broken voice murmured, in answer,
from the causeway,--

"There is ONE,--there are an hundred,--there _have been_ (but now they
are not,) a thousand men, who say that, this night, Cortes hath proved a
craven, a deserter of his friends, a traitor to his king, a betrayer of
his God,--and, therefore, a villain!"

As these words were uttered, there staggered up the bank, on which the
party rested, a figure, seemingly of a cavalier, but his armour so rent
and demolished, as, in many places, to leave his body naked. His helmet
was gone, and his locks, dripping with water and blood, fell over his
breast, leaving their crimson stains on the white mantle muffling the
body of some slighter figure, which he bore in his arms.

"I forgive thee, De Morla!" cried the general, rushing forwards, and
then recoiling, as Don Francisco deposited the burden at his feet, and,
removing the cloth reeking with water as with gore, disclosed to the
view of all, gently touched by the ray of that wasted and melancholy
moon, the countenance of the dead princess. "Who hath struck the
daughter of Montezuma?--who hath done this deed?"

"He who hath smitten the hearts of a thousand Christians, by leading
them into peril, and deserting them in their need!" said the cavalier,
with a tranquillity that struck all with terror, for it was unnatural;
"he, who commanded me to fling, while living, this child of a murdered
king into the lake, or upon the spears of Tlascalans, and then get me
back to the foe, that he might himself fly in safety!"

"Thou art mad, Francisco! and thou doest me foul injustice!" said Don
Hernan, hurriedly. "I fled not; nor did I bid thee do aught but entrust
this hapless maiden to some strong band of allies, thou being thyself
on foot, and, therefore, incompetent to protect her."

"You called me craven, too!" said the cavalier, with a hoarse laugh,
raising his voice aloud. "Thou liest!--I am braver than thou; for my
body is covered with wounds--from the crown to the sole, there is no
part but is mangled;--and yet thou hast not a limb but is untouched! You
call me craven! God smite you with punishment, for you are _all_
cravens, knaves, and murderers together! You wait on the banks, while we
are dying, and you call us cravens! God will do us right! God will
avenge us! God will hear our prayers! and so God curse you all, and keep
your bones for the maws of infidels!"

Thus speaking, and concluding with the voice of a madman, the young
cavalier cast a look on the dead princess, and, uttering a horrid
scream, ran back, distracted, to the causeway.

"In the name of God, on!" exclaimed an hundred voices; "we are _not_
cravens and murderers, and Spaniards shall not fall unaided!"

Don Hernan himself, stung by the sarcasms of the unhappy and
well-beloved cavalier, was the first to clap spurs to his horse; and
again the thunder of cavalry, and the quick tread of footmen moving in
order, were heard on the dike of Tacuba.



CHAPTER LX.


Thousands of infuriated and exulting savages had, in the meanwhile,
landed from their canoes at the second ditch, raised their cries of
triumph over the abandoned artillery, and struck, with a rage not to be
appeased by death, the Christian corses which lay so thick among them.
But, while living invaders remained, either in the front or rear, they
tarried not long, to waste their malice on the dead.

The cavalier Don Amador, when he made the marvellous discovery, detailed
in a preceding chapter, and perceived that the fair and lamented being
of his dreams, heaven had permitted so long to walk by his side, in this
new and strange world,--revealing her to his eyes only at the moment
when destined to be snatched from them for ever,--felt, at that instant
of discovery as if all the ties which bound him to existence, were at
once dissevered. Rage at his blindness, furious compunctions of remorse
for his negligence, and an agony of grief at the supposed dreadful fate
of the maiden, were mingled with a sort of wild indignation against the
providence which, by veiling his eyes, and shutting his ears to the
suggestions of his heart, (for, surely, from the moment he looked upon
the page, his affections were given him,) had robbed him of his
mistress. It was not, therefore, wonderful, that such a conflict of
mind, acting upon a body weakened by previous wounds and sickness, and
exhausted by present exertions, should have thrown him across the body
of Lazaro, himself, to all appearance, full as lifeless. And thus he
lay, for half an hour, insensible to the battle, which was now drawing
nigh to the ditch, and now leaving it to its charnel solitude.

He was recalled to life, by feeling some one tug forcibly at the sacred
jewel, which he retained throughout his lethargy, with the same instinct
which had preserved it in the death-grasp of the henchman. More lucky
than Lazaro, yet scarce more happy, this violence woke up the sleeping
energies of life; and he raised his head, though only to stare about him
with a bewildered look of unconsciousness.

"God be thanked!" exclaimed a Christian voice in his ear, as a friendly
hand seized him by the shoulder; "lead or gold, glass or precious stone,
never was cross of Christ picked up on the wayside, but good fortune
followed after it! What ho, señor! up and away! The things that I spoke
of, have come to pass. Kalidon-Sadabath dances in the Crystal; he loves
the smell of blood!--Up! arise and away, for thine hour is not come."

The cavalier arose, and stared at the friendly magician; which Botello
seeing, and supposing he was now fully restored to his wits, this
lunatic of another sort seized him by the arm, and, dragging him towards
the water, said,--

"Fear not; if thou hast not the skill of a crocodile, know that I can
bear thee across the channel; and that the more easily that it is
already choked with corses, and no Mexicans nigh to oppose us."

The neophyte broke from his companion, and with wild cries of _Leila!
Leila!_ ran towards the cannon.

"God save thee! art thou mad? Dost thou call upon woman or devil? This
is no place for girls; and never heard I of imp called Leila."

"Thou knowest not my wretchedness, Botello," said Don Amador. "Let me
look again, if her body be not here.--Hah!" he cried, struck with a
sudden thought, and turning quickly to the conjurer. "Thou art a
magician, and knowest of the dead as well as the living. I have decried
thine art, but now I acknowledge thy wisdom. Behold this rubied
cross--oh heaven! that I should hold it in my hand, and know, that, but
a moment since, it was on the neck of Leila! Look, enchanter; this jewel
came from the neck of a woman, whom but now I left standing on this
brink. Call her from the dead, if she have perished; or show me what
path she hath trodden, if she be living; and I will reward thee, though
I give thee the half of my patrimony.--A woman, I tell thee! Wilt thou
not believe me? Half my estate, but to look upon her!"

It was manifest, even to the unhappy novice himself, that Botello
regarded him as a madman. But nevertheless he replied earnestly, "Here
is no place for conjurations: there be devils enough about us already.
Tarry not here; for this will neither benefit thee, nor her of whom thou
speakest. Spring into the ditch,--rush with me to the main; and, then,
what thou seekest, thou shalt know. Courage, courage! Dost thou not see
yonder star, that creeps up by the dim moon, under the rack, dimmer even
than the dim moon? Under that star, came I into earth: and while it
shineth in that conjunction, the dart of a savage cannot wound me,--no,
not though it strike me upon the naked brow!--Hark! dost thou not hear?
The fragments of the rear-guard are approaching. Let us swim this abyss
before they reach us, lest we be entangled among them. Hesitate not: we
will go together, for I see thou art worn and feeble; and I remember
that thou gavest me succour in the streets of Mexico."

The neophyte had yielded, with a sort of captive-like and despairing
submission, to the will of Botello; and was descending with him moodily
to the water, when suddenly the latter paused, listening to a Christian
shout in the distance, as of one approaching them from the shore.

"Hark! it is repeated!--Viva! They come from the main: they have beaten
the cubs of darkness--Viva! viva! Santiago, and quick, valiant friends!"

The joyous shouts of Botello were re-echoed, though only by a single
voice. Yet this was evidently approaching, and with great rapidity.

During the whole time of the resuscitation of Don Amador, and of his
dialogue with the enchanter, the causeway in the neighbourhood of the
ditch had been free from foes, but only because it was free from
Christians; and the lake in the vicinity was equally solitary. But now
as they stood listening to the shouts, the two companions could perceive
the lake, some distance in front, on both sides of the dike, boiling up
in foam under canoes impelled towards them with extraordinary violence,
seemingly upon the flank of the party from which proceeded the cry. But
whatever was the speed of the canoes, it seemed to be unequal to that of
the Christian; whose shouts wild and loud, and now almost incessantly
repeated, grew shriller and nearer every moment.

"On, valiant friends! on!--heed not the pagans; on!" shouted Botello, as
the canoes cut the water within an hundred paces of the ditch. "Thanks
be to God! I see them! Hah! good! and here--Hark to his voice! how
cheery!--here comes the valorous De Morla!"

As he spoke, the figure of De Morla, outstripping the wind, was seen
running towards the ditch, while some of the arrows shot after him by
the pursuers, and passing him, fell even at the feet of the expectant
pair.

The sight of his friend kindled the ardour of Don Amador. He shouted
aloud,

"On, valiant brother!--It is I! thy sworn friend of Cuenza!"

To this speech, De Morla answered with a yell, that chilled the heart of
his townsman; and running without a moment's hesitation, and without
slackening his speed, to the end of the broken beam, where it overhung
the middle of the sluice, he sprang from it, as if assisted by its
elasticity, to so great a height into the air, that, it was plain, he
would clear the chasm in the bound. As he leaped, he waved his sword,
and uttered a scream; a cloud of arrows at the same time whistled
through the atmosphere; and when he reached the ground, twenty of these
deadly missiles were sticking in his body.

The neophyte raised up his head; one arrow was in his brain:--it snapped
off, as the head rolled on Amador's arm. A thrill and a gasp were the
last and only manifestations of suffering. The next instant, the body of
De Morla rolled down the shelving plane of the ditch, and sunk, with a
few bubbles, among a hundred of his countrymen, already sepulchred
therein.



CHAPTER LXI.


Meantime the reappearance of the barbarians seemed to cut off the last
hope of escape from Amador and his companion; but the magician,
answering the cavalier's sullen look of despair with a laugh, and
pointing to the little star, which still made its way up the cloudy arch
along with the moon, said, dragging him at the same time towards the
artillery,

"What the spirits say, is true! All this said they, of De Morla.--May he
rest with God--Amen! Fear not; be of good heart:--while the star shines,
there is hope,--and hope for both; for though I have not yet read thy
fate in full, still, while thou art at my side, thou canst be in no
great peril. At the worst, and when the worst comes, it is written, that
eagles shall come down from heaven, and bear me away on their
backs.--Hast thou never a flint and dry tinder, to light me a linstock?
Here hath some knavish gunner left his piece charged, and the grains of
sulphur still heaped up from rimbase to cascable. A good roar now might
do marvels.--Quick! they are upon us.--Fling thee under the wheels, and
look but as dead as thou didst erewhile, till the cut-throats be
passed.--Hah! 'fore God, dost thou hear?" he exclaimed, suddenly leaping
up.--"Kalidon, soho, brave imp! and thou shalt be a-galloping
yet!--Hearest thou that shout, like the clang of a bugle on a
hill-top?--'Tis Cortes! and he cometh!"

It was even as the magician had said. From the moment that De Morla took
the fatal leap, the rowers ceased paddling in their canoes, as if
certain of his fate, or unwilling to follow so feeble a prey, and
remained huddled together, as though they awaited the approach of a more
tempting quarry. They had not perceived the two companions. Just as
Botello was about to creep under a falconet, around whose wheels the
corses lay very thick, the strong voice of Cortes was heard rising over
the din, which, at some quarter or other of the causeway, was kept up
incessantly during the whole conflict. It echoed again, sustained and
strengthened by the voices of a considerable party.

"They approach!" said Botello. "They are a-horse too; I hear the
trampling. God quicken the rear! Methought there were many who followed
me."

"Hark!" cried the cavalier. "The foul knaves desert us! their voices are
weaker; they fly again to the land!"

"Here's that which shall fetch them back, if they be men!" exclaimed
Botello, catching up a port-fuse not yet extinguished, striking it on
his arm to shake off the ashes, and whirling it in the air till it
glowed and almost blazed. "It will show them, there be some living yet;
and, with God's blessing, will scatter yon ambushed heathen like
plashing water-drops. _Ojala!_ and all ye fiends of air and water, of
earth and of hell, that are waiting for pagan souls, carry my hail-shot
true, and have at your prey!"

So saying, the conjurer applied the match. The roar of the explosion was
succeeded not only by the yells of Mexicans, dying in their broken
canoes, or paddling away from so dangerous a vicinity, but by Spanish
shouts, both on the rear and in front.

"On, brave hearts!" cried Cortes; "there be bold knaves yet at the
ordnance!"

The next moment the little band of horse that headed the relief, sprang
into the lake, and swimming aside, so as to avoid the sunken bodies, and
the bales still floating in the ditch, crossed over to the cannon; while
a large body of men, arranged with such order, that they blocked up the
whole causeway from side to side, came marching up from the rear,
fighting as they fled, and still valiantly resisting the multitudes that
pursued both on the dike and in the water.

"Thanks be to God!" cried Don Hernan, rejoiced that so many lived, and
yet appalled at the numbers and ferocious determination of the foes, who
still, like venomous insects following the persecuted herd, pursued
whithersoever the Christians fled. "Art thou alive, De Leon?--Praised be
St. James, who listened to my prayer! Turn ye now, and let us succour
the rest."

"They are in heaven," said De Leon, with a faint voice, for he was
severely wounded, as indeed were all his crew. "Push on, in the name of
God, all who can swim.--The others must perish."

"Hold! stay!" exclaimed Cortes. "Fling the cannon into the
sluice.--Think not of the enemy. Heave over my good falconets: they will
make a bridge for ye all."

The wounded footmen seized upon the guns, with the energy of despair;
and flinging over the ropes to that company of their fellow infantry who
had followed Don Hernan, and now stood on the opposite side, the pieces
were pushed and dragged into the water, and, together with the mass of
corses already deposited in that fatal chasm, made such a footing for
the infantry as enabled many to pass in safety. Among these was Don
Amador de Leste, his hand grasped by the faithful magician, who
perceived that he was sunk into such sluggishness of despair, that he
must have perished, if left to himself.

It is not to be supposed that this passage was effected without
opposition and loss. On the contrary, the barbarians redoubled their
exertions; and while many rested at a distance, shooting whole clouds of
arrows, others pushed their canoes boldly up to the gap, and there slew
many taken at such disadvantage.

Nevertheless, the passage was at last effected, and the footmen, joining
themselves to their fellows, and forming, as before, twenty deep,
followed the horsemen towards the shore.

"Hold!" shouted Botello, when the party was about to start. "Save your
captain, ye knaves of the rear!--Save De Leon! the valiant Velasquez!"

A few, roused by this cry, and heedless of the shafts shot at them,
rushed back to the brink, and beheld the wounded and forgotten captain,
in the water, struggling in the arms of two brawny barbarians, who
strove to drag him into a canoe. While his followers stood hesitating,
not knowing how to give him aid, the little vessel, agitated by his
struggles, which were tremendous, suddenly overset, and captive and
capturers fell together into the water. The two warriors were presently
seen swimming towards a neighbouring canoe; and De Leon, strangling
under the flood, heaved not his last groan on the gory block of
sacrifice.

The fugitives paused not to lament; they resumed their march, and gained
the last ditch.

The events of that march, and of the passage of that ditch, are, like
the others, a series of horrors. Enough has been narrated to picture out
the dreadful punishment of men who acknowledged no rights but those of
power, and preferred to rob a weak and childish race with insult and
murder, rather than to subdue them, as could have been done, by the arts
of peace. In the sole incident which remains to be mentioned, we record
the fate of an individual whose influence had been felt through most of
the events of the invasion, in many cases beneficially, but, in this,
disastrously enough. This was the enchanter, Botello,--a man just shrewd
enough to deceive himself; which is, in other words, to say, that he
mingled in his own person so much cunning with so much credulity, that
the former was ever the victim of the latter. The devoutness of his own
belief in the efficacy of his arts, was enough to secure them the
respect and reverence of the common herd, as well as of better men, in
an age of superstition. How much confidence was given to them by Cortes,
does not clearly appear in the older historians; but it is plain, he
turned them to great advantage, and had the art sometimes to make the
stars, as well as Kalidon of the Crystal, furnish revelations of his own
hinting; and, it is suspected, not without grounds, that this very
nocturnal flight, projected originally under the impression that the
barbarians would not go into battle after night-fall, and, when the
later events of the siege had disproved this hope, still persisted in
from the persuasion that no Mexican would handle a weapon on the day of
an emperor's burial, was conceived in the brain of the general before it
was counselled by the lips of Botello.

At all events, the enchanter did not, this night, manifest any doubt in
his own powers. With a strange and yet natural inconsistency, he seemed
to rejoice over the slaughter of his countrymen, as over the
confirmation of his predictions. Twice or thrice, at least, he muttered,
and once even in the thick of combat, to Don Amador, by whose side he
ever walked, at the head of the retreating party,--

"I said, this night we should retreat--we have retreated: I said, there
should be death for many, and safety for some--the many are at rest,
(God receive their souls, and angels carry them to the seats of
bliss!)--and some of us are saved."

"Be not over-quick in thy consummations," said Amador. "We are here now
at the third ditch, which is both wide and deep, and no bodies to bridge
it; and seest thou not how the yelling curs are paddling in to oppose
us?"

"Bodies enow!" cried the enchanter. "To-morrow, at midday, when the sun
is hottest, ye shall see corses lying along on both sides of the causey,
like the corks of a fisherman's net; and at the ditches, they will come
up like ants out of the earth, when a dead caterpillar falls at their
door. Yet say I, we shall be saved, and thou shalt see it; for I
remember how thou didst carve the back of that knave that lay on me in
the streets of Mexico; and I will carve a dozen for thee in like manner,
ere dawn, on this causeway."

"Boast no more: such confidence offends heaven; for thy life hangs here
as loosely as another's."

"The star! the star!" cried Botello, "the dim little star! is it not
shining? The morning comes after it, and the eagles are waking on the
hills. They will snuff the battle, they will shriek to the vultures, to
the crows, and the gallinazas, and down will they come together to the
lake-side and the lake. At eventide, ye will see dead men floating about
in the wind, and on the breast of each a feeding raven; but devils shall
be perched on the corses of the heathen!"

"Heaven quit me of thy wild words, for they sound to me unnatural and
damnable, as though spoken by one of those same demons thou thinkest
of.--Speak no more.--Look to thy life; for it is in jeopardy."

"Hast thou not seen me in the battle? and, lo you now, I have not a
scratch!" said the enthusiast. "I have fought on the dike, when there
were twelve men of us, good men, bold and true: eleven were slain, but
here am I untouched by flint, unbruised by stone, unhurt by arrow. I
fought three screeching infidels in the water, hard by to where two
valiant cavaliers were pulled off their horses, and so smothered; and
yet strangled I my heathens, without horse to help, or friend to say God
speed me. The life that is charmed is invulnerable; the star shines, the
eagle leaves her nest, and Kalidon-Sadabath laughs in the
crystal.--Viva! Lo now, how Sandoval, the valiant, will scatter me yon
imps in the boats! He spurs into the water; Catalan the Left-handed,
Juan of Salamanca, Torpo the Growler, Ferdinand of Bilboa, and De Olid
the Devil's Ketch, they spring after him!--There they go! Dance,
Kalidon! thy brothers shall have souls, to be fetched up from the mud as
one rakes up clams of a fish-day. Crowd hell with damned
heathens:--there be more to follow!"

Never before had such life possessed the spirits of Botello. He stood on
the edge of the causey, shouting loud vivas, as the bold cavaliers
rushed among the canoes that blocked up the sluice. The novice, though
shocked at such untimely exultation, was not able to avoid it; for he
was enfeebled, and Botello held him with a fast and determined gripe.

"Unhand me, conjurer," he cried, "and I will swim the ditch."

"Tarry a little, till the path be made clear: thou wilt be murdered
else."

"I shall be murdered, if I remain here; and so wilt thou.--Hah! did that
shaft hurt thee?"

"Never a jot; how could it? There flies not the arrow this night, there
waves not the bludgeon, that can shed my blood."

"Art thou besotted?--God forgive thee!--this is impiety."

The magician held his peace; for about this time, the Mexicans, knowing
that this band, diminished, disordered, and divided by the ditch into
two feeble parties, was the sole remaining fragment of oppression, and
determined that no invader should escape alive, rushed upon the causeway
on all sides with such savage violence as seemed irresistible. Those who
had not yet crossed, broke in affright, and flung themselves into the
sluice with such speed, that, in a few moments, Don Amador began to
think that he and Botello were the only Christians left.

"Why dost thou hold me, madman?" he cried. "Let me free."

"Hark! dost thou not hear?--there are Christian men behind us," said
Botello.--"Courage! What if these devils be thicker than the thoughts of
sin in man's heart, fiercer than conscience, deadlier than remorse; yet
shall we pass them unharmed.--Patience! 'Tis the voice of a Spaniard, I
tell thee, and behind!"

"It is in front:--hark! 'tis Don Hernan!"

"It is behind, and it is the cry of Alvarado! Let us return, and give
him aid. Ho, ye that fly! return! the Tonatiuh is shouting behind us:
will ye desert him?--Return, return!"

Before Amador could remonstrate, the lunatic, for at this moment, more
than any other, Botello seemed to deserve the name, had dragged him to
the top of the dike, where he stood exposed to the view and the shots
of the foe. A thousand arrows were aimed at the pair.

"Thou art a dead man!" said Amador.

"Dost thou not see the star?" cried the magician, impatiently. "Not a
bird hath yet flapped her wing, not an eagle hath fled from her cliff;
and my star, my star----"

As he spoke, he let go his hold of the cavalier, to point exultingly at
the diminutive luminary. At that very instant, an arrow, aimed close at
hand, struck the neophyte on the breast, entering the mail at a place
rent by blows of a previous day, and, without wounding him, forced its
way out through links hitherto uninjured.

"Hah!" said the cavalier, as the arm of Botello fell heavily on his
shoulder.--"Art thou taught wisdom and humility, at last? Let us
descend, and swim."

As he moved, he became sensible that the shaft was still sticking in his
hauberk. He grasped the feathered notch--the head was in the
astrologer's heart. The stout wood snapped, as Botello fell. It struck
him in the moment of his greatest hope. He dropped down a dead man.

While Amador stood confounded and struck with horror, he was seized, he
knew not by whom, and suddenly found himself dragged through the water.
Before he could well commend his soul to heaven, for he thought himself
in the hands of the enemy, he beheld himself on firm land, while the
voice of Cortes shouted in his ear,--

"Rouse thee, and die not like a sleeper! Hold me by the hand, and my
good horse shall drag thee through the melée--I would sooner that my arm
were hacked off than that thou shouldst sleep in the accursed lake:
enough of thy blood rests in it, with Don Gabriel."

"Ay," thought the unhappy cavalier, "enough of my blood, and all of my
heart. Don Gabriel, De Morlar, Lazaro, Lorenzo, and--ay, and Leila!
Better that I were with them!"

A sudden cry from beyond the ditch interrupted his griefs.

"Pause, pause!" cried the voice. "Leave me not!--I am nigh!--I am
Alvarado!"

The cavaliers looked back at these words, and beheld a man come flying,
as it were, through the air over the ditch, perched on the top of a long
Chinantlan spear, the bottom of which was hidden in the water. He fell
quite clear of the sluice, after making a leap which even his comrades,
who had not individually seen it, held impossible for mortal man, and
which, even to this day, has preserved to the spot the name of the
Salto, or leap, of Alvarado.

The appearance of the Tonatiuh was hailed with shouts of joy; and the
Spaniards, receiving it as a good omen, closed their ranks, and slowly,
for every inch was contested, fought their way to the shore. When they
trode upon the firm ground, the little star had vanished in the gray
beams of morning; and a thick mist rising up from the water like a
curtain, concealed from the eyes of the fugitives, along with the
accursed signal-fire, the fatal towers and temples of Mexico.

Thus closed a night of horror and wo, memorable as the _Noche Triste_,
or Melancholy Night, of Mexican history, and paralleled perhaps, in
modern days, if we consider the loss of the retreating army as compared
with its numbers, only by the famous and most lamentable passage of the
Berezina. More than four thousand Tlascalans, and five hundred
Spaniards, were left dead on the causeway, or in the lake. Of the
prisoners, but two or three escaped; two sons and as many daughters of
Montezuma, with five tributary kings, as well as many princes and
nobles, perished. All the cannon were utterly lost, left to rust and rot
in the salt flood that had so often resounded to their roar; and of more
than an hundred proud war-steeds that champed the bit so fiercely at
midnight, scarce twenty jaded hacks snuffed the breath of morning.

With this broken and lamenting force, with foes still hanging on his
rear, and ever flying from his front, Cortes set out to seek a path, by
new and unknown mountains, to the distant Tlascala. He turned his eyes
but once towards the lake,--the pagan city was hidden among the mists,
and the shouts of victorious Mexicans came but faintly to the ear. He
beat his breast, and shedding such tears as belong to defeated hopes and
the memory of the dead, resumed his post at the head of the fugitives.



CHAPTER LXII.


We draw a curtain over the events of the first five days of flight,
wherein the miserable fugitives, contending, at once, with fatigue,
famine, and unrelenting foes, stole by night, and through darkling
by-ways, along the northern borders of the fair valley, from which they
were thus ignominiously, and, as it seemed, for ever, expelled. Of the
twenty mounted men, each, like a Red-Cross Knight, in the ancient days
of the order, bore a wounded companion on his crupper; and Don Amador,
himself, on a jaded beast that had belonged to Marco,--for Fogoso had
been lost or killed in the melée,--thus carried the only remaining
servant of himself and his knight,--the ancient Baltasar. Other mangled
wretches were borne on the backs of Tlascalans, in rudely constructed
litters.

In this manner, the ruined and melancholy band pursued its way, by
lake-side and hill, over morass and river, ever pursued and insulted by
bodies of barbarians, and frequently attacked; till, on the evening of
the fifth day, they flung their weary forms to sleep in the City (as it
may be called) of Pyramids, among those mouldering and cactus-covered
mounds, which the idolatry of a forgotten age reared to the divinity of
the greater and lesser luminaries of heaven, on the field Micoatl, that
is to say, the Plain of Death. The visitor of San Juan de Teotihuacan
still perceives these gigantic barriers, rising among the hundreds of
smaller mounds--the Houses of the Stars--which strew the consecrated
haunts, and, perhaps, conceal the sepulchres, of a holozoic people.

At sunrise, the Spaniards arose, ascended the mountain of Aztaquemacan,
at the north-eastern border of the valley, and prepared, with a joyous
expectation, which had not been diminished even by the significant and
constantly-repeated threats of the pursuers, to descend into the
friendly land of the Tlascalans, by way of the vale of Otumba. For the
last two days, the name of this valley had been continually on the lips
of the Mexicans, following on the rear; and their cries, as interpreted
by Marina, who survived the horrors of the Melancholy Night, intimated,
plainly enough, that the work of revenge, so dreadfully commenced upon
the lake, was to be consummated in the gorges of the mountains.
Nevertheless, the Spaniards, in the alacrity of spirit, which the
prospect of soon ending their sufferings in the Land of Bread, produced,
forgot these menaces, or regarded them as the idle bravados of impotent
fury; and clambered upwards, with increasing hope, until they reached
the crest of a ridge, and looked down the slope to the wished-for
valley. The sight which they beheld, will be described in another place.
It remains, now, to return to an individual, whose fate has long been
wrapped in mystery.

At the moment when the Spaniards approached the highest part of the
ravine, by which, alone, they could pass, in that quarter, from the vale
of Tenochtitlan, there lay, in a wild and savage nook of the mountain,
which went shelving upwards on the right hand, and at so short a
distance, that had a bugle been winded in the army, it must have reached
his ears,--one who had been a companion in many of their battles and
sufferings. A number of huge rocks fallen ages ago, and rolled from some
distant pinnacle, were heaped together on a broad and inclined shelf,
and enclosed a space of ground so regular in form, and yet so rudely
bounded by those sprawling barriers, that it looked to the imagination
not unlike the interior of some stupendous temple, built by a barbaric
people, and overwhelmed, many ages before, by some great convulsion. One
side was formed by a cliff, in whose shivered side yawned the entrance
of a black and dismal cavern, while the broken masses of rock themselves
formed the others. Among, and over these, where they lay in contact with
the cliff, there rushed a torrent, which, in the times of drought, might
have been a meager and chattering rivulet, making its way, merrily,
through gap and hollow, but which, now, swollen by the summer rains,
came raving and roaring over the rocks, broken by them into a series of
foaming cascades; and, then, shooting over a corner of the enclosure,
and, darting through the opposite wall, it went, thundering, down the
mountain. A few stunted trees stretched their withered limbs among these
savage masses; and the noontide sun, peeping down into the nook, and
lighting up a part of the cliff, fell pleasantly on the mosses and
Alpine flowers, which ornamented its shelving floor, tinting, with
momentary rainbows, the mists that hung over the fall. A sable steed,
without bridle or halter, and much the worse for such primitive
stabling, but yet, to all appearance, the relic of a once noble
war-horse, wandered, at liberty, through the enclosure, cropping the few
plants which bedecked it, or drinking from the little pools, at the side
of the torrent; while, at the mouth of the cave, at the foot of a wooden
crucifix of the rudest description, lay sleeping the figure of his
master. A stained and tattered garment of leather, investing his limbs,
was not altogether hidden under a black mantle, which partly covered his
body. The head of the sleeper lay on his right arm, and this embraced
the foot of the cross, so that the grizzly locks, which fell from his
forehead, rested against, and almost twined around, the holy wood.

The sunbeam played, unregarded, on his withered cheeks, and flickered
over a heap of rusted armour, both of man and horse, which lay hard by,
shining, also, with a fierce lustre, upon what appeared a scarlet
surcoat, hung, like a banner, on the point of a knightly lance, which
rested against the side of the cliff.

Disease, as well as age, had furrowed the cheeks, and wasted the form of
the slumberer; famine seemed to have been at work, as well as all other
privations incident to a habitation in the desert; and there was, in his
whole appearance, such an air of extreme and utter misery, as would have
moved the pity of any beholder. Nevertheless, he slept on, regardless of
the roaring fall, and heedless of the fierce sunbeam, in such
tranquillity as augured, at least, a momentary suspension of suffering.

As the sun stole up to the meridian, another human creature was suddenly
added to the scene. The browsing war-horse pricked his ears, and
snorted, as if to do the duty of a faithful sentinel, and convey to his
master a note of alarm, as certain dried branches crackled among the
rocks of the wall, and a stone, loosened as by a footstep, fell,
rattling, down their sides, and buried itself in the pool, at the base
of the fall. But the anchorite, for such the solitude of his dwelling,
the poverty of his raiment, and, more than all, the little rugged cross
which he embraced, caused him to appear, heard not these sounds; he
slept on, lulled by the accustomed roar of the water-fall; and the steed
was left alone, to watch the approach of the stranger.

Presently, he was seen dragging himself up the rocks, by the aid of a
drooping bough; and when he had reached their top, he rested for a
moment, still clinging to the branch, as if worn out with toil, as was,
indeed, made apparent by the youth and feebleness of his appearance. He
cast a haggard and uninterested eye on the romantic torrent leaping and
foaming at his feet, and seemed to hesitate whether he should descend
into the prison-like enclosure, or retrace his steps, and retreat as he
had come. But, suddenly, his gaze fell upon the steed, and he started
with surprise at a sight so unexpected. The sagacious animal whinnied
loudly, as if with recognition; and the youth, devoutly crossing
himself, looked, with an agitation that denoted terror, on the red
garment, the cross, and the human figure that still lay sleeping, or,
perhaps, as he thought, dead, under its holy shadow. Then, as if
resolved, he hastened to descend from the rugged fragments, and seeking
where he might safely cross the brook, over the stones that obstructed
its bed, he at last stood at the side of the good steed, which snuffed
at him a moment with joy, and, then, gambolling about a little, fell to
cropping the plants again, satisfied that the comer was a friend.

The youth stole up tremblingly to the side of the sleeper, and seemed
shocked at his emaciated and neglected appearance. He stooped as if to
awake him, and then started back, wringing his hands, in fear and grief.
He bent over him again;--a smile passed like a beam over the countenance
of the recluse, and a murmur escaped his lips, of which the youth caught
only a few broken syllables:

"Though I shed thy blood," were the words he distinguished, "yet did I
not aim at thee; and, therefore, hast thou forgiven me, for the sin was
the sin of frenzy. Thou pardonest me, too, Alharef, for thou art, also,
of the angels. It is good to walk with thee through the seats of
bliss."

A tear fell upon the cheek of the knight Calavar,--for it was, indeed,
he; but it fell like the spray-drop, or the gentle dew; and it was not
until the hand of the youth touched his shoulder, that he awoke and rose
feebly to his feet.

"Whoever thou art," said the unfortunate devotee, "thou breakest the
only dream of happiness that hath visited my slumbers, for long and many
years, and callest me from the paradise that filled me with bliss, to
the earth which is the wheel whereon I am broken--Miserere mei, Deus!"

"Alas, my lord!"

"Art thou sent back to bid me prepare?" cried Don Gabriel, starting
wildly, at the voice of the intruder. "Lo! I have flung me off the
harness of war, and devoted me to penance in the wilderness, giving my
body to sleep on the earth and in caves, drinking of the wild floods,
and eating of the tough roots, with the earth-worm; while I sleep, my
heart is scourged within me; whilst I wake, I pray,--and I pray that I
may sleep for ever. Know, therefore, Jacinto! thou that dwellest in
paradise! that I am ready, and that I thank heaven, I am called, at
last; for weary has been my life, and long my repentance."

"Alas, my lord, I live like thyself; and I call upon thee, that thou
mayest continue to live. I thought, indeed, that thou wert dead, and so
thought, and yet think, thy friends,--who are now in great peril."

"God snatched me from the hands of the heathen," said the knight, "and
brought me to this place, that I might seek for peace. For, oh! my heart
was but filled with scorpions, that stung me day and night, and my head
strewn with coals, ever burning and tormenting, whilst I sat in the
infidel city, and remembered how he that hath been my son, was slain by
murderers in the streets, because he loved me! All that loved me have
perished, and (wo betide the hand that struck, and is not yet withered!)
two under mine own steel. Yea, Alharef, thou art remembered! and, Zayda,
thou art not forgotten! Then came the blow to thee, dear seraph! and
thou wert carried off by the angry spirit of Alharef, who defied me at
the palace-gate, and, in the temple-yard, raised me to my feet, and bade
me think of Zayda. Verily, I remember her, and my heart is black with
recollection! Then fell the bolt upon my boy,--he that was matchless in
honour and love, peerless in war, incomparable in truth!--Would that the
barbarous knives had struck my bosom, instead of thine, Amador! would
that thou wert now upon thy gallant bay, shaking thy lance, and shouting
the cry of the Hospital, and I in thy place, mouldering in the streets
of Mexico! I lay on my couch, whilst thou wert calling to me for aid; I
slept while thou wert dying.--Cursed be thy foundations, pagan city!
ruin fall upon thy towers, havoc ride howling through thy palaces, and
lamentations come up from thy lakes and gardens! for he that was the
last and first, the loving and beloved, rots like a dog upon thy
pavement!"

"Noble and dear master," said Jacinto, "in this, at least, thou art
mistaken. My dear lord, thy kinsman, perished not that day in the
streets; for I myself did watch by his sick couch, and see him, after
thou hadst departed, return in safety to the palace."

"Dost thou say so?--He died not in the streets? Praised be God, for this
his goodness!" cried Don Gabriel, falling on his knees. "My sin, then,
hath not been visited on the guileless and true! My son Amador yet
liveth!"

He looked to the page, and now, for the first time, observed, as far as
this could be seen through his thickly padded garments, that the form of
Jacinto was greatly attenuated; his cheeks were hollow and colourless,
and his countenance altered, as by some such grief as had been at work
in his own bosom. He seemed, too, to be very feeble. But, if such were
the appearances of sorrow on his visage, they assumed a yet more
striking character of agony and despair, when the knight's words of joy
fell on his ear. His face grew paler than death, he trembled like a
linden leaf, and his lips scarcely obeyed their function, when he
replied, with a faint and fruitless effort at calmness,--

"I will not deceive my lord; no, heaven be my stay! I will not deceive
my lord. Though my friend,--my patron,--my protector,--the noble
Amador,--fell not in the streets, but returned to his people, yet is his
fate wrapped in mystery,--in darkness and in fear. That night, that
dreadful night!--O heaven! the causey covered with men, shrieking and
cursing, stabbing and rending! the lake choked with corses, and with
dying men still contending, and suffocating, each in the grasp of a
drowning foe!--But I think not of that, I think not of that!--Who lived?
who died? We searched for the body of my lord, but found it not: he was
not with those they led to the pyramid; his corse floated not among the
hundreds, which befouled the lake: yet did they discover his goodly
war-horse on the water-side,--his surcoat was dragged from a ditch,
among cannon, under whose heavy bulk lay many bodies, which the Indians
strove to push up with poles--but my lord's body rose not among them.
And yet, he sleeps in the lake,--yes, he sleeps in the lake! for how
could he escape that night, and I no more by his side?"

As Jacinto spoke, he wept and sobbed bitterly, giving himself up to
despair. But not so the knight: he listened, somewhat bewildered, to the
confused narration of an event, in which he had shared no part; but
catching the idea, at last, and mingling it with another, the fruit of
his very distempered mind, he said, quickly, and almost joyously,--

"Dry thy tears; for now I perceive that my son is not dead, but liveth;
and straightway we will go forth, and seek him!" Jacinto regarded the
knight with a melancholy look. He noticed the incredulity, and resumed,
with much devout emphasis,--"But a moment since, before thou camest into
this den, mine eyes were opened upon paradise; it was vouchsafed to me,
who must never hope to enjoy such spectacle again,--no, _desdichado de
mi_! never again, never again,--to look upon the golden city of God;
wherein I walked, with all those whom, in my life, I had loved, and who
were dead. There saw I, among the saints and seraphim, my father, who
fell in arms at the sack of Alhama; my mother, who died giving me birth;
together with all the friends of my childhood, who perished early:
there, also, I beheld Alharef and Zayda, the murdered and the
blest,--with all others that were truly dead. Now thou wilt see, how God
opened mine eyes in this trance; for, though I wept thee, dear child, as
truly believing thou wert deceased, yet thee I saw not among the
blissful, where thou must have been, hadst thou been discarded from
earth, as I thought thee. And I remember me, too, and great joy it is to
remember, that my son Amador was not among those saints; for which
reason, heaven makes it manifest to us, that he lives. Now, therefore,
let us go forth from this desert, and seek him. Though mine eyes are
sealed among these hills, and my feet stumble upon the rocks, yet will
heaven point us out a path to Mexico!"

"Alas! my lord need not seek so far," said the page. "The pagans are now
alone in the city, having driven out their enemies, with terrible
slaughter.--Never more will the Spaniards return to it!"

"Ay, now, I remember me!" said the knight, catching up some of his
battered armour, as he spoke. "This defence, that I had thought for ever
rejected, must I again buckle on. I remember me, thou spokest of a night
of retreat by the causeway, very dreadful and bloody. Ay! and thou
saidst thou wert at Amador's side!--How was it, that thou wert taken
from him, and didst yet live?"

"My father Abdalla," said Jacinto, sorrowfully, "my father, by chance,
heard me cry at the ditch, when my lord, Don Amador, was gone; and he
saved me in his canoe."

"Thy father? thy father, Abdalla?--I remember me of Abdalla," said the
knight, touching his brow. "There is a strange mystery in Abdalla. I am
told--that is, I heard from my poor Marco--that Abdalla, the Moor, did
greatly abhor me, even to the seeking of my life."

"He wronged him!" said the page: "whatever was my father's hatred of my
lord, he never sought to do him a wrong!"

"Strange!" muttered Don Gabriel; "thou acknowledgest he hated me, then?
Wherefore should he, whom I have not injured, hate me? And wherefore,
after confiding thyself to my good keeping?"

"Let me not deceive my lord," said Jacinto, sadly, but firmly: "My
father entrusted his child to him he hated, because he knew him just and
honourable; and my father did receive great wrong, as well as other
unhappy Moors, of my lord, in the Alpujarras----"

The knight dropped the dinted cuishes which he had snatched up, and,
clasping his hands wildly, exclaimed,--

"Miserere mei, Deus! my sin is inexpiable, and my torment endless; for,
in the Alpujarras, did I slay him whom I had sworn to love, and deface,
with a murderous sword, the loveliest of thine images!"

"Dear my lord," said Jacinto, shocked and grieved at his agitation;
"forget this, for thy sin is not what thou thinkest, and it has been
already forgiven thee. Zayda hath seen, from heaven, the greatness of
thy grief, and she intercedes for thee with our Holy Mother."

"She follows me on earth, she comes to me in visions!" cried Don
Gabriel, vehemently. "Rememberest thou not the night of Cholula? Then
stood she before me, as thou dost; and, with face of snow and finger of
wrath, she reminded me of my malefaction."

"My lord is deceived--this was no spectre, but a living woman," said
Jacinto, hurriedly.

The knight stared, aghast.

"If I make it appear to my lord," continued the page, "that this was,
indeed, no phantom sent to reproach, but a living creature, haply
resembling her of whom he speaks, and, therefore, easily mistaken, in
the gloom, for one of whom my lord thought, in his delirious
moment,--will it not satisfy my lord, that he is not persecuted, but
forgiven?"

"If thou canst speak aught to remove one atom and grain from this
mountain of misery, which weighs upon my heart," said Calavar,
earnestly, "I adjure thee that thou speak it. Many times have I thought
that she whom I slew, stood at my side; but yet had I hopes, and a
partial belief, that these were the visions of my disease; for my mind
is sometimes very sorely distracted. What I saw at Cholula, was beyond
such explication,--very clearly and vividly represented, and seen by me
when my thoughts were not disordered."

"Let my lord be content, and know that this was a living creature, as I
have said, and no apparition: let him do on his armour; and, by-and-by,
all shall be revealed to him."

"Speak to me now," said the knight.

"Not now! not now!" interrupted Jacinto; "for, at this moment, the
myriads of vengeful fiends who seek for the blood of my lord, Don
Amador, if he be yet living, are rushing upon the poor fugitives. Doth
not my lord hear?--Hark!"

"'Tis a trumpet! it blasteth for a charge of horse!" cried Calavar, as
the distant sound came echoing up the mountain, even over the roar of
the fall.--The ancient war-horse heard the remembered note, and pricking
his ears, neighed loudly and fiercely, running to a gap in the wall, as
if to seek the contest, till recalled by the voice of his master.

"The infidels are then at hand, and they do battle with Christians?"
exclaimed Don Gabriel, the fire of chivalry again flashing from his eye,
and almost driving away the thought of Zayda. "Buckle me these straps,
and see that thou art speedy; for this brooks not delay. God hath called
me to this mountain, that I should be ready to do battle with the
heathen, in defence of the holy cross, which is my sworn vow; and in
the fulfilment of the same, I pray God that I may die.--Sound again,
brave heart! smite me the godless fast and well; for presently I shall
be with ye, striking for the faith!--Why, how thou loiterest, young
knave! Be speedy, for my son Amador is with the Christian host; and,
this day, heaven wills that I shall bring him succour."

"Alas! my lord," cried the page, "I would that I could give my life to
aid him; but my fingers are skilless and feeble."

"Thou art a godly boy, and well do I love thee. Buckle me as thou canst,
and care not to buckle well; for, in this fight, God will be my armour.
Buckle me, therefore, as thou canst; and, while thou art thus engaged,
give me to know, what good angel brought thee to be my messenger."

"I followed my sire," said the trembling Jacinto, "with the forces of
Mexico, that were sent to join the mountain bands, and cut off the
fugitives; and, being commanded to rest me on the hill till the battle
was over, I lost myself; which, with my great grief of heart, caused me
to seek some nook wherein I might die. For truly, now, unless my lord
Amador be living, I care not myself for life."

"The forces of Mexico! be they many? and these dogs of the hills, are
they in numbers?"

"Countless as the drops of spray which the breeze flings over us," said
Jacinto, with much perturbation, "so that nothing, but the goodness of
God, can rescue the Spaniards out of their hands, and conduct them forth
on the path so blocked up by their bodies. The Mexicans are many
thousands in number, and triumphing still in the thought of their horrid
victory on the lake. They swear that no Spaniard shall escape them, this
day."

"I swear, myself," said Calavar, fiercely, "and heaven will listen to
the vow of a Christian, though one sinful and miserable, that, this day,
even they themselves, the godless pagans, shall be scattered as dust
under our footsteps!--Quick--my war-coat! and now, my good lance, that
hath drunk the blood of th