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Title: Hernando Cortes - Life Stories for Young People
Author: Campe, Joachim Heinrich
Language: English
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                 [Illustration: _CORTES AND MONTEZUMA_]

                    _Life Stories for Young People_

                            HERNANDO CORTES

                     _Translated from the German of
                        Joachim Heinrich Campe_

                            GEORGE P. UPTON
              _Translator of “Memories,” “Immensee,” etc._

                         WITH SIX ILLUSTRATIONS

                  [Illustration: A. C. McCLURG & CO.]

                          A. C. McCLURG & CO.

                          A. C. McClurg & Co.
                       Published September, 1911

                         THE · PLIMPTON · PRESS
                              [W · D · O]
                       NORWOOD · MASS · U · S · A

                          Translator’s Preface

The story of the career of Hernando Cortes during his conquest of Mexico
is a story of extraordinary courage, undaunted resolution, and hideous
cruelty. It is a story of the subjection of a “little people,” overcome
and enslaved by a superior nation, which, in its lust for gold and
territorial aggrandizement, left no methods of stratagem, cunning,
military science, and barbarous cruelty untried to achieve its purpose.
Granted that the early Emperors of Mexico were tyrannical in their
treatment of the natives and that their religious rites were accompanied
by human sacrifices and cannibalism, Mexican cruelty pales before the
horrible scenes enacted by so-called civilized Spain in this dreadful
Mexican drama. The three principal figures are Hernando Cortes,
Montezuma, and Guatemozin—Cortes, the conqueror; Montezuma, the
weak-spirited Emperor, victim of his own people’s fury; Guatemozin, the
patriot. Cortes was a born adventurer, and in his youth possessed of
skill in all military exercises. He was a man of consummate cunning and
captivating address, of soaring ambition and marked ability as an
administrator and general. Apparently he never knew what it was to fear,
and consequently no danger was great enough to appall him. He was so
skilled in stratagem that no situation was devious enough to prevent its
solution. He had the same greed of gold as all Spaniards of his day had,
and no means of obtaining it were considered dishonorable as long as
they were successful. But courageous, resolute, and ambitious as Cortes
was, he will go down through the ages branded with infamy for his
treatment of Montezuma, for the frightful massacres at Cholula and
Otumba, for his execution of Guatemozin, last of the Aztec Emperors, for
the burning of caciques and chiefs which he ordered, and for the
countless atrocities of his men which he permitted. In his old age, like
Columbus, he suffered from the neglect of an ungrateful Court, but,
while we can sympathize with Columbus in that situation, we can feel no
sympathy for Cortes as we recall the black chapters of his career.

                                                                G. P. U.

Chicago, _July, 1911_.


  Chapter                                                           Page
  I Velasquez in Cuba—Hernandez de Cordova Discovers Yucatan—The
          Natives on the Mainland are Hostile—Grijalva Advances
          from Yucatan farther Northward—He is the First European
          to Step upon Mexican Soil                                   11
  II The Youth of Cortes—His Voyage to San Domingo and Settlement
          There—Cortes under Velasquez in Cuba—He Fits Out a Fleet
          for the Conquest of Mexico                                  20
  III Cortes is Regarded as an Enemy by the Natives of Tabasco,
          and is Forced into a Battle with them—He is Victorious,
          and they Submit                                             30
  IV Cortes Reaches San Juan de Ulloa—His Negotiations for an
          Understanding with Montezuma, Emperor of Mexico—Disquiet
          in the Army                                                 42
  V Founding of the City of Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz—Disaffected
          Caciques Join Cortes—Destruction of a Heathen Temple
          because of Human Sacrifices—Introduction of
          Christianity—Cortes Sinks his Fleet after Sending a
          Vessel to Spain                                             55
  VI Cortes’ March to Tlaxcala—Battle and Defeat of the
          Tlaxcalans—Montezuma’s Messengers                           71
  VII March to the Sacred City of Cholula—The Natives Plot the
          Destruction of the Spaniards—Cortes Discovers their
          Treachery and Slaughters Several Thousand Indians—March
          to Mexico—Montezuma Meets the Strangers and Escorts them
          to the Capital                                              85
  VIII Religious Rites of the Mexicans—Human Sacrifices—The
          Natives Discover that the Spaniards are not Divine but
          Human                                                       96
  IX Montezuma is made a Prisoner—Quauhpopoka and His Leaders
          Burned—The Mexicans Swear Allegiance to the King of
          Spain                                                      104
  X Division of the Spoils—Cortes Attempts to Introduce
          Christianity—Narvaez is Sent by Velasquez to Depose
          Cortes—Cortes Advances against Him                         112
  XI Cortes Defeats Narvaez—Meanwhile the Mexicans, Outraged by
          Alvarado, Rise in Revolt—Cortes Returns                    119
  XII The Mexicans Rise against the Spaniards and Fight with
          Desperate Courage—Montezuma is Killed—Cortes Struggles
          Bravely and is in Danger of his Life                       127
  XIII Cortes, about to Retreat, Finds the Causeways Cut—The
          Spaniards Escape with Heavy Loss—The Tlaxcalans Remain
          True—Guatemozin is Elected Emperor of Mexico               136
  XIV Cortes Builds Vessels for a Land and Water Attack—A
          Conspiracy against his Life is Discovered—The Capital is
          Attacked                                                   144
  XV The Spaniards Lose Heavily in Battle—The Prisoners are
          Sacrificed—Some of Cortes’ Allies Desert but soon
          Return—The City of Mexico Captured—Guatemozin Attempts
          Flight but is taken                                        153
  XVI Tapia, Commissioned to Depose Cortes, is Induced to Return
          to Cuba—Cortes is Confirmed as Governor of New Spain—He
          Goes to Spain and is Ennobled—A Second Visit to Spain
          Discloses the Fickleness of the Court—He Vainly Begs the
          Emperor’s Favor—His Death                                  162
    Appendix                                                         168


  Cortes and Montezuma                                    _Frontispiece_
  The Engagement between the Spaniards and the People of Tabasco      32
  Mexican Caciques before Cortes                                      60
  Meeting of Cortes and Montezuma                                     94
  Montezuma the Captive of the Spaniards                             106
  The Entry of Cortes into Mexico City                               158

                            Hernando Cortes

                               Chapter I
Velasquez in Cuba—Hernandez de Cordova Discovers Yucatan—The Natives on
    the Mainland are Hostile—Grijalva Advances from Yucatan Farther
      Northward—He is the First European to Step upon Mexican Soil

In the year 1511 Diego, Columbus’ son, finding that the gold mines of
Hispaniola were nearly exhausted, decided to take possession of the
neighboring island of Cuba, or Fernandina, as it was called, in honor of
the King of Spain. The force which he sent for the capture of the island
was placed under the command of Velasquez,[1] a man described by his
contemporaries as possessing extraordinary experience as a soldier,
having served seventeen years in European campaigns, also of a renowned
family and name, eager for glory and yet ambitious for wealth.

Velasquez speedily subjugated the whole island and at once actively
busied himself with the adoption of measures for its welfare. He
established many settlements, secured farmers by free grants of land and
slaves, devoted special attention to the raising of sugar-cane, such a
valuable article of commerce in later times, and, above all, to the
development of gold mines, which promised better returns than those of
Hispaniola. But the subjugation of Cuba was too small a matter to
satisfy his ambition, as he would remain subject to the higher authority
of Diego Columbus, from which he wished to free himself. The best means
for accomplishing this seemed to him the making of important discoveries
which would secure him an independent sovereignty. With this end in
view, he turned his attention to the westward, in which direction he had
every reason to believe he should find a great mainland region which no
European had ever reached.

Chance favored his plans. Hernandez de Cordova, a Spaniard,[2] undertook
an expedition from Cuba in 1517, with three vessels, to a neighboring
island for the capture of slaves. Storms drove him upon the coast. In
reply to his question as to the name of the country the natives said,
“Tektetan,” meaning in their language, “I do not understand you.” The
Spaniards thought this was the name of the place and distorted it into
“Yucatan.” Thus the peninsula of the mainland, which lies opposite Cuba
and divides the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico, came by its
present name. Cordova first landed at the northeastern end of the
peninsula, at Cape Catoche, then sailed along the peninsula, stopping at
various places, and at last came to the region of the Campeche of
to-day, where the sea forms the Bay of Campeche.

The daring Spaniards had many fierce encounters with the natives, whom
they found far more civilized and at the same time more warlike than the
other islanders. They were clad in garments of a woven woollen material.
Their weapons were wooden swords, tipped with flint, spears, bows,
arrows, and shields. Their faces were painted in different colors, and
their heads adorned with tufts of feathers. They were the first
Americans who constructed dwellings of stone and cement.

In their various encounters with these people the Spaniards sometimes
came off losers. In one of them two Indian boys having the Christian
names of Julian and Melchior fell into their hands. They proved of great
advantage, for they served the Spaniards as interpreters in subsequent
communications with the Mexicans. One day, when they had landed to fill
their casks with fresh water, fifty Indians approached and inquired if
they had come from the place where the sun rises. When the Spaniards
answered in the affirmative, they were conducted to a temple,
constructed of stone, in which they beheld various ugly images of
deities sprinkled with fresh blood. Suddenly two men in white mantles,
with long, flowing, black hair, stepped forward, holding small earthen
braziers, into which they threw a kind of resin. They directed the smoke
toward the Spaniards and ordered them upon pain of death to leave the
country. Finding it dangerous to remain there, they obeyed and returned
to their vessels. At another spot, where they had landed, they were
surrounded by so large a multitude of hostile Indians that forty-seven
were killed and many wounded in their efforts to get back to their
vessels. Among the seventy wounded was Cordova himself. After this
disaster they hurried back to Cuba as rapidly as they could, where their
leader died after making a report to Velasquez of all that had happened.

Velasquez was delighted at the discoveries made in his name, and decided
to continue them. Four vessels were fitted out, and Grijalva,[3] a man
of great ability and courage, upon whose uprightness and good judgment
Velasquez believed he could depend, was given command of them. He was
specially instructed to confine himself to making discoveries without
establishing colonies in the new regions. Grijalva left Cuba May 1,
1518, and directed his course toward Yucatan, but the ocean currents
drove him southerly, so that he first made land at Cape Catoche.
Subsequently he discovered the island of Cozumel, off the Yucatan coast.
From there he sailed along the coast to Potonchan, where Hernandez had
been so foully dealt with. The Spaniards were eager to land and avenge
the disaster, and Grijalva consented. The Indians, full of pride and
defiance, and delighted with this fresh opportunity, attacked the
Spaniards courageously, but they were driven back. Two hundred paid the
penalty with their lives for their rashness, and the rest fled
panic-stricken all over the country.

Grijalva resumed cruising along the coast. He was astonished everywhere
at the sight of villages or towns with houses made of stone and cement,
which in passing appeared to the Spaniards finer and better built then
they really were. The resemblance between this region and Spain seemed
so close to them that they gave it the name of New Spain—a name which it
retains to this day. Next they came to the mouth of a river, called by
the natives Tabasco, but the Spaniards named it Grijalva, in honor of
their leader. The whole region roundabout had such a flourishing
appearance and seemed to be populated so densely that Grijalva could not
resist the desire to obtain accurate information about it. So he went
ashore with his entire armed force. There he encountered a multitude of
armed Indians, who with terrible outcries sought to prevent their
further advance. But he paid no attention to their menaces, marched up
to a bowshot’s distance from them, then halted, drew his men up in
battle order, and sent the two Americans, Julian and Melchior, who had
been taken by Hernandez, to inform them that he had not come there to
injure them, but to do them good, and that he was anxious to make a
peaceful agreement with them.

The Indians, who had been gazing in astonishment at the closed ranks,
the costumes, and weapons of the Europeans, were still more astonished
at this declaration. Some of their leaders ventured to advance. Grijalva
cordially welcomed them and told them through the interpreters that he
and his followers were subjects of a great King who was the absolute
ruler of all the countries where the sun rises. This King had sent him
to demand their submission to his authority, and he awaited their
answer. Thereupon a low murmuring ensued among the Indians, which was
stilled by one of their leaders, who replied courageously in the name of
his people that it seemed strange to them that the Spaniards should
speak of peace and at the same time demand submission. It seemed strange
to them also that they should be offered a new ruler without
ascertaining whether they were dissatisfied with their present one. As
far as the question of war or peace was concerned he was not authorized
to give a decisive answer. He must submit that question to his
superiors. With these words he retired, leaving the Spaniards not a
little astonished at this sensible reply. After a short time he returned
and told Grijalva that his superiors did not fear war with the
Spaniards, if it must be, for they had not forgotten what happened at
Potonchan. But they considered peace better than war, and, as a token of
this, he had brought many necessaries of life for gifts.

Shortly after this, the cacique himself appeared, unarmed and with a
small retinue. After friendly greetings on each side he took from a
basket golden articles of various kinds set with jewels, and fabrics
decorated with beautifully colored feathers, and said to Grijalva that
he loved peace and had brought these gifts in confirmation of his words,
but, that there might be no opportunity for misunderstanding, he begged
him to leave the country as soon as possible. The Spanish leader
acknowledged the politeness of the cacique by making gifts in return,
and promised to conform to his wishes as soon as he could get under

After cruising some distance along the coast, they reached an island
with many stone houses and a temple. In the centre of this temple, which
was open on all sides, they saw various hideous idols placed about an
altar, elevated a few steps. Near to it were six corpses, which,
according to the prevailing horrible custom, seemed to have been offered
up as sacrifices on the preceding night. On account of this dreadful
spectacle the Spaniards named the place Isla de los Sacrificios (“Island
of Sacrifice”). Everywhere they found evidences that the inhuman
practice of sacrificing men to their deities prevailed among these
people. Coming to anchor at another island, which was called Kulva by
the natives, they saw many more corpses of freshly slaughtered men,
which caused even the barbarous Spanish soldiers to shudder at such
cruelty. Grijalva gave his surname, Juan, to this island, from which
eventually came the name, St. Juan de Ulloa, by which it is now known.

Wherever they went gold was found in abundance. This and the sight of
many fruitful spots which they passed aroused a general desire among the
men to effect a settlement, but Grijalva persisted in carrying out the
orders of Velasquez, and everywhere that he landed, took possession of
the country in the name of the King. He continued sailing along the
coast until he reached Pánuco. At the mouth of a river there he was so
furiously assailed by a swarm of Indians that a dreadful massacre became
necessary before they could be driven back. After this, while attempting
to sail still farther along the coast, adverse currents forced him to
return to Cuba. Upon his arrival he met with bitter reproaches from the
unreasonable governor, Velasquez, because he had not availed himself of
the excellent opportunity to establish a colony in that rich region,
although he had been expressly forbidden to do so when he sailed.

Grijalva had sent back one of his principal officers, Pedro de Alvarado,
with a rich collection of jewels, and golden vessels and ornaments,
secured from the natives by exchanging European knick-knacks for them,
and he had told much about the rich country. When Grijalva returned,
after an absence of six months, he met with censure because he had
carried out the instructions of the governor! The modest, unassuming man
bore the undeserved reproaches calmly. To him belongs the honor of being
the first European navigator to set foot on Mexican soil and open up
intercourse with the Aztecs.

                               Chapter II
      The Youth of Cortes—His Voyage to San Domingo and Settlement
    there—Cortes under Velasquez in Cuba—He Fits Out a Fleet for the
                           Conquest of Mexico

Velasquez, an ambitious but at the same time distrustful and fickle man,
decided to continue the great discoveries made in his name, and to
secure the rich profits which they promised. With this object in view he
fitted out a strong fleet with the utmost expedition. The question then
arose, Who should take command of it? Not having the courage to
participate personally in an undertaking exposed to so many dangers and
hardships, he was forced to look for another leader. The choice was a
difficult one, for one man seemed to him too cowardly, another too
courageous, this one too dull, another too crafty. He was anxious to
find a man who would combine with the necessary judgment and courage
absolute devotion to him and slavish obedience to his orders, and who
would not only accomplish great deeds but at the same time give him all
the advantage of them. Fortunately he found such a man, one admirably
fitted for such an undertaking, but he did not understand how to make
use of him. That man was Cortes.

Hernando Cortes, of noble family, was born in 1485 at Medellin, a small
town in the Spanish province of Estremadura. From his earliest youth he
had unusual courage, unwearied patience in overcoming difficulties, a
restless, active spirit, and a burning desire to distinguish himself by
great deeds. In his childhood he was weakly. In his fourteenth year he
was sent to the University of Salamanca, his father, who built great
hopes upon his brilliant talents, having destined him for the law. He
chose a calling for him which opened up better prospects for an
industrious young man than any other, but the son had no sympathy with
his father’s purpose. He showed little fondness for books and after his
second year of study returned home, to the great disappointment of his
parents, and spent his time without following any special avocation. He
showed an inclination for a military life, particularly a life full of

All eyes at that time were directed to the West Indies, and his own eyes
were turned to the same region. He decided to enroll himself among those
bold spirits who defied all hardships and dangers if only they might
enrich their fatherland with new possessions and gain for themselves a
glorious name. He was in his twentieth year (1504) when he sailed from
Spain and betook himself to San Domingo. On his very first voyage his
courage and steadfastness were put to a severe test. He encountered
innumerable dangers and trials, but the bold, strong youth, whose
physical and mental strength had not been weakened by indolence,
effeminacy, and shameless debaucheries, laughed at them. To work was a
pleasure to him, to hunger and thirst a trifle, to die, if necessary, an
indifferent matter.

The vessel which carried Cortes was one of a large number lying at the
Canary Islands, taking on stores for their voyages, as was the practice
of all vessels at that time when making the passage to the New World.
Its commander was a greedy fellow who was anxious to reach the New World
market before the rest so as to get a high price for his goods. He
sailed away secretly by night, but a furious storm overtook him,
dismasted his vessel, and forced him to go back to the Canary Islands.
The other captains generously waited for their faithless companion, but
he managed to slip away again by night. He lost his course, however, was
exposed to hard storms and adverse winds, and his vessel was so
violently tossed about that all on board feared for their lives and were
not a little enraged at the author of their troubles. The young Cortes,
however, was not disturbed by the danger, and contemplated the future
joyfully. At last, after long wandering about, the vessel arrived at its
destination. A dove which had gone astray lit upon the mast. As it flew
off they followed the direction of its flight and reached Hispaniola,
where the other vessels had arrived a long time before and the
ship-masters had sold their goods.

Cortes reached San Domingo at a time when Ovando was still governor. His
very appearance secured for him a favorable reception. He was
prepossessing, pleasing of countenance, and unaffectedly friendly in his
contact with every one, but his peculiar qualities of disposition made
him still more the favorite. He was open-hearted, indulgent, and
magnanimous, but he was also shrewd, far-sighted, and reserved. He spoke
maliciously of no one and was good-humored in conversation. He was
always ready to confer favors but he could not bear to have them
mentioned. These meritorious qualities soon made him a favorite with
every one. Immediately upon arrival he went to pay his respects to the
governor, but Ovando was absent, attending to affairs in the interior.
His secretary, however, received him cordially, and assured him it would
not be difficult for him to obtain an abundance of land from Ovando upon
which he could settle. Cortes answered: “I have come here to provide
myself with gold, not to plough like a field laborer.”

Upon his return Ovando induced the young man to give up his ambitious
designs, for a short time at least, and convinced him that he would
certainly become richer if he settled down as a planter than if he
trusted himself to chance. Cortes therefore secured land and an
allotment of Indians in the settlement of Azua. The monotony of his life
was often relieved by the part he took as an adventurer in warlike
expeditions, especially in the company of Velasquez, when the latter as
Ovando’s representative was forced to suppress uprisings of the natives.
In this way he became better known to Ovando, who was exceedingly
anxious to retain his services. But as his young, courageous spirit was
eager for more important undertakings, he applied for and received
permission to accompany Velasquez on his expedition to Cuba in 1511. At
last he had an opportunity to display his courage and activity. He
quickly rose. In a short time the important position of Alcalde of St.
Iago was assigned to him. A quarrel with Velasquez soon after occurred,
which might easily have been fatal to the incautious Cortes, had not the
friendship of the two been so strong. Cortes, who was not a hero of
virtue, fell in love with a young lady of high rank, named Catalina
Xuarez, and had promised to marry her, but put off the fulfilment of his
promise so long that he incurred the angry reproaches of the governor.
These reproaches naturally led to a coolness between Cortes and his
patron, and Cortes decided that he would lay his grievances before
Velasquez’ superior in Hispaniola. Other dissatisfied ones joined him
and they planned to send a messenger. Cortes was selected, for no other
would have ventured to cross secretly in an open boat the distance of
eighteen miles to the neighboring island. But the conspiracy was
discovered, Cortes was arrested, chained, and placed in close
confinement. It is said that Velasquez would have hanged him but for the
intercession of friends. Meantime the bold Cortes did not long remain in
prison. He shoved back one of the fastenings of his chains, freed his
limbs, broke the window, and escaped to a church near by. According to
the customs of the time a fugitive could not be seized in a sacred
place. Velasquez kept guards upon the lookout, and once, when Cortes
incautiously ventured out just a little too far, he was caught, and
bound, and conveyed to a vessel which was to sail to Hispaniola the next
morning. But fortune favored him. He released himself in the night,
jumped from the vessel’s side into a boat, thence into the sea, and swam
ashore. Exhausted, he sought the same asylum again and declared he would
marry Catalina Xuarez, if the governor would pardon him. Velasquez
assented, Cortes married Catalina, a reconciliation between himself and
Velasquez was effected, and a closer friendship than ever was the

When Alvarado returned with glowing accounts of the new discoveries on
the mainland, and Grijalva also extolled the great rich western empire,
Cortes was the one chosen as the commander of the fleet. The position
was accepted by him, and all who were to take part in the expedition
were delighted that such an able, courageous, and highly qualified man
was to be their leader. Cortes was also delighted at the opportunity of
displaying his ability, contributed all that he had in providing an
ample store of campaign necessaries, and aided those of his companions
who were too poor to obtain what they needed.

Before the equipment in the harbor of St. Iago was completed Cortes
stole away, for he had heard that Velasquez designed to take the supreme
command from him, fearing that he might carry off all the glory as well
as the profits of the enterprise. His entire force numbered three
hundred men, and a hundred more joined him from another part of Cuba,
members of distinguished families, eager for the glory and boundless
treasures which the expedition promised. The day on which Cortes sailed
was the eighteenth of November, 1518. The first destination of the fleet
was Trinidad, and the next Havana, where several persons and further
stocks of supplies were to be taken aboard.

Velasquez for a long time seemed to be satisfied with the choice of
Cortes as leader of the expedition, though many a jealous tale-bearer
sought to prejudice him against him. But hardly did he see Cortes sail
away before he took a different view of the prospect. He thought to
himself, What if he should abuse the authority entrusted to him, refuse
to be obedient, and make himself absolute ruler in the country he was to
conquer in Velasquez’ name? The little clique of Cortes’ enemies ever at
his side observed what was troubling him and redoubled their efforts to
kindle his jealousy into flame, and at last succeeded. A messenger was
instantly sent to the Alcalde at Trinidad, ordering him to remove Cortes
from his position as soon as he arrived there. The Alcalde was prepared
to carry out his instructions, but Cortes, who was not conscious of any
offence, did not believe that he was bound to resign. He assured the
Alcalde that Velasquez’ change of mind was due to a misunderstanding and
requested him to delay the execution of his instructions until he could
send a letter to the governor and receive a reply. The Alcalde, who was
not in a position to carry out his instructions by force, gave his
consent. Cortes wrote the governor, weighed anchor at once, and sailed
for Havana. At the latter place he had to wait some time, partly for his
reinforcements and partly to secure one thing or another indispensable
to such an important expedition.

At last all was ready. The fleet numbered eleven vessels. The largest,
of one hundred tons, not larger than one of our two-masted merchant
vessels, was the Admiral’s flag-ship. The three next largest were of
seventy-eight tons’ burthen, and the rest small open barges. Cortes’
force had now been increased to six hundred and seventeen, of whom a
hundred or so were sailors and artisans, the rest soldiers. Only
thirteen of these were armed with muskets and thirty-two with
cross-bows. The others carried swords and spears, for the use of
fire-arms at that time was very limited. Sixteen horses, ten small
cannon or field-pieces, and four falconets or culverins, which are a
kind of long, slender cannon, no longer in use, constituted the most
important part of the outfit. With this comparatively weak equipment,
Cortes sailed for an unknown country to make war against the powerful
ruler of Mexico, whose prosperous empire, together with the neighboring
provinces, was greater than all the countries over which the King of
Spain ruled at that time.

In the meantime Velasquez was furious at the news that Cortes, in spite
of his prohibition, had sailed away. He charged his representatives whom
he had sent to cancel the appointment with treachery. His rage knew no
bounds, and he made vigorous preparations to prevent Cortes from
escaping a second time from Havana. He sent one of his most trusty
subordinates with express instructions to seize Cortes and send him
chained and stoutly guarded to St. Iago.

Fortunately Cortes was informed of the danger impending over him in
sufficient time to make himself secure. He quickly summoned his force,
of whose good-will he was convinced, explained the danger which
threatened them, and asked for their opinion. They unanimously declared
he should pay no attention to the fickle governor and that he should not
surrender his legal rights nor deliver himself into the power of such an
unjust and suspicious judge. They implored him, in view of the
importance of the expedition, not to give up his leadership, assured him
of their perfect confidence in him, and expressed themselves ready, in
the face of all obstacles and dangers, to follow him even to death.
Cortes was easily affected and ready to agree to anything which would
aid him in carrying out his purpose. After thanking the soldiers for
their consent he at once ordered anchors weighed, and sailed from
Havana, February 10, 1519.

                              Chapter III
Cortes is Regarded as an Enemy by the Natives of Tabasco, and is Forced
        into a Battle with them—He is Victorious and they Submit

Cortes decided to take the same course which Grijalva had followed
before him, and so made the island of Cozumel his next destination.
There he had an opportunity to rescue a Spaniard who had been left upon
the coast by a shipwreck, and since that time had been a servant among
the Indians. This poor fellow, named Aguilar, during the eight years of
his abode there, had lost every European vestige and taken on the
appearance, color, speech, and habits of the natives so completely that
it was difficult to recognize he had ever been a Spaniard. Like the
natives, he went naked, the color of his skin was dark brown, and his
hair, after the custom of the country, was wound about his head in
coils. He carried an oar on his shoulder, a bow in his hand, and a
quiver on his back. His entire possessions were contained in a knit bag
and consisted of his provisions and an old prayer-book in which he read
industriously. He had so far forgotten his mother-tongue that it was
difficult to understand him.

According to his statement he was wrecked in the vicinity with nineteen
others. Seven of his comrades were overcome by hunger and exhaustion.
The rest fell into the hands of the cacique of that country, a monster
who sacrificed five of them to his deities and placed the others in a
kind of cage, intending to fatten and then eat them. They had the good
fortune, however, to escape. Helpless and despairing, they wandered
about the forests, subsisting upon roots and herbs, until at last they
met some Indians who took them to a kindly cacique, an enemy of the
other. He received them humanely but each day imposed hard tasks upon
them. The most of them died in a short time, only two of them, Aguilar
and Guerro, surviving. They soon had an opportunity to render the
cacique important service in his wars, for which he was very grateful.
Guerro married an Indian woman of distinction, was made commander, and
gradually became so Americanized that when the Spaniards arrived he did
not care to change his conditions. He would not see them, perhaps for
shame, for Aguilar said he had pierced his nose and painted various
parts of his body as the natives did.

Cortes embraced the poor Aguilar and covered his nakedness with his own
cloak. As Aguilar had learned the language of the country during his
long stay there, Cortes was rejoiced at his discovery, for he naturally
hoped he would be of great service to him in future communications with
the Indians. From Cozumel he directed his course to Tabasco, and to that
part of it where the river Grijalva empties into the sea. He expected to
meet a friendly reception, as Grijalva had, but he was disappointed. At
sight of his vessels the natives assumed a hostile aspect and seemed
determined to prevent him from landing. He sent Aguilar to them to make
an agreement, but it was useless. They would not listen to him, and he
had to return without accomplishing his object. The event was as
unpleasant to Cortes as it was unexpected. He had not planned to begin
his conquest in that place. His object was to reach as soon as possible
the region nearest the country of the great Mexican Empire, and begin
his operations there. Now he found himself in the unpleasant situation
of being forced either to submit to the threats of the natives or to
inaugurate hostilities in an outlying province, which, even if they
ended successfully, must cost at least time, and lives, of which he had
few to spare. If he turned back, the Indians would certainly take it as
a mark of cowardice and become more troublesome than ever. After
considering this view of the situation, it seemed to him a conclusive
reason for attacking them. As the approach of night prevented him from
doing so at once, the assault was deferred until the next day, and the
intervening night was devoted to the necessary preparations.


At daybreak all were summoned for action. Cortes arranged his fleet in a
half circle and in this order, which was necessary on account of the
shores, he began sailing up the stream. But before opening the attack,
he sent Aguilar to inform the natives that it rested with them to say
whether he should come as an enemy or a friend. Aguilar performed his
duty, but instead of listening quietly to him the Indians gave the
signal for attack and rowed out in their canoes to meet the fleet. They
came together and the Indians began the assault with a dreadful storm of
arrows and stones which caused great discomfort to the Spaniards, who
were still remaining passive. At this Cortes gave the signal for
defence. A single shot from the great cannon was decisive. The Indians,
astonished at the unexpected thunder which roared about them, and
terrified at the sight of its destructive consequences, jumped from
their canoes into the water and endeavored with all their might to
escape by swimming. The Spanish vessels drew up to the banks, and Cortes
landed with his whole force undisturbed. The battle, however, was far
from being ended. The Indians, who had left their canoes, fled into the
brush, where a still greater number of their warriors were collected.
They rushed forward while Cortes was engaged in placing his men in
battle order, and attacked him with arrows, spears, and stones, uttering
appalling battle cries. Cortes, however, was not disturbed but continued
the arrangement of his ranks until the whole corps was in close battle
order. Then they charged furiously against the Indians, advanced with
wonderful coolness through deep morasses and dense thickets upon the
countless swarms of the enemy, and death and terror beat a way for them.
The sight of an army with European weapons was as new as it was fearful
to the Indians. They could not face it and incontinently took to flight.

The enemy fled to their fortified city of Tabasco. The fortifications
consisted only of a row of stakes driven into the ground, after the
style of our palisades, and surrounding the city in circular form. Both
ends overlapped, and between them a single narrow road led into the city
with many windings. Great as the peril seemed to be, Cortes
unhesitatingly advanced along this narrow passage, but upon entering the
city found the streets blocked up with stakes and the people ready to
oppose him. The Indians were forced back again and yet the battle was
not ended. They gathered anew in the market place of the city, again
offered stubborn resistance, and again were overcome. Thereupon they
fled to the woods. Tabasco was captured, and the battle was over. Cortes
did not pursue the Indians but took possession of the city for the
Spanish crown. He made three incisions with his sword in a large tree
and announced that he occupied the city in the name and in favor of the
Catholic sovereign, and that he would maintain and defend it with sword
and shield against all who should gainsay it. The same declaration was
made by his soldiers, and the proceedings were written down and formally
attested. The plunder taken by the Spaniards did not come up to their
expectations, for the Indians carried off the greater part of articles
of value, leaving only some provisions which came in good stead for the
tired and hungry Spaniards.

At night Cortes quartered his force—in three divisions—in temples at
different places and stationed watchmen to guard against a night attack.
He made the rounds at different times to see that they were performing
their duty. At daybreak he searched the woods near by, but not an Indian
was to be seen or heard, which made him a little suspicious. He sent
spies to the adjacent region, who brought him the disquieting news that
a multitude of Indians, forty thousand at least, were collected, whom
they had watched at some distance, while they were getting ready for an
attack. Such news as that might well alarm one in Cortes’ situation! He
was confronted with a force a hundred times as large as his own,
compelled to fight for their fatherland, their temples, and their lives.
He realized the danger, but, master of himself and his emotions, he
maintained as calm and composed a mien as if the report were a mere
joke. His example inspired his men with like fearlessness, and they
stood ready to follow him wherever he should lead.

Cortes drew up his little army in battle array at the foot of a hill. It
protected his men in the rear, and at the same time he could use his
cannon in the freest and most effective manner. He posted himself with
his cavalry in an adjoining thicket, whence at the right time he could
charge the enemy unexpectedly. In this order they quietly awaited the
onset of the Indians. The ever memorable day upon which the battle was
fought was the twenty-fifth of March, 1519, Annunciation Day.

The Indians appeared, most of them armed with bows and arrows. The
bowstrings were made of the sinews of some animal or stag’s hair, and
the arrows were tipped with sharp bones. In addition to these they
carried spears which could be thrown from a distance or used as a
hand-weapon. One of their most terrible weapons was a great battle
sword, made of very hard wood, the edge of which was formed of
exceedingly sharp stones, joined together, and which was so heavy that
it had to be wielded with both hands, like an axe. Some of them had
clubs, others slings with which they could hurl stones of great size
with unusual force and accuracy. The leaders alone protected themselves
with quilted woollen coverings, and wooden or tortoise shell shields.
The rest went naked, but to give them a frightful appearance they
painted their faces and bodies in different colors, and to increase
their stature they wore headdresses of tall feathers. Their battle music
was in keeping with their looks. They used reed pipes and large
sea-shells as wind instruments, and drums made of hollowed tree trunks.
The art of fighting in close ranks was entirely unknown to them. They
observed a certain order, however, by dividing the whole force into
little squads, each with its own leader. They had this in common with
the European plan of battle, that they did not engage all their warriors
at the same time in a fight, but kept a part in reserve to come to the
help of those in front when it should be necessary. Their opening
assault was always made with frightful outcries and with great vigor,
but if the enemy withstood the first attack and succeeded in throwing
the advance into disorder, a panic would strike them and a general
retreat ensue.

Such was the enemy the little army of Spaniards now saw advancing upon
them in countless numbers. Silent and solid as a wall they awaited the
attack. When they had come within bowshot, the battle opened with
terrible yells and a shower of arrows which darkened the air. The
Spaniards replied with a cannon and musketry fire, which covered the
ground with heaps of the closely crowded enemy. The Indians, however,
were undaunted. They filled up the void, threw sand in the air to
conceal their losses in a cloud of dust, and after another flight of
arrows came to a hand to hand struggle. The Spaniards did their best to
overcome superiority of numbers, but the impetuosity and the multitude
of the enemy were so great that they could not long withstand them.
Their ranks were already broken through in several places, and a general
massacre seemed imminent when suddenly Cortes appeared with his cavalry
and charged into the midst of the enemy. It was a new and dreadful sight
to the poor Indians, who had never before beheld horsemen. They thought
they were huge monsters, half man and half beast, and were so overcome
with fear that their weapons dropped from their hands. The Spaniards
improved the opportunity to get into order again, the cannon fire was
renewed, and, attacked upon every side, the panic-stricken Indians
incontinently fled.

Satisfied with this display of his superior power, Cortes at once
ordered that the fugitives should be spared and only a few of them
captured in order to make a peaceful arrangement with the whole nation.
Eight hundred Indians lay dead upon the field, and only two Spaniards,
but seventy of the latter were wounded. All the Indians who were not too
severely wounded had fled. The field was made the site of a city, which,
in honor of the day and the event, was called Santa Maria de la
Vittoria, and afterward became the capital of the country.

On the following day some of the captives were brought before Cortes.
Their faces wore an expression of anxiety and fear for they had no doubt
that they would be sentenced to death, but how great was their joy and
astonishment when he received them with the greatest kindness, and
Aguilar, the interpreter, announced their freedom. Their delight was
still further enhanced when Cortes displayed his generosity by making
them gifts of trifles, which he knew would secure their good-will.
Overcome with joy, they hastened to tell their people how handsomely
they had been treated. The result was that the Spaniards won over all
those hearts which had been filled with rage and vengeance. To manifest
their confidence and good intentions, various Indians shortly came,
bringing all kinds of subsistence for which they were generously
recompensed. The cacique himself sent messengers with gifts and begged
for peace. It was granted, and when, soon afterward, he came in person,
assurances of peace on each side were confirmed by presents. Among other
expressions of good-will the cacique brought twenty young women who knew
how to bake Indian corn bread, and made a present of them to Cortes. One
of them, who had been christened Marina, was the daughter of a cacique
and had been kidnapped when a child and sold to the cacique of Tabasco.
She was not only unusually beautiful but intelligent, and in a short
time learned the Spanish language and was of great service to Cortes
afterward in his dealings with the Mexicans.

While the cacique and his leaders were with Cortes they chanced to hear
the Spanish horses neigh. Thereupon the terrified Indians anxiously
inquired what was the matter with these frightful beings, meaning the
horses. They were told that they were angry because the cacique and his
people had not been punished more severely for their audacity in
attacking the Christians. The instant they heard this they hurried off
and brought various kinds of game to appease them. They meekly implored
forgiveness and promised they would faithfully submit to the Christians
in the future.

Their confidence was soon displayed. Spanish knick-knacks were exchanged
for the raw products of the country, such as food of all kinds, woollen
goods, and golden ornaments. When the natives were asked where the
precious metal came from, they pointed westward and replied, “Kulhua,”
“Mexico.” It was at once decided to leave the country and proceed to the
land of gold. Before they left, Cortes displayed his solicitude for
their conversion. He called their attention to the great doctrines of
Christianity, and sought to persuade them to abandon heathenish
practices. As the Indians offered but little objection, the conversion
ceremony began on Palm Sunday. The whole army, with a priest at its
head, moved in solemn procession through the blooming fields, surrounded
by thousands of Indians, to the principal temple, in which the image of
the heathen divinity had been removed from the altar and displaced by
the image of Christ. The priest conducted the mass, the soldiers sang,
the natives listened in deep silence and were moved to tears. Their
hearts were filled with reverence for the divinity of those beings who
seemed to control the thunder and lightning with their hands.

After the ceremony was concluded the soldiers bade farewell to their
Indian friends, and a few hours afterward the little fleet was on its
way to the gold coast of Mexico.

                               Chapter IV
 Cortes Reaches San Juan de Ulloa—His Negotiations for an Understanding
         with Montezuma, Emperor of Mexico—Disquiet in the Army

Cortes, satisfied with the fortunate outcome of a struggle which might
have had most disastrous consequences, and full of hope for similar good
fortune in his future undertakings, left Tabasco. A favoring east wind
filled the swelling sails, and the course was westward. On this voyage
Cortes visited all those places where Grijalva had been before him. At
last he reached the island of San Juan de Ulloa, which Grijalva had
visited, and came to anchor between the island and mainland. They had
not been there long before they saw two large and long canoes
approaching them from shore. The Indians in them seemed to be of some
importance and were apparently apprehensive of danger, but Cortes
received them on board in a friendly manner. They began to speak, and
Cortes awaited an explanation of their visit, but they spoke a language
which Aguilar, his interpreter, did not understand. They talked in
Mexican, but he had learned only Yucatanish—an entirely different

In the meantime Cortes to his great delight observed that the slave
Marina of Tabasco was conversing with some of the Indians and found that
this person, who had been born in a Mexican province and been kidnapped,
and taken to Yucatan, could speak the language of both countries with
equal facility. Marina spoke with them in her own dialect, communicating
what they said to Aguilar in Yucatanish, who in turn spoke to Cortes in
Spanish. By this fortunate occurrence Cortes learned that Pilpatoe, the
governor of that country, and Teutile, the great Emperor Montezuma’s
general, had sent these Indians to ascertain his object in coming and to
offer him assistance in continuing his journey, should he need it. Their
appearance showed them to be a very different people from those wild
tribes of the West Indies before encountered. Cortes recognized the
difference immediately and replied in a cordial way that he had come
with the friendly purpose of bringing tidings to their ruler which would
prove of great importance. He dismissed them with gifts and, without
waiting for a reply, began sending his people, horses, cannon, and war
material to land. The hospitable natives submitted, hastened to lend
helping hands to their future oppressors, and set up straw huts for
them. Unfortunates! If some friendly spirit could have revealed the
future to them and shown them how dearly they would have to pay for this
friendly service, how they would have recoiled from these wolves in
sheep’s clothing! How they would have put forth all their strength and
joyfully spent the last drop of blood to drive these dangerous strangers
from their shores!

On the following day Pilpatoe and Teutile appeared in person with a
numerous retinue of armed Mexicans. Their appearance was imposing as
befitted the majesty of their great sovereign. Cortes also displayed as
much pomp as his circumstances permitted, to impress them with his own
importance and that of the sovereign he represented. He ordered his
troops to march at his side with military precision and in respectful
silence, and received the Mexican officers with a display of dignity
which deeply impressed them. Upon being asked who had commissioned him,
he haughtily replied with intentional brevity that he came in the name
of Charles of Austria, the great and powerful monarch of the East, who
had entrusted him with a message to the Emperor Montezuma that could
only be delivered in person. He desired therefore that he should be
conducted to him.

Ferdinand, the Catholic, who ruled over Spain in the time of Columbus,
had no sons, but left a daughter, named Joanna, who married Philip, an
Austrian prince. A son was born to them, named Charles, and it is he who
is mentioned above. When Ferdinand died, Charles, whose father was no
longer living, became heir to his crown. He was also sovereign of the
Netherlands, which had come into his possession a year previously. Later
he was chosen German Emperor and thus became one of the most powerful
monarchs in Europe. As four princes by the name of Charles had occupied
the throne before him, he was designated Charles the Fifth.

The Mexicans were much embarrassed by the resolute declaration of
Cortes. They knew that his determination to have a personal interview
with their Emperor would be extremely disagreeable to the latter.
Montezuma had been greatly disturbed at the first appearance of
Europeans on the Mexican coast. There was an old saying in his country
that a mighty people dwelt toward the east, who sooner or later would
attack and overthrow the Mexican Empire. How this saying originated it
is not easy to say, but it is certain that the superstitious Mexicans,
and Montezuma himself, were terrified by the old prophecy as soon as the
Europeans appeared. This was also the reason why Montezuma’s ambassadors
were so disturbed when Cortes demanded the interview. Meanwhile, before
making a reply to his demand, they sought to win his favor with gifts,
among them ten bales of fine woollens, exquisite feather cloaks, whose
beautiful and delicate colors rivalled the finest paintings, and a
willow basket filled with gold ornaments. Cortes expressed his gratitude
for the gifts, which emboldened them to tell him such an interview would
be impossible. To their intense astonishment Cortes, with a sinister and
angry expression of face, interrupted them by declaring that he could
not return to the great monarch, whose representative he was, without
carrying out his object. That was more than they had expected and all
they could do was to request Cortes to have patience until they could
acquaint Montezuma with his purpose and receive his reply. Cortes
assented to this and sent gifts to the Emperor. These consisted of a
richly carved and colored arm-chair, a head covering having a gold
medallion with the image of St. George and the dragon on it, a quantity
of necklaces and bracelets and ornaments of cut glass, which, in that
country where they had no glass, was regarded by the Mexicans as a
precious stone.

Upon this occasion also several painters attached to the Mexican retinue
made drawings upon white cotton of the most remarkable European objects
they observed. Learning that these drawings were to be sent to the
Emperor, Cortes decided to offer the artists still more interesting
subjects that would be likely to make a deep impression upon Montezuma.
He drew up his entire force in battle array and displayed before the
astonished Mexicans a realistic picture of a battle conducted in the
European manner. The spectators were so overcome with astonishment and
awe that some of them fled, others in a dazed condition threw themselves
upon the earth, while the rest fancied that what they saw and heard was
a game for their diversion. The artists now had an opportunity to use
their pencils in depicting the fearful and destructive effect of
European warfare. They worked with trembling hands, and when their
pictures were finished, they were sent with the other gifts by swift
runners to the Emperor. In that country they had swift runners on all
the principal roads leading from the most distant provinces to the
capital, ready at any moment to convey intelligence of all that was
transpiring at any place.

In a few days the Emperor’s reply was received. As was expected, the
interview was declined, but to mitigate the disagreeableness of the
refusal, Montezuma accompanied it with gifts which were truly regal.
Pilpatoe and Teutile had the unpleasant duty of presenting both. They
wisely produced the gifts first, to prepare Cortes, if possible, for a
favorable reception of the reply.

The gifts were brought in by a hundred Indians and spread out on mats at
Cortes’ feet. The Spaniards greedily gazed at these proofs of the
richness of the empire. There were samples of cotton which resembled
silk in its gloss and fineness, pictures of animals, trees, and other
natural products skilfully wrought out in vari-colored feathers, and
gorgeous necklaces, bracelets, rings, and other ornaments of gold. But
as the sun eclipses all the other luminaries in the heavens, so were
these objects eclipsed by two large circular disks, one of which was of
solid gold, the other, of silver. The one represented the sun, the other
the moon. As if for the purpose of still further exciting the cupidity
of the Spaniards, several caskets filled with precious stones, pearls,
and grains of gold from the streams and mines were presented.

Cortes accepted these splendid gifts with expressions of the utmost
respect for the giver, and thereupon the ambassadors proceeded to the
disagreeable part of their commission. They declared on behalf of their
sovereign that he could not permit foreign soldiers to approach the
capital or remain longer within the limits of the Mexican Empire. They
were requested to retire immediately. Fair and reasonable as the request
was, Cortes assumed the mien of one who had been insulted, and asserted
even more haughtily than before that he utterly refused to accept the
reply, for his own honor and that of his sovereign would be offended
should he return without having had the interview. The eyes of the
Mexicans, who were accustomed to abject submission to their ruler, were
fixed in astonishment upon a man who dared to resist anything which
their absolute lord had ordered. Such audacity was so terrible to them
that it was some time before they could recover from the shock. At last
they regained composure and begged of this bold European a second delay
in order to report his unexpected persistency at the capital. Cortes
again consented, but upon the condition that he should not have to wait
too long for a reply. Firm and decided as he appeared to be in these
negotiations, he was not altogether sure that he was on secure ground.
Everything convinced him that he had to deal with a powerful and well
managed government. It seemed the most hazardous thing in the world to
oppose such a power with a handful of Spanish adventurers.

Nevertheless he held to the bold purpose of venturing the undertaking,
cost what it might. Two motives actuated him. Religious zeal was the
first. He was convinced he would be doing Heaven a great service if he
could convert these heathen to Christianity. The second was based on his
own doubtful circumstances, for, after what had occurred between himself
and Velasquez, the governor, upon leaving Cuba, he could not hope to
escape unpunished when he returned. As his life was in danger in any
event, he might better risk it in the accomplishment of an unheard of
adventure than expose himself to the danger of losing it at the hands of
the hangman upon his return. Unfortunately there were several in his
army who were growing very anxious, and these were men who were more
closely attached to Velasquez than to him. They had used their utmost
efforts to disaffect the others and to excite a general uprising so as
to force their leader to return to Cuba. But the prospect of securing
vast and exhaustless treasures was so strong that nothing else could
make a deep impression upon them. Besides, they believed there was good
reason now to expect a favorable answer from Mexico.

The reply came at last, but it was not what they had anticipated. Far
from being alarmed by the stubbornness of the Spanish general, Montezuma
had come to the manly conclusion to abide by his decision that the
Europeans must retire. Teutile brought the disagreeable message, as well
as more handsome gifts. Cortes thought best this time to assume a less
insolent attitude and mildly replied that the Christians esteemed it
their duty to instruct their ignorant neighbors in the doctrines of that
religion which pointed all men to the only road to happiness! It was for
this reason his greater monarch had sent him to show Montezuma and his
subjects the error of their ways, which they could no longer look upon
without pity. Therefore he could not leave without insisting that this
interview should take place. Teutile had hardly the patience to wait for
the close of Cortes’ statement. He rose from his seat angrily at last
and indignantly declared that as the Emperor’s gracious offers were of
no avail, the instructions of his master would be carried out in a more
forcible manner. With these words he hastily rushed out, followed by his
entire retinue and all the Mexicans who were in the vicinity. In a short
time the whole region was abandoned by the natives.

This was more than Cortes had expected. He was surprised and his danger
now was greatly increased. With great anxiety he contemplated the
results which must follow from this occurrence. The most direful evil
threatening them was the utter lack of subsistence, which the hospitable
natives had so generously furnished them hitherto. The discontented ones
in the army renewed their efforts to force Cortes to return to Cuba.
They ventured now openly to inveigh against him, to accuse him of
foolhardiness, and to urge their comrades not to suffer him to lead them
farther in the way to destruction. Cortes, who was as courageous as he
was far-sighted, with the aid of his confidants secretly investigated
the sentiments of his army, and when he was informed that the insurgents
were not making any deep impression, he summoned the foremost of the
instigators, among whom a certain Ordaz was conspicuous, met them in a
friendly manner, and inquired the meaning of their conduct. They did not
conceal their purpose, but urged even vehemently that they should embark
and sail back to Cuba.

Cortes quietly listened to them. Then he replied that so far as he was
concerned, in view of the danger to which they were exposed, he did not
see how, as their leader, he could oppose their wishes. Therefore he
would give his consent. He thereupon caused it to be proclaimed through
the camp that all must be ready to embark for the return voyage to Cuba.
He clearly foresaw what an uproar this would cause and his anticipations
were promptly realized. The Spaniards, who, since their landing, had
dreamed of nothing but exhaustless treasures, stood as if thunderstruck
when they learned that they had based their assurance upon such slender
hopes, and that, without having earned the slightest reward for their
previous hardships, they were to return home poorer than when they
started away. These reflections were intolerable, and an angry murmur of
discontent at the fickleness of their leader spread through the camp.

Cortes was rejoiced at this, for he clearly saw it would aid him in his
plans. He contrived with the aid of his confidants to increase the
indignation of the soldiers still more. They complained all the more
loudly that absolute cowardice was keeping them from the road to glory
and wealth. The result was increased excitement and a general demand
that their leader should appear before them. That was just what Cortes
desired. He came at once with a look of extreme surprise on his face.
They unanimously accused him of lack of courage in doubting the
successful outcome of an undertaking for the spread of the true religion
and for the great glory and advantage of the fatherland. They declared
furthermore that for their part they were firmly determined to pursue
the glorious course upon which they had entered, and to choose another
leader if he faint-heartedly deserted them. Their defiant words were
music to his ears, and it was some time before he recovered from his
surprise. At last he began to express his astonishment at what he had
heard. He assured them that he had never dreamed of giving up hopes
which were as great as they were well founded. But, as it had been
stated to him that his entire army had become discouraged and wished to
go back, he had unwillingly decided to comply with its wishes. At this
point his excited soldiers with united voices declared he had been
deceived. A few cowards had charged the whole army with cowardice. They
were ready to risk their blood and life to carry out his great purpose.
He might lead them where he pleased. They were ready to follow him even
to the death.

All was as Cortes wished. With an expression of joy and satisfaction he
extolled the glorious steadfastness of his soldiers and promised to
carry out the desires which they had so unanimously expressed. He would
therefore, he added, end his stay in the region where they were and
march into the heart of the country with the larger part of the army. A
universal and enthusiastic cheer greeted his decision. Now came the last
act of the comedy. He was and still remained their leader, but his
entire authority depended solely upon their good-will. The absolute
authority of the soldiers that had made him their commander, under
changed circumstances could take the command away from him. He sought to
remove this possibility in the following crafty way. He named a court of
justice for the new colony whose membership he knew was favorable to
him. Hardly was this done, and hardly had the magistrates assembled,
before Cortes appeared in their midst, his staff of commander in hand.
After permission had been granted he thus addressed them:

“I regard you, gentlemen, from this time forward as the representatives
of our great sovereign. Your decisions will always have the sanctity of
law. You unquestionably recognize the necessity that our army must have
a leader whose authority does not depend upon the caprice of the
soldiers. Now I find myself in this position. Since the governor has
revoked my appointment, both my authority and my position, indeed, are
doubtful. I consider myself bound, therefore, to resign my command,
which rests upon such a doubtful basis, into your hands and to request
you, after due consideration, to designate some one in the name of the
King who seems to you most worthy of being the commander. For my part, I
am ready as a common soldier, pike in hand, to furnish an example to my
comrades of obedience to the one selected as leader.”

With these words he kissed his staff of command, handed it reverently to
the Chief Justice, placed his letter of resignation on the table, and
left. The judges thereupon played out the farce. For appearances’ sake
they accepted the resignation, pretended the proper consideration, at
last made a new choice, and Cortes was unanimously elected commander.
Thereupon the army was summoned, and the choice was announced and
enthusiastically welcomed.

                               Chapter V
Founding of the City of Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz—Disaffected Caciques
      Join Cortes—Destruction of a Heathen Temple because of Human
  Sacrifices—Introduction of Christianity—Cortes Sinks his Fleet after
                       Sending a Vessel to Spain

Cortes was now the authorized commander at the head of six hundred
greedy wolves, before whom the countless hordes of naked Mexicans were
as so many defenceless sheep. The High Court appointed by Cortes gave to
the settlement, which was established before his departure, the name of
Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz, “the rich city of the true Cross.”[4] The
budding settlement was called “rich” because it was there they had a
chance to judge of the wealth of the Mexican Empire by the gifts which
had been sent, and because they expected that the treasures of that rich
people, unfortunately for them, would soon be flowing in there. The
addition, “true Cross,” was made because they landed there on the
anniversary of the Crucifixion. This remarkable appellation of the first
European colony in Mexico indicates the two leading passions which
animated the Spanish adventurers, namely, avarice and religious
enthusiasm. They were animated alike by the longings to fill their
purses with gold and Heaven with souls. It was a mixture of the earthly
and heavenly, cruelty and apparent humanity, shameless cupidity and
pretended piety.

The discontented Velasquez faction in Cortes’ camp soon discovered that
they had been deceived and began to murmur afresh. Cortes at once seized
those who were the most intemperate in speech and placed them on board
the vessels in chains. Those who had been misled into sympathy with the
mutineers were sent, under a reliable leader and in the company of
several of the loyal ones, into the neighboring region to procure
subsistence. After they had returned with abundant supplies, and hunger
was appeased, a reconciliation was soon effected. Every one of them
acknowledged his authority, and they soon became his most trusty and
devoted followers. Their destiny and his were now joined, for they had
mutually taken the decisive step and must follow him wherever he led.
When peace was fully restored, the Spaniards made all their preparations
for departure, and a fortunate event cleared the way of all obstacles.
They encountered five Indians, messengers from a cacique, whose
possessions were not far distant, who asked to be conducted to the
Spanish commander. Their request was granted, and Cortes, with the aid
of his interpreter, learned the agreeable news that the cacique of
Zempoala had heard of the great deeds accomplished by the Spaniards at
Tabasco and was anxious to make a friendly treaty with them. After much
questioning Cortes discovered that Montezuma, of whom the cacique of
Zempoala was a vassal, was a proud, overbearing, and cruel master, both
hated and feared by all his subjects, who were only waiting for an
opportunity to free themselves from his yoke.

Cortes was careful to conceal his satisfaction over this intelligence.
He knew how easy it is to overthrow the mightiest empire as soon as
dissatisfaction and misunderstandings arise between the ruler and his
people, and he now had not the slightest doubt of the success of his
undertaking, which but for this fortunate event might have proved
foolhardy in the extreme. The Indians were dismissed with friendly
assurances for themselves and their master, and with the promise that
Cortes would shortly pay them a visit. To fulfil his promise and at the
same time to investigate a spot which they recommended as a convenient
place for a colony, he departed with his whole army after giving orders
to his fleet to coast along in that vicinity. At the close of the first
day’s march they reached an Indian village which was completely
deserted. They found empty houses and temples with images of deities,
remnants of human beings who had been sacrificed, and some books, the
first which had been discovered in America. They were made of parchment
or hide which was smeared over with gum and arranged in leaves. In place
of letters they contained pictures of all kinds and symbols connected
with the abhorrent Mexican religion.[5] On the following day Cortes
continued his march. They came to broad luxurious plains and wooded
regions rich with the vegetation of the tropics. The branches of the
stately trees were hung with dark red, gracefully curving vines and
other parasitic plants of brilliant color. The undergrowth of prickly
aloes, interlaced with wild roses and honeysuckles, in several places
made almost impenetrable thickets. In the midst of this profusion of
fragrant blossoms, countless birds and swarms of butterflies fluttered
about, while exquisite singing birds filled the air with their melody.
Although the invaders were not very susceptible to the beauties of
nature, they could not help expressions of delight, and, as they
traversed this earthly paradise, it reminded them of the beautiful
regions in their own fatherland.

Cortes was greatly surprised to find the whole country deserted,
although it was the territory of the cacique of Zempoala. It looked
suspicious to him. But toward evening twelve Indians, carrying
provisions, who had been sent by the cacique, met them. They besought
the Spanish leader in the name of their master to go to his residence,
which was only a sun’s (one day) distance from there. He would find
everything there that he and his men needed. Upon being asked why the
cacique himself had not come to meet him in person, they replied that he
was prevented by physical infirmity. Cortes sent six of the Indians back
with thanks, retaining the rest to act as guides. On the following day
the cacique’s city came in sight, lying in a fruitful, smiling region,
and very handsome in appearance. Some of the soldiers in the advance
rushed back, excitedly shouting that the walls of the city were made of
solid silver. To their great regret they found they were mistaken, for
the walls were only covered with a cement so white and glistening in the
sunshine that it easily deceived those who dreamed day and night of
nothing but gold and silver. Upon entering the city they found all the
streets and public squares filled with curious natives who were unarmed
and conducted themselves more quietly than might have been expected of
such a multitude of uncivilized beings.

As they approached the house of the cacique, his Indian highness himself
appeared. His figure revealed the nature of the infirmity which had
prevented him from going out to meet his guests. He was so monstrously
fat that he could scarcely walk, his servants having to support and move
him along. His shapeless bulk and clumsy manner were so ludicrous that
Cortes had some difficulty in restraining his men from loud laughter and
in preserving his own seriousness. The attire of the cacique was
gorgeous. He was dressed in a cloak profusely set with precious stones,
and his ears and lips were perforated and richly adorned. His address of
welcome did not in the least correspond with his laughable appearance.
It was very clever, and well put together, and closed with the request
that Cortes would condescend to be his guest and abide with him, so that
they might have an opportunity to talk together at leisure. The rest of
the day was spent in partaking of refreshment and enjoying the fruits
which grew there in great profusion.

In his interview with the cacique Cortes designedly impressed him with
the idea that he had been sent there by the great eastern monarch for
the purpose of putting an end to tyranny in that part of the world. This
encouraged the cacique to make bitter complaint of the haughtiness and
injustice of Montezuma, whom he did not hesitate to characterize as a
cruel tyrant, whose yoke was intolerable not only to himself but to
others of his vassals. His indignation was so great, as he spoke of it,
that tears sprang from his eyes. Cortes endeavored to quiet him and
assured him of his protection. He also informed him that the power of
the tyrant did not disturb him in the least, for he knew that his own
power, which was supported by Heaven, was irresistible. After taking a
cordial leave of the hospitable Indian, Cortes set out upon his march to
Chiahuitzlan, the place selected for a settlement. Their way led over
fruitful plains and through pleasant woodlands, and after a moderate
day’s journey they saw the city upon a rocky eminence. The people had
fled. As they reached the market-place fifteen Indians emerged from a
temple, greeted the strangers, and assured them that their governor and
all his people would come back without delay if their safety were
guaranteed. Cortes solemnly assured them no one should be hurt and in a
short time the cacique and his people overcame their fears and returned.
Cortes was pleased to discover that the cacique of Zempoala was there
also. Scarcely had the interview begun when bitter complaints were made
of Montezuma’s persecutions. Cortes, who heard these complaints now for
the second time, consoled them and renewed his promises of protection.

            [Illustration: _MEXICAN CACIQUES BEFORE CORTES_]

In the meantime some of the Indians approached the two caciques and
whispered something in their ears which greatly astonished them. They
sprang up affrighted, and left the spot trembling. Uncertain what might
be the cause of their fear, they were followed, and the reason was soon
discovered. Six splendidly clad representatives of Montezuma accompanied
by a considerable number of slaves, holding feather umbrellas over their
heads, passed the Spanish quarters with glances of contempt at Cortes
and his officers. Their haughtiness so enraged the soldiers that they
were restrained with difficulty from violently assaulting the Mexicans.
Marina, who had been sent to gather information, returned with the news
that they had bitterly reproached the two caciques for their treachery
in receiving strangers, who were the declared enemies of their
sovereign. As a penalty for their disloyalty, besides the customary
tribute, twenty Indians should be delivered over to them as a sacrifice
to the offended deities. Cortes was enraged but wisely refrained from
giving expression to his wrath. He assured the caciques they need have
no fear of harm and instructed them to bring Montezuma’s messengers
before him in chains to give an account of themselves. The caciques, who
had been used to absolute obedience to their master, hesitated, but
Cortes, leaving them no time for reflection, repeated his orders so
emphatically that they dared not offer objection. The messengers were
arrested, the Spaniards, for appearances’ sake, taking no part in it.
Having gone thus far, the caciques would have gone still further and
done to the fettered messengers what Montezuma proposed to do to the
Indians, but Cortes objected to such inhumanity and ordered that the
prisoners should be guarded by his own men.

Cortes desired, if possible, to conceal the appearance of open hostility
to the powerful Montezuma. He cunningly planned to put him under
obligations to himself by making him believe he had not the least
connection with what had occurred. With this purpose in view he summoned
two of the prisoners at night, announced to them that they were free,
and instructed them to inform their master that he would strive to
secure the liberty of the others, and with this dismissed them. The
Indians were told the next day that the prisoners had escaped. Shortly
after this, the other prisoners were permitted to join their companions.
This tricky dealing had the effect which Cortes expected. In the
meantime other caciques were found in the neighboring mountainous region
who shared the same hatred toward their Emperor and were equally
desirous of escaping his tyrannical rule. All these heads of Indian
tribes, bearing the general name of Totonacs, entered into agreements
with Cortes, disavowed the authority of Montezuma, and declared
themselves vassals of the King of Spain.

Steps were now taken for the founding of a city at the new settlement.
The name of Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz was retained for the city, but
the name to-day has been abbreviated to Vera Cruz. Every one in the
Spanish army assisted in laying the walls and constructing the buildings
of the new city. No one refused, and Cortes set an example for all by
assisting personally. The work went on with incredible swiftness and in
a short time the enclosed place was sufficiently secure against Indian
assaults. Meanwhile Montezuma’s messengers had returned and performed
the favorable offices expected by Cortes. Their report considerably
mitigated the anger of the monarch, who in his first heat of passion had
ordered the mustering of a mighty army to extirpate these strangers and
their Indian auxiliaries by fire and sword. Now, however, he was greatly
concerned and decided to employ kind measures to induce these dreaded
strangers, if possible, to go away peacefully. To this end he sent
messengers with gifts of great value, two young princes, relatives of
the Emperor, being the bearers. They reached the Spanish camp just at
the time of the completion of the fortifications. They discharged their
duty, presented the costly gifts, thanked Cortes for the assistance he
had rendered in releasing the prisoners, and concluded with the request
that he would be pleased to leave the territory of their sovereign.

Cortes showed them the greatest honor and made the following reply: He
was sorry that the Emperor had been caused trouble by the imprisonment
of his messengers, and yet it must be acknowledged that they had brought
it upon themselves by an inhuman demand, which he hoped had been made
without the Emperor’s knowledge. In any event he must declare that the
Christian religion did not recognize the cruel practice of human
sacrifice and that he felt himself bound to prevent it wherever and
however he could. As for the wrong which had been done the Emperor, that
had been compensated for by the release of the prisoners, and, as he was
under obligations to the allies he had accepted, he flattered himself
that the Emperor would overlook the hasty act of the caciques of
Zempoala and Chiahuitzlan, and pardon them. He was obliged to take these
vassals of the Emperor under his protection for they had striven to make
amends for Teutile’s incivility by giving him a hospitable reception. As
to his departure from the country, he had already had the honor to
assure their master that a mission of the utmost consequence bound him
not to return to his fatherland until he had had a personal interview. A
European soldier never feared to perform any duty imposed upon him by
his superiors. The messengers, amazed at the cool and stately manner in
which Cortes delivered his reply, returned, filled with admiration at
his courageous firmness and with secret contempt for their own
sovereign, to whom they reported all they had seen and heard.

The new Spanish city was now in a satisfactory state of defence, and
Cortes devoted himself in earnest to the completion of other necessary
affairs. Fortune seemed decidedly in his favor, but his excessive
religious zeal came near ruining everything. Word was brought to him
that human sacrifices were to take place in one of the temples of his
allies. Enraged at their cruel superstition and that such an enormity
should be attempted under his very eyes, he rushed to the temple with
some of his soldiers and threatened destruction by fire and sword if
they did not instantly release the intended victims. His zeal did not
stop with this. He demanded that the priests should pull down their
idols, and renounce their false religion forever, although they did not
yet know of a better one. The priests prostrated themselves at his feet,
moaning and lamenting, and the caciques present trembled. As they
refused to pull down their idols, he ordered his soldiers to do it by
force. The priests rushed to arms and in a few moments Cortes and his
little band were surrounded by a crowd big enough to appall the heart of
the stoutest. But Cortes remained unmoved and announced to the assembled
multitude that the first arrow fired by them would cost them the lives
of their caciques and the destruction of them all. The soldiers advanced
to carry out his orders. In an instant the idols were hurled down; the
sacred vessels and the altar followed them. They were all destroyed, and
the temple was cleaned. The human blood which adhered to the walls was
washed off, and the image of the Virgin was set in the place of the
idols. The astonished Indians expected that fire would descend from
heaven any instant and revenge this indignity to their divinities. But
not a spark was seen, and the temple-stormers continued their work
audaciously and triumphantly before their very eyes. This weakened their
faith and caused them to reflect, with the result that they gradually
came to believe that the Spaniards were divinities themselves and
mightier than their own gods. They did not long stop to consider, but,
gathering up the remnants of their idols, contemptuously threw them into
the fire. The temple was consecrated as a Christian church and upon the
same day was dedicated with Roman Catholic ceremonies, which the Indians
greatly wondered at though they did not understand them.

Cortes had hardly escaped the danger to which his religious ardor
exposed him before another and no less threatening one confronted him.
Some of the soldiers and sailors, tired of wandering about and alarmed
at the prospect of fresh dangers on the march to the capital, had
entered into a plot against the commander and decided to seize a vessel,
make their escape to Cuba, and notify the governor of what Cortes had
been doing. Fortunately the plot was discovered before it was too late.
Cortes arrested the leaders and imposed a fitting penalty for the
offence. As he was convinced that the source of disaffection had not
entirely disappeared in his little army, he gave the matter serious
consideration and at last hit upon a definite but dangerous plan of
intimidating their small souls and causing them to recoil with terror
from any thought of mutiny. He determined to remove the last hope of
return and to leave them the alternative of an advance upon the Mexican
capital or death, by destroying his fleet, thus convincing the
fainthearted ones in his army that there was no middle course and that
they must either conquer or die.

Great as was the courage necessary to accomplish this, still greater was
the task of making it acceptable to his army. Fortunately Cortes was as
tactful as he was brave. He began by dismantling his vessels. He had the
rigging removed and all the material on board as well as the cannon
brought ashore. The ships’ carpenters then examined the hulls of the
vessels and reported that they were in such a wretched condition it
would be impossible to repair them. Cortes now inspired his soldiers
with such courage and zeal that they hastened of their own accord to
destroy them—their last refuge should the expedition prove a failure—and
to bring the boards and planks on shore. Only one of them was spared to
carry out Cortes’ purpose. He had been appointed leader by the tribunal
which he himself had chosen, but in reality this was not any more
authoritative than if he had appointed himself. He was anxious to place
his rights upon a secure footing, and, with this end in view, he decided
to send a vessel to Spain to obtain the sanction of the Court for all
his movements thus far, as well as relief from any further
responsibility to Velasquez and his appointment as absolute governor of
the empire to be conquered by him.

He knew of but one sure way to accomplish his purpose, and that was to
send the government actual proofs of the treasure he would secure for
it. To make these convincing he determined to send all the gifts which
had been received from Montezuma, and that all concerned, officers,
soldiers, and sailors, should contribute their share. It was a hard
demand, but Cortes ventured it and carried his point. With these gifts
Cortes sent a letter to the Emperor in which he gave a detailed account
of all that had occurred—his various discoveries, his battles and
dealings with the natives, their conversion to Christianity, his own
dangers and hardships, and much information about the countries he had
visited. He described his difficulties with the governor of Cuba, what
had been done with regard to settlements, and besought the Emperor to
confirm all that had been accomplished as well as his own authority. In
the meantime he was thoroughly certain that with the help of his brave
companions he could place the great Indian Empire in possession of the
Castilian crown.

The officials of Villa Rica also wrote a letter similar to that of
Cortes, and closed it with an emphatic statement of the
maladministration of Velasquez, his venality, extortions, schemings for
his own profit, and disregard for the advantage of his sovereign. With
these two letters a third was sent in the name of the citizen soldiery
of Villa Rica, expressing their loyalty to their sovereign and praying
him to confirm the appointment of Cortes as their leader. The richly
laden vessel, in charge of noblemen upon whom Cortes could depend, left
Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz July 26, 1519, and, in pursuance of exact
orders, anchored for a short time on the north coast of Cuba, but
fortunately escaped the pursuers sent out by Velasquez.

Cortes now prepared to march. His army consisted of five hundred
infantry, fifteen cavalrymen, and six field-pieces. The others, about
fifty men, mostly invalids, besides two horses, remained as part of the
garrison at Vera Cruz. Including his auxiliaries, Cortes had only
thirteen hundred men and one thousand so-called _tamanes_, that is,
porters, who had to carry the necessary baggage and subsistence. In that
country, where there were no horses or pack animals of any kind, a class
of men, named as above, carried things from one place to another. For
the security of those he left behind Cortes took fifty of the leading
Indians of the country with him, whom he kept as hostages, though they
were not aware of it.

                               Chapter VI
           Cortes’ March to Tlaxcala—Battle and Defeat of the
                   Tlaxcalans—Montezuma’s Messengers

The little army set out from Zempoala August 16, 1519. Nothing of
consequence marked the first day’s march. Their way led through the
territory of their ally, the cacique. They met with a friendly reception
and hospitable treatment. At last they came to the borders of the
mountainous country of Tlaxcala.[6] The natives of this region surpassed
all the other Americans in extraordinary courage and especially in their
love of freedom. They had bravely thrown off the Mexican yoke and for a
long time maintained a republic. The country sent its representatives to
Tlaxcala, the capital, and these representatives, or chiefs, in
assembly, constituted the tribal council and law-making power of the
whole nation. Their form of government was also an aristocratic one.
Pride and love of liberty, courage and a warlike disposition were the
chief characteristics of this small but formidable people. Montezuma had
vainly tried to subdue them and to induce bold and imperious spirits
among them to usurp authority. They stoutly maintained liberty, that
noblest blessing of humanity, against every assault, and remained
invincible. Cortes would have rejoiced to secure such a people for his
allies and decided therefore, as soon as he reached their borders, to
send a friendly embassy, after the Indian manner, accompanied with all
the customary ceremony.

Four of the leading Zempoalans were selected for this duty, and Marina
undertook to deliver a stately address to the Tlaxcalans, which she had
to learn by heart. They were arrayed in the following manner: They put
on long cloaks of a woollen material. Upon the left arm they carried a
great shell in place of a shield, and in the right hand an arrow with
white feathers, the tip of which was bent downward. This was a symbol of
friendliness. An arrow with red feathers would have meant war. Thus
equipped, they set out without fear, confident no harm would come to
them, but at the same time taking the precaution not to leave the
highroad, because there alone would their dress protect them.

As soon as the four messengers reached Tlaxcala they were conducted to a
building specially fitted up with everything necessary for an audience.
On the following day they were requested by the Council, which was in
session, to deliver their message. The assembled members, on account of
their age, sat upon low seats, made of some rare wood. With the utmost
reverence, manifested by covering their heads with their cloaks, the
messengers advanced, holding their arrows aloft, and the councillors
rose slightly from their seats. They then bowed in their peculiar manner
and with measured steps advanced to the centre of the apartment and sank
upon their knees, and with downcast eyes awaited permission to speak.
When this had been granted, they sat cross-legged and Marina began her

“Noble republic! Brave and mighty people! Your friends and allies, the
caciques of Zempoala and the mountains, send you greeting and wish for
you rich harvests and the downfall of your enemies. Next they send you
word that an extraordinary people have come to our country from the
sunrise land. They seem more like gods than men. They have come across
the sea in great palaces and carry in their hands for weapons the
thunder and lightning of heaven. According to their statements they are
servants of a higher God than ours, who cannot endure tyranny or human
sacrifice. Their leader is the messenger of a very mighty monarch, who
is bound by the dictates of his religion to redress the grievances and
persecutions we have suffered from Montezuma. This leader has freed us
already. It is now necessary that he should make his way through your
country to Mexico, and he wishes to know in what manner this tyrant has
persecuted you so that he may defend your rights, as well as his own,
and settle other matters connected with his journey. He comes also with
friendly intentions and desires nothing more from you than a free
passage through your country. You may be sure he seeks only your own
advantage, that his weapons are the instruments of justice, and that
those who bear them are by nature peace-loving and will never use their
strength except against those who first offend or attack them.”

At the conclusion of the address the messengers rose to their knees,
made a low bow in that posture, reseated themselves cross-legged, and
awaited an answer. The councillors replied at first in an informal way
that they were grateful for the information brought to them. They would
consider Cortes’ request and give a definite answer later. Thereupon
they dismissed the messengers and began the consideration. Opinions were
divided. Some were for peace, others for war. The leader of the war
party was Xikotenkatl, a young, bold, impetuous man, who was only too
glad of an opportunity to draw his sword. His party was in the majority
and it was decided that the messengers should be detained upon various
pretences, while they were making the necessary war preparations. Eight
days thus passed, and at last Cortes as well as his allies began to have
misgivings as to the cause of the delay. It was finally decided to move
forward and ascertain what had become of the messengers and their
mission. The Spaniards had not gone far before they encountered a troop
of armed natives who offered a stubborn resistance. A battle ensued
which ended disastrously for the natives, while the Spaniards, protected
by their armor, received only a few trifling wounds, though the enemy
outnumbered them ten to one.

After this first victory Cortes continued advancing inland, and on the
following day had the satisfaction of seeing two of his messengers
approaching in the company of some Tlaxcalans. The latter placed the
responsibility for the attack of the day before upon their allies, the
Otomis, who had begun hostilities upon their own account and had been
punished by the loss of their bravest leader. After this brief apology
they took themselves off without making any definite statement of their
intentions. In the meantime their mysterious conduct was soon explained,
for, on the next day, as the Spaniards advanced nearer Tlaxcala, the
other two messengers met them in a mournful plight. They fell at Cortes’
feet weeping, embraced his knees, and with piteous gestures affirmed
that the treacherous Tlaxcalans had violated the sacred right of nations
and had bound them with chains to be sacrificed to their deities. In the
meantime they had succeeded in freeing themselves in the night, but they
were confident that the Tlaxcalans were planning to sacrifice the entire
Spanish army. Cortes now knew what to expect and resolved to face the
danger, however great it might be. He advanced at once and before long
saw a countless multitude of armed Tlaxcalans and their auxiliaries with
the fierce Xikotenkatl at their head. The battle which ensued was a
savage one, and a slight disaster nearly involved the destruction of
Cortes’ whole force. A Spanish cavalryman dashed so far into the dense
ranks of the enemy that he was surrounded on all sides. He received
several wounds, and his horse was pierced so often that it fell dead.
The Indians cut off the animal’s head, stuck it upon a spear, and
carried it about triumphantly so that all might see the monster was not
invulnerable, as they had believed, but was really dead.

This event inspired the Indians with indescribable courage, and they now
fought with a fury which the Spaniards could no longer withstand. At the
instant when their utter destruction seemed inevitable, to their great
astonishment the fierce battle cries of the natives suddenly ceased, and
hostilities came to an end. They heard the horns sounding for retreat
and beheld the whole great army of the enemy quietly withdrawing for
some mysterious reason. This was done, the prisoners afterward stated,
because their foremost people had fallen, and their places could not be
filled at once. Meanwhile they regarded the horse’s head as their
greatest trophy. Xikotenkatl carried it off himself and sent it to the

Cortes thereupon intrenched himself in a convenient place and attempted
once more to induce the Tlaxcalans to come to a peaceful agreement. He
despatched some of the prisoners to make offers of peace as well as to
warn them of the dreadful consequences they might expect in case they
continued hostilities. Xikotenkatl was so furious at his offers that he
mutilated the messengers shamefully and drove them back to the Spanish
camp to notify the general that he would appear the next morning with a
countless force, capture his entire army, and sacrifice it to his
deities. The news was not very consoling, but it was accompanied by
something that considerably sweetened its bitterness. Xikotenkatl at the
same time sent three hundred Indian fowls and a great quantity of other
provisions so as to get the enemy in good condition before he
slaughtered them. The Spaniards laughed at his bombastic folly and
relished the gifts which gave them fresh strength for the morrow’s
struggle. Xikotenkatl was as good as his word. He appeared at daybreak
with a multitude of warriors, and the battle began anew with
extraordinary fury on both sides. The issue for a long time seemed in
doubt, but at last European skill prevailed in spite of the hordes of
the enemy and their desperate courage. The Tlaxcalans gave way, and the
Spaniards held the field.

But even this third defeat failed completely to daunt these warlike
people. They were now more than ever convinced that the Europeans, all
and every one of them, were wizards who could not be vanquished in the
usual way and that the magic of their enemies must be thwarted by the
arts of their own magicians. They had some priestly impostors who told
them that with their spells they could see into the future and perform
divers feats surpassing human power. They were called into Council and
offered the following advice: The Spaniards are the Children of the Sun.
By day their mother strengthens them with her rays and they are
invincible. But at night, when the sun loses her maternal influence,
their superhuman power disappears and they are no stronger than ordinary

The superstitious Tlaxcalans did not doubt the truth of this for an
instant and hastened to avail themselves of the discovery by making a
night attack. But Cortes was too watchful and far-sighted to be
surprised by such an enemy. He stationed his outposts carefully so that
he might have instant intelligence of their moves and be prepared to
meet them. When the Tlaxcalans made their attack they found the
Spaniards already under arms and although they fought desperately they
were at last driven back with great loss. These poor people were now in
a state of utter perplexity. They were convinced the Spaniards were
super-human, else, how was it that in all the battles they lost
thousands and the Spaniards not a single man?

But the problem which troubled them most was the goodness or badness of
their own divinities. The first thing which impressed itself upon them
was the necessity of getting rid of their deceitful sorcerers and doing
away with human sacrifice. Their next step was to send an imposing
delegation to pray for peace. It was composed of their most
distinguished people, who went to the Spanish camp in their ceremonial
dresses, adorned with white feathers, the symbol of peace, and at a
distance made signs of their extreme reverence. From time to time they
stopped and touched first the earth and then their lips. This ceremony
was repeated several times until they reached the intrenchments, before
which they burned incense and repeated the signs of reverence already
described. Cortes received them with a haughty dignity, in order to
impress them with dread, and ordered them to speak. They obeyed, and
their first remarkable utterance was this:

“Be you cruel and vengeful divinities, we deliver to you these five
slaves that you may drink their blood and eat of their flesh. Be you
gentle gods, we give you an offering of incense and white feathers. Be
you men, we offer you meat and bread and fruits for your nourishment.”

They further declared that they had come to ask forgiveness for the past
hostility of their people and at the same time to supplicate for peace.
Cortes, still retaining his haughty demeanor, bitterly reproached them
for their contemptuous rejection of his friendly advances, but added
that he was ready to forget the past if they, from that time forward,
would remain quiet and make compensation for the offences they had
committed. With these words he dismissed them. As soon as his answer was
taken to Tlaxcala, the Council issued a general order to all the people
thereabout that they should supply the camp of these wonderful strangers
with subsistence and refrain from taking pay for it. The order was
obeyed with a willingness and promptness which surprised the Spaniards.
Two days later a great and imposing procession was seen approaching the
camp from Tlaxcala. The attire of the natives showed it was peaceful of
intention and Cortes ordered it to be received without the slightest
hint of distrust.

At the head of this delegation was the brave Xikotenkatl, his attendants
being fifty of the foremost of the people in splendid attire. He wore a
long, white, military cloak which was richly adorned with feathers and
precious stones. He was tall and slender, active and nervous, and his
personal appearance indicated dignity and courage. After making
obeisance to the Spanish commander in the fashion of the country, he
seated himself in the most informal manner, without even asking
permission, and declared in a manly way that he was alone responsible
for the hostilities which had occurred, because he had supposed that the
Spaniards were supporting Montezuma, his enemy. He surrendered himself
willingly, therefore, into the hands of his conqueror, and would take
upon himself all the responsibility for his acts, and asked forgiveness,
and would agree to maintain peace in the name of the Council, the
nobility, and the people. The city of Tlaxcala stood ready to receive
Cortes and his whole army and entertain them hospitably. Cortes was
delighted with the frank, bold, open-hearted manner of the young warrior
and could not help expressing his esteem for him. But he did not refrain
from reproaching him for the bitter opposition he had made, ending with
the assurance that in a few days he would accept the invitation to go to

In the meantime messengers from Montezuma arrived with new gifts and
with fresh protests against Cortes’ determination to go to Mexico. Their
principal object, however, was to prevent Cortes from making an alliance
with the Tlaxcalans. To this end they told dreadful stories of the
faithlessness of that people. Cortes, however, did not heed their
warnings, being confident he had just as little reason to fear their
secret plans as open hostility in the field. The Tlaxcalans were much
disturbed because Cortes did not come to them immediately, and concluded
that Montezuma’s messengers had prejudiced him against them. To remove
all grounds for suspicion the entire Council decided to go to the camp
and offer themselves as hostages. The procession moved with great
stateliness. All were arrayed in white garments of peace, and each one
of the officials was borne in a kind of litter. The most conspicuous
person in this dignified company was Xikotenkatl’s father, a venerable
old man, who was blind but still intellectually vigorous. He seated
himself next to Cortes, embraced him with a noble kind of frankness, and
touched his face and body to get some idea of his appearance. The speech
which he made is so impressive and beautiful that it merits preservation
as a sample of manly eloquence. He spoke as follows:

“Magnanimous General! Whether you are of the race of the immortals or
not, you have the high Council of Tlaxcala in your power, and it gives
you herewith the great symbols of its obedience. We have no desire to
excuse the faults of our nation, but only express the hope that our
sincerity will mitigate your anger. We have not only abandoned our
purpose of making war upon you, but we have also decided to pray for
peace. We know that Montezuma is seeking to secure you as an ally. But
if you listen to him you must remember he is our enemy. We do not ask
you to assist us against him. We are strong enough to defend ourselves,
but it will grieve us if you believe his promises, for we know his
deceitfulness and, although I am blind, I see a sure light revealing to
me the disaster which will overtake you. You will have peace with us if
Montezuma does not prevent it. Why should he restrain you? Why should
you not grant our prayer? Why will you not honor our city with your
presence? We are fully resolved either to win your friendship and
confidence or to leave our freedom in your hands. Choose now which you
prefer, for no middle course is of any avail to us. We must either be
your good friends or your bondmen.”

Who could resist such an appeal from such an old man? Cortes could not.
He replied that he would grant their every wish. He asked only that they
should furnish him people to carry the baggage and heavy ammunition. On
the following morning six hundred burden bearers appeared who contested
for the honor of carrying the heaviest loads. The entrance of the
Spaniards into Tlaxcala resembled a triumph. The streets were filled
with great multitudes. There was such shouting and jubilation that one
could not hear himself speak. Young maidens covered the strangers with
flowers. The priests appeared in their ceremonial robes and burned
incense. The entire Council and the leaders of the people met them and
welcomed them. Everywhere confidence, peace, and harmony prevailed. A
fitting residence was ready for their sacred guest, whom they called
Teules, or divinity. Cortes, as soon as he occupied it, stationed
sentinels at all the approaches. This troubled the Tlaxcalans, who
regarded it as a sign of distrust, but when they were informed that this
was the custom of European soldiers, even in times of peace, they were
no longer alarmed, and Xikotenkatl himself introduced the practice in
his own army. Cortes recognized more and more the great advantage the
friendship of this martial nation would be to him. He therefore ordered
his men to treat them in a just and friendly manner, and he himself
adopted every means in his power to strengthen the confidence and
respect he had already gained.

                              Chapter VII
March to the Sacred City of Cholula—The Natives Plot the Destruction of
 the Spaniards—Cortes Discovers their Treachery and Slaughters Several
   Thousand Indians—March to Mexico—Montezuma Meets the Strangers and
                      Escorts them to the Capital

The Spaniards rested a little in Tlaxcala after their exertions and
their life among the natives was very peaceable. Several daughters of
caciques married prominent Spanish officers, and from these unions
distinguished Spanish noblemen have sprung. The caciques did not offer
their daughters in marriage to Cortes, for they thought he was married
to Marina, or Malinace, he appeared so often in her company.

But days of rest must have an end. Cortes began preparations for the
advance to Mexico with his army and an auxiliary force of six thousand
brave Tlaxcalans. While thus engaged, another delegation from Montezuma
appeared. They brought costly gifts upon golden platters of beautiful
workmanship, and richly embroidered fabrics of linen and feather work.
The messengers spoke timidly and hesitatingly. They begged Cortes not to
enter into an alliance with the low and barbarous Tlaxcalans, but to go
alone with his army to Cholula,[7] as the Emperor had given orders he
should be fitly received there and his soldiers properly cared for. The
Tlaxcalans regarded this invitation with suspicion. They were sure that
Montezuma meditated treachery and begged Cortes not to expose himself to
the danger awaiting him at Cholula. Cortes thanked his Indian friends
for their solicitude, but assured them that European soldiers were not
in the habit of avoiding any danger, however great it might be. He broke
camp at once and marched to Cholula.

The reception he met was unusually friendly and respectful. The
Tlaxcalan auxiliaries, being sworn enemies of the Cholulans, were not
allowed to enter the city and were obliged to occupy a convenient spot
outside the walls. They had already learned from their European friends
how to intrench themselves, and they at once put their knowledge into
practice. After a few days of rest, events gradually occurred which
confirmed the suspicions of the Tlaxcalans. Provisions were supplied
sparingly, the authorities displayed more coolness, and Montezuma’s
representatives had frequent interviews with them. Two Tlaxcalans
shortly appeared, who had stolen into the city in disguise and informed
Cortes they had seen a multitude of women and children fleeing by night
to adjacent places and that they learned from them that six young
children had been sacrificed in a principal temple,—a custom always
observed when any hostile movement was to be undertaken. They advised
him, therefore, to be on his guard against attack. While Cortes was now
using the utmost watchfulness to discover the secret purposes of the
Cholulans, chance suddenly revealed the whole matter. A prominent
Cholulan woman had conceived an unusual attachment for Marina, the
interpreter. She was anxious to save her new friend from the universal
massacre, which had been planned, and told her confidentially of the
bloody designs of her people so that she might escape before it was too
late. Marina, who was both shrewd and heartily devoted to the Spaniards,
pretended she would follow the warnings of the Indian woman and induced
her to disclose the whole plot without reserve. She learned that upon
the day fixed for the massacre a force of Mexican soldiers would be
concealed in the neighborhood of Cholula, for the purpose of rushing in
at the appointed time, obstructing the streets by filling them with
holes, lightly covered, into which horses would stumble and fall, and
conveying great quantities of stones and other missiles to the roofs of
houses and temples to be showered down upon the Spaniards, thus making
their destruction inevitable.

Marina hastened to bring the news to her friend Cortes and the latter
lost no time in devising means to prevent the disaster which threatened
him. His first step was to persuade the Indian woman and two high
priests by threats and bribes to make a full confession of the plot.
Then he decided to set such an example of revenge that Montezuma and his
followers would never again engage in such an undertaking. To effect
this, he drew up his people and the Zempoalans in battle order in the
courtyard of the large building which had been assigned him as quarters.
The Tlaxcalans were instructed to enter the city when they heard the
first shot and under various pretences decoy the principal Cholulan
leaders to the Spanish quarters where they would be arrested. Everything
being arranged, Cortes gave the signal for attack and the massacre

The Spaniards and Zempoalans advanced, and the Tlaxcalans at the same
time entered the city. Furiously they swept through the streets from all
sides and countless corpses marked the course of the destroyers. The
native leaders stood as if thunderstruck and hardly dared to raise their
trembling hands in defence. The Mexican force advanced to protect them,
but it was easily overcome. To escape the sword, they and many of the
natives sought shelter in a temple. Cortes led his men there in close
ranks and loudly shouted that all who would come out and surrender in
good faith should be spared. Only one person availed himself of the
offer, the rest preferring apparently to die rather than submit. Cortes
then proceeded to the commission of a deed from which we turn our eyes
with pity and horror and at which humanity will always shudder. He fired
the temple, and the multitude of unfortunates in it were victims of the
flames. This horrible massacre went on two whole days—two days of
rapine, fire, and slaughter, but women and children were spared by
Cortes’ order. At last revenge seemed complete, the lust of plunder was
satiated, and the bloody deed ended. The leaders, who had been made
prisoners, were released. Cortes upbraided them for their treachery
which had made the massacre necessary, and ordered them to recall the
fugitive natives and restore the former order. Universal pardon was
proclaimed and an idolatrous respect for the Spaniards and fear of their
terrible power soon took possession of the Cholulans who had survived.
In a few days the devastated city was once more crowded with natives,
humbly submissive to the murderers of their kindred and destroyers of
their temple.

Fourteen days had hardly passed since the entrance of the Spaniards into
Cholula before Cortes decided to resume his march to the capital,
without further loss of time. The army set out. Cortes was active at
every spot where his presence was necessary, now in the advance, now in
the rear, encouraging the weak, urging on the laggards, and striving to
inspire each one with the enthusiasm he himself felt. He never failed to
make the rounds at night to see if every one was at his post. Upon one
occasion his watchfulness came near proving fatal. He came too near a
sentinel who did not recognize him in the darkness and aimed his
cross-bow at him. His quick outcry of the watchword for the night alone
saved him.

The army advanced vigorously, and the farther it penetrated the country,
the more reason Cortes had to expect a successful issue to his
undertaking. Everywhere he heard complaints of Montezuma’s tyranny and
cruelty. Everywhere he found governors ready to shake off his yoke. The
Spaniards soon left the pleasant, level country, their way leading
through the mountainous region, which divides the great tablelands of
Mexico and Puebla.[8] The higher they ascended, the sharper and more
piercing grew the air, and the wind which swept down the frozen mountain
sides made the soldiers shiver, even in their thick woollen uniforms,
and benumbed the limbs of men and horses. Their road led them between
two of the highest mountains of the North American continent,
Popocatepetl,[9] or “Smoking Mountain,” and Iztaccihuatl,[10] or the
“White Lady.” The natives held the former mountain sacred to their
divinities and for this reason had never made an attempt to ascend it,
but the mysterious dread with which the place was invested and the
unconquerable love of adventure made some of the Spanish knights eager
to accomplish a feat which the natives considered impossible and
involving the lives of those who attempted it. Cortes encouraged them
for he was anxious to convince the Indians that his followers never
flinched from any danger. A captain, Ordaz by name, nine Spaniards, and
some of the Tlaxcalans, who had plucked up courage by this time,
undertook the ascent. After overcoming many obstacles and dangers, they
reached the height of thirteen thousand feet. At this point the Indians,
alarmed by a strange subterranean rumbling of the volcano, would go no
farther. The Europeans, however, advanced to the vicinity of the crater,
but the smoke, sparks, and ashes from the burning interior forced them
to return.

The army continued its march among hills and through ravines. After
great exertions a sight met their eyes which compensated them for their
trials and filled them all with delight. A vast and beautiful country
lay before them, and in the midst of it a lake, which looked like the
sea. Along this lake were many stately cities and towns, and in their
midst the queen of them all, the far-away glistening capital, splendid
with its many temples and towers.[11] They had reached the valley of
Mexico, or Tenochtitlan,[12] as the natives call it. At first view of
this magnificent region the astonished Europeans stood as if uncertain
whether they were awake or dreaming. All their past dangers disappeared
like mists vanishing before the sun, and they were ready now for
anything that might happen. Cortes observed their enthusiasm with
delight and cautiously advanced along the shore of the lake toward the
stately capital.

Suddenly a great crowd of people appeared coming from the capital toward
them. There were over a thousand, evidently persons of distinction as
they wore elegant cloaks and tufts of feathers. They approached the
Spanish army in respectful stillness, and each of them displayed his
deepest reverence for the general, as they informed him that Montezuma
himself was drawing near. The vanguard of the capital next appeared, two
hundred in number, uniformly costumed and decorated with feathers. These
came barefooted in pairs, and, as soon as they reached the head of the
Spanish army, stationed themselves so as to afford a view of the
glistening ranks of court attendants in whose midst Montezuma[13]
himself was conspicuous in a golden sedan chair. Four of the leading
personages of the Empire bore it upon their shoulders. Others held a
beautifully constructed canopy over him, which seemed to be made of some
fine material embroidered with silver and adorned with green feathers.
In advance of this brilliant procession went three magisterial persons
with golden staves which they raised ceremoniously from time to time. At
this signal all prostrated themselves and covered their faces as if they
were unworthy to look upon the person of their exalted monarch.

As soon as the procession was sufficiently near, Cortes dismounted from
his horse and hastened to pay his respects to the monarch. The latter at
the same time stepped from his chair and rested, leaning upon the
shoulders of two princes, then advanced with slow and stately stride to
meet the dreaded stranger, walking upon carpets which his followers laid
down so that his feet should not touch the ground. Cortes met him
cordially and greeted him with a low bow after the European manner.
Montezuma replied to the greeting with an obeisance which in his country
was significant of the highest respect. He kissed his own hand and then
touched the ground with it. This condescension from the proudest of
monarchs, who was accustomed to greet even the images of his divinities
with a careless nod of the head, greatly astonished the Mexicans and
induced the conviction that these strangers were divine and not human
beings. The word “Teules” (gods) was constantly on their lips. Cortes
wore over his armor a necklace set with paste stones which he intended
to give the Emperor. As soon as the ceremony of greeting was over, he
took this false ornament and hung it about the neck of Montezuma. The
Emperor appeared pleased at this attention and ordered one of his own
costly ornaments to be brought—a necklace of very rare shells, from each
of which on both sides depended four golden crabs. He handed this
decoration to his guest, which still further increased the astonishment
of his people.

Montezuma appeared to be about forty years of age. He was of medium size
and rather thin. He had a very majestic appearance, a pleasing
countenance, and in color was not so brownish yellow as the rest of the
Mexicans. He wore a long cloak of fine woollen stuff which was literally
covered with ornaments, pearls, and gems. A golden crown, much
resembling a bishop’s mitre, comprised his headdress. His shoes were
made of solid gold plates fastened with straps and gold buckles.

           [Illustration: _MEETING OF CORTES AND MONTEZUMA_]

The entry was now made with his guest. The city was large and populous.
According to the Spanish historians it had twenty thousand flat houses
or adobes and a multitude of temples and palaces which in size and
splendor exceeded anything ever seen before in the New World. One of the
largest of these so-called palaces was assigned to Cortes as his
headquarters, and Montezuma accompanied him there. As soon as they
arrived he left, in order to have time for rest, as he said, and, as he
was going away, begged Cortes to make himself as much at home as if he
were among his own brethren.

Cortes stationed sentinels as usual and placed cannon at all the
approaches to the palace and ordered his officers and soldiers not to
relax their vigilance.

                              Chapter VIII
 Religious Rites of the Mexicans—Human Sacrifices—The Natives Discover
              that the Spaniards are not Divine but Human

On the evening of the same day Montezuma and his brilliant retinue
returned to make the first visit to their much honored guest. As soon as
Cortes was notified of his approach, he went to the courtyard, received
him with a low bow, and conducted him to his apartment. The Mexican
Emperor seated himself familiarly and requested the general to be seated
also. His attendants ranged themselves at the side of the room and the
Spaniards did the same. Marina, the interpreter, was stationed near by,
and the Emperor began a ceremonious address, in which he made a
strenuous effort to remove any prejudice which Cortes might entertain
against him, growing out of harmful reports. “Some have said,” he
stated, “that I belong to the immortal gods, others have striven to
calumniate me, representing me as a haughty and cruel tyrant. The first
of these reports is as false as the other. The refutation of the one
will expose the falsity of the other.” With these words, he bared his
arm and requested Cortes to convince himself by sight and touch that he
was made of flesh and blood like other men—a fact of which Cortes had no
doubt. After this he continued his assurances that the reports of his
tyranny, with which his enemies had sought to prejudice Cortes against
him, were unfounded. After these preliminaries he expressed his
sentiments as to the arrival of the Spaniards and the object of their
visit in the following words:

“We know from traditions which have come down to us from old times that
our ancestors came from a distant region and conquered those countries
which are to-day subject to my authority. Their leader was the great
Quetzalcoatl,[14] who, after he had established our Empire, left this
part of the world again to take possession of other regions toward the
east. But he prophesied that some time a people descended from him would
come to us and change our laws and whole system of government. Now I see
from all that has been told of your coming here, and from what I myself
have observed, that you are the descendants of that great ancestor. For
this reason I have received you not as strangers but as kindred, and
declare to you that we recognize you as the representative of the great
Eastern ruler and that your authority will not be disputed by me or my

Cortes rejoiced at this news which was favorable to his intentions. He
confirmed the superstitious Montezuma in his belief and satisfied him
that the prophecy of the great Quetzalcoatl had been fulfilled and that
he and his Spaniards were his descendants. “In the meantime,” he added,
“while it is evident that the exalted monarch of the East, whose most
humble servant I have the honor to be, has a just claim upon all your
countries, yet he is too far away personally to assert his claim. He
only desires of you and your people that you shall abandon your errors
and accept the true faith which he has commissioned me to announce. You
are living under a false religion. You are worshipping senseless blocks,
made by your own hands. There is but one true God, and He has created
and governs everything that is. This one Being, who is without beginning
and without end, has made out of nothing the whole universe, the flaming
sun which shines upon all, the earth and all that is in it, and the
first man, from whom we are all descended. We are all obliged to
recognize the First Cause of all things, and for that reason the King,
my master, invites you, great Emperor, and all your people to accept
these sentiments and maintain affectionate and brotherly relations with
him. He desires you to enter into a friendly alliance which will always
be of great advantage to you.”

Montezuma was visibly excited by Cortes’ address. It was so intolerable
to hear his deities insulted that it was with difficulty he could
restrain his impatience until Cortes ended. Then he arose somewhat
hastily and replied that while he gratefully accepted the offer of
friendly relations with a prince descended from Quetzalcoatl, these
relations might be maintained without giving up his own deities for the
God whom the Spaniards worshipped. With these words he closed the
interview and, after bestowing some costly gifts, made his way back to
his palace.

On the next day, accompanied by his leading officers, Cortes went with
much ceremony for another interview with the Emperor. This one lasted
longer than the first. Montezuma asked a hundred questions about the
European mode of life, habits, and customs, but Cortes, who had not
these matters so much at heart as the work of conversion, seized every
opportunity to give the conversation a religious turn, and specially
inveighed against the cruel custom of human sacrifices. At the close of
the interview Montezuma exhibited to his guests the splendors of the
temples. He conducted them to the largest of these, and the priests
offered no objection to their admission upon condition that nothing
unseemly should be done. Montezuma himself exhibited and explained
everything to them. He told the names of the deities, the highest of
which was called Bitzliputzli, and described the worship which was paid
to each of them. As these heathenish rites were inexpressibly shocking,
Cortes asked permission to place the Cross of Christ in the temple,
thinking that it would soon convince them that their deities were
powerless. Montezuma listened to the proposal with the greatest
displeasure, and the priests with amazement. The Emperor soon recovered
his composure, however, and merely replied that he had expected his
guests would show the same respect for the place where they were that
they had shown to him. With these words he passed out, telling the
Spaniards they were at liberty to repair to their own quarters, but as
for himself he would remain to ask pardon of his deities for his
extraordinary patience.

The natives of Mexico professed a horrible religion, of which human
sacrifice was the principal feature. They often made war upon
neighboring people for no other purpose than to capture prisoners to be
slaughtered upon their altars and afterward eaten. During battle they
spared the lives of their enemies, saving them for a more terrible death
by the knives of the priests. The number of these unfortunate victims
sometimes reached thousands in a single day. Some historians have placed
it as high as twenty-five thousand. If the nation were at peace for a
long time and no prisoners were available for offerings, the priests
would notify the Emperor that the deities were suffering from hunger. As
soon as the Emperor’s proclamation spread the news through the country
that the deities were ready for a banquet, it was the signal for a
general war upon their neighbors. Then as soon as a sufficient number of
prisoners had been collected, the priests began their hideous business.
It cannot be denied that the various calamities which befell the natives
at the hands of the tyrannical Europeans were a very great wrong, but,
as compared with the terrible cruelties practised before their arrival,
it must be acknowledged that these unfortunate people upon the whole
gained more than they lost by submission to the Spanish yoke.

Cortes’ delight over the successful progress of his undertaking up to
this time was now disturbed by reflections upon the dangerous situation
into which he had so recklessly plunged. He realized all too clearly
that he had ventured more than he might be able to carry out, and that
the fate of himself and his army rested in the hands of a prince whose
real intentions seemed to grow more and more mysterious. The Tlaxcalans
from the beginning had not ceased to warn him that Montezuma’s object in
receiving him in his capital was to catch him in a trap from which there
was no way of escape. The disposition of this ruler and the peculiar
situation of his capital lent probability to these warnings. Should they
destroy the causeways located along the lake, which were the only
approaches to the city, he saw that he would be completely cut off from
the rest of the world and surrounded by a multitude against whose
superior numbers neither his courage nor his weapons might be of any
avail. In this emergency a very unpleasant event had occurred at Vera
Cruz, of which Cortes received information shortly before this time.

Quauhpopoka, one of the Mexican generals, after Cortes’ departure for
that region, determined to punish those people who had revolted and
placed themselves under the protection of the Spaniards. Escalante, the
governor of Vera Cruz, considered himself bound to assist his allies. At
the head of his little band and with the two remaining horses he offered
battle. He held his ground, but he himself and seven others were fatally
wounded. The most unfortunate event of the battle was the killing of one
of the horses and the capture of one of his men. The Mexicans killed
their prisoner at once and sent his head to various cities as a proof
that the Spaniards were not immortal. At last their trophy reached the
capital. Cortes, who naturally was disturbed by the dangers confronting
him, spent that night in earnest consideration of methods to escape
them. Toward morning he summoned some of his faithful Tlaxcalans to
ascertain just what they had seen or heard of Montezuma’s secret
designs. Their statements confirmed his suspicions as well as his
determination to carry out the plan he had settled upon. They specially
informed him that the leading officials had acted mysteriously for
several days, that the head of a Spaniard had been sent among the
provinces, and that Montezuma had issued orders to conceal it. Finally
they declared they had heard that preparations were already being made
to destroy the causeways.

This was enough for Cortes. His decision was made, and he endeavored to
convince his officers that there was no other way of escape except that
which he had planned.

                               Chapter IX
  Montezuma is Made a Prisoner—Quauhpopoka and His Leaders Burned—The
             Mexicans Swear Allegiance to the King of Spain

Cortes summoned his officers to a council of war and set before them the
great danger to which they would be exposed in case Montezuma attacked
them. They recognized at once that the situation must be met. Some were
of opinion they should leave the city entirely and cross the causeways
before their road was cut off. Others suggested that they should retire
with the knowledge of the Emperor. Both these measures, however,
appeared unwise, since any withdrawal would seem like flight and would
involve not only a battle with the Mexicans but also the contempt of
their allies. Cortes announced a plan, inspired by the highest daring in
the face of a desperate situation. He would make Montezuma a prisoner,
leaving him an appearance of sovereignty, but actually ruling in his
name. The deed of Quauhpopoka, for which the Emperor was responsible,
would furnish justification for his imprisonment. After the council had
approved this project, preparations were made to carry it out. The whole
force was placed under arms in the closed courtyard in readiness at the
first signal to go to the help of the general. Some small detachments
were ordered to occupy the streets leading to Montezuma’s palace, which
would not create excitement, as the people were used to seeing armed
Spaniards. When the hour came in which Cortes was accustomed to wait
upon the Emperor, he betook himself with five officers and thirty of the
bravest men in his army to the palace. This also aroused no suspicion,
for a military escort was a common spectacle.

Cortes as usual was courteously received and was conducted to
Montezuma’s apartment with his officers and interpreter. The servants
withdrew and the venturesome scene began. With a countenance expressive
of the highest indignation Cortes denounced the faithless act of
Quauhpopoka, who, at a time of peace, and in defiance of justice, had
attacked his people and allies, inhumanly slaughtered a Spaniard, and
sent his head through the country as a show. He added that report made
Montezuma himself responsible for this and therefore he was forced to
demand satisfaction for the insult which had been offered to his master,
the greatest monarch of the earth.

Montezuma was so terrified that he turned pale, but he declared by all
that was most sacred he was in no way responsible for the outrage. As a
proof of his innocence he added that he would at once order Quauhpopoka
and his accomplices to be brought to Mexico in chains. Cortes thereupon
assumed a more friendly attitude and assured Montezuma that as far as he
himself was concerned he was entirely content, but to satisfy his
enraged soldiers he would have to demand more. They would never be
persuaded that such a deed could have happened without the Emperor’s
knowledge if he did not agree publicly to prove his good faith and
sincere friendship. The proof which they demanded was his presence for
several days in their quarters where they might offer fitting honors to
His Majesty.

Montezuma was beside himself with astonishment and indignation at this
unusual demand. He was unable to speak and stood like a statue, while
Cortes represented to him that this request of his soldiers was not
unseemly as he would spend the time in quarters assigned to him in one
of his own palaces. At last the astonished man came to himself and found
words to express his indignation. With great dignity he said: “A
sovereign of the Mexican Empire is not accustomed voluntarily to accept
imprisonment, and, even if I were capable of it, my subjects would never
submit to such shameful treatment.”

Cortes, who was reluctant to use force, both flattered and threatened
Montezuma to induce him to give his consent, but it was in vain. At
last, after three hours had been wasted in useless talk, Velasquez De
Leon, one of the Spanish officers, a young, excitable man, whose
patience was exhausted, exclaimed with threatening gestures: “Why all
this consideration? Take him by force or kill him.” Montezuma asked what
he had said. Marina informed him and added that she trembled for his
life if he refused to go. The poor man at once lost all courage. He
realized that he was in the power of strong men and that he must expect
the worst if he longer refused. He yielded to his fate, sprang from his
seat, and informed Cortes he trusted to his assurances and would go with


Thereupon he called together his leading officials and informed them
that for important reasons he should spend a few days with his guest.
They were greatly astonished but did not venture to offer the least
objection to the absolute will of their master. They carried the litter
in which the unfortunate monarch was borne away from his own people, a
prisoner under Spanish guard. Hardly was his removal known in the city
before the streets were filled with crowds. Some shrieked, others wept,
others threw themselves upon the ground as if in their last despairing
agony. But Montezuma tried to calm them. He appeared with a smiling
countenance, motioned to them with his hand, and assured them he was not
a prisoner. He was voluntarily going to visit this guest for a few days.
This quieted them somewhat, and the Spaniards proceeded without
hindrance to their quarters with their prisoner. Montezuma went to an
apartment he was accustomed to occupy and the attendants treated him
with the utmost respect, as their general had ordered. His first act was
to send an order in Cortes’ presence to his body-guard, to bring
Quauhpopoka and the rest of the guilty ones in chains to the city.

In due time Quauhpopoka, his son, and five of his principal people were
brought to Mexico. Cortes called a council of war and the unfortunates
were condemned to be burned alive. As soon as the decision was made, in
order to humble this submissive monarch to the utmost and make a mockery
of his former power, Cortes, in sight of all the people, arbitrarily
emptied Montezuma’s arsenal of the great quantity of spears, shields,
and other weapons kept there, in order to make a pyre of it upon which
to burn the victims, who were not guilty of crime for they had only done
what their master had ordered. The weapons collected for the protection
of the Empire were heaped up. A countless multitude of dazed spectators
stood there, not knowing what to say or do. The awful sacrifice was

At the same instant Cortes, accompanied by several officers and a
soldier carrying iron fetters, went to Montezuma’s apartment. He
approached the terrified monarch and fiercely thundered at him that he
was the malefactor, for he was the author of the outrages perpetrated by
these victims. Hardly had he spoken these words when he turned his back
upon the man fallen so low from his former high estate, and the soldier
placed the fetters upon the Emperor. Montezuma stood speechless,
helpless, almost senseless. At last he broke into a loud wail, evidently
expecting they would immediately lead him also to the place of
punishment. But what made this piteous scene most touching was the
demeanor of his faithful attendants, who prostrated themselves in silent
grief at his feet, bedewing them with their tears. They raised his
fetters to lighten their weight and placed little pieces of soft cloth
between the iron and his skin that his precious limbs might not feel the
pressure. It was a sight to bring tears of sympathy to the eyes of the
most hard-hearted spectator.

The punishment having been inflicted, Cortes approached Montezuma in a
friendly manner and said that justice was satisfied. With these words he
ordered his fetters taken off. The distracted and humiliated monarch was
wellnigh overcome with delight. He embraced his oppressor over and over
as he expressed his gratitude for his release. The unfortunate monarch
in his excess of joy seemed to forget that the fetters taken from him
now might soon be fastened more firmly than ever.

Cortes now made one bold move after another to bring the Mexican people
into complete subjection. He sent some of his officers through the
country, partly to learn the extent and nature of each province and
partly to discover the places where gold and silver were to be found. He
also persuaded Montezuma, under various pretences, to remove the ablest
and most courageous of his officials and appoint in their places weak
and unintelligent men who could easily be managed by the Spaniards. Then
he made a last humiliating demand in his efforts to crush Montezuma’s
proud spirit. It was that he should publicly acknowledge himself a
vassal of the Spanish King and bind himself to pay an annual tribute as
a sign of his subjection. What could Montezuma do? His liberty, his
life, were in the hands of Cortes. He realized that he must concede
every demand, however exacting.

He summoned the notables of his Empire, reminded them of the old
prophecy which was now fulfilled, and announced that from now on he and
his Empire were subject to the great King of the East to whom
sovereignty had descended from their common ancestor. With these words,
the tears came to his eyes, showing how great was the sacrifice he was
making. There was a low murmur among the assembled Mexicans.
Astonishment and indignation were visible on every face, and they
appeared ready to maintain the rights of the Empire and their sovereign
by force. But Cortes allayed their anger and prevented any outbreak by
assuring them his master had no intention of taking his Empire from
Montezuma but would be contented to become its protector. This assurance
as well as their Emperor’s demeanor quieted them, and the ceremonies
which the Spaniards had arranged to make Montezuma’s subjection the more
impressive were completed without interruption. Montezuma confirmed his
allegiance by making a handsome gift and ordered the caciques of his
country to do the same.

                               Chapter X
          Division of the Spoils—Cortes Attempts to Introduce
   Christianity—Narvaez is Sent by Velasquez to Depose Cortes—Cortes
                          Advances against Him

Now that mighty Mexico had become a Spanish Province, Cortes next
proceeded to allot the collected spoils. They were divided into five
parts. One was assigned to the King of Spain; the second to himself, as
commander; the third was set apart as indemnity for those who had paid
for their own equipment; and the remainder was given to the army. The
share for each soldier and sailor was not as large as had been expected,
which caused general dissatisfaction, but Cortes promptly quieted them
by presenting them with a part of the treasure which properly belonged
to him.

The unfortunate Montezuma, as we have seen, had conceded all the demands
made upon him, but to the great surprise of Cortes there was one which
he firmly and steadfastly declined to yield. This was the abandonment of
the religious belief of himself and his people. Neither flattery nor
threats moved him. Cortes, no longer able to endure its hideous
cruelties, went to Montezuma with some of his officers and demanded that
room should be made for the Christian service in the principal temple.
Montezuma was greatly surprised at the demand and replied that the
Mexicans would never permit such a desecration of their temple, that
resistance would be made, and much bloodshed would result, so great was
their fear of the wrath of their deities. But when Cortes announced he
would be satisfied if one tower were set apart for the Christian
service, Montezuma answered that he would consult the priests about the
matter. Their decision was favorable, and the use of one of the sacred
towers was granted. The news occasioned great joy in the Spanish
quarters. The sacred place was cleared of its revolting impurities, an
altar was erected with a cross and image of the Virgin upon it, and the
walls were newly decorated. The soldiers entered in festal procession,
the mass was heard, and the _Te Deum_ sung with tears of gratitude. Thus
the sweet tones of divine love and mercy mingled with the wild songs of
the Indian priests in honor of Anahuak, a war god.

This unnatural situation could not long continue. The Mexicans were
greatly outraged because their religion was trodden under foot. They
realized more clearly than ever the haughty insolence of these
strangers, and they began to consider plans for their removal. The
priests and leading men, who were present at private interviews with the
imprisoned Emperor more frequently than of late, implored revenge for
their insulted deities, and Montezuma’s condition thus grew more
dangerous and distressed. What should he do? Whither should he turn? At
last he aroused himself and decided to take a middle course which wisdom
pointed out as the safest. With this object in view, he summoned Cortes.
The latter, whose suspicions had already been aroused by these private
interviews of the priests and leading men with Montezuma, took the
precaution of having twelve of his bravest men accompany him. His
suspicions were confirmed when he entered Montezuma’s apartment and
observed a seriousness of expression on his face which he had never seen
before. He was still more surprised when Montezuma seized his hand, drew
him aside, and in an almost menacing tone said to him that, as the
object for which his master had sent him was now accomplished, he hoped
he would hasten his departure.

At this unexpected reply, and moved still more by the dark look and
decisive manner which accompanied it, Cortes turned to his men and
quietly ordered them to have the entire force under arms at once. Then
with the utmost composure and indifference of manner he turned to
Montezuma and replied that there was nothing he wished more heartily
than to return to his fatherland, but, as all his vessels were
destroyed, he must build others and would have to request the necessary
assistance. Montezuma could not conceal his delight. He embraced Cortes,
overwhelmed him with caresses, and assured him that his declaration
would satisfy his priests and his subjects, both of whom were desirous
the strangers should leave. Cortes now clearly ascertained the sentiment
of the priests and the people, and came to the conclusion that the only
way he could evade the danger threatening him and his plans was by
continual dissimulation. He accordingly publicly ordered the
construction of new vessels, secretly instructing the ship-carpenters,
however, to protract the work in every possible way, in hopes that the
reinforcements he was expecting from Spain would arrive in the meantime.
But truly, as if the punishment of heaven were following close upon his
dishonest conduct, an event shortly occurred which plunged all his plans
into desperate confusion. Montezuma hastily summoned him and showed him
a picture, painted in the Mexican style upon white calico, of eighteen
European vessels. The picture had been brought to the Emperor by swift
runners with the news that these vessels were lying at anchor on his

Cortes was delighted at this news, for it inspired the hope that these
vessels had brought the confirmation from Spain of his appointment as
governor of the newly discovered country. But to his great astonishment
he learned several days later from Sandoval, the governor at Vera Cruz,
that the fleet which had arrived was sent out by Velasquez for no other
purpose than to capture him and take him to Cuba for trial. As we know,
Cortes had sent one of his vessels to Spain with samples of the rich
products of Mexico, and at the same time to secure his appointment.
Montejo and Puertocarrero, the commanders of this vessel, had received
explicit orders not to touch at the island of Cuba. They were to leave
the island as far to their right as possible and sail around the point
of Florida through the Bahamian Straits. But Montejo, who had property
in Cuba, was so far forgetful of his duty to his superior as to attempt
a visit to his possessions before sailing to Spain. He hardly reached
the coast before Velasquez received news of his appearance. Velasquez’
wrath was kindled anew. He despatched two strong vessels for the purpose
of capturing Cortes’ vessel with all on board, but luckily they received
warning in time to effect their escape and sail for Spain without

Velasquez was now more furious than ever. He decided to fit out a
powerful squadron, hunt out Cortes, and make him feel his vengeance.
While preparing his expedition he received news from Spain that Cortes’
vessel had safely arrived, and also learned just where Cortes was and
the success of his operations up to that time. The equipment was pushed
forward with redoubled vigor. The fleet consisted of eighteen vessels,
carrying nine hundred foot-soldiers, eighteen troopers, and twelve
cannon. It was a formidable force for those days and outnumbered Cortes’
army two to one. Everything completed, Narvaez, a very bold, passionate,
implacable man, was made commander with the title of deputy-governor of
the countries discovered by Cortes. He sailed from Cuba in March, 1520.
It was toward the end of April when Cortes heard the news of the
arrival. He now found himself in a critical position which grew more
dangerous every day. Should he venture to oppose a European force twice
as strong as his own? Should he remain in Mexico? In that case he would
be exposed to attack from two formidable enemies at the same time, for
it was more than likely that as soon as the Mexicans found he was in
danger they would immediately rush to arms against him. In this state of
uncertainty he received reports every day, each more disquieting than
the other. He found that some of his soldiers were deserting to Narvaez
and acquainting him with everything he wished to know. He heard that
Narvaez was everywhere proclaiming that Cortes and all his men were
traitors, who had undertaken the subjection of the Mexicans without the
knowledge or consent of their sovereign; and that he had been sent to
capture them and take them back in chains for punishment. Montezuma and
the whole suffering nation were urged to make common cause with him and
aid in the capture of this robber band. It may easily be imagined that
this was delightful news to Montezuma and his oppressed subjects. Their
joy and their willingness to aid Narvaez were apparent everywhere.
Cortes meanwhile in the most positive manner denied the reports which
Narvaez had circulated, and assured the Mexicans these Europeans were
his good friends, subjects of one and the same master, and that he and
his men would soon depart with them. But indifferent as Cortes appeared,
he was in reality greatly troubled. Meanwhile he considered every plan
of escape from these dangers which his ingenuity suggested, and at last
reached a decision which seemed to him both reasonable and bold. He
would first discover whether he could make a friendly agreement with
Narvaez, and if he failed, then he would resist him.

He made the attempt but did not succeed. The impetuous Narvaez would not
hear of any agreement, for he esteemed it an easy matter to overpower
Cortes and his little force. Nothing now remained for Cortes but to
defend himself as well as he could, and he made his preparations to do
so. He appointed Alvarado, a brave officer who was highly esteemed by
the Mexicans, as commander at the capital and leader of one hundred and
fifty men whom he decided to leave behind. He explicitly urged them to
conduct themselves quietly and peaceably during his absence and to treat
Montezuma respectfully as he had promised to remain under Spanish
protection until Cortes returned.

The bold man was now ready with this little remnant of his divided force
to meet an enemy who not only greatly exceeded him in strength but was
greatly embittered against him.

                               Chapter XI
  Cortes Defeats Narvaez—Meanwhile the Mexicans, Outraged by Alvarado,
                     Rise in Revolt—Cortes Returns

Narvaez had advanced to Zempoala. Sandoval, meanwhile, confiding the
colony at Vera Cruz to the protection of the allies, hastened to unite
his force with that of Cortes. They met at a spot about twelve miles
distant from Zempoala, and numbered, all told, not more than two hundred
and fifty men. Cortes steadily advanced upon Zempoala until he was only
a mile away, and Narvaez, who had the utmost contempt for him, deciding
to give battle at once, advanced to meet him with his greatly superior
force. A fierce rain storm occurred that day, and Cortes had so well
chosen a position on the opposite side of a swollen stream that Narvaez
did not discover him. The latter’s soldiers murmured and protested there
was no enemy in the vicinity. “What is the use,” they exclaimed, “of
staying here to fight the elements? There is no enemy here and nothing
to fear in such stormy weather. Let us return to Zempoala and be ready
in the morning to defeat the enemy if he appears.” Narvaez, who was not
at all disinclined to follow their suggestion, returned, gave the
necessary instructions for their safety, and then displayed the most
utter negligence, as if no enemy were near. His soldiers, many of whom
were not yet accustomed to the hardships of the march, were delighted
with the arrangements and were equally negligent. Cortes, believing that
Narvaez’ contempt for him, and the fatigue of his not yet hardened
soldiers, would lead them to be off their guard, decided to make a night
attack. He drew up his little army, explained his purpose, and found to
his great delight that it was not at all necessary to encourage them in
this venturesome task as all expressed their greatest willingness to
follow him. The army was divided into three detachments, one led by
Sandoval, one by Olid, and the other by Cortes himself.

It was one of the darkest and most inhospitable nights imaginable. The
swollen stream rushed along like a mountain torrent, and there was no
way of crossing it except by fording. Cortes was the first to plunge in,
and his men followed him with enthusiastic alacrity. The water was up to
their necks, but all save two men safely reached the other side. The
dripping soldiers formed in order and marched to Zempoala in death-like
stillness, each carrying a sword, a dagger, and a long Indian spear. The
spear was for use against the enemy’s cavalry. Cortes’ conjectures were
confirmed. Narvaez was so unconcerned that he had placed only two
sentinels on guard. One of these was surprised and taken prisoner, the
other escaped and fled to the city in a panic of fear to give the alarm.
Narvaez’ contempt for his enemy was so great that he declared the
sentinel had been dreaming and that it was ridiculous to imagine that
Cortes would dare to attack him voluntarily with a handful of men.

Suddenly he heard the battle cry as Cortes and his men hurled themselves
upon the city like a thunderstorm, terror following in their wake. Too
late Narvaez realized his foolish error, but he hastened as fast as he
could to rally his men. He and his troops were quartered in and around a
great temple which the enemy stormed so quickly and irresistibly that
only a single cannon could be used against them. Sandoval, who commanded
the advance, captured the cannon and drove the enemy helter-skelter up
the temple steps. The struggle was a desperate one. Narvaez, who was in
the temple, sought to rally his men and inspire them with the example of
his own courage, but Sandoval continued driving them before him. Olid
supported him, and Cortes, who forgot for the moment that he was the
commander, sprang to the front and inspired his men with his own daring.
A soldier in Cortes’ troops suddenly discovered that fire had broken out
among the reeds on the roof of the temple. The building was immediately
in flames and Narvaez found himself forced to leave. He strove at the
head of his men to make his way out, but a spear was thrust in his eye
and he fell. Sandoval seized him, dragged him down the stairs quickly,
bound him, and bore him to a place of safety in the rear. The victors
raised a triumphant shout, and the enemy, now without a leader, became
so panic-stricken that their resistance grew weaker and weaker. A
general holocaust would have been inevitable had not Cortes offered
pardon to all who should come out and surrender. Narvaez’ men had seen a
countless number of little flickering lights in the darkness of the
night, which resembled matches, and which led them to believe Cortes had
a large force of arquebusiers posted in the thickets, for fire-arms at
that time were always discharged by matches. This fancy—for these lights
were made by glow-worms—increased the alarm of the enemy, and at last no
further resistance was made.

The victory was complete. While the air was full of the shouts of the
victors Cortes seated himself and, after throwing a richly embroidered
cloak about his shoulders, received the congratulations of his officers
and soldiers. He graciously permitted the common soldiers to kiss his
hand, paid special distinction to the officers, and cordially greeted
those of the enemy who had once been his friends. Indeed he treated them
in such a considerate manner that those who but a short time since had
fought against him became his friends. In this way his little army was
increased by the addition of eight hundred fresh and well-armed
soldiers, an increase which secured for him the most powerful army yet
seen in that part of the world. As soon as the wounded Narvaez came to
himself it was with a deadly feeling of humiliation that he found
himself chained hand and foot and in the power of the enemy for whom he
had had so much contempt. Cortes desired to see him without his
knowledge so that he might not seem to be gloating over his misfortune,
but as soon as he entered the room the respect shown by the soldiers in
attendance betrayed his presence. The proud Narvaez turned to him and
said: “Señor Cortes, you have cause to congratulate yourself upon the
good luck which has made me your prisoner.” Such haughtiness seemed to
need some reproof, so Cortes replied: “All that God does is well done;
meanwhile, I assure you that I consider the victory just won and your
capture as among my slightest achievements.” Cortes kept him bound and
had him taken to Vera Cruz.

Hardly had Cortes enjoyed a few hours of rejoicing over his quick and
glorious victory than his attention was directed to fresh dangers which
had arisen, like a distant storm, in another place. Messengers came from
Mexico with the unpleasant news that the people of the city had risen in
revolt and attacked the Spaniards left behind, and that Alvarado was
trying to protect himself against them in his stronghold. Montezuma
himself had sent one of his people to implore Cortes to return as
quickly as possible and put down the uprising. The danger was so great
and threatening that Cortes lost no time in going to the rescue of his
people. After he had provided for the safety of the vessels by manning
them with his own crews, he placed himself at the head of his now
formidable army and marched as rapidly as possible through Tlaxcala to
the capital. The faithful Tlaxcalans offered to reinforce him with their
entire war power, but he contented himself by taking only two thousand
men and giving them hearty thanks for their steadfast loyalty. His march
was made in a cautious manner but his good fortune and the simplicity of
the Mexicans made caution superfluous. It would have been easy to cut
off his return to the capital by destroying the causeways, but the
Mexicans were either too stupid or too timorous to do it. Cortes found
them just as he had left them, and nothing stood in the way of his
entrance into the city. This occurred June 24, 1520.

But how different was the manner of this from his first entrance! This
time there was no one to receive him, no one who looked on in
astonishment, no one who raised a cry of joy. All was silent in the
deserted streets, and none of Alvarado’s soldiers was seen until the
Spanish quarters were reached. Then there were cordial greetings on both
sides, embraces, and exultant shouts without end. Alvarado and his men
were delighted at their unexpected deliverance from an appalling danger.
Cortes and his companions were overjoyed with the double pleasure of
victory and meeting their companions, and Montezuma himself, who had
kept his promise not to leave the Spanish quarters, appeared to
sympathize with the delight of his oppressors.

Cortes now learned all that had taken place during his absence.
Infuriated by their treatment at the hands of the malicious Spaniards,
the Mexicans had rushed to arms. Alvarado gave his consent for a
celebration in honor of Pitzliputzli if they would appear at the temple
unarmed. As the Mexicans, among them several hundred of their prominent
men, were engaged in the ceremonies the Spaniards fell upon them and
murdered many. The survivors were infuriated. Neither their own danger
nor that of their imprisoned sovereign deterred them from attacking the
Spanish quarters with such fierceness that Alvarado and his little band
had difficulty in protecting themselves. Then two vessels were burned,
four Spaniards killed, and several wounded. The rest expected their
destruction, but a few days before Cortes’ arrival the Mexicans suddenly
ceased hostilities and remained quiet. With his extraordinary force, and
considering the extreme awe with which the Mexicans regarded him, it
would undoubtedly have been easy for him to have put down the uprising
at once. But his methods of administration were now changed. Intoxicated
with the astonishing good fortune which had accompanied his every move,
he regarded each new danger with the utmost contempt and did not even
consider it worth while any longer to conceal his intentions. From this
time on he utterly disregarded Montezuma and so far abandoned his
previous prudence as to pay no attention to the just indignation of
these outraged people.

                              Chapter XII
    The Mexicans Rise against the Spaniards and Fight with Desperate
Courage—Montezuma is Killed—Cortes Struggles Bravely and is in Danger of
                                his Life

Cortes flattered himself it would be an easy task to hold the mutinous
Mexicans in check by force. Thinking thus, he sent one of his bravest
officers, Ordaz by name, with a corps of four hundred men, partly
Spaniards, partly Tlaxcalans, to ascertain whether the people had really
quieted down or were making preparations for new attacks. In pursuance
of his duty, Ordaz marched through the city streets but had not gone far
before he encountered a body of armed Mexicans. In order to intercept
some of them he incautiously advanced upon them, but they at once
retreated. This was done, as soon appeared, not from cowardice, but
because of their orders to draw the Spanish leader and his men into a
trap. Their plan succeeded. Ordaz pursued the fugitives to a quarter of
the city where he suddenly found himself surrounded and attacked by a
countless swarm of the enemy. Even the flat roofs of the houses were
covered with men who darkened the air with stones, arrows, and other
missiles, hurled at the Spaniards from every direction. Fortunately
Ordaz, serious and unexpected as the danger was, lost neither his
courage nor presence of mind but placed his men in a formation best
calculated to make the attack. Then he charged upon the enemy where they
were densest. It was not long before the Mexicans began to weaken. Ordaz
cut his way through them and at last, after much bloodshed, succeeded in
reaching the Spanish quarters. One Spaniard and eight Tlaxcalans were
killed, and Ordaz himself and most of his people were wounded.

After this disaster Cortes expected the Mexicans would desist from
further hostilities, but he was mistaken. Hardly had the Spaniards
reached their quarters before they observed the enemy assembling in
formidable bodies for a general attack. Cortes instantly made the
necessary preparations for defence, and now began a battle which for
courage and obstinacy has hardly been equalled. The Mexicans charged
with such a din of drums and horns and such fearful battle cries that
the roar of the cannon could hardly be distinguished. They seemed
unanimously determined to conquer or die. Some kept up a continuous
shower of arrows and stones. Others, despising death, sought to scale
the walls and others to get possession of the gates. Some mounted upon
the shoulders of others to reach the top of the walls, and when they
were hurled down dead or wounded, others would take their places
instantly. Such was their courage that they trod upon the dead and
wounded to fill up the breaches, and, terrible as was the effect of
cannon and musketry among them, they still kept up their furious attack
until at last, after horrible slaughter, superstition forced them to end
the battle and withdraw, for they never fought after sundown, and it was
now evening.

The night that followed was not much quieter, for, although the Mexicans
did not dare to fight, they found ways to set fire to the Spanish
buildings and it was only by extraordinary exertions that a general
conflagration was prevented. Although exhausted with the struggle and
their last night’s labor in extinguishing fires, the Spaniards at
daybreak again were at their posts to resist another attack. One bloody
assault followed another. It seemed as if the fury of this embittered
nation could never be extinguished, although each fresh attempt to storm
the Spanish stronghold failed, and Cortes by various methods slaughtered
the natives by thousands and devastated a part of their city by fire.

Cortes shared the fate of most of his soldiers and was wounded. He was
struck by an arrow in the left hand. Thereupon he withdrew to his
apartments where undisturbed he might form some plan to extricate
himself from his dangerous situation. He had hardly begun gathering his
thoughts together when the storm broke out anew at every corner of the
quarters, for the Mexicans had now formed in bands for a general
assault. He rushed back and found that his presence was never more
necessary, for the enemy now was fighting with even greater courage than
on the day before, and all his alertness and skill were required to make
the necessary defence at every place.

When the battle was at its height, the unfortunate Montezuma
decided—some say voluntarily, others say at the request of the
Spaniards—to make an attempt to stop this bloodshed by showing himself
in person to his raging subjects and reminding them of their reverential
duty to him. He put on his imperial mantle, placed the regent crown on
his head, and adorned himself with the wealth of jewels which he had
been accustomed to wear on state occasions. Thus arrayed, he went, in
company with some leading Mexicans, to the Spanish stronghold. One of
these mounted the wall and announced to the furious multitude that their
sovereign had arrived and that he was ready to listen to their
grievances and end hostilities with the strangers, his guests.

At the mention of his name the battle ceased and respectful silence
followed. Thereupon the unfortunate monarch himself mounted the wall.
All bowed in reverence, some fell upon their knees and kissed the
ground. Glancing over the multitude, Montezuma sought out the leaders
and, after thanking them for their expressions of devotion, assured them
they were wrong in supposing he was a prisoner. He had only remained so
long among his guests that he might acquaint himself with their customs,
and show his respect for the mighty ruler whose representatives they
were. As he was now about to leave them he implored his people to lay
down their arms and return to their homes.

When Montezuma had concluded his address, there was a general silence
for several minutes, but gradually a low murmur began and soon grew into
an uproar of protest. The boldest and most insolent of the crowd hurled
invectives at their ruler and shouted that he was no longer Emperor of
Mexico but a miscreant, a wretch, and a miserable slave of the enemy of
their fatherland. Montezuma tried to speak and motioned with his hand
for silence but in vain. There was a great bustle and in an instant
arrows and stones were hurled at him. The two soldiers at his side whom
Cortes had sent with him tried to cover him with their shields, but it
was too late. His cup of sorrow was filled. He was pierced by many
arrows, and a blow upon the head by a stone felled him senseless.

Amazed at this unfortunate event, Cortes had the almost lifeless monarch
taken to his own house, to save him if possible, and then, flaming with
anger, rushed back to take a bloody revenge, but he was too late. Hardly
had they seen their Emperor fall when the Mexicans scattered, as if
expecting fire from heaven to descend upon them for this cruel deed. In
the meantime Montezuma regained consciousness but his condition was
pitiable. The thought of his subjects’ conduct made him almost insane.
They had to hold his hands to prevent him from doing injury to himself.
Cortes vainly tried to quiet him. He rejected all offers of consolation,
tore the bandages from his wounds, and tried to put an end to his life.
These passionate outbreaks and his obstinate refusal to take nourishment
hastened his death. He died uttering imprecations against his subjects
and disappointed the anticipations of the Spaniards by rejecting with
great contempt at the last moment the proffer of the Christian faith.
When Father Olmedo, kneeling at his side, raised the cross and earnestly
entreated him to embrace it, he coldly repulsed the priest and said: “I
have only a few hours to live and I will not be untrue to the faith of
my fathers.” The fate of his children, especially of his three
daughters, rested heavily upon his mind. He called Cortes to his bedside
and committed these children to his care as the most precious jewels he
should leave behind him. He implored him to see that they were not left
helpless and that they had their rightful share of his inheritance.
“Your ruler, the King of Spain, should do this,” said Montezuma, “were
it only for the friendly service I have rendered the Spaniards, and the
affection I have shown them, which has brought me to this wretched
plight. But even that has not turned me against them.” These, according
to Cortes’ statement, were the last words of the dying Emperor. Not long
after this, on the thirtieth of June, 1520, he died in the arms of one
of his nobles, who had always been faithful to him. As long as Montezuma
lay suffering from his wounds his subjects remained quiet, but hardly
had he died when they prepared for the choice of a new ruler and the
immediate resumption of hostilities. Montezuma’s successor was his
brother, Cuitlahua, a brave and warlike prince, who died suddenly from
small-pox four months after he became Emperor.

The new Emperor commenced hostilities with a movement that sorely
pressed the Spaniards. He had his bravest men occupy the flat roof and
tower of the principal temple, which stood close to the Spanish
quarters, from which points they could hurl stones and beams into the
inner court. Cortes, who was seriously contemplating a retreat, was
thereby prevented from making the necessary preparations and found it
imperative to drive the enemy from this dangerous position. He entrusted
this duty to Escobar, one of his bravest officers, whom he placed at the
head of a picked troop. Meanwhile he himself planned to drive the enemy
from the streets with the rest of his force in order to keep them open
for those who were attacking the temple. Escobar advanced and met with
no resistance up to the foot of the temple steps, a hundred in number.
But when they were half way up the ascent, a multitude of the enemy
appeared at the rails and hurled down upon them such a shower of arrows,
stone, and beams that he and his men could not resist their force. Three
times he sought to achieve the impossible and three times he was driven
back. When Cortes, who in the meantime had not been idle, heard of their
plight, he sprang from his horse, without stopping long to consider,
bound his shield to his arm as he could not hold it with his wounded
hand, and rushed with drawn sword to the temple steps. He called upon
his men to follow him and advanced apparently to his certain death. He
dashed down everything that opposed him and at last gained the flat
temple roof where the flower of the Mexicans had gathered, determined to
conquer or die. A fierce hand to hand struggle ensued with clubs and
swords, every one resolved to sell his life as dearly as possible. There
was not one who would not rather have been cut to pieces than surrender.
Some leaped down from the pinnacle of the temple rather than outlive
their freedom, and all fought with a lion-like courage never before
exhibited in the New World.

While Cortes was making this desperate fight, his troop in the streets
was meeting with little success. As soon as the temple was captured, he
hastened to the assistance of the rest of his men. He swung himself upon
his horse, hung the bridle upon his left arm, and with levelled lance
dashed into the enemy, hurling every one who opposed him to the earth.
Unfortunately his zeal carried him so far that as he turned his horse he
found himself cut off from his men by so great a swarm of the enemy that
it seemed impossible to make his way through them. His situation was
serious but he quickly found a way out of it. He noticed a side street
in which the enemy was not so densely massed. He plunged into this and
soon regained his men. As he did so he suddenly noticed that his friend,
Andreas Duero, had been taken prisoner and was being dragged to the
temple, by a great crowd, to be offered up as a fresh victim to the
gods. Cortes lost not a minute and, without the least consideration for
the number of the enemy, dashed into their midst to rescue his friend.
He scattered those who were taking him, and Duero, as soon as he was
liberated, with his dagger disposed of one who was trying to hold him
and of another who held his horse, mounted the animal unhurt, and the
two friends safely rejoined their people. Cortes always considered this
achievement as the happiest in all his life. The enemy now gave way on
every side. Cortes, therefore, to save more bloodshed, and to give his
exhausted men an opportunity for rest, gave the signal for withdrawal.
They returned to their quarters and cared for their wounds.

                              Chapter XIII
 Cortes, About to Retreat, Finds the Causeways Cut—The Spaniards Escape
    with Heavy Loss—The Tlaxcalans Remain True—Guatemozin is Elected
                           Emperor of Mexico

On the next day both sides remained quiet. Cortes made preparations for
his departure and the Mexicans did not appear disposed to resume
hostilities. But their apparent peacefulness was far from being genuine.
They were more determined than ever to extirpate the Spaniards and they
were engaged upon a well considered change of plans to accomplish it.
Their design now was to prevent his retreat by cutting the causeways and
leaving them to perish from hunger. But Cortes, whose foresight never
failed him, built a floating bridge with incredible swiftness, which
could be thrown across the opening. As soon as it was ready, he ordered
that the retreat should be made in the night. He hoped that either the
darkness would enable him to make his escape or that the well known
night superstition of the Mexicans would prevent them from interfering
with him. But in this he was mistaken.

As soon as night came he divided his army into three columns. Sandoval
was appointed leader of the advance. He himself led the centre column,
and Velasquez de Leon, a near relative of the governor of Cuba, brought
up the rear. The army set out in the stillness of midnight. Noise of any
kind was carefully avoided and the falling rain seemed to favor them.
For a time not a trace of counter preparation was discovered and at last
they reached the causeway leading to Tacuba which had been selected for
two reasons by Cortes. In the first place, it was the shortest, and in
the second, he had hopes that the Mexicans might have neglected to cut
it, as it was in an entirely different direction from that which the
Spaniards had taken when they came. But this hope was soon dissipated,
for when they reached the spot, they found it cut. With the help of the
floating bridge, they attempted to make the crossing, but before it was
accomplished the terrible battle cry of the enemy was heard, announcing
death and destruction on every hand. The lake was suddenly alive with
canoes. The beginning of the battle was marked by a terrible storm of
arrows and stones. The place, the darkness, and the desperation of the
assailants made it one of the most deadly in history.

The Spaniards were caught upon a narrow pier between the first and
second openings. They now sought to raise their bridge and take it to
the second, but the weight of the heavy guns had forced it between the
stones so closely that they could not get it loose. All their exertions
were in vain and they were now so fiercely attacked in front, in the
rear, and on both sides that no hope was left, either of victory or
escape. The Mexicans fought with desperation, determined either to die
themselves or destroy the enemies of their fatherland. The Spaniards
strove with all their skill and might to clear the way, but, as often as
they secured a passage with the sword, fresh fighters took the place of
the slain. They rushed upon them in such dense masses that they could
not use their fire-arms. At last their strength was exhausted. They
could no longer withstand this constantly increasing multitude. The
advance gave away and there was universal confusion. Infantry and
cavalry, friends and foes, were huddled together so closely that they
fought blindly and without knowing, in the darkness, whether they struck
friend or foe.

In the midst of this dreadful slaughter Cortes got together about a
hundred men, with whom he made an effort to cut his way through, and
finally succeeded in making his way to the mainland. He could not endure
the thought of his own rescue, however, while the larger part of his
army was still in danger. Selecting those who had not been wounded, he
went back to share the fate of his friends. A part of them had succeeded
in forcing their way through to him, but his joy at seeing them was
turned to grief when he discovered that the Mexicans were carrying off
their living captives to be sacrificed to their deities. He tried to
save them but was unable to do more than protect the little remnant
which had escaped. All were so exhausted that they could not renew the
fight. The larger part of his army was either slain or met death by

The morning light broke and revealed a ghastly spectacle. More than half
the Spaniards and over two thousand Tlaxcalans had perished. Velasquez
de Leon, besides others of the bravest leaders, were missing. The most
of the survivors were wounded. Artillery, ammunition, baggage, and the
treasure they had collected were lost. The night of this horrible
slaughter, which occurred July 1, 1520, is known to this day in New
Spain as the Night of Sorrow. The first rendezvous was Tacuba but they
could not remain there long for the whole country was in arms. The only
place offering a secure shelter was Tlaxcala. To reach the road leading
there they had to traverse the whole northern half of the Mexican lake,
upon the west side of which they found a marshy region, and for several
days had to march through an unknown country without the sustenance
necessary to relieve their exhausted condition. But there was no other
way left open to them. They must either abandon all hope of possible
rescue or continue their march. Five days they traversed this apparently
endless marsh. Early on the sixth they reached Otumba, and, as they
ascended the adjacent heights, they observed the entire great plain
covered with countless warriors at sight of whom the stoutest among
them, except Cortes, abandoned all hope. Nothing could daunt his
courage. His bearing impressed his soldiers with the certainty that they
must either conquer or die. With his accustomed composure he rallied his
men and led them against the enemy. As the heavy grass is cut by the
scythe of the mower, so the enemy was mowed down by the swords of his
soldiers. Nothing could withstand their onset and blood and corpses
marked their course. But at last they were exhausted. Their arms sank
powerless. The enemy hurled themselves upon them from all sides, and
their destruction must have followed had not their watchful leader
fortunately saved them. He noticed from a distance the Mexican chief
carrying their battle flag. He remembered to have heard that Mexicans
gave up all for lost if their flag was lost and his decision was
instantly made. Followed by some of his brave officers, who were
mounted, he dashed into the midst of the troop which guarded the banner,
and hurled the Mexican leader to the earth with a thrust of his lance.
One of his attendants sprang from his horse, killed him, and seized the
flag. At that same moment all the other flags were lowered, a panic
seized them, they threw down their arms and took to flight. Thus a lucky
thought saved the Spaniards and gave them a victory which was as
glorious as it was profitable, for, when the booty was collected, its
value nearly reimbursed them for the treasures they had left behind in
Mexico, as most of the Mexicans, confident of victory, had bedecked
themselves with their most costly ornaments.

On the following day they reached the territory of the friendly
Tlaxcalans. They dreaded lest they should find a change in their
relations, but their fears were groundless. That noble and magnanimous
people remained as faithful as if the Spanish power and fortunes had
suffered no calamities. Among these people the Spaniards rested,
recovering from their hardships and caring for their wounds. All devoted
themselves to recreation save Cortes, notwithstanding he had striven and
suffered more than any of them. He had no time to think of rest. He was
engaged upon plans for the future and soon was delighted to find that
good fortune had not yet abandoned him.

Velasquez, the governor of Cuba, had so little doubt that Narvaez would
succeed with the strong force entrusted to him that, without waiting for
news, he sent him two more vessels loaded with supplies and munitions.
As they were sailing past Vera Cruz the commanding officer there induced
them to enter the harbor. He easily took possession of the vessels and
just as easily persuaded the men to enter Cortes’ service. This was not
all that fate turned to his advantage. Not long after this, three other
vessels of unusual size, belonging to a fleet which the governor of
Jamaica had fitted out for discoveries, appeared on the same coast.
Their commander unfortunately took a course toward the northern
provinces of the Mexican Empire, whose people were both poor and
warlike. He was very inhospitably received and after a long series of
misfortunes at last succeeded in reaching the harbor of Vera Cruz. His
men were also induced to enter Cortes’ service. In this way Cortes
received such accessions of men and material that his past losses were
nearly made good. He felt strong enough now to resume his great plans
for the conquest of the Mexican Empire. With his faithful allies, the
Tlaxcalans and other Indian tribes which had united with him, he was now
at the head of an army of ten thousand men.

In the meantime the Emperor Cuitlahua had died suddenly of small-pox.
After his death the electors were summoned to choose his successor.
Their duty at this critical time was one of the most serious
responsibility. The chief priests implored the blessing of their highest
deity in the following appeal:

“O God! Thou knowest that the days of our Emperor are ended, for thou
hast placed him under thy feet. He tarries in the place of rest. He has
traversed the road we all must go. He has gone to the house where we
must all follow—the home of eternal darkness which no light enters. He
tarried but a few days in his Empire, for we had enjoyed his presence
but a few days when thou summoned him to follow his predecessor. He is
therefore grateful to thee for freeing him from such a hard burden and
sending him peace and rest. Who shall now care for the welfare of thy
people and the empire? Who shall be appointed the judge to administer
justice to thy people? Who shall sound drum and pipe to call the old
warriors and the mighty to battle? Our Lord and our Protector, willst
thou in thy wisdom select one worthy to sit upon the imperial throne, to
bear the heavy burden of sovereignty, to love and console thy poor
people, as a mother loves and consoles her children? O merciful God,
shed the light of thy countenance upon this, thy kingdom. Ordain that in
all and through all, the honor shall be thine.”

The choice fell upon Guatemozin. He was a nephew of both the late
Emperors and when he came to the throne was not over twenty-five years
of age. Young as he was, he had had much military experience and had
distinguished himself in many bloody campaigns. He hated the Spaniards
as Hannibal hated Rome, and, as soon as he heard of the organization of
his enemy’s army, he assembled an extraordinary force of fighting men
from all the provinces at the capital, with whom he determined to fight
to the last drop of blood. Cortes, who was aware of his preparations,
realized that he must encounter great difficulties and dangers, but he
faced them with his usual courage. Boldly and enthusiastically he began
the march upon Mexico at the head of his greatly increased army.

                              Chapter XIV
 Cortes Builds Vessels for a Land and Water Attack—A Conspiracy against
             his Life is Discovered—The Capital is Attacked

As Cortes approached the capital of the Province of Tezcuco, messengers
met him with signals of peace and urgently invited him in the name of
their cacique to make his night quarters in the city where everything
possible would be furnished for the comfort of himself and his men. The
invitation was accompanied with the request that Cortes might be pleased
to have his Indian auxiliaries camp outside the city. There being some
reason to doubt the sincerity of the cacique’s intentions, he decided to
avail himself of the invitation at once but at the same time to take
every possible precaution and make his entrance immediately, which was
accomplished at noon of December 31, 1520. As soon as he had occupied
the best and largest area of the city he deposed the cacique who had
stood by the Mexicans and been false to the Spaniards. He put in his
place the man who was declared by the people to be the most worthy. This
man, Ixtlilxochitl, was young and amiable, and of such a noble and
distinguished presence that Cortes could not refrain from embracing him
and assuring him of his friendship. He also decided to make his
headquarters in the city until all his arrangements for the conquest of
Mexico were completed.

The Mexicans at this time were in a very good state of defence. At the
places where the causeways had been cut, strong bulwarks and breastworks
were constructed to prevent the enemy from using floating bridges. The
new Emperor, Guatemozin, had armed many of his warriors with bows and
very long spears with which they could defend themselves at a
considerable distance. Besides this they had a countless number of
canoes, so that they could attack from every side. Cortes knew that he
could not think of capturing this really strong city until he had a
flotilla of small craft with which to dispose of these canoes. But how
was he to get them? There were only three or four ship-carpenters in his
entire army. All the building material would have to be procured in the
Tlaxcalan forest, and his whole Spanish force would not be sufficient to
convey it from there to Tezcuco. But the greater the difficulties which
confronted this extraordinary man, the stronger was his determination to
overcome them. A large number of Tlaxcalans were assigned to his
carpenters for manual service. While the necessary material was being
prepared, Cortes began to make himself master of the whole region
surrounding Mexico in order to cut off the unfortunate capital from
subsistence. He overpowered some of the towns by force and induced
others by mild means to enter into an alliance with him. Guatemozin
regarded the defection and loss of his faithful vassals with sorrow and
indignation and sought—but in vain—to prevent it. But his great heart
did not waver in the manly determination to defend his capital to the
last drop of blood.

In the meantime a danger impended over the head of Cortes which
threatened a tragic end to his undertaking and his life. The soldiers of
Narvaez had willingly joined Cortes, but they did so with the
expectation that in a short time and without much danger they would
secure untold treasures. The destruction of their hopes and the prospect
of all the dangers they must encounter in an attack upon Mexico created
great dissatisfaction with Cortes and bitter regret that they had
decided to follow him. Villafanga, a common soldier, but a smart,
venturesome fellow, who was still loyal to Velasquez, took advantage of
his comrades’ discontent to hatch a plot which contemplated nothing less
than the murder of the general and his leading officers, the choice of a
new leader, and return to Cuba. The plan was as follows: While Cortes
and his leading officers were at table a large packet of letters from
Vera Cruz should be brought in. The conspirators, under pretence of
desiring to hear from their country, would crowd about the general while
he was opening the packet, and suddenly slay him as well as all the
others who had been selected as victims. All was now ready for the
accomplishment of their black purpose. The following day was selected
and the conspirators, of whom there were a large number, had made their
plans so secretly that neither Cortes nor his friends had the slightest
suspicion of them. At the last moment, however, a fellow conspirator,
who had been one of Cortes’ men from the start, was suddenly seized with
remorse. His conscience stung him so fiercely that at last he ran to
Cortes’ quarters and made a clean breast of the whole matter.

Cortes was astonished but quickly decided what to do. In company with
some of his officers he went at once to Villafanga’s quarters. His
unexpected appearance at such a time and place so surprised the would-be
assassin that he could neither deny his guilt nor think of a defence. He
was instantly seized. Cortes snatched a paper from him, which he was
attempting to conceal in his bosom, and, concluding that it related to
the conspiracy, stepped aside a minute to examine it. It contained a
list of the conspirators, which filled him with surprise. But he wisely
concealed it and appeared as if he were not aware that any one else was
implicated. He reserved punishment for the principal offender, and as
his confession made any further investigation unnecessary, he was hanged
the same night in front of the house where he had been arrested.

On the next morning Cortes summoned his entire force and informed them
of Villafanga’s treachery and the penalty which had been inflicted, but
added that, notwithstanding all his efforts, he had not discovered any
of his accomplices, as Villafanga had been persistently silent even
under torture. He assured them that as far as he was concerned he was
pleased with this secrecy for it would have given him great pain to have
delivered any more of his companions into the hands of justice. He
closed his address by appealing to them to tell him in what way his
operations had been a disappointment or how he had incurred the
indignation of his comrades, so that he might correct his mistakes then
and there. The hearts of the guilty ones were relieved by these words.
They breathed freely again and in their joy at being undiscovered
resolved at every opportunity to display to their leader still greater
and more steadfast loyalty.

Cortes knew, however, that idleness may ruin the best of men. He
bestirred himself, therefore, to provide new occupation for these
turbulent ones so that they might have no opportunity for indulging evil
fancies. His good luck attended him again. He was informed that the
building material for thirteen vessels was ready to be brought from the
Tlaxcalan forests to Tezcuco. As the transporting had to be made by
Indian carriers and a strong guard was needed to protect them from the
Mexicans, the repentant conspirators were selected and the watchful,
brave, and true Sandoval was placed in command of them. The journey was
one of the most difficult they had ever undertaken. Eight thousand
_tamanes_, loaded with beams, planks, masts, ropes, sails, and
iron-work, went in the middle. A force of fifteen thousand Tlaxcalan
warriors escorted them in the advance, rear, and on both flanks, among
whom the Spanish soldiers were distributed to keep them in order and
accustom them to regular marching. The entire line was more than a mile
long. Sandoval placed himself at the head of the force and assigned the
command of the leading column to Chichimekatl, a young Tlaxcalan leader,
for the proud and fierce Xikotenkatl was no more. He could not endure
the thought of submission to the foreigners and incited a revolt. But
his purpose failed, his own people arrested him, and his own father, a
second Brutus, pronounced the death penalty and turned him over to the
Spanish general, that the penalty might be inflicted. But Cortes,
reluctant to consent to the death of the young, fiery patriot, pardoned
him, set him at liberty, and took him with him on the march to Mexico.
But even this magnanimous treatment did not move his proud heart. He
improved every opportunity to denounce the plans of the Spaniards with
republican outspokenness, and to prejudice his people against them. His
companions informed the Tlaxcalan High Council of his conduct, which in
turn notified Cortes that he was striving to raise a revolt in the army
and that by the law of their land he deserved the death penalty. It was
now incumbent upon Cortes to deal with him severely for if he returned
to Tlaxcala he would not be mercifully treated. Cortes, however, once
more told the obstinate young man that if he came to him and performed
his duties he should suffer no injustice. But the Tlaxcalan would not
consent, and when Cortes sent the guard to bring him by force he
resisted and defended himself until at last he fell dead from many
wounds. Such was the tragic end of a man who under other circumstances
might have been, perhaps, a Hannibal or a Cæsar.

The expedition had a march of fifteen miles before it, and the way led
mostly through a rough and mountainous region. Large bands of Mexican
soldiers frequently appeared but when they saw that the Spaniards were
always ready for attack, they withdrew. At last Sandoval, after a march
of extreme difficulty, had the good fortune to arrive safely at Tezcuco,
where he was received with open arms by Cortes. While they were engaged
in constructing the vessels, another fortunate event occurred. Some time
previously Cortes had sent some of his officers to Hispaniola to bring
him reinforcements if possible. He had long been anxious for their
return, and had long been disappointed, but at last the glad news came
that four vessels with large reinforcements had arrived at Vera Cruz
from Hispaniola. They brought two hundred soldiers, eighty horses, two
cannon, and a great quantity of powder and ammunition. The building of
the vessels was now pushed forward with the utmost zeal. Although the
Mexicans from time to time attempted to hinder the work and to burn them
on the stocks, their efforts were frustrated by Cortes’ watchfulness and
the bravery of his soldiers. At last the vessels were finished and
launched and as the wind filled their sails a joyous shout was raised,
announcing the important event to the whole surrounding region.

Cortes now decided to attack the city from three sides and divided his
army into as many columns. Sandoval was given command of the first,
Alvarado of the second, and Olid of the third. The first was to advance
from Tezcuco, the second from Tacuba, and the third from Kajahuakan,
while Cortes himself, commanding the vessels, was to support them. The
three took the positions assigned them and began the advance. Alvarado
and Olid on their march destroyed the fine aqueducts which brought the
sweet mountain water from many miles away into the island city. The
water famine which followed was only the beginning of the many hardships
with which the unfortunate people had to contend. From this time on, not
a day passed without some fierce encounter. The vessels had to attack a
vast swarm of small canoes and the land troops an equally vast swarm of
the enemy at the causeways. The frail canoes were soon destroyed or
driven ashore, however, but in the encounters at the causeways little
was achieved. The Spaniards attacked with the utmost vigor the bulwarks
erected to protect the openings, but every night they were forced to
retire to the mainland, while the besieged every night restored what
they had lost during the day. Notwithstanding all this bloodshed, they
made no progress from day to day, and the fatigue of the Spaniards and
their allies each day was so great that they began to fear they would
gradually succumb.

                               Chapter XV
 The Spaniards Lose Heavily in Battle—The Prisoners are Sacrificed—Some
      of Cortes’ Allies Desert but Soon Return—The City of Mexico
            Captured—Guatemozin Attempts Flight but is Taken

Cortes, realizing that the battle could not be continued in this wise,
decided to end the long and wearisome struggle with one bold venture. He
arranged for a general attack at a designated time (this was about the
end of May, 1521) and ordered each of his commanders to advance into the
city with his division, in spite of all obstacles, and post himself
there. He himself took command of the force which was to attack the
causeway of Cojohuacan, determined to let nothing stop him from reaching
the city. The eventful day came. The leaders placed themselves at the
head of their troops and the tragedy began. It was a thrilling
spectacle, the irresistible advance of the Spaniards and the stubborn
resistance of the Mexicans. Nothing could withstand the onset of Cortes.
He carried one defence after the other in desperate charges, cut down or
shot down everything before him, and pursued the flying enemy into the

Guatemozin, who had been informed of all that was transpiring, rejoiced
at the imprudence of the enemy as he realized the advantage it placed in
his hands. He immediately ordered several strong detachments to march by
different roundabout ways to the abandoned causeways, enlarge the
openings as much as possible, and hold their positions there. The rest
of his warriors, who were engaged in a hand to hand struggle with the
enemy, gradually fell back in order to lure the excited Spaniards
farther into the city. His cunning scheme was successful. Assuming that
his orders had been executed, Cortes without hesitation drove the enemy
from one street to another and at last reached the very place where
Guatemozin was awaiting him with the flower of his warriors.

Suddenly, at a signal from the Emperor, the hollow boom of the war god’s
sacred drum was heard from the adjacent temple—a sound which always
filled the Mexican with indescribable rage and utter contempt of death.
In an instant the Spaniards, to their astonishment, found themselves
attacked on all sides so furiously that with all their courage and skill
they were unable to withstand it. They began falling back slowly in
close ranks and maintaining the defensive, but as the numbers of the
enemy increased every moment and their attack grew more furious, they
gradually began to seek safety in flight. At last their ranks broke.
All, Spaniards and Tlaxcalans, foot-soldiers and horsemen, fled in
disorder to the nearest causeway where their terror was still further
increased by finding the enemy in possession.

Cortes vainly sought by commands and entreaties to check the disorderly
flight and restore order. They neither saw nor heard anything. Their
only impulse was to save themselves in any way they could. They jumped
into the openings in squads. Many of them were drowned and others were
captured or killed by the enemy in their canoes, for unfortunately this
part of the lake was too shallow to allow the Spanish vessels to come to
their assistance. Cortes was greatly alarmed at the danger of his troops
but gave not a thought to his own. While striving to rescue some from
the water and others from the hands of the enemy, he was suddenly seized
by six stout Mexican chiefs and dragged away in triumph. Two of his
officers, seeing what had happened, determined to save their commander
by sacrificing themselves. They dashed into the midst of the enemy,
struggled and fell, but not until they had killed those who were holding
Cortes. He was freed and made his escape, although pitifully disfigured
and at the cost of his officers’ lives, which pained him more than his
wounds. A thousand Tlaxcalans and over sixty Spaniards were lost, many
were captured, while among those who escaped there was hardly one who
was not injured in some way.

Cortes’ position was now most critical. His people were completely
discouraged and the enemy was correspondingly encouraged. They grew so
bold indeed that on the next morning they ventured an attack upon the
headquarters, which the Spaniards and their allies had great difficulty
in resisting. Guatemozin at this junction conceived of another cunning
project for the discomfiture of his enemy. He sent the heads of the
slaughtered Spaniards through the provinces and everywhere proclaimed
that the blood of these enemies had appeased the wrath of the war god
and that he had declared that in eight days all the hated foreigners
would be destroyed. The news created general consternation among Cortes’
Indian allies. Their superstition was so great that they did not doubt
for an instant the threat of their war god would be executed. They
determined to abandon all association with people whom the Heavens had
doomed to destruction. Some of the Tlaxcalans themselves were recreant
and began to desert. But Cortes discovered a plan for preventing this
withdrawal, which met with success. He suspended hostilities for eight
days, meanwhile covering his well intrenched army with his vessels, and
quietly awaited the expiration of the time set for his destruction. When
it passed and the Spaniards had not suffered the least injury, the
allies began to open their eyes. They realized they had been deceived,
grew ashamed of their credulity, and came back more determined than ever
to assist the Spaniards in the complete overthrow of the hated Mexican
Empire. Others, who had not really believed the deceitful announcement
came from their war god, were all the more grateful that the deception
now made the downfall of the Mexicans inevitable. The accessions of old
and new allies were so great that in a few days Cortes had an army of
one hundred and fifty thousand natives. Instead, however, of being
misled by this astonishing increase of his strength, he proceeded more
cautiously than ever. He made several tenders of peace to the Mexicans,
but Guatemozin, who was thoroughly convinced that any alliance with the
Spaniards would result in the servitude of himself and his people,
rejected the offers with scorn, being still determined either to rescue
the fatherland or die in the attempt.

Hostilities were resumed. The city was now so closely shut in that
supplies were entirely cut off. This produced a dire famine, followed as
usual by a pestilence, which swept away the poor natives in great
numbers. Meanwhile the Spaniards daily approached nearer the city by the
three causeways. In pursuance of Cortes’ new plans every advance was
accompanied by preparations for a safe retreat to the mainland in case
of necessity. By continuing this policy the city was reached on all
three sides and the noble, brave Guatemozin at last fought the Spaniards
upon a hand-breadth of land. The latter continued advancing, setting on
fire the section of the city already captured, and maintaining their
strongly intrenched position. The great marketplace was the objective
point for all three divisions. Alvarado was the first to reach it.
Cortes quickly followed at the head of the division led by Olid, driving
the Mexicans before him at the point of the sword. Sandoval also joined
them and the slaughter was terrible. Three-fourths of the city was now
captured and almost reduced to ashes. Guatemozin had intrenched himself
in the remaining part with the flower of his soldiers. The Spaniards
were about to attack him, but Cortes, who was anxious to save further
bloodshed, and flattered himself that Guatemozin could hold out no
longer, stayed further hostilities and again made offers of peace.
Seemingly the Emperor was ready to accept them and a short cessation of
fighting followed without any expressed agreement. Meanwhile the two
parties confronted each other, separated only by a trench. Absolute
quiet prevailed on both sides. Guatemozin meanwhile put off the
Spaniards from day to day with the assurance that he would personally
appear and conduct negotiations. This was only a pretext to lull the
Spaniards into security, and conceal his own purpose. Acting upon the
entreaties of his nobles, he had decided to save himself from death or
capture by flight to distant provinces of his Empire, there to raise a
new army and make head against his enemies. The necessary preparations
were all made. The Mexican nobles were ready to give up their lives for
their loved Emperor. They had a great number of canoes in readiness and
a bold attack was made upon the vessels while Guatemozin, the object of
their tender solicitude, was being conveyed across the lake. Sandoval,
who was in command of the vessels, vainly attempted to drive them back
by firing his heavy cannon. They despised death and wounds and rowed
about unterrified, seeking to come to a hand to hand struggle.

         [Illustration: _THE ENTRY OF CORTES INTO MEXICO CITY_]

Suddenly Sandoval observed a strongly manned canoe being rowed with
great speed directly across the lake. He also observed what the canoe
contained and at once gave chase. Holquin, whose vessel was the fastest,
reached it first, but as soon as the rowers found that he was about to
open fire, they dropped their oars and begged him to spare the life of
the Emperor. Overjoyed at the honor his good fortune had brought him,
Holquin sprang with drawn sword into the canoe. Guatemozin met him nobly
and fearlessly, and said he was his prisoner and ready to follow him,
praying only that his wife and her attendant should meet with honorable
treatment. He turned to the latter, spoke a few words of encouragement,
and then extended his hand to conduct them to the vessel. That moment—it
was the thirteenth of August, 1521—decided the fate of the whole Mexican
Empire which in the person of its Emperor was delivered into the hands
of the Spaniards.

Holquin hastened to conduct his prisoner to Cortes who received him upon
the shore of the lake with the respect due to his position and his
virtues. The unfortunate Guatemozin seemed to accept the courtesy of his
conqueror with a certain pleasure and accompanied him with great
self-command to his quarters. He seated himself for a moment, then rose
and said to Cortes, with the interpreter’s help: “I have done what my
duty demanded. I am of no more importance, and a prisoner like me must
be a burden to his captor. Rise! take this dagger (placing it in Cortes’
hand) and plunge it into my heart and put an end to my useless life.”
His wife wept aloud at these words and Cortes was much agitated. He
besought the unfortunate man to calm himself and thereupon left him so
as not to increase their trouble by his presence.

As soon as it was known that Guatemozin had been captured, the Mexicans
laid down their arms and the Spaniards were masters of the city. The
first few days were spent in rejoicing over the fortunate outcome of
their undertaking, but before long rejoicing changed to discontent at
the sight of the small compensation they were likely to receive after so
many dangers and hardships. The larger part of the houses were consumed
with all their treasures, and when Guatemozin had found that the safety
of his capital was doubtful, everything of value in the royal treasury
had been thrown into the lake. The booty which was collected was so
inconsiderable that many of the Spaniards threw away with contempt the
portion assigned to them. They soon began loudly to denounce Guatemozin
and next their general, whom they were bold enough to declare had taken
the largest part of the treasures.

Cortes vainly tried to quiet them. Aldereto, who had been appointed
royal treasurer, espoused the cause of the malcontents and demanded by
virtue of his office that the Emperor and his premier should be
delivered over to him to reveal in what part of the lake the treasures
were sunk. Cortes, who had faced so many storms, was this time weak and
inhuman enough to yield to this monster. Guatemozin and his loyal
premier were stretched upon the rack. The Emperor bore all the torments
which the brute could devise with wonderful firmness. His premier
imitated his example, but when they proceeded to put him to still more
inhuman torture, he uttered a loud cry and turned his eyes to his master
as if asking permission to confess what he knew. Guatemozin understood
the look and said with the utmost composure, “Am I lying upon a bed of
roses?” His words went to the heart of his faithful servant. Not a loud
sound escaped his lips again as he expired before the eyes of his
tortured master with the sublime steadfastness of a hero and the
tranquillity of a saint.

Cortes, who had heard from a distance the outcry of the poor man,
overcome by remorse and shame, rushed to the apartment and saved the
life of the tortured Emperor.

                              Chapter XVI
     Tapia, Commissioned to Depose Cortes, is Induced to Return to
 Cuba—Cortes is Confirmed as Governor of New Spain—He Goes to Spain and
  is Ennobled—A Second Visit to Spain Discloses the Fickleness of the
           Court—He Vainly Begs the Emperor’s Favor—His Death

The conquest of imperial provinces shortly followed the capture of the
city. One after another surrendered and their people suffered the same
hard fate which the American islanders had endured for twenty years.
They were enslaved and cruelly treated. Cortes in the meantime received
no reply from Spain and was uncertain how his operations were regarded
there. At last a vessel arrived at Vera Cruz, having on board a certain
Tapia, who had been sent to depose Cortes, bring him to trial, and fill
his position. Fortunately for Cortes, this man was both weak and
cowardly. He cunningly interposed so many obstacles and intimidated him
in so many ways that Tapia thought the safest course for him was to
return home without making any attempt to carry out the object of his
mission. Cortes also knew that he was a very covetous man and offered to
purchase his horses, slaves, and entire outfit indeed, at a handsome
price. Tapia was willing to sell and returned to Cuba with a goodly
amount of gold.

The storm impending over Cortes’ head, however, soon began to gather
again. In hopes of escaping it, he sent other messengers to Spain to lay
before the Emperor, Charles the Fifth, a complete report of his
operations and present him with his share of the booty. The brilliancy
of his deeds and the greatness and importance of his conquest both
rejoiced and amazed the young monarch. He not only approved of all that
Cortes had done but invested him with the dignity of Governor of New
Spain, and appointed a commission to investigate the pretensions of
Velasquez. As might have been expected, this commission made a report in
accordance with their master’s wishes. Velasquez’ complaint of Cortes’
disloyalty and his claims of governorship over the newly conquered
territory were pronounced null and void, and he was declared entitled to
no further compensation than the legitimate cost of the expedition. This
twofold disgrace was more than the proud and passionate Velasquez could
endure. It cost him his life and Cortes now found himself at the very
summit of fortune’s pinnacle.

He began to raise Mexico from its ruins and to consolidate the Spanish
power in the Empire. In carrying out his plans he resorted to the most
cruel and arbitrary measures, which invited the Mexicans to revolt
again. This revolt was speedily crushed, however, and inhuman penalties
were inflicted upon caciques and nobles. Upon the mere rumor that
Guatemozin had encouraged the Mexicans, that brave, magnanimous prince
and also the caciques of Tezcuco and Tacuba were hanged. Some Spanish
officials who had been sent to Mexico to administer the royal revenues
attempted to exercise authority without recognizing Cortes. But Cortes
was not in the habit of allowing his inferiors to treat him
contemptuously. He laughed at their efforts to weaken his authority. The
officials, however, sent to the Spanish Court a description of Cortes’
character and his administration. Their statements made such an
impression that it was decided to send a commissioner to Mexico to
investigate Cortes’ transactions, and if his findings warranted it, to
send him to Spain. When the commissioner arrived, however, he was taken
ill and died.

Cortes’ danger was not yet over. The officials continued sending
unfavorable reports to Spain and a new commission was appointed with
absolute power to investigate and punish him. Cortes was informed of its
purposes. He was furiously indignant to find the arduous and important
service he had rendered the fatherland thus requited, and his friends
counselled him, in view of such shameful treatment, to meet force with
force. He hesitated, however, to take a step which would conflict with
the loyalty and obedience he owed his sovereign, and at last decided to
suffer ungrateful and shameful treatment rather than resist the legal
authority of his country. He resolved to go to Spain and entrust his
fate to the mercy and justice of the King.

As he appeared before his sovereign, all eyes were turned with
admiration and respect upon the man whose achievements seemed to eclipse
those of the great heroes. The modesty with which he plead his cause
before the high judges removed the suspicions they had entertained. The
King received him with expressions of the highest respect and gratitude
and showered favors upon him. He decorated him with the order of St.
Iago, elevated him to the rank of count, and conferred upon him a broad
stretch of territory in Mexico which would yield him a large revenue.
But when they came to the confirmation of his governorship, it was
clearly apparent they considered it dangerous to invest him anew with
the power he might misuse. All that he received was his recognition as
general and permission to make new discoveries. The entire
administration of civil affairs was entrusted to a viceroy.

Cortes went back to Mexico, but from that time forward his career was
marked by an unbroken series of troubles. He was so hampered by the
viceroy’s strictness and so humiliated by his loss of authority that his
only relief was found in the discovery and conquest of new regions. He
fitted out an expedition on the west coast of Mexico for making
discoveries in the great South Sea and succeeded in finding the
peninsula of Lower California. Upon his return his life became so
embittered that he decided to go to Spain again, appeal to the justice
and former favor of the King, and lay his grievances before him in
person. He little anticipated the still greater troubles he must endure.
During his restless and martial life he had had little chance to know
the fickleness of a court and the unreliability of the favor of the
great. He was now to discover it.

He was coldly received, indifferently listened to, and his complaints
and appeals dismissed as of no consequence. He had grown old. What
further important service could he promise? What he had accomplished for
his King and country was forgotten or it was considered as already fully
recompensed. He found himself at the close of his career, like Columbus,
ignominiously treated by a thankless King and his malicious ministers,
and obliged to beg for justice. Six long wretched years passed in
solitude and neglect but at last grief and indignation at such treatment
brought his life to an end. He died October 11, 1547,[15] in the
sixty-third year of his age. His body at his express desire was taken to
New Spain, perhaps because he considered his ungrateful fatherland
unworthy to be its burial-place.[16]


[1]Diego Velasquez was born at Cúellar, Segovia, in 1465—some
   authorities say in 1458—and died at Havana, Cuba, in 1522 or 1523. He
   accompanied Columbus to Hispaniola (Haiti) in 1493.

[2]Francisco Hernandez de Cordova was born about 1475 and died at Leon,
   Nicaragua, in 1526. He was beheaded for attempting to set up an
   independent government in Honduras.

[3]Juan de Grijalva was born in Cuéllar in 1489 or 1490 and died in
   Nicaragua. He was a nephew of Velasquez and the discoverer of Mexico.

[4]Villa Rica has been a movable municipality. It was nominally founded
   on the present site of Vera Cruz and known as Villa Rica de la Vera
   Cruz. This was in 1519. Later, actual settlement was made farther
   north. In 1525 the site was changed to a place on the Rio de la
   Antigua. The final removal to the present site was made in 1599, the
   city being known by its present name, Vera Cruz.

[5]Picture-writing at this time was the means employed by the Mexican
   priesthood for recording religious festivals and legends, for keeping
   calendars of years, and for recording historical events, much after
   the manner of the Egyptian hieroglyphs.

[6]The Tlaxcalan Indians were less advanced in the arts than the Aztecs,
   but were very warlike and liberty-loving. Their principal pueblo was
   on the spot now occupied by the city of Tlaxcala. Some of their
   descendants still occupy that region.

[7]Cholula is a small town sixty miles southeast of the city of Mexico.
   Its principal feature is its so-called Pyramid, a lofty mound or
   series of mounds which was probably the site of the Indian village at
   the time of the conquest.

[8]Puebla is a Mexican State of about 12,000 square miles. Its capital
   is La Puebla de los Angeles, the second city in the Republic. It was
   the scene of many struggles during the conquest, and of revolts in
   the last century. The capital derives its name from the legend that
   angel hosts were seen in the heavens above its site before the

[9]Popocatepetl is a volcano forty-five miles southeast of the Mexican
   capital. Its crater is 5000 feet in width and the peak is 17,853 feet
   high. It is called the “smoking mountain,” from _popoca_, “to smoke,”
   and _tepetl_, “mountain.”

[10]Iztaccihuatl is an extinct volcano north of Popocatepetl, about
   17,000 feet high. It derives the name of “the white lady” because its
   west side bears some resemblance to a woman in a white shroud.

[11]The City of Mexico at the time of the conquest was in all its
   splendor and, as described by Cortes, “a thing of fairy creation
   rather than the work of mortal hands.” It was about twelve miles in
   circumference, intersected by canals, and connected with the mainland
   by six causeways. The lake has diminished in depth and extent and is
   now two and a half miles away from the city.

[12]“Tenochtitlan” (_nopal_ or _cactus on a stone_) was the original
   name of the city, afterward changed to “Mexico” in honor of the war
   god Mexitli.

[13]Montezuma, in Aztec Matenczoma, was born in 1479. He was the son of
   Axayacatl and succeeded his uncle in 1503. Some of his descendants
   are said to be living in Mexico now, and his name is still held in
   great respect among the Indians.

[14]Quetzalcoatl in the Mexican religion represents the god of the air,
   and in legend a ruler and civilizer. He is described as a white man
   with long black hair and beard, who came from Yucatan and preached
   austerity and virtue as well as hatred of war. His name means “the
   feathered serpent.”

[15]Other authorities assign December 2, 1554, as the date of his death.

[16]Soon afterward he fell into neglect and could scarcely obtain an
   audience. One day, however, having forced his way through the crowd
   which surrounded the Emperor’s carriage and mounted on the doorstep,
   Charles, astonished at an act of such audacity, demanded to know who
   he was. “I am a man,” replied the conqueror of Mexico proudly, “who
   has given you more provinces than your ancestors left you cities.”


The following is a chronological statement of important events in
Cortes’ career:

    1485    Birth of Cortes.
    1504    Voyage to San Domingo.
    1511    Accompanies Velasquez to Cuba.
    1518    Expedition to Mexico.
    1519    Founding of Vera Cruz.
    1519    Defeat of the Tlaxcalans.
    1519    Cholulan massacre.
    1519    Interview with Montezuma.
    1520    Montezuma made prisoner.
    1520    Mexican revolt and Montezuma’s death.
    1520    Battle of Otumba.
    1520    Retreat from City of Mexico.
    1521    City of Mexico retaken.
    1521    Emperor Guatemozin hanged.
    1522    Cortes confirmed as Governor of New Spain.
    1523    Confirmation revoked and viceroy appointed.
    1536    Cortes discovers peninsula of Lower California.
    1547    Death of Cortes.

                     LIFE STORIES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

                    _Translated from the German by_
                            GEORGE P. UPTON

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