By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: History of the Conquest of Mexico; vol. 3/4
Author: Prescott, William Hickling
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "History of the Conquest of Mexico; vol. 3/4" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

produced from images available at The Internet Archive)

                           Montezuma Edition


                          TWENTY-TWO VOLUMES

                               VOL. III

_The Montezuma Edition of William H. Prescott’s Works is limited to one
                  thousand copies, of which this is_

                                No. 345



                                Page 4]

                          _Montezuma Edition_

                            HISTORY OF THE

                          Conquest of Mexico

                          WILLIAM H. PRESCOTT

                               EDITED BY
                         WILFRED HAROLD MUNRO


                           JOHN FOSTER KIRK

              “Victrices aquilas alium laturus in orbem”
                            LUCAN, Pharsalia, lib. v., v. 238

                               VOL. III

                        PHILADELPHIA AND LONDON
                       J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY

                Copyright, 1843, by WILLIAM H. PRESCOTT
                Copyright, 1871, by WILLIAM G. PRESCOTT
              Copyright, 1873, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.
             Copyright, 1904, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY

                      Electrotyped and Printed by
           J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, U. S. A.








Montezuma convenes his Nobles                                          3

Swears Allegiance to Spain                                             4

His Distress                                                           4

Its Effect on the Spaniards                                            5

Imperial Treasures                                                     7

Splendid Ornaments                                                     7

The Royal Fifth                                                        9

Amount of the Treasure                                                 9

Division of Spoil                                                     11

Murmurs of the Soldiery                                               11

Cortés calms the Storm                                                12

Progress in Conversion                                                14

Cortés demands the Teocalli                                           15

Christian Worship in the Sanctuary                                    17

National Attachment to Religion                                       18

Discontent of the Aztecs                                              19

Montezuma’s Warning                                                   20

Reply of Cortés                                                       20

Insecurity of the Castilian Quarters                                  22



Cortés’ Emissaries arrive in Spain                                    24

Their Fate                                                            25

Proceedings at Court                                                  26

The Bishop of Burgos                                                  27

Emperor postpones his Decision                                        28

Velasquez meditates Revenge                                           29

Sends Narvaez against Cortés                                          30

The Audience interferes                                               31

Narvaez sails for Mexico                                              33

He anchors off San Juan de Ulua                                       33

Vaunts of Narvaez                                                     34

Sandoval prepares for Defence                                         36

His Treatment of the Invaders                                         36

Cortés hears of Narvaez                                               37

He bribes his Emissaries                                              38

Sends an Envoy to his Camp                                            40

The Friar’s Intrigues                                                 41

Embarrassment of Cortés                                               43

He prepares for Departure                                             43

He leaves the Capital                                                 46



Cortés crosses the Valley                                             48

Reinforced at Cholula                                                 49

Falls in with his Envoy                                               49

Unites with Sandoval                                                  51

He reviews his Troops                                                 52

Embassy from Narvaez                                                  53

His Letter to the General                                             54

Cortés Tenure of Authority                                            54

Negotiates with Narvaez                                               56

Spaniards resume their March                                          57

Prepares for the Assault                                              58

Cortés harangues the Soldiers                                         58

Their Enthusiasm in his Cause                                         59

He divides his Forces                                                 60

Quarters of Narvaez at Cempoalla                                      60

Cortés crosses the Rio de Canoas                                      62

Surprises Narvaez by Night                                            63

Tumult in his Camp                                                    65

Narvaez wounded and taken                                             66

The Sanctuary in Flames                                               66

The Garrisons surrender                                               67

Cortés gives Audience to his Captives                                 69

Reflections on the Enterprise                                         70



Discontent of the Troops of Narvaez                                   74

Policy of Cortés                                                      75

He displeases his Veterans                                            76

He divides his Forces                                                 77

News of an Insurrection in the Capital                                78

Cortés prepares to return                                             79

Arrives at Tlascala                                                   80

Beautiful Landscape                                                   81

Disposition of the Natives                                            82

News from the Spaniards in Mexico                                     83

Cortés marches to the Capital                                         84

Signs of Alienation in the Aztecs                                     84

Spaniards re-enter the Capital                                        84

Cause of the Insurrection                                             85

Massacre by Alvarado                                                  87

His Apology for the Deed                                              88

His probable Motives                                                  90

Rising of the Aztecs                                                  92

Assault the Garrison                                                  92

Cortés reprimands his Officer                                         94

His Coldness to Montezuma                                             95

Cortés releases Montezuma’s Brother                                   96

He heads the Aztecs                                                   97

The City in Arms                                                      98

Notice of Oveido                                                      98

His Life and Writings                                                100

Camargo’s History                                                    102





Quarters of the Spaniards                                            107

Desperate Assault of the Aztecs                                      108

Cannonade of the Besieged                                            109

Indians fire the Outworks                                            111

Fury of the Mexicans                                                 113

Appearance of their Forces                                           114

Sally of the Spaniards                                               115

Aztecs shower Missiles from the _Azoteas_                            116

Their Dwellings in Flames                                            117

Spaniards sound the Retreat                                          118

Gallantry of Cortés                                                  118

Resolute Bearing of the Aztecs                                       119

Cortés requests Montezuma to interpose                               121

He ascends the Turret                                                123

Addresses his Subjects                                               123

Is dangerously wounded                                               124

His Grief and Humiliation                                            125



The Aztecs hold the Great Temple                                     127

It is stormed by the Spaniards                                       128

Spirited Resistance                                                  129

Bloody Combat on the Area                                            130

Heroism of Cortés                                                    131

Spaniards victorious                                                 132

Conflagration of the Temple                                          133

Cortés invites a Parley                                              134

He addresses the Aztecs                                              135

Spirit of the Aztecs                                                 135

The Spaniards dismayed                                               136

Distresses of the Garrison                                           137

Military Machine of Cortés                                           140

Impeded by the Canals                                                141

Sharp Combats in the City                                            142

Bold Bearing of Cortés                                               143

Apparition of St. James                                              145

Attempt to convert Montezuma                                         147

Its Failure                                                          148

Last Hours of Montezuma                                              149

His Character                                                        151

His Posterity                                                        155

Effect of his Death on the Spaniards                                 156

Interment of Montezuma                                               157



Council of War                                                       158

Predictions of the Astrologer                                        159

Their Effect on Cortés                                               160

He decides to abandon the Capital                                    160

Arranges his Order of March                                          162

Spaniards leave the City                                             163

Noche Triste, or the “Melancholy Night”                              164

The Capital is roused                                                165

Spaniards assailed on the Causeway                                   166

The Bridge wedged in the Stones                                      166

Despair of the Spaniards                                             167

Fearful Carnage                                                      167

Wreck of Bodies and Treasure                                         169

Spaniards arrive at the Third Breach                                 169

The Cavaliers return to the Rescue                                   170

Condition of the Rear                                                171

Alvarado’s Leap                                                      172

Sad Spectacle of the Survivors                                       174

Feelings of Cortés                                                   174

Spaniards defile through Tacuba                                      176

Storm the Temple                                                     176

Halt for the Night                                                   177

Reflections of the General                                           178

The Loss of the Spaniards                                            179



Quiet of the Mexicans                                                183

The Spaniards resume their Retreat                                   184

Distresses of the Army                                               186

Their heroic Fortitude                                               188

Pyramids of Teotihuacan                                              189

Account of them                                                      189

Their probable Destination                                           191

The _Micoatl_, or Path of the Dead                                   193

The Races who reared them                                            193

Indian Host in the Valley of Otumba                                  194

Sensations of the Spaniards                                          195

Instructions of Cortés                                               196

He leads the Attack                                                  197

Great Battle of Otumba                                               198

Gallantry of the Spaniards                                           198

Their Forces in Disorder                                             199

Desperate Effort of Cortés                                           200

The Aztec Chief is slain                                             201

The Barbarians put to Flight                                         201

Rich Spoil for the Victors                                           202

Reflections on the Battle                                            203



Spaniards arrive at Tlascala                                         206

Family Reception                                                     207

Feelings of the Tlascalans                                           208

Spaniards recruit their Strength                                     210

Their further Misfortunes                                            210

Tidings from Villa Rica                                              211

Indomitable Spirit of Cortés                                         211

Discontent of the Army                                               212

Their Remonstrance                                                   212

The General’s resolute Reply                                         214

Jealousy of the Tlascalans                                           216

Cortés strives to allay it                                           217

Events in Mexico                                                     217

Preparations for Defence                                             218

Aztec Embassy to Tlascala                                            219

Stormy Debate in the Senate                                          220

Mexican Alliance rejected                                            222



War with the surrounding Tribes                                      223

Battle with the Tepeacans                                            225

They are branded as Slaves                                           225

Hostilities with the Aztecs renewed                                  227

Suspicions of the Allies                                             228

Cortés heads his Forces                                              229

Capture of Quauhquechollan                                           229

Mexicans routed                                                      230

Spaniards follow up the Blow                                         231

Cortés’ Treatment of his Allies                                      232

State of his Resources                                               233

Building of the Brigantines                                          233

Death of Maxixca                                                     234

The Smallpox in Mexico                                               234

The disaffected Soldiers leave the Army                              236

Arrival of Reinforcements                                            237

Further Good Fortune of Cortés                                       238

His Letter to the Emperor                                            239

Memorial of the Army                                                 241

The Policy of Cortés                                                 242

Returns in Triumph to Tlascala                                       243

Prepares for the final Campaign                                      245



The Aztec Monarch dies                                               246

The Electors appoint another                                         246

Prayer of the High-priest                                            247

Guatemozin elected Emperor                                           249

Prepares for War                                                     249

Amount of the Spanish Force                                          250

Cortés reviews his Troops                                            251

His animated Address                                                 251

Number of the Indian Allies                                          252

Their brilliant Array                                                253

Military Code of Cortés                                              254

Its Purpose                                                          255

Its salutary Provisions                                              255

The Troops begin their March                                         258

Designs of Cortés                                                    258

He selects his Route                                                 259

Crosses the Sierra                                                   260

Magnificent View of the Valley                                       261

Energy of Cortés                                                     263

Affairs in Tezcuco                                                   264

Spaniards arrive there                                               265

Overtures of the Tezcucans                                           266

Spanish Quarters in Tezcuco                                          267

The Inhabitants leave the Town                                       268

Prince Ixtlilxochitl                                                 269

His youthful Excesses                                                270

Disputes the Succession                                              272

Becomes the fast Friend of the Spaniards                             272

Life and Writings of Gomara                                          272

Of Bernal Diaz                                                       274





Headquarters at Tezcuco                                              281

Cortés distrusts the Natives                                         282

Negotiates with the Aztecs                                           283

City of Iztapalapan                                                  284

Spaniards march upon it                                              285

Sack the Town                                                        286

Natives break down the Dikes                                         287

Spaniards struggle in the Flood                                      288

Regain their Quarters in Tezcuco                                     288

Indian Cities tender Allegiance                                      289

Some ask for Protection                                              289

Cortés detaches Sandoval to their Aid                                290

Difficult Situation of Cortés                                        291

His sagacious Policy                                                 293

Makes Overtures to Guatemozin                                        295

Spirit of the Indian Emperor                                         295

The Brigantines are completed                                        297

Sandoval detached to transport them                                  297

Signs of the Massacre at Zoltepec                                    298

Reaches Tlascala                                                     299

Transportation of the Brigantines                                    299

Joy at their Arrival                                                 301

Reflections                                                          301



Cortés reconnoitres the Capital                                      304

Action of Xaltocan                                                   305

Spaniards ford the Lake                                              306

Towns deserted as they advance                                       307

Beautiful Environs of Mexico                                         308

Cortés occupies Tacuba                                               308

The Allies fire the Town                                             310

Ambuscade of the Aztecs                                              311

Parley with the Enemy                                                312

Single Combats                                                       313

Position of the Parties                                              314

Spaniards return to Tezcuco                                          314

Embassy from Chalco                                                  316

Sandoval is detached to defend it                                    317

Takes Huaxtepec                                                      318

Storms Jacapichtla                                                   319

Puts the Garrison to the Sword                                       320

Countermarch on Chalco                                               321

Cortés’ Coolness with Sandoval                                       322

His Reconciliation                                                   322

Arrival of Reinforcements                                            323

The Dominican Friar                                                  324



Second reconnoitring Expedition                                      325

Preparations for the March                                           326

Spaniards enter the Sierra                                           326

Engagements in the Passes                                            327

Rocks rolled down by the Aztecs                                      327

Enemy routed                                                         328

Spaniards bivouac in the Mulberry Grove                              329

Storm the Cliffs                                                     329

March through the Mountains                                          331

Arrive at Cuernavaca                                                 332

Scenery in its Environs                                              332

Bold Passage of the Ravine                                           334

Capture of the City                                                  335

Cortés recrosses the Sierra                                          336

Exquisite View of the Valley                                         336

Marches against Xochimilco                                           337

Narrow Escape of Cortés                                              339

Chivalric Spirit of the Age                                          340

Cortés surveys the Country                                           342

Vigilance in his Quarters                                            342

Battles at Xochimilco                                                343

Spaniards Masters of the Town                                        344

Conflagration of Xochimilco                                          346

Army arrives at Cojohuacan                                           347

Ambuscade of the Indians                                             349

Spaniards enter Tacuba                                               350

View from its Teocalli                                               350

Strong Emotion of Cortés                                             351

Return of Tezcuco                                                    352



Affairs in Spain                                                     354

Conspiracy in the Camp                                               356

Its Design                                                           357

Disclosed to Cortez                                                  358

The Ringleader Executed                                              359

Policy of Cortés                                                     360

The General’s Body-guard                                             362

Brigantines launched                                                 363

Impression on the Spectators                                         364

Muster of Forces                                                     364

Instructions to the Allies                                           366

Cortés distributes his Troops                                        367

His Spirited Harangue                                                368

Regulations read to the Army                                         369

Desertion of Xicotencatl                                             369

His Execution                                                        371

His Character                                                        372

March of the Army                                                    373

Quarrels of Olid and Alvarado                                        373

Spaniards destroy the Aqueduct                                       374

Commencement of the Siege                                            376



MONTEZUMA SWEARS ALLEGIANCE TO SPAIN                       _Frontispiece_

From a painting especially made for this edition by L. Kowalsky.

THE STORMING OF THE GREAT TEMPLE                                     130

After the painting by W. de Leftwich-Dodge

THE NOCHE TRISTE                                                     168

After the painting in the Academy of Fine Arts at Mexico.

THE GREAT BATTLE OF OTUMBA                                           196

After the painting by M. Ramirez.

ADRIAN OF UTRECHT (POPE ADRIAN VI.)                                  354

After the painting in the Galleria Uffizi at Florence.








Cortés now felt his authority sufficiently assured to demand from
Montezuma a formal recognition of the supremacy of the Spanish emperor.
The Indian monarch had intimated his willingness to acquiesce in this,
on their very first interview. He did not object, therefore, to call
together his principal caciques for the purpose. When they were
assembled, he made them an address, briefly stating the object of the
meeting. They were all acquainted, he said, with the ancient tradition
that the great Being who had once ruled over the land had declared, on
his departure, that he should return at some future time and resume his
sway. That time had now arrived. The white men had come from the quarter
where the sun rises, beyond the ocean, to which the good deity had
withdrawn. They were sent by their master to reclaim the obedience of
his ancient subjects. For himself, he was ready to acknowledge his
authority. “You have been faithful vassals of mine,” continued
Montezuma, “during the many years that I have sat on the throne of my
fathers. I now expect that you will show me this last act of obedience
by acknowledging the great king beyond the waters to be your lord, also,
and that you will pay him tribute in the same manner as you have
hitherto done to me.”[1] As he concluded, his voice was nearly stifled
by his emotion, and the tears fell fast down his cheeks.

His nobles, many of whom, coming from a distance, had not kept pace with
the changes which had been going on in the capital, were filled with
astonishment as they listened to his words and beheld the voluntary
abasement of their master, whom they had hitherto reverenced as the
omnipotent lord of Anahuac. They were the more affected, therefore, by
the sight of his distress.[2] His will, they told him, had always been
their law. It should be so now; and, if he thought the sovereign of the
strangers was the ancient lord of their country, they were willing to
acknowledge him as such still. The oaths of allegiance were then
administered with all due solemnity, attested by the Spaniards present,
and a full record of the proceedings was drawn up by the royal notary,
to be sent to Spain.[3] There was something deeply touching in the
ceremony by which an independent and absolute monarch, in obedience less
to the dictates of fear than of conscience, thus relinquished his
hereditary rights in favor of an unknown and mysterious power. It even
moved those hard men who were thus unscrupulously availing themselves of
the confiding ignorance of the natives; and, though “it was in the
regular way of their own business,” says an old chronicler, “there was
not a Spaniard who could look on the spectacle with a dry eye”![4]

The rumor of these strange proceedings was soon circulated through the
capital and the country. Men read in them the finger of Providence. The
ancient tradition of Quetzalcoatl was familiar to all; and where it had
slept scarcely noticed in the memory, it was now revived with many
exaggerated circumstances. It was said to be part of the tradition that
the royal line of the Aztecs was to end with Montezuma; and his name,
the literal signification of which is “sad” or “angry lord,” was
construed into an omen of his evil destiny.[5]

Having thus secured this great feudatory to the crown of Castile, Cortés
suggested that it would be well for the Aztec chiefs to send his
sovereign such a gratuity as would conciliate his good will by
convincing him of the loyalty of his new vassals.[6] Montezuma consented
that his collectors should visit the principal cities and provinces,
attended by a number of Spaniards, to receive the customary tributes, in
the name of the Castilian sovereign. In a few weeks most of them
returned, bringing back large quantities of gold and silver plate, rich
stuffs, and the various commodities in which the taxes were usually

To this store Montezuma added, on his own account, the treasure of
Axayacatl, previously noticed, some part of which had been already given
to the Spaniards. It was the fruit of long and careful hoarding,--of
extortion, it may be,--by a prince who little dreamed of its final
destination. When brought into the quarters, the gold alone was
sufficient to make three great heaps. It consisted partly of native
grains; part had been melted into bars; but the greatest portion was in
utensils, and various kinds of ornaments and curious toys, together with
imitations of birds, insects, or flowers, executed with uncommon truth
and delicacy. There were, also, quantities of collars, bracelets, wands,
fans, and other trinkets, in which the gold and feather-work were richly
powdered with pearls and precious stones. Many of the articles were even
more admirable for the workmanship than for the value of the
materials;[7] such, indeed,--if we may take the report of Cortés to one
who would himself have soon an opportunity to judge of its veracity, and
whom it would not be safe to trifle with,--as no monarch in Europe could
boast in his dominions![8]

Magnificent as it was, Montezuma expressed his regret that the treasure
was no larger. But he had diminished it, he said, by his former gifts to
the white men. “Take it,” he added, “Malinche, and let it be recorded in
your annals that Montezuma sent this present to your master.”[9]

The Spaniards gazed with greedy eyes on the display of riches,[10] now
their own, which far exceeded all hitherto seen in the New World, and
fell nothing short of the _El Dorado_ which their glowing imaginations
had depicted. It may be that they felt somewhat rebuked by the contrast
which their own avarice presented to the princely munificence of the
barbarian chief. At least, they seemed to testify their sense of his
superiority by the respectful homage which they rendered him, as they
poured forth the fulness of their gratitude.[11] They were not so
scrupulous, however, as to manifest any delicacy in appropriating to
themselves the donative, a small part of which was to find its way into
the royal coffers. They clamored loudly for an immediate division of the
spoil, which the general would have postponed till the tributes from the
remoter provinces had been gathered in. The goldsmiths of Azcapozalco
were sent for to take in pieces the larger and coarser ornaments,
leaving untouched those of more delicate workmanship. Three days were
consumed in this labor, when the heaps of gold were cast into ingots and
stamped with the royal arms.

Some difficulty occurred in the division of the treasure, from the want
of weights, which, strange as it appears, considering their advancement
in the arts, were, as already observed, unknown to the Aztecs. The
deficiency was soon supplied by the Spaniards, however, with scales and
weights of their own manufacture, probably not the most exact. With the
aid of these they ascertained the value of the royal fifth to be
thirty-two thousand and four hundred _pesos de oro_.[12] Diaz swells it
to nearly four times that amount.[13] But their desire of securing the
emperor’s favor makes it improbable that the Spaniards should have
defrauded the exchequer of any part of its due; while, as Cortés was
responsible for the sum admitted in his letter, he would be still less
likely to overstate it. His estimate may be received as the true one.

The whole amounted, therefore, to one hundred and sixty-two thousand
_pesos de oro_, independently of the fine ornaments and jewelry, the
value of which Cortés computes at five hundred thousand ducats more.
There were, besides, five hundred marks of silver, chiefly in plate,
drinking-cups, and other articles of luxury. The inconsiderable quantity
of the silver, as compared with the gold, forms a singular contrast to
the relative proportions of the two metals since the occupation of the
country by the Europeans.[14] The whole amount of the treasure, reduced
to our own currency, and making allowance for the change in the value of
gold since the beginning of the sixteenth century, was about six million
three hundred thousand dollars, or one million four hundred and
seventeen thousand pounds sterling; a sum large enough to show the
incorrectness of the popular notion that little or no wealth was found
in Mexico.[15] It was, indeed, small in comparison with that obtained
by the conquerors of Peru. But few European monarchs of that day could
boast a larger treasure in their coffers.[16]

The division of the spoil was a work of some difficulty. A perfectly
equal division of it among the Conquerors would have given them more
than three thousand pounds sterling apiece; a magnificent booty! But
one-fifth was to be deducted for the crown. An equal portion was
reserved for the general, pursuant to the tenor of his commission. A
large sum was then allowed to indemnify him and the governor of Cuba for
the charges of the expedition and the loss of the fleet. The garrison of
Vera Cruz was also to be provided for. Ample compensation was made to
the principal cavaliers. The cavalry, arquebusiers, and crossbowmen each
received double pay. So that when the turn of the common soldiers came
there remained not more than a hundred _pesos de oro_ for each; a sum so
insignificant, in comparison with their expectations, that several
refused to accept it.[17]

Loud murmurs now rose among the men. “Was it for this,” they said, “that
we left our homes and families, perilled our lives, submitted to
fatigue and famine, and all for so contemptible a pittance? Better to
have stayed in Cuba and contented ourselves with the gains of a safe and
easy traffic. When we gave up our share of the gold at Vera Cruz, it was
on the assurance that we should be amply requited in Mexico. We have,
indeed, found the riches we expected; but no sooner seen, than they are
snatched from us by the very men who pledged us their faith!” The
malecontents even went so far as to accuse their leaders of
appropriating to themselves several of the richest ornaments before the
partition had been made; an accusation that receives some countenance
from a dispute which arose between Mexia, the treasurer for the crown,
and Velasquez de Leon, a relation of the governor, and a favorite of
Cortés. The treasurer accused this cavalier of purloining certain pieces
of plate before they were submitted to the royal stamp. From words the
parties came to blows. They were good swordsmen; several wounds were
given on both sides, and the affair might have ended fatally, but for
the interference of Cortés, who placed both under arrest.

He then used all his authority and insinuating eloquence to calm the
passions of his men. It was a delicate crisis. He was sorry, he said, to
see them so unmindful of the duty of loyal soldiers and cavaliers of the
Cross, as to brawl like common banditti over their booty. The division,
he assured them, had been made on perfectly fair and equitable
principles. As to his own share, it was no more than was warranted by
his commission. Yet, if they thought it too much, he was willing to
forego his just claims and divide with the poorest soldier. Gold,
however welcome, was not the chief object of his ambition. If it were
theirs, they should still reflect that the present treasure was little
in comparison with what awaited them hereafter; for had they not the
whole country and its mines at their disposal? It was only necessary
that they should not give an opening to the enemy, by their discord, to
circumvent and to crush them. With these honeyed words, of which he had
good store for all fitting occasions, says an old soldier,[18] for whose
benefit, in part, they were intended, he succeeded in calming the storm
for the present; while in private he took more effectual means, by
presents judiciously administered, to mitigate the discontents of the
importunate and refractory. And, although there were a few of more
tenacious temper, who treasured this in their memories against a future
day, the troops soon returned to their usual subordination. This was one
of those critical conjunctures which taxed all the address and personal
authority of Cortés. He never shrunk from them, but on such occasions
was true to himself. At Vera Cruz he had persuaded his followers to give
up what was but the earnest of future gains. Here he persuaded them to
relinquish these gains themselves. It was snatching the prey from the
very jaws of the lion. Why did he not turn and rend him?

To many of the soldiers, indeed, it mattered little whether their share
of the booty were more or less. Gaming is a deep-rooted passion in the
Spaniard, and the sudden acquisition of riches furnished both the means
and the motive for its indulgence. Cards were easily made out of old
parchment drum-heads, and in a few days most of the prize-money,
obtained with so much toil and suffering, had changed hands, and many of
the improvident soldiers closed the campaign as poor as they had
commenced it. Others, it is true, more prudent, followed the example of
their officers, who, with the aid of the royal jewellers, converted
their gold into chains, services of plate, and other portable articles
of ornament or use.[19]

Cortés seemed now to have accomplished the great objects of the
expedition. The Indian monarch had declared himself the feudatory of the
Spanish. His authority, his revenues, were at the disposal of the
general. The conquest of Mexico seemed to be achieved, and that without
a blow. But it was far from being achieved. One important step yet
remained to be taken, towards which the Spaniards had hitherto made
little progress,--the conversion of the natives. With all the exertions
of Father Olmedo, backed by the polemic talents of the general,[20]
neither Montezuma nor his subjects showed any disposition to abjure the
faith of their fathers.[21] The bloody exercises of their religion, on
the contrary, were celebrated with all the usual circumstance and pomp
of sacrifice before the eyes of the Spaniards.

Unable further to endure these abominations, Cortés, attended by several
of his cavaliers, waited on Montezuma. He told the emperor that the
Christians could no longer consent to have the services of their
religion shut up within the narrow walls of the garrison. They wished to
spread its light far abroad, and to open to the people a full
participation in the blessings of Christianity. For this purpose, they
requested that the great _teocalli_ should be delivered up as a fit
place where their worship might be conducted in the presence of the
whole city.

Montezuma listened to the proposal with visible consternation. Amidst
all his troubles he had leaned for support on his own faith, and,
indeed, it was in obedience to it that he had shown such deference to
the Spaniards as the mysterious messengers predicted by the oracles.
“Why,” said he, “Malinche, why will you urge matters to an extremity,
that must surely bring down the vengeance of our gods, and stir up an
insurrection among my people, who will never endure this profanation of
their temples?”[22]

Cortés, seeing how greatly he was moved, made a sign to his officers to
withdraw. When left alone with the interpreters, he told the emperor
that he would use his influence to moderate the zeal of his followers,
and persuade them to be contented with one of the sanctuaries of the
_teocalli_. If that were not granted, they should be obliged to take it
by force, and to roll down the images of his false deities in the face
of the city. “We fear not for our lives,” he added, “for, though our
numbers are few, the arm of the true God is over us.” Montezuma, much
agitated, told him that he would confer with the priests.

The result of the conference was favorable to the Spaniards, who were
allowed to occupy one of the sanctuaries as a place of worship. The
tidings spread great joy throughout the camp. They might now go forth in
open day and publish their religion to the assembled capital. No time
was lost in availing themselves of the permission. The sanctuary was
cleansed of its disgusting impurities. An altar was raised, surmounted
by a crucifix and the image of the Virgin. Instead of the gold and
jewels which blazed on the neighboring pagan shrine, its walls were
decorated with fresh garlands of flowers; and an old soldier was
stationed to watch over the chapel and guard it from intrusion.

When these arrangements were completed, the whole army moved in solemn
procession up the winding ascent of the pyramid. Entering the sanctuary,
and clustering round its portals, they listened reverentially to the
service of the mass, as it was performed by the fathers Olmedo and Diaz.
And, as the beautiful _Te Deum_ rose towards heaven, Cortés and his
soldiers, kneeling on the ground, with tears streaming from their eyes,
poured forth their gratitude to the Almighty for this glorious triumph
of the Cross.[23]

It was a striking spectacle,--that of these rude warriors lifting up
their orisons on the summit of this mountain temple, in the very capital
of heathendom, on the spot especially dedicated to its unhallowed
mysteries. Side by side, the Spaniard and the Aztec knelt down in
prayer; and the Christian hymn mingled its sweet tones of love and mercy
with the wild chant raised by the Indian priest in honor of the war-god
of Anahuac! It was an unnatural union, and could not long abide.

A nation will endure any outrage sooner than that on its religion. This
is an outrage both on its principles and its prejudices; on the ideas
instilled into it from childhood, which have strengthened with its
growth, until they become a part of its nature,--which have to do with
its highest interests here, and with the dread hereafter. Any violence
to the religious sentiment touches all alike, the old and the young, the
rich and the poor, the noble and the plebeian. Above all, it touches the
priests, whose personal consideration rests on that of their religion,
and who, in a semi-civilized state of society, usually hold an unbounded
authority. Thus it was with the Brahmins of India, the Magi of Persia,
the Roman Catholic clergy in the Dark Ages, the priests of Ancient Egypt
and Mexico.

The people had borne with patience all the injuries and affronts
hitherto put on them by the Spaniards. They had seen their sovereign
dragged as a captive from his own palace, his ministers butchered before
his eyes, his treasure seized and appropriated, himself in a manner
deposed from his royal supremacy. All this they had seen, without a
struggle to prevent it. But the profanation of their temples touched a
deeper feeling, of which the priesthood were not slow to take

The first intimation of this change of feeling was gathered from
Montezuma himself. Instead of his usual cheerfulness, he appeared grave
and abstracted, and instead of seeking, as he was wont, the society of
the Spaniards, seemed rather to shun it. It was noticed, too, that
conferences were more frequent between him and the nobles, and
especially the priests. His little page, Orteguilla, who had now picked
up a tolerable acquaintance with the Aztec, contrary to Montezuma’s
usual practice, was not allowed to attend him at these meetings. These
circumstances could not fail to awaken most uncomfortable apprehensions
in the Spaniards.

Not many days elapsed, however, before Cortés received an invitation, or
rather a summons, from the emperor to attend him in his apartment. The
general went with some feelings of anxiety and distrust, taking with him
Olid, captain of the guard, and two or three other trusty cavaliers.
Montezuma received them with cold civility, and, turning to the general,
told him that all his predictions had come to pass. The gods of his
country had been offended by the violation of their temples. They had
threatened the priests that they would forsake the city if the
sacrilegious strangers were not driven from it, or rather sacrificed on
the altars in expiation of their crimes.[25] The monarch assured the
Christians it was from regard for their safety that he communicated
this; and, “if you have any regard for it yourselves,” he concluded,
“you will leave the country without delay. I have only to raise my
finger, and every Aztec in the land will rise in arms against you.”
There was no reason to doubt his sincerity. For Montezuma, whatever
evils had been brought on him by the white men, held them in reverence
as a race more highly gifted than his own, while for several, as we have
seen, he had conceived an attachment, flowing, no doubt, from their
personal attentions and deference to himself.

Cortés was too much master of his feelings to show how far he was
startled by this intelligence. He replied, with admirable coolness, that
he should regret much to leave the capital so precipitately, when he
had no vessels to take him from the country. If it were not for this,
there could be no obstacle to his leaving it at once. He should also
regret another step to which he should be driven, if he quitted it under
these circumstances,--that of taking the emperor along with him.

Montezuma was evidently troubled by this last suggestion. He inquired
how long it would take to build the vessels, and finally consented to
send a sufficient number of workmen to the coast, to act under the
orders of the Spaniards; meanwhile, he would use his authority to
restrain the impatience of the people, under the assurance that the
white men would leave the land when the means for it were provided. He
kept his word. A large body of Aztec artisans left the capital with the
most experienced Castilian shipbuilders, and, descending to Vera Cruz,
began at once to fell the timber and build a sufficient number of ships
to transport the Spaniards back to their own country. The work went
forward with apparent alacrity. But those who had the direction of it,
it is said, received private instructions from the general to interpose
as many delays as possible, in hopes of receiving in the mean time such
reinforcements from Europe as would enable him to maintain his

The whole aspect of things was now changed in the Castilian quarters.
Instead of the security and repose in which the troops had of late
indulged, they felt a gloomy apprehension of danger, not the less
oppressive to the spirits that it was scarcely visible to the eye;--like
the faint speck just descried above the horizon by the voyager in the
tropics, to the common gaze seeming only a summer cloud, but which to
the experienced mariner bodes the coming of the hurricane. Every
precaution that prudence could devise was taken to meet it. The soldier,
as he threw himself on his mats for repose, kept on his armor. He ate,
drank, slept, with his weapons by his side. His horse stood ready
caparisoned, day and night, with the bridle hanging at the saddle-bow.
The guns were carefully planted so as to command the great avenues. The
sentinels were doubled, and every man, of whatever rank, took his turn
in mounting guard. The garrison was in a state of siege.[27] Such was
the uncomfortable position of the army when, in the beginning of May,
1520, six months after their arrival in the capital, tidings came from
the coast which gave greater alarm to Cortés than even the menaced
insurrection of the Aztecs.




Before explaining the nature of the tidings alluded to in the preceding
chapter, it will be necessary to cast a glance over some of the
transactions of an earlier period. The vessel, which, as the reader may
remember, bore the envoys Puertocarrero and Montejo with the despatches
from Vera Cruz, after touching, contrary to orders, at the northern
coast of Cuba, and spreading the news of the late discoveries, held on
its way uninterrupted towards Spain, and early in October, 1519, reached
the little port of San Lucar. Great was the sensation caused by her
arrival and the tidings which she brought; a sensation scarcely inferior
to that created by the original discovery of Columbus. For now, for the
first time, all the magnificent anticipations formed of the World seemed
destined to be realized.

Unfortunately, there was a person in Seville at this time, named Benito
Martin, chaplain of Velasquez, the governor of Cuba. No sooner did this
man learn the arrival of the envoys, and the particulars of their story,
than he lodged a complaint with the _Casa de Contratacion_,--the Royal
India House,--charging those on board the vessel with mutiny and
rebellion against the authorities of Cuba, as well as with treason to
the crown.[28] In consequence of his representations, the ship was taken
possession of by the public officers, and those on board were prohibited
from removing their own effects, or anything else, from her. The envoys
were not even allowed the funds necessary for the expenses of the
voyage, nor a considerable sum remitted by Cortés to his father, Don
Martin. In this embarrassment they had no alternative but to present
themselves, as speedily as possible, before the emperor, deliver the
letters with which they had been charged by the colony, and seek redress
for their own grievances. They first sought out Martin Cortés, residing
at Medellin, and with him made the best of their way to court.

Charles the Fifth was then on his first visit to Spain after his
accession. It was not a long one; long enough, however, to disgust his
subjects, and, in a great degree, to alienate their affections. He had
lately received intelligence of his election to the imperial crown of
Germany. From that hour his eyes were turned to that quarter. His stay
in the Peninsula was prolonged only that he might raise supplies for
appearing with splendor on the great theatre of Europe. Every act showed
too plainly that the diadem of his ancestors was held lightly in
comparison with the imperial bauble in which neither his countrymen nor
his own posterity could have the slightest interest. The interest was
wholly personal.

Contrary to established usage, he had summoned the Castilian córtes to
meet at Compostella, a remote town in the north, which presented no
other advantage than that of being near his place of embarkation.[29] On
his way thither he stopped some time at Tordesillas, the residence of
his unhappy mother, Joanna “the Mad.” It was here that the envoys from
Vera Cruz presented themselves before him, in March, 1520. At nearly the
same time, the treasures brought over by them reached the court, where
they excited unbounded admiration.[30] Hitherto, the returns from the
New World had been chiefly in vegetable products, which, if the surest,
are also the slowest sources of wealth. Of gold they had as yet seen but
little, and that in its natural state or wrought into the rudest
trinkets. The courtiers gazed with astonishment on the large masses of
the precious metal, and the delicate manufacture of the various
articles, especially of the richly tinted feather-work. And, as they
listened to the accounts, written and oral, of the great Aztec empire,
they felt assured that the Castilian ships had at length reached the
golden Indies, which hitherto had seemed to recede before them.

In this favorable mood there is little doubt the monarch would have
granted the petition of the envoys, and confirmed the irregular
proceedings of the Conquerors, but for the opposition of a person who
held the highest office in the Indian department. This was Juan
Rodriguez de Fonseca, formerly dean of Seville, now bishop of Burgos. He
was a man of noble family, and had been intrusted with the direction of
the colonial concerns on the discovery of the New World. On the
establishment of the Royal Council of the Indies by Ferdinand the
Catholic, he had been made its president, and had occupied that post
ever since. His long continuance in a position of great importance and
difficulty is evidence of capacity for business. It was no uncommon
thing in that age to find ecclesiastics in high civil, and even
military, employments. Fonseca appears to have been an active, efficient
person, better suited to a secular than to a religious vocation. He had,
indeed, little that was religious in his temper; quick to take offence
and slow to forgive. His resentments seem to have been nourished and
perpetuated like a part of his own nature. Unfortunately, his peculiar
position enabled him to display them towards some of the most
illustrious men of his time. From pique at some real or fancied slight
from Columbus, he had constantly thwarted the plans of the great
navigator. He had shown the same unfriendly feeling towards the
Admiral’s son, Diego, the heir of his honors; and he now, and from this
time forward, showed a similar spirit towards the Conqueror of Mexico.
The immediate cause of this was his own personal relations with
Velasquez, to whom a near relative was betrothed.[31]

Through this prelate’s representations, Charles, instead of a favorable
answer to the envoys, postponed his decision till he should arrive at
Coruña, the place of embarkation.[32] But here he was much pressed by
the troubles which his impolitic conduct had raised, as well as by
preparations for his voyage. The transaction of the colonial business,
which, long postponed, had greatly accumulated on his hands, was
reserved for the last week in Spain. But the affairs of the “young
admiral” consumed so large a portion of this, that he had no time to
give to those of Cortés, except, indeed, to instruct the board at
Seville to remit to the envoys so much of their funds as was required to
defray the charges of the voyage. On the 16th of May, 1520, the
impatient monarch bade adieu to his distracted kingdom, without one
attempt to settle the dispute between his belligerent vassals in the New
World, and without an effort to promote the magnificent enterprise
which was to secure to him the possession of an empire. What a contrast
to the policy of his illustrious predecessors, Ferdinand and

The governor of Cuba, meanwhile, without waiting for support from home,
took measures for redress into his own hands. We have seen in a
preceding chapter how deeply he was moved by the reports of the
proceedings of Cortés, and of the treasures which his vessel was bearing
to Spain. Rage, mortification, disappointed avarice, distracted his
mind. He could not forgive himself for trusting the affair to such
hands. On the very week in which Cortés had parted from him to take
charge of the fleet, a _capitulation_ had been signed by Charles the
Fifth, conferring on Velasquez the title of _adelantado_, with great
augmentation of his original powers.[34] The governor resolved, without
loss of time, to send such a force to the Mexican coast as should enable
him to assert his new authority to its full extent and to take vengeance
on his rebellious officer. He began his preparations as early as
October.[35] At first he proposed to assume the command in person. But
his unwieldy size, which disqualified him for the fatigues incident to
such an expedition, or, according to his own account, tenderness for his
Indian subjects, then wasted by an epidemic, induced him to devolve the
command on another.[36]

The person whom he selected was a Castilian hidalgo, named Pánfilo de
Narvaez. He had assisted Velasquez in the reduction of Cuba, where his
conduct cannot be wholly vindicated from the charge of inhumanity which
too often attaches to the early Spanish adventurers. From that time he
continued to hold important posts under the government, and was a
decided favorite with Velasquez. He was a man of some military capacity,
though negligent and lax in his discipline. He possessed undoubted
courage, but it was mingled with an arrogance, or rather overweening
confidence in his own powers, which made him deaf to the suggestions of
others more sagacious than himself. He was altogether deficient in that
prudence and calculating foresight demanded in a leader who was to cope
with an antagonist like Cortés.[37]

The governor and his lieutenant were unwearied in their efforts to
assemble an army. They visited every considerable town in the island,
fitting out vessels, laying in stores and ammunition, and encouraging
volunteers to enlist by liberal promises. But the most effectual bounty
was the assurance of the rich treasures that awaited them in the golden
regions of Mexico. So confident were they in this expectation, that all
classes and ages vied with one another in eagerness to embark in the
expedition, until it seemed as if the whole white population would
desert the island and leave it to its primitive occupants.[38]

The report of these proceedings soon spread through the Islands, and
drew the attention of the Royal Audience of St. Domingo. This body was
intrusted, at that time, not only with the highest judicial authority in
the colonies, but with a civil jurisdiction, which, as “the Admiral”
complained, encroached on his own rights. The tribunal saw with alarm
the proposed expedition of Velasquez, which, whatever might be its issue
in regard to the parties, could not fail to compromise the interests of
the crown. They chose accordingly one of their number, the licentiate
Ayllon, a man of prudence and resolution, and despatched him to Cuba,
with instructions to interpose his authority, and stay, if possible, the
proceedings of Velasquez.[39]

On his arrival, he found the governor in the western part of the island,
busily occupied in getting the fleet ready for sea. The licentiate
explained to him the purport of his mission, and the views entertained
of the proposed enterprise by the Royal Audience. The conquest of a
powerful country like Mexico required the whole force of the Spaniards,
and, if one half were employed against the other, nothing but ruin could
come of it. It was the governor’s duty, as a good subject, to forego all
private animosities, and to sustain those now engaged in the great work
by sending them the necessary supplies. He might, indeed, proclaim his
own powers and demand obedience to them. But, if this were refused, he
should leave the determination of his dispute to the authorized
tribunals, and employ his resources in prosecuting discovery in another
direction, instead of hazarding all by hostilities with his rival.

This admonition, however sensible and salutary, was not at all to the
taste of the governor. He professed, indeed, to have no intention of
coming to hostilities with Cortés. He designed only to assert his lawful
jurisdiction over territories discovered under his own auspices. At the
same time, he denied the right of Ayllon or of the Royal Audience to
interfere in the matter. Narvaez was still more refractory, and, as the
fleet was now ready, proclaimed his intention to sail in a few hours. In
this state of things, the licentiate, baffled in his first purpose of
staying the expedition, determined to accompany it in person, that he
might prevent, if possible, by his presence, an open rupture between the

The squadron consisted of eighteen vessels, large and small. It carried
nine hundred men, eighty of whom were cavalry, eighty more
arquebusiers, one hundred and fifty crossbowmen, with a number of heavy
guns, and a large supply of ammunition and military stores. There were,
besides, a thousand Indians, natives of the island, who went, probably,
in a menial capacity.[41] So gallant an armada--with one
exception,[42]--never before rode in the Indian seas. None to compare
with it had ever been fitted out in the Western World.

Leaving Cuba early in March, 1520, Narvaez held nearly the same course
as Cortés, and running down what was then called the “island of
Yucatan,”[43] after a heavy tempest, in which some of his smaller
vessels foundered, anchored, April 23, off San Juan de Ulua. It was the
place where Cortés, also, had first landed; the sandy waste covered by
the present city of Vera Cruz.

Here the commander met with a Spaniard, one of those sent by the general
from Mexico to ascertain the resources of the country, especially its
mineral products. This man came on board the fleet, and from him the
Spaniards gathered the particulars of all that had occurred since the
departure of the envoys from Vera Cruz,--the march into the interior,
the bloody battles with the Tlascalans, the occupation of Mexico, the
rich treasures found in it, and the seizure of the monarch, by means of
which, concluded the soldier, “Cortés rules over the land like its own
sovereign, so that a Spaniard may travel unarmed from one end of the
country to the other, without insult or injury.”[44] His audience
listened to this marvellous report in speechless amazement, and the
loyal indignation of Narvaez waxed stronger and stronger, as he learned
the value of the prize which had been snatched from his employer.

He now openly proclaimed his intention to march against Cortés and
punish him for his rebellion. He made this vaunt so loudly, that the
natives, who had flocked in numbers to the camp, which was soon formed
on shore, clearly comprehended that the new-comers were not friends, but
enemies, of the preceding. Narvaez determined, also,--though in
opposition to the counsel of the Spaniard, who quoted the example of
Cortés,--to establish a settlement on this unpromising spot; and he made
the necessary arrangements to organize a municipality. He was informed
by the soldier of the existence of the neighboring colony at Villa Rica,
commanded by Sandoval, and consisting of a few invalids, who, he was
assured, would surrender on the first summons. Instead of marching
against the place, however, he determined to send a peaceful embassy to
display his powers and demand the submission of the garrison.[45]

These successive steps gave serious displeasure to Ayllon, who saw they
must lead to inevitable collision with Cortés. But it was in vain he
remonstrated and threatened to lay the proceedings of Narvaez before the
government. The latter, chafed by his continued opposition and sour
rebuke, determined to rid himself of a companion who acted as a spy on
his movements. He caused him to be seized and sent back to Cuba. The
licentiate had the address to persuade the captain of the vessel to
change her destination for St. Domingo; and, when he arrived there, a
formal report of his proceedings, exhibiting in strong colors the
disloyal conduct of the governor and his lieutenant, was prepared, and
despatched by the Royal Audience to Spain.[46]

Sandoval meanwhile had not been inattentive to the movements of Narvaez.
From the time of his first appearance on the coast, that vigilant
officer, distrusting the object of the armament, had kept his eye on
him. No sooner was he apprised of the landing of the Spaniards, than the
commander of Villa Rica sent off his few disabled soldiers to a place
of safety in the neighborhood. He then put his works in the best posture
of defence that he could, and prepared to maintain the place to the last
extremity. His men promised to stand by him, and, the more effectually
to fortify the resolution of any who might falter, he ordered a gallows
to be set up in a conspicuous part of the town! The constancy of his men
was not put to the trial.

The only invaders of the place were a priest, a notary, and four other
Spaniards, selected for the mission, already noticed, by Narvaez. The
ecclesiastic’s name was Guevara. On coming before Sandoval, he made him
a formal address, in which he pompously enumerated the services and
claims of Velasquez, taxed Cortés and his adherents with rebellion, and
demanded of Sandoval to tender his submission, as a loyal subject, to
the newly constituted authority of Narvaez.

The commander of La Villa Rica was so much incensed at this
unceremonious mention of his companions in arms that he assured the
reverend envoy that nothing but respect for his cloth saved him from the
chastisement he merited. Guevara now waxed wroth in his turn, and called
on the notary to read the proclamation. But Sandoval interposed,
promising that functionary that if he attempted to do so, without first
producing a warrant of his authority from the crown, he should be
soundly flogged. Guevara lost all command of himself at this, and,
stamping on the ground, repeated his orders in a more peremptory tone
than before. Sandoval was not a man of many words. He simply remarked
that the instrument should be read to the general himself in Mexico. At
the same time, he ordered his men to procure a number of sturdy
_tamanes_, or Indian porters, on whose backs the unfortunate priest and
his companions were bound like so many bales of goods. They were then
placed under a guard of twenty Spaniards, and the whole caravan took its
march for the capital. Day and night they travelled, stopping only to
obtain fresh relays of carriers; and as they passed through populous
towns, forests, and cultivated fields, vanishing as soon as seen, the
Spaniards, bewildered by the strangeness of the scene, as well as of
their novel mode of conveyance, hardly knew whether they were awake or
in a dream. In this way, at the end of the fourth day, they reached the
Tezcucan lake in view of the Aztec capital.[47]

Its inhabitants had already been made acquainted with the fresh arrival
of white men on the coast. Indeed, directly on their landing,
intelligence had been communicated to Montezuma, who is said (it does
not seem probable) to have concealed it some days from Cortés.[48] At
length, inviting him to an interview, he told him there was no longer
any obstacle to his leaving the country, as a fleet was ready for him.
To the inquiries of the astonished general, Montezuma replied by
pointing to a hieroglyphical map sent him from the coast, on which the
ships, the Spaniards themselves, and their whole equipment were minutely
delineated. Cortés, suppressing all emotions but those of pleasure,
exclaimed, “Blessed be the Redeemer for his mercies!” On returning to
his quarters, the tidings were received by the troops with loud shouts,
the firing of cannon, and other demonstrations of joy. They hailed the
new-comers as a reinforcement from Spain. Not so their commander. From
the first, he suspected them to be sent by his enemy, the governor of
Cuba. He communicated his suspicions to his officers, through whom they
gradually found their way among the men. The tide of joy was instantly
checked. Alarming apprehensions succeeded, as they dwelt on the
probability of this suggestion and on the strength of the invaders. Yet
their constancy did not desert them; and they pledged themselves to
remain true to their cause, and, come what might, to stand by their
leader. It was one of those occasions that proved the entire influence
which Cortés held over these wild adventurers. All doubts were soon
dispelled by the arrival of the prisoners from Villa Rica.

One of the convoy, leaving the party in the suburbs, entered the city,
and delivered a letter to the general from Sandoval, acquainting him
with all the particulars. Cortés instantly sent to the prisoners,
ordered them to be released, and furnished them with horses to make
their entrance into the capital,--a more creditable conveyance than the
backs of tamanes. On their arrival, he received them with marked
courtesy, apologized for the rude conduct of his officers, and seemed
desirous by the most assiduous attentions to soothe the irritation of
their minds. He showed his good will still further by lavishing presents
on Guevara and his associates, until he gradually wrought such a change
in their dispositions that from enemies he converted them into friends,
and drew forth many important particulars respecting not merely the
designs of their leader, but the feelings of his army. The soldiers, in
general, they said, far from desiring a rupture with those of Cortés,
would willingly co-operate with them, were it not for their commander.
They had no feelings of resentment to gratify. Their object was gold.
The personal influence of Narvaez was not great, and his arrogance and
penurious temper had already gone far to alienate from him the
affections of his followers. These hints were not lost on the general.

He addressed a letter to his rival in the most conciliatory terms. He
besought him not to proclaim their animosity to the world, and, by
kindling a spirit of insubordination in the natives, unsettle all that
had been so far secured. A violent collision must be prejudicial even to
the victor, and might be fatal to both. It was only in union that they
could look for success. He was ready to greet Narvaez as a brother in
arms, to share with him the fruits of conquest, and, if he could produce
a royal commission, to submit to his authority. Cortés well knew he had
no such commission to show.[49]

Soon after the departure of Guevara and his comrades,[50] the general
determined to send a special envoy of his own. The person selected for
this delicate office was Father Olmedo, who, through the campaign, had
shown a practical good sense, and a talent for affairs, not always to be
found in a person of his spiritual calling. He was intrusted with
another epistle to Narvaez, of similar import with the preceding. Cortés
wrote, also, to the licentiate Ayllon, with whose departure he was not
acquainted, and to Andres de Duero, former secretary of Velasquez, and
his own friend, who had come over in the present fleet. Olmedo was
instructed to converse with these persons in private, as well as with
the principal officers and soldiers, and, as far as possible, to infuse
into them a spirit of accommodation. To give greater weight to his
arguments, he was furnished with a liberal supply of gold.

During this time, Narvaez had abandoned his original design of planting
a colony on the sea-coast, and had crossed the country to Cempoalla,
where he had taken up his quarters. He was here when Guevara returned
and presented the letter of Cortés.

Narvaez glanced over it with a look of contempt, which was changed into
one of stern displeasure as his envoy enlarged on the resources and
formidable character of his rival, counselling him by all means to
accept his proffers of amity. A different effect was produced on the
troops, who listened with greedy ears to the accounts given of Cortés,
his frank and liberal manners, which they involuntarily contrasted with
those of their own commander, the wealth in his camp, where the humblest
private could stake his ingot and chain of gold at play, where all
revelled in plenty, and the life of the soldier seemed to be one long
holiday. Guevara had been admitted only to the sunny side of the

The impression made by these accounts was confirmed by the presence of
Olmedo. The ecclesiastic delivered his missives, in like manner, to
Narvaez, who ran through their contents with feelings of anger which
found vent in the most opprobrious invectives against his rival; while
one of his captains, named Salvatierra, openly avowed his intention to
cut off the rebel’s ears and broil them for his breakfast![51] Such
impotent sallies did not alarm the stout-hearted friar, who soon entered
into communication with many of the officers and soldiers, whom he found
better inclined to an accommodation. His insinuating eloquence, backed
by his liberal largesses, gradually opened a way into their hearts, and
a party was formed under the very eye of their chief, better affected to
his rival’s interests than to his own. The intrigue could not be
conducted so secretly as wholly to elude the suspicions of Narvaez, who
would have arrested Olmedo and placed him under confinement, but for the
interposition of Duero. He put a stop to his further machinations by
sending him back again to his master. But the poison was left to do its

Narvaez made the same vaunt as at his landing, of his design to march
against Cortés and apprehend him as a traitor. The Cempoallans learned
with astonishment that their new guests, though the countrymen, were
enemies of their former. Narvaez, also, proclaimed his intention to
release Montezuma from captivity and restore him to his throne. It is
said he received a rich present from the Aztec emperor, who entered into
a correspondence with him.[52] That Montezuma should have treated him
with his usual munificence, supposing him to be the friend of Cortés, is
very probable. But that he should have entered into a secret
communication, hostile to the general’s interests, is too repugnant to
the whole tenor of his conduct to be lightly admitted.

These proceedings did not escape the watchful eye of Sandoval. He
gathered the particulars partly from deserters who fled to Villa Rica,
and partly from his own agents, who in the disguise of natives mingled
in the enemy’s camp. He sent a full account of them to Cortés,
acquainted him with the growing defection of the Indians, and urged him
to take speedy measures for the defence of Villa Rica if he would not
see it fall into the enemy’s hands. The general felt that it was time to

Yet the selection of the course to be pursued was embarrassing in the
extreme. If he remained in Mexico and awaited there the attack of his
rival, it would give the latter time to gather round him the whole
forces of the empire, including those of the capital itself, all
willing, no doubt, to serve under the banners of a chief who proposed
the liberation of their master. The odds were too great to be hazarded.

If he marched against Narvaez, he must either abandon the city and the
emperor, the fruit of all his toils and triumphs, or, by leaving a
garrison to hold them in awe, must cripple his strength, already far too
weak to cope with that of his adversary. Yet on this latter course he
decided. He trusted less, perhaps, to an open encounter of arms than to
the influence of his personal address and previous intrigues, to bring
about an amicable arrangement. But he prepared himself for either

In a preceding chapter it was mentioned that Velasquez de Leon was sent
with a hundred and fifty men to plant a colony on one of the great
rivers emptying into the Mexican Gulf. Cortés, on learning the arrival
of Narvaez, had despatched a messenger to his officer, to acquaint him
with the fact and to arrest his further progress. But Velasquez had
already received notice of it from Narvaez himself, who, in a letter
written soon after his landing, had adjured him in the name of his
kinsman, the governor of Cuba, to quit the banners of Cortés and come
over to him. That officer, however, had long since buried the feelings
of resentment which he had once nourished against his general, to whom
he was now devotedly attached, and who had honored him throughout the
campaign with particular regard. Cortés had early seen the importance of
securing this cavalier to his interests. Without waiting for orders,
Velasquez abandoned his expedition, and commenced a countermarch on the
capital, when he received the general’s commands to await him in

Cortés had also sent to the distant province of Chinantla, situated far
to the southeast of Cholula, for a reinforcement of two thousand
natives. They were a bold race, hostile to the Mexicans, and had offered
their services to him since his residence in the metropolis. They used a
long spear in battle, longer, indeed, than that borne by the Spanish or
German infantry. Cortés ordered three hundred of their double-headed
lances to be made for him, and to be tipped with copper instead of
_itztli_. With this formidable weapon he proposed to foil the cavalry of
his enemy.

The command of the garrison in his absence he intrusted to Pedro de
Alvarado,--the _Tonatiuh_ of the Mexicans,--a man possessed of many
commanding qualities, of an intrepid though somewhat arrogant spirit,
and his warm personal friend. He inculcated on him moderation and
forbearance. He was to keep a close watch on Montezuma, for on the
possession of the royal person rested all their authority in the land.
He was to show him the deference alike due to his high station and
demanded by policy. He was to pay uniform respect to the usages and the
prejudices of the people; remembering that though his small force would
be large enough to overawe them in times of quiet, yet should they be
once roused it would be swept away like chaff before the whirlwind.

From Montezuma he exacted a promise to maintain the same friendly
relations with his lieutenant which he had preserved towards himself.
This, said Cortés, would be most grateful to his own master, the Spanish
sovereign. Should the Aztec prince do otherwise, and lend himself to any
hostile movement, he must be convinced that he would fall the first
victim of it.

The emperor assured him of his continued good will. He was much
perplexed, however, by the recent events. Were the Spaniards at his
court, or those just landed, the true representatives of their
sovereign? Cortés, who had hitherto maintained a reserve on the subject,
now told him that the latter were indeed his countrymen, but traitors to
his master. As such, it was his painful duty to march against them, and,
when he had chastised their rebellion, he should return, before his
departure from the land, in triumph to the capital. Montezuma offered to
support him with five thousand Aztec warriors; but the general declined
it, not choosing to encumber himself with a body of doubtful, perhaps
disaffected, auxiliaries.

He left in garrison, under Alvarado, one hundred and forty men,
two-thirds of his whole force.[53] With these remained all the
artillery, the greater part of the little body of horse, and most of the
arquebusiers. He took with him only seventy soldiers, but they were men
of the most mettle in the army and his stanch adherents. They were
lightly armed, and encumbered with as little baggage as possible.
Everything depended on celerity of movement.

Montezuma, in his royal litter borne on the shoulders of his nobles, and
escorted by the whole Spanish infantry, accompanied the general to the
causeway. There, embracing him in the most cordial manner, they parted,
with all the external marks of mutual regard. It was about the middle of
May, 1520, more than six months since the entrance of the Spaniards into
Mexico. During this time they had lorded it over the land with absolute
sway. They were now leaving the city in hostile array, not against an
Indian foe, but their own countrymen. It was the beginning of a long
career of calamity,--checkered, indeed, by occasional triumphs,--which
was yet to be run before the Conquest could be completed.[54]




Traversing the southern causeway, by which they had entered the capital,
the little party were soon on their march across the beautiful Valley.
They climbed the mountain screen which Nature had so ineffectually drawn
around it, passed between the huge volcanoes that, like faithless
watch-dogs on their posts, have long since been buried in slumber,
threaded the intricate defiles where they had before experienced such
bleak and tempestuous weather, and, emerging on the other side,
descended the western slope which opens on the wide expanse of the
fruitful plateau of Cholula.

They heeded little of what they saw on their rapid march, nor whether it
was cold or hot. The anxiety of their minds made them indifferent to
outward annoyances; and they had fortunately none to encounter from the
natives, for the name of Spaniard was in itself a charm,--a better guard
than helm or buckler to the bearer.

In Cholula, Cortés had the inexpressible satisfaction of meeting
Velasquez de Leon, with the hundred and fifty soldiers intrusted to his
command for the formation of a colony. That faithful officer had been
some time at Cholula, waiting for the general’s approach. Had he failed,
the enterprise of Cortés must have failed also.[55] The idea of
resistance, with his own handful of followers, would have been
chimerical. As it was, his little band was now trebled, and acquired a
confidence in proportion.

Cordially embracing their companions in arms, now knit together more
closely than ever by the sense of a great and common danger, the
combined troops traversed with quick steps the streets of the sacred
city, where many a dark pile of ruins told of their disastrous visit on
the preceding autumn. They kept the high-road to Tlascala, and, at not
many leagues’ distance from that capital, fell in with Father Olmedo and
his companions on their return from the camp of Narvaez, to which, it
will be remembered, they had been sent as envoys. The ecclesiastic bore
a letter from that commander, in which he summoned Cortés and his
followers to submit to his authority as captain-general of the country,
menacing them with condign punishment in case of refusal or delay.
Olmedo gave many curious particulars of the state of the enemy’s camp.
Narvaez he described as puffed up by authority, and negligent of
precautions against a foe whom he held in contempt. He was surrounded by
a number of pompous, conceited officers, who ministered to his vanity,
and whose braggart tones the good father, who had an eye for the
ridiculous, imitated, to the no small diversion of Cortés and the
soldiers. Many of the troops, he said, showed no great partiality for
their commander, and were strongly disinclined to a rupture with their
countrymen; a state of feeling much promoted by the accounts they had
received of Cortés, by his own arguments and promises, and by the
liberal distribution of the gold with which he had been provided. In
addition to these matters, Cortés gathered much important intelligence
respecting the position of the enemy’s force and his general plan of

At Tlascala the Spaniards were received with a frank and friendly
hospitality.{*} It is not said whether any of the Tlascalan allies had
accompanied them from Mexico. If they did, they went no farther than
their native city. Cortés requested a reinforcement of six hundred fresh
troops to attend him on his present expedition. It was readily granted;
but, before the army had proceeded many miles on its route, the Indian
auxiliaries fell off, one after another, and returned to their city.
They had no personal feeling of animosity to gratify in the present
instance, as in a war against Mexico. It may be, too, that, although
intrepid in a contest with the bravest of the Indian races, they had had
too fatal experience of the prowess of the white men to care to measure
swords with them again. At any rate, they deserted in such numbers that
Cortés dismissed the remainder at once, saying, good-humoredly, “He had
rather part with them then than in the hour of trial.”

{*} [Most of the accounts state that Cortés did not himself visit
Tlascala, but hastened to the coast by a more southerly route. He sent
one of his officers to that city to ask for several _thousand_ warriors.
Bernal Diaz, Hist. Verd. 91, says, “Embio Cortés a Tlascala a rogar ...
quatro mil hombres.”--M.]

The troops soon entered on that wild district in the neighborhood of
Perote, strewed with the wreck of volcanic matter, which forms so
singular a contrast to the general character of beauty with which the
scenery is stamped. It was not long before their eyes were gladdened by
the approach of Sandoval and about sixty soldiers from the garrison of
Vera Cruz, including several deserters from the enemy. It was a most
important reinforcement, not more on account of the numbers of the men
than of the character of the commander, in every respect one of the
ablest captains in the service. He had been compelled to fetch a circuit
in order to avoid falling in with the enemy, and had forced his way
through thick forests and wild mountain-passes, till he had fortunately,
without accident, reached the appointed place of rendezvous and
stationed himself once more under the banner of his chieftain.[56]

At the same place, also, Cortés was met by Tobillos, a Spaniard whom he
had sent to procure the lances from Chinantla. They were perfectly well
made, after the pattern which had been given,--double-headed spears,
tipped with copper, and of great length. Tobillos drilled the men in the
exercise of this weapon, the formidable uses of which, especially
against horse, had been fully demonstrated, towards the close of the
last century, by the Swiss battalions, in their encounters with the
Burgundian chivalry, the best in Europe.[57]

Cortés now took a review of his army,--if so paltry a force may be
called an army,--and found their numbers were two hundred and sixty-six,
only five of whom were mounted. A few muskets and cross-bows were
sprinkled among them. In defensive armor they were sadly deficient. They
were for the most part cased in the quilted doublet of the country,
thickly stuffed with cotton, the _escaupil_, recommended by its superior
lightness, but which, though competent to turn the arrow of the Indian,
was ineffectual against a musket-ball. Most of this cotton mail was
exceedingly out of repair, giving evidence, in its unsightly gaps, of
much rude service and hard blows. Few, in this emergency, but would have
given almost any price--the best of the gold chains which they wore in
tawdry display over their poor habiliments--for a steel morion or
cuirass, to take the place of their own hacked and battered armor.[58]

Under this coarse covering, however, they bore hearts stout and
courageous as ever beat in human bosoms. For they were the heroes, still
invincible, of many a hard-fought field, where the odds had been
incalculably against them. They had large experience of the country and
of the natives, and knew well the character of their own commander,
under whose eye they had been trained till every movement was in
obedience to him. The whole body seemed to constitute but a single
individual, in respect of unity of design and of action. Thus its real
effective force was incredibly augmented; and, what was no less
important, the humblest soldier felt it to be so.

The troops now resumed their march across the table-land, until,
reaching the eastern slope, their labors were lightened, as they
descended towards the broad plains of the _tierra caliente_, spread out
like a boundless ocean of verdure below them. At some fifteen leagues’
distance from Cempoalla, where Narvaez, as has been noticed, had
established his quarters, they were met by another embassy from that
commander. It consisted of the priest, Guevara, Andres de Duero, and two
or three others. Duero, the fast friend of Cortés, had been the person
most instrumental, originally, in obtaining him his commission from
Velasquez. They now greeted each other with a warm embrace, and it was
not till after much preliminary conversation on private matters that the
secretary disclosed the object of his visit.

He bore a letter from Narvaez, couched in terms somewhat different from
the preceding. That officer required, indeed, the acknowledgment of his
paramount authority in the land, but offered his vessels to transport
all, who desired it, from the country, together with their treasures and
effects, without molestation or inquiry. The more liberal tenor of these
terms was, doubtless, to be ascribed to the influence of Duero. The
secretary strongly urged Cortés to comply with them, as the most
favorable that could be obtained, and as the only alternative affording
him a chance of safety in his desperate condition. “For, however valiant
your men may be, how can they expect,” he asked, “to face a force so
much superior in numbers and equipment as that of their antagonist?” But
Cortés had set his fortunes on the cast, and he was not the man to
shrink from it. “If Narvaez bears a royal commission,” he returned, “I
will readily submit to him. But he has produced none. He is a deputy of
my rival, Velasquez. For myself, I am a servant of the king; I have
conquered the country for him; and for him I and my brave followers will
defend it, be assured, to the last drop of our blood. If we fall, it
will be glory enough to have perished in the discharge of our

His friend might have been somewhat puzzled to comprehend how the
authority of Cortés rested on a different ground from that of Narvaez;
and if they both held of the same superior, the governor of Cuba, why
that dignitary should not be empowered to supersede his own officer, in
case of dissatisfaction, and appoint a substitute.[60] But Cortés here
reaped the full benefit of that legal fiction, if it may be so termed,
by which his commission, resigned to the self-constituted municipality
of Vera Cruz, was again derived through that body from the crown. The
device, indeed, was too palpable to impose on any but those who chose to
be blinded. Most of the army were of this number. To them it seemed to
give additional confidence, in the same manner as a strip of painted
canvas, when substituted, as it has sometimes been, for a real parapet
of stone, has been found not merely to impose on the enemy, but to give
a sort of artificial courage to the defenders concealed behind it.[61]

Duero had arranged with his friend in Cuba, when he took command of the
expedition, that he himself was to have a liberal share of the profits.
It is said that Cortés confirmed this arrangement at the present
juncture, and made it clearly for the other’s interest that he should
prevail in the struggle with Narvaez. This was an important point,
considering the position of the secretary.[62] From this authentic
source the general derived much information respecting the designs of
Narvaez, which had escaped the knowledge of Olmedo. On the departure of
the envoys, Cortés intrusted them with a letter for his rival, a
counterpart of that which he had received from him. This show of
negotiation intimated a desire on his part to postpone, if not avoid,
hostilities, which might the better put Narvaez off his guard. In the
letter he summoned that commander and his followers to present
themselves before him without delay, and to acknowledge his authority as
the representative of his sovereign. He should otherwise be compelled to
proceed against them as rebels to the crown![63] With this missive, the
vaunting tone of which was intended quite as much for his own troops as
the enemy, Cortés dismissed the envoys. They returned to disseminate
among their comrades their admiration of the general, and of his
unbounded liberality, of which he took care they should experience full
measure, and they dilated on the riches of his adherents, who, over
their wretched attire, displayed, with ostentatious profusion, jewels,
ornaments of gold, collars, and massive chains winding several times
round their necks and bodies, the rich spoil of the treasury of

The army now took its way across the level plains of the _tierra
caliente_, on which Nature has exhausted all the wonders of creation; it
was covered more thickly then than at the present day with noble
forests, where the towering cottonwood-tree, the growth of ages, stood
side by side with the light bamboo or banana, the product of a season,
each in its way attesting the marvellous fecundity of the soil, while
innumerable creeping flowers, muffling up the giant branches of the
trees, waved in bright festoons above their heads, loading the air with
odors. But the senses of the Spaniards were not open to the delicious
influences of nature. Their minds were occupied by one idea.

Coming upon an open reach of meadow, of some extent, they were at length
stopped by a river, or rather stream, called _Rio de Canoas_, “the River
of Canoes,” of no great volume ordinarily, but swollen at this time by
excessive rains. It had rained hard that day, although at intervals the
sun had broken forth with intolerable fervor, affording a good specimen
of those alternations of heat and moisture which give such activity to
vegetation in the tropics, where the process of forcing seems to be
always going on.

The river was about a league distant from the camp of Narvaez. Before
seeking out a practical ford by which to cross it, Cortés allowed his
men to recruit their exhausted strength by stretching themselves on the
ground. The shades of evening had gathered round; and the rising moon,
wading through dark masses of cloud, shone with a doubtful and
interrupted light. It was evident that the storm had not yet spent its
fury.[64] Cortés did not regret this. He had made up his mind to an
assault that very night, and in the darkness and uproar of the tempest
his movements would be most effectually concealed.

Before disclosing his design, he addressed his men in one of those
stirring, soldierly harangues to which he had recourse in emergencies of
great moment, as if to sound the depths of their hearts, and, where any
faltered, to reanimate them with his own heroic spirit. He briefly
recapitulated the great events of the campaign, the dangers they had
surmounted, the victories they had achieved over the most appalling
odds, the glorious spoil they had won. But of this they were now to be
defrauded; not by men holding a legal warrant from the crown, but by
adventurers, with no better title than that of superior force. They had
established a claim on the gratitude of their country and their
sovereign. This claim was now to be dishonored, their very services
were converted into crimes, and their names branded with infamy as those
of traitors. But the time had at last come for vengeance. God would not
desert the soldier of the cross. Those whom he had carried victorious
through greater dangers would not be left to fail now. And, if they
should fail, better to die like brave men on the field of battle, than,
with fame and fortune cast away, to perish ignominiously like slaves on
the gibbet. This last point he urged home upon his hearers; well knowing
there was not one among them so dull as not to be touched by it.

They responded with hearty acclamations, and Velasquez de Leon, and de
Lugo, in the name of the rest, assured their commander, if they failed,
it should be his fault, not theirs. They would follow wherever he led.
The general was fully satisfied with the temper of his soldiers, as he
felt that his difficulty lay not in awakening their enthusiasm, but in
giving it a right direction. One thing is remarkable. He made no
allusion to the defection which he knew existed in the enemy’s camp. He
would have his soldiers, in this last pinch, rely on nothing but

He announced his purpose to attack the enemy that very night, when he
should be buried in slumber, and the friendly darkness might throw a
veil over their own movements and conceal the poverty of their numbers.
To this the troops, jaded though they were by incessant marching, and
half famished, joyfully assented. In their situation, suspense was the
worst of evils. He next distributed the commands among his captains. To
Gonzalo de Sandoval he assigned the important office of taking Narvaez.
He was commanded, as _alguacil mayor_, to seize the person of that
officer as a rebel to his sovereign, and, if he made resistance, to kill
him on the spot.[65] He was provided with sixty picked men to aid him in
this difficult task, supported by several of the ablest captains, among
whom were two of the Alvarados, de Avila, and Ordaz. The largest
division of the force was placed under Cristóval de Olid, or, according
to some authorities, of Pizarro, one of that family so renowned in the
subsequent conquest of Peru. He was to get possession of the artillery,
and to cover the assault of Sandoval by keeping those of the enemy at
bay who would interfere with it. Cortés reserved only a body of twenty
men for himself, to act on any point that occasion might require. The
watch-word was _Espíritu Santo_, it being the evening of Whitsunday.
Having made these arrangements, he prepared to cross the river.[66]

During the interval thus occupied by Cortés, Narvaez had remained at
Cempoalla, passing his days in idle and frivolous amusement. From this
he was at length roused, after the return of Duero, by the remonstrances
of the old cacique of the city. “Why are you so heedless?” exclaimed the
latter; “do you think Malinche is so? Depend on it, he knows your
situation exactly, and, when you least dream of it, he will be upon

Alarmed at these suggestions and those of his friends, Narvaez at length
put himself at the head of his troops, and, on the very day on which
Cortés arrived at the River of Canoes, sallied out to meet him. But,
when he had reached this barrier, Narvaez saw no sign of an enemy. The
rain, which fell in torrents, soon drenched the soldiers to the skin.
Made somewhat effeminate by their long and luxurious residence at
Cempoalla, they murmured at their uncomfortable situation. “Of what use
was it to remain there fighting with the elements? There was no sign of
an enemy, and little reason to apprehend his approach in such
tempestuous weather. It would be wiser to return to Cempoalla, and in
the morning they should be all fresh for action, should Cortés make his

Narvaez took counsel of these advisers, or rather of his own
inclinations. Before retracing his steps, he provided against surprise
by stationing a couple of sentinels at no great distance from the river,
to give notice of the approach of Cortés. He also detached a body of
forty horse in another direction, by which he thought it not improbable
the enemy might advance on Cempoalla. Having taken these precautions,
he fell back again before night on his own quarters.

He there occupied the principal _teocalli_. It consisted of a stone
building on the usual pyramidal basis; and the ascent was by a flight of
steep steps on one of the faces of the pyramid. In the edifice or
sanctuary above he stationed himself with a strong party of arquebusiers
and crossbowmen. Two other _teocallis_ in the same area were garrisoned
by large detachments of infantry. His artillery, consisting of seventeen
or eighteen small guns, he posted in the area below, and protected it by
the remainder of his cavalry. When he had thus distributed his forces,
he returned to his own quarters, and soon after to repose, with as much
indifference as if his rival had been on the other side of the Atlantic,
instead of a neighboring stream.

That stream was now converted by the deluge of waters into a furious
torrent. It was with difficulty that a practicable ford could be found.
The slippery stones, rolling beneath the feet, gave way at every step.
The difficulty of the passage was much increased by the darkness and
driving tempest. Still, with their long pikes, the Spaniards contrived
to make good their footing,--at least, all but two, who were swept down
by the fury of the current. When they had reached the opposite side,
they had new impediments to encounter, in traversing a road, never good,
now made doubly difficult by the deep mire, and the tangled brushwood
with which it was overrun.

Here they met with a cross, which had been raised by them on their
former march into the interior. They hailed it as a good omen; and
Cortés, kneeling before the blessed sign, confessed his sins, and
declared his great object to be the triumph of the holy Catholic faith.
The army followed his example, and, having made a general confession,
received absolution from Father Olmedo, who invoked the blessing of
Heaven on the warriors who had consecrated their swords to the glory of
the Cross. Then rising up and embracing one another, as companions in
the good cause, they found themselves wonderfully invigorated and
refreshed. The incident is curious, and well illustrates the character
of the time,--in which war, religion, and rapine were so intimately
blended together. Adjoining the road was a little coppice; and Cortés,
and the few who had horses, dismounting, fastened the animals to the
trees, where they might find some shelter from the storm. They deposited
there, too, their baggage, and such superfluous articles as would
encumber their movements. The general then gave them a few last words of
advice. “Everything,” said he, “depends on obedience. Let no man, from
desire of distinguishing himself, break his ranks. On silence, despatch,
and, above all, obedience to your officers, the success of our
enterprise depends.”

Silently and stealthily they held on their way, without beat of drum or
sound of trumpet, when they suddenly came on the two sentinels who had
been stationed by Narvaez to give notice of their approach. This had
been so noiseless that the vedettes were both of them surprised on
their post, and one only, with difficulty, effected his escape. The
other was brought before Cortés. Every effort was made to draw from him
some account of the present position of Narvaez. But the man remained
obstinately silent; and, though threatened with the gibbet, and having a
noose actually drawn round his neck, his Spartan heroism was not to be
vanquished. Fortunately, no change had taken place in the arrangements
of Narvaez since the intelligence previously derived from Duero.

The other sentinel, who had escaped, carried the news of the enemy’s
approach to the camp. But his report was not credited by the lazy
soldiers whose slumbers he had disturbed. “He had been deceived by his
fears,” they said, “and mistaken the noise of the storm and the waving
of the bushes for the enemy. Cortés and his men were far enough on the
other side of the river, which they would be slow to cross in such a
night.” Narvaez himself shared in the same blind infatuation, and the
discredited sentinel slunk abashed to his own quarters, vainly menacing
them with the consequences of their incredulity.[68]

Cortés, not doubting that the sentinel’s report must alarm the enemy’s
camp, quickened his pace. As he drew near, he discerned a light in one
of the lofty towers of the city. “It is the quarters of Narvaez,” he
exclaimed to Sandoval, “and that light must be your beacon.” On entering
the suburbs, the Spaniards were surprised to find no one stirring, and
no symptom of alarm. Not a sound was to be heard, except the measured
tread of their own footsteps, half drowned in the howling of the
tempest. Still they could not move so stealthily as altogether to elude
notice, as they defiled through the streets of this populous city. The
tidings were quickly conveyed to the enemy’s quarters, where in an
instant all was bustle and confusion. The trumpets sounded to arms. The
dragoons sprang to their steeds, the artillery-men to their guns.
Narvaez hastily buckled on his armor, called his men around him, and
summoned those in the neighboring _teocallis_ to join him in the area.
He gave his orders with coolness; for, however wanting in prudence, he
was not deficient in presence of mind, or courage.

All this was the work of a few minutes. But in those minutes the
Spaniards had reached the avenue leading to the camp. Cortés ordered his
men to keep close to the walls of the buildings, that the cannon-shot
might pass between the two files.[69] No sooner had they presented
themselves before the enclosure, than the artillery of Narvaez opened a
general fire. Fortunately, the pieces were pointed so high that most of
the balls passed over their heads, and three men only were struck down.
They did not give the enemy time to reload. Cortés shouting the
watch-word of the night, “_Espíritu Santo! Espíritu Santo!_ Upon them!”
in a moment Olid and his division rushed on the artillery-men, whom they
pierced or knocked down with their pikes, and got possession of their
guns. Another division engaged the cavalry, and made a diversion in
favor of Sandoval, who with his gallant little band sprang up the great
stairway of the temple. They were received with a shower of
missiles,--arrows and musket-balls, which, in the hurried aim, and the
darkness of the night, did little mischief. The next minute the
assailants were on the platform, engaged hand to hand with their foes.
Narvaez fought bravely in the midst, encouraging his followers. His
standard-bearer fell by his side, run through the body. He himself
received several wounds; for his short sword was no match for the long
pikes of the assailants. At length he received a blow from a spear,
which struck out his left eye. “_Santa María!_” exclaimed the unhappy
man, “I am slain!” The cry was instantly taken up by the followers of
Cortés, who shouted “Victory!”

Disabled, and half mad with agony from his wound, Narvaez was withdrawn
by his men into the sanctuary. The assailants endeavored to force an
entrance, but it was stoutly defended. At length a soldier, getting
possession of a torch or firebrand, flung it on the thatched roof, and
in a few moments the combustible materials of which it was composed were
in a blaze. Those within were driven out by the suffocating heat and
smoke. A soldier named Farfan grappled with the wounded commander, and
easily brought him to the ground; when he was speedily dragged down the
steps, and secured with fetters. His followers, seeing the fate of their
chief, made no further resistance.[70]

During this time, Cortés and the troops of Olid had been engaged with
the cavalry, and had discomfited them, after some ineffectual attempts
on the part of the latter to break through the dense array of pikes, by
which several of their number were unhorsed and some of them slain. The
general then prepared to assault the other _teocallis_, first summoning
the garrisons to surrender. As they refused, he brought up the heavy
guns to bear on them, thus turning the artillery against its own
masters. He accompanied this menacing movement with offers of the most
liberal import; an amnesty for the past, and a full participation in all
the advantages of the Conquest. One of the garrisons was under the
command of Salvatierra, the same officer who talked of cutting off the
ears of Cortés. From the moment he had learned the fate of his own
general, the hero was seized with a violent fit of illness which
disabled him from further action. The garrison waited only for one
discharge of the ordnance, when they accepted the terms of capitulation.
Cortés, it is said, received, on this occasion, support from an
unexpected auxiliary. The air was filled with the _cocuyos_,--a species
of large beetle which emits an intense phosphoric light from its body,
strong enough to enable one to read by it. These wandering fires, seen
in the darkness of the night, were converted, by the excited
imaginations of the besieged, into an army with matchlocks! Such is the
report of an eye-witness.[71] But the facility with which the enemy
surrendered may quite as probably be referred to the cowardice of the
commander, and the disaffection of the soldiers, not unwilling to come
under the banners of Cortés.

The body of cavalry, posted, it will be remembered, by Narvaez on one of
the roads to Cempoalla, to intercept his rival, having learned what had
been passing, were not long in tendering their submission. Each of the
soldiers in the conquered army was required, in token of his obedience,
to deposit his arms in the hands of the alguacils, and to take the oaths
to Cortés as Chief Justice and Captain-General of the colony.

The number of the slain is variously reported. It seems probable that
not more than twelve perished on the side of the vanquished, and of the
victors half that number. The small amount may be explained by the short
duration of the action, and the random aim of the missiles in the
darkness. The number of the wounded was much more considerable.[72]

The field was now completely won. A few brief hours had sufficed to
change the condition of Cortés from that of a wandering outlaw at the
head of a handful of needy adventurers, a rebel with a price upon his
head, to that of an independent chief, with a force at his disposal
strong enough not only to secure his present conquests, but to open a
career for still loftier ambition. While the air rung with the
acclamations of the soldiery, the victorious general, assuming a
deportment corresponding with his change of fortune, took his seat in a
chair of state, and, with a rich, embroidered mantle thrown over his
shoulders, received, one by one, the officers and soldiers, as they came
to tender their congratulations. The privates were graciously permitted
to kiss his hand. The officers he noticed with words of compliment or
courtesy; and when Duero, Bermudez, the treasurer, and some others of
the vanquished party, his old friends, presented themselves, he
cordially embraced them.[73]

Narvaez, Salvatierra, and two or three of the other hostile leaders were
led before him in chains. It was a moment of deep humiliation for the
former commander, in which the anguish of the body, however keen, must
have been forgotten in that of the spirit. “You have great reason, Señor
Cortés,” said the discomfited warrior, “to thank Fortune for having
given you the day so easily, and put me in your power.” “I have much to
be thankful for,” replied the general; “but for my victory over you, I
esteem it as one of the least of my achievements since my coming into
the country!”[74] He then ordered the wounds of the prisoners to be
cared for, and sent them under a strong guard to Vera Cruz.

Notwithstanding the proud humility of his reply, Cortés could scarcely
have failed to regard his victory over Narvaez as one of the most
brilliant achievements in his career. With a few scores of followers,
badly clothed, worse fed, wasted by forced marches, under every personal
disadvantage, deficient in weapons and military stores, he had attacked
in their own quarters, routed, and captured the entire force of the
enemy, thrice his superior in numbers, well provided with cavalry and
artillery, admirably equipped, and complete in all the munitions of war!
The amount of troops engaged on either side was, indeed, inconsiderable.
But the proportions are not affected by this; and the relative strength
of the parties made a result so decisive one of the most remarkable
events in the annals of war.

It is true there were some contingencies on which the fortunes of the
day depended, that could not be said to be entirely within his control.
Something was the work of chance. If Velasquez de Leon, for example, had
proved false, the expedition must have failed.[75] If the weather, on
the night of the attack, had been fair, the enemy would have had certain
notice of his approach, and been prepared for it. But these are the
chances that enter more or less into every enterprise. He is the skilful
general who knows how to turn them to account; to win the smiles of
Fortune, and make even the elements fight on his side.

If Velasquez de Leon was, as it proved, the very officer whom the
general should have trusted with the command, it was his sagacity which
originally discerned this and selected him for it. It was his address
that converted this dangerous foe into a friend, and one so fast that in
the hour of need he chose rather to attach himself to his desperate
fortunes than to those of the governor of Cuba, powerful as the latter
was, and his near kinsman. It was the same address which gained Cortés
such an ascendency over his soldiers and knit them to him so closely
that in the darkest moment not a man offered to desert him.[76] If the
success of the assault may be ascribed mainly to the dark and stormy
weather which covered it, it was owing to him that he was in a condition
to avail himself of this. The shortest possible time intervened between
the conception of his plan and its execution. In a very few days he
descended by extraordinary marches from the capital to the sea-coast. He
came like a torrent from the mountains, pouring on the enemy’s camp, and
sweeping everything away, before a barrier could be raised to arrest it.
This celerity of movement, the result of a clear head and determined
will, has entered into the strategy of the greatest captains, and forms
a prominent feature in their most brilliant military exploits. It was
undoubtedly in the present instance a great cause of success.

But it would be taking a limited view of the subject to consider the
battle which decided the fate of Narvaez as wholly fought at Cempoalla.
It was begun in Mexico. With that singular power which he exercised
over all who came near him, Cortés converted the very emissaries of
Narvaez into his own friends and agents. The reports of Guevara and his
companions, the intrigues of Father Olmedo, and the general’s gold, were
all busily at work to shake the loyalty of the soldiers, and the battle
was half won before a blow had been struck. It was fought quite as much
with gold as with steel. Cortés understood this so well that he made it
his great object to seize the person of Narvaez. In such an event, he
had full confidence that indifference to their own cause and partiality
to himself would speedily bring the rest of the army under his banner.
He was not deceived. Narvaez said truly enough, therefore, some years
after this event, that “he had been beaten by his own troops, not by
those of his rival; that his followers had been bribed to betray
him.”[77] This affords the only explanation of their brief and
ineffectual resistance.




The tempest, that had raged so wildly during the night, passed away with
the morning, which rose bright and unclouded on the field of battle. As
the light advanced, it revealed more strikingly the disparity of the two
forces so lately opposed to each other. Those of Narvaez could not
conceal their chagrin; and murmurs of displeasure became audible, as
they contrasted their own superior numbers and perfect appointments with
the way-worn visages and rude attire of their handful of enemies! It was
with some satisfaction, therefore, that the general beheld his dusky
allies from Chinantla, two thousand in number, arrive upon the field.
They were a fine, athletic set of men; and, as they advanced in a sort
of promiscuous order, so to speak, with their gay banners of
feather-work, and their long lances tipped with _itztli_ and copper
glistening in the morning sun, they had something of an air of military
discipline. They came too late for the action, indeed, but Cortés was
not sorry to exhibit to his new followers the extent of his resources in
the country. As he had now no occasion for his Indian allies, after a
courteous reception and a liberal recompense he dismissed them to their

He then used his utmost endeavors to allay the discontent of the troops.
He addressed them in his most soft and insinuating tones, and was by no
means frugal of his promises.[79] He suited the action to the word.
There were few of them but had lost their accoutrements or their
baggage, or horses taken and appropriated by the victors. This last
article was in great request among the latter, and many a soldier, weary
with the long marches hitherto made on foot, had provided himself, as he
imagined, with a much more comfortable as well as creditable conveyance
for the rest of the campaign. The general now commanded everything to be
restored.[80] “They were embarked in the same cause,” he said, “and
should share with one another equally.” He went still further, and
distributed among the soldiers of Narvaez a quantity of gold and other
precious commodities gathered from the neighboring tribes or found in
his rival’s quarters.[81]

These proceedings, however politic in reference to his new followers,
gave great disgust to his old. “Our commander,” they cried, “has
forsaken his friends for his foes. We stood by him in his hour of
distress, and are rewarded with blows and wounds, while the spoil goes
to our enemies!” The indignant soldiery commissioned the priest Olmedo
and Alonso de Avila to lay their complaints before Cortés. The
ambassadors stated them without reserve, comparing their commander’s
conduct to the ungrateful proceeding of Alexander, who, when he gained a
victory, usually gave away more to his enemies than to the troops who
enabled him to beat them. Cortés was greatly perplexed. Victorious or
defeated, his path seemed equally beset with difficulties.

He endeavored to soothe their irritation by pleading the necessity of
the case. “Our new comrades,” he said, “are formidable from their
numbers, so much so that we are even now much more in their power than
they are in ours. Our only security is to make them not merely
confederates, but friends. On any cause of disgust, we shall have the
whole battle to fight over again, and, if they are united, under a much
greater disadvantage than before. I have considered your interests,” he
added, “as much as my own. All that I have is yours. But why should
there be any ground for discontent, when the whole country, with its
riches, is before us? And our augmented strength must henceforth secure
the undisturbed control of it.”

But Cortés did not rely wholly on argument for the restoration of
tranquillity. He knew this to be incompatible with inaction, and he made
arrangements to divide his forces at once and to employ them on distant
services. He selected a detachment of two hundred men, under Diego de
Ordaz, whom he ordered to form the settlement before meditated on the
Coatzacualco. A like number was sent with Velasquez de Leon, to secure
the province of Panuco, some three degrees to the north, on the Mexican
Gulf. Twenty in each detachment were drafted from his own veterans.

Two hundred men he despatched to Vera Cruz, with orders to have the
rigging, iron, and everything portable on board of the fleet of Narvaez,
brought on shore, and the vessels completely dismantled. He appointed a
person named Cavallero superintendent of the marine, with instructions
that if any ships hereafter should enter the port they should be
dismantled in like manner, and their officers imprisoned on shore.[82]

But, while he was thus occupied with new schemes of discovery and
conquest, he received such astounding intelligence from Mexico as
compelled him to concentrate all his faculties and his forces on that
one point. The city was in a state of insurrection. No sooner had the
struggle with his rival been decided, than Cortés despatched a courier
with the tidings to the capital. In less than a fortnight the messenger
returned with a letter from Alvarado, conveying the alarming information
that the Mexicans were in arms and had vigorously assaulted the
Spaniards in their own quarters. The enemy, he added, had burned the
brigantines, by which Cortés had secured the means of retreat in case of
the destruction of the bridges. They had attempted to force the
defences, and had succeeded in partially undermining them, and they had
overwhelmed the garrison with a tempest of missiles, which had killed
several and wounded a great number. The letter concluded with beseeching
the commander to hasten to the relief of his men, if he would save them
or keep his hold on the capital.

These tidings were a heavy blow to the general,--the heavier, it seemed,
coming as they did in the hour of triumph, when he had thought to have
all his enemies at his feet. There was no room for hesitation. To lose
his footing in the capital, the noblest city in the Western World, would
be to lose the country itself, which looked up to it as its head.[83] He
opened the matter fully to his soldiers, calling on all who would save
their countrymen to follow him. All declared their readiness to go;
showing an alacrity, says Diaz, which some would have been slow to
manifest had they foreseen the future.

Cortés now made preparations for instant departure. He countermanded the
orders previously given to Velasquez and Ordaz, and directed them to
join him with their forces at Tlascala. He called the troops from Vera
Cruz, leaving only a hundred men in garrison there, under command of one
Rodrigo Rangre; for he could not spare the services of Sandoval at this
crisis. He left his sick and wounded at Cempoalla, under charge of a
small detachment, directing that they should follow as soon as they were
in marching order. Having completed these arrangements, he set out from
Cempoalla, well supplied with provisions by its hospitable cacique, who
attended him some leagues on his way. The Totonac chief seems to have
had an amiable facility of accommodating himself to the powers that were
in the ascendant.

Nothing worthy of notice occurred during the first part of the march.
The troops everywhere met with a friendly reception from the peasantry,
who readily supplied their wants. For some time before reaching
Tlascala, the route lay through a country thinly settled; and the army
experienced considerable suffering from want of food, and still more
from that of water. Their distress increased to an alarming degree, as,
in the hurry of their forced march, they travelled with the meridian
sun beating fiercely on their heads. Several faltered by the way, and,
throwing themselves down by the roadside, seemed incapable of further
effort, and almost indifferent to life.

In this extremity, Cortés sent forward a small detachment of horse to
procure provisions in Tlascala, and speedily followed in person. On
arriving, he found abundant supplies already prepared by the hospitable
natives. They were sent back to the troops; the strugglers were
collected one by one; refreshments were administered; and the army,
restored in strength and spirits, entered the republican capital.

Here they gathered little additional news respecting the events in
Mexico, which a popular rumor attributed to the secret encouragement and
machinations of Montezuma. Cortés was commodiously lodged in the
quarters of Maxixca, one of the four chiefs of the republic. They
readily furnished him with two thousand troops. There was no want of
heartiness, when the war was with their ancient enemy the Aztec.[84]

The Spanish commander, on reviewing his forces after the junction with
his two captains, found that they amounted to about a thousand foot, and
one hundred horse, besides the Tlascalan levies.[85] In the infantry
were nearly a hundred arquebusiers, with as many crossbowmen; and the
part of the army brought over by Narvaez was admirably equipped. It was
inferior, however, to his own veterans in what is better than any
outward appointments,--military training, and familiarity with the
peculiar service in which they were engaged.

Leaving these friendly quarters, the Spaniards took a more northerly
route, as more direct than that by which they had before penetrated into
the Valley. It was the road to Tezcuco. It still compelled them to climb
the same bold range of the Cordilleras, which attains its greatest
elevation in the two mighty _volcans_ at whose base they had before
travelled. The sides of the sierra were clothed with dark forests of
pine, cypress, and cedar,[86] through which glimpses now and then opened
into fathomless dells and valleys, whose depths, far down in the sultry
climate of the tropics, were lost in a glowing wilderness of vegetation.
From the crest of the mountain range the eye travelled over the broad
expanse of country, which they had lately crossed, far away to the green
plains of Cholula. Towards the west they looked down on the Mexican
Valley, from a point of view wholly different from that which they had
before occupied, but still offering the same beautiful spectacle, with
its lakes trembling in the light, its gay cities and villas floating on
their bosom, its burnished _teocallis_ touched with fire, its cultivated
slopes and dark hills of porphyry stretching away in dim perspective to
the verge of the horizon. At their feet lay the city of Tezcuco, which,
modestly retiring behind her deep groves of cypress, formed a contrast
to her more ambitious rival on the other side of the lake, who seemed to
glory in the unveiled splendors of her charms, as Mistress of the

As they descended into the populous plains, their reception by the
natives was very different from that which they had experienced on the
preceding visit. There were no groups of curious peasantry to be seen
gazing at them as they passed, and offering their simple hospitality.
The supplies they asked were not refused, but granted with an ungracious
air, that showed the blessing of the giver did not accompany them. This
air of reserve became still more marked as the army entered the suburbs
of the ancient capital of the Acolhuans. No one came forth to greet
them, and the population seemed to have dwindled away,--so many of them
were withdrawn to the neighboring scene of hostilities at Mexico.[87]
Their cold reception was a sensible mortification to the veterans of
Cortés, who, judging from the past, had boasted to their new comrades of
the sensation their presence would excite among the natives. The cacique
of the place, who, as it may be remembered, had been created through the
influence of Cortés, was himself absent. The general drew an ill omen
from all these circumstances, which even raised an uncomfortable
apprehension in his mind respecting the fate of the garrison in

But his doubts were soon dispelled by the arrival of a messenger in a
canoe from that city, whence he had escaped through the remissness of
the enemy, or, perhaps, with their connivance. He brought despatches
from Alvarado, informing his commander that the Mexicans had for the
last fortnight desisted from active hostilities and converted their
operations into a blockade. The garrison had suffered greatly, but
Alvarado expressed his conviction that the siege would be raised, and
tranquillity restored, on the approach of his countrymen. Montezuma sent
a messenger, also, to the same effect. At the same time, he exculpated
himself from any part in the late hostilities, which he said had been
conducted not only without his privity, but contrary to his inclination
and efforts.

The Spanish general, having halted long enough to refresh his wearied
troops, took up his march along the southern margin of the lake, which
led him over the same causeway by which he had before entered the
capital. It was the day consecrated to St. John the Baptist, the 24th of
June, 1520. But how different was the scene from that presented on his
former entrance![89] No crowds now lined the roads, no boats swarmed on
the lake, filled with admiring spectators. A single pirogue might now
and then be seen in the distance, like a spy stealthily watching their
movements, and darting away the moment it had attracted notice. A
deathlike stillness brooded over the scene,--a stillness that spoke
louder to the heart than the acclamations of multitudes.

Cortés rode on moodily at the head of his battalions, finding abundant
food for meditation, doubtless, in this change of circumstances. As if
to dispel these gloomy reflections, he ordered his trumpets to sound,
and their clear, shrill notes, borne across the waters, told the
inhabitants of the beleaguered fortress that their friends were at hand.
They were answered by a joyous peal of artillery, which seemed to give a
momentary exhilaration to the troops, as they quickened their pace,
traversed the great drawbridges, and once more found themselves within
the walls of the imperial city.

The appearance of things here was not such as to allay their
apprehensions. In some places they beheld the smaller bridges removed,
intimating too plainly, now that their brigantines were destroyed, how
easy it would be to cut off their retreat.[90] The town seemed even more
deserted than Tezcuco. Its once busy and crowded population had
mysteriously vanished. And, as the Spaniards defiled through the empty
streets, the tramp of their horses’ feet upon the pavement was answered
by dull and melancholy echoes that fell heavily on their hearts. With
saddened feelings they reached the great gates of the palace of
Axayacatl. The gates were thrown open, and Cortés and his veterans,
rushing in, were cordially embraced by their companions in arms, while
both parties soon forgot the present in the interesting recapitulation
of the past.[91]

The first inquiries of the general were respecting the origin of the
tumult. The accounts were various. Some imputed it to the desire of the
Mexicans to release their sovereign from confinement; others to the
design of cutting off the garrison while crippled by the absence of
Cortés and their countrymen. All agreed, however, in tracing the
immediate cause to the violence of Alvarado. It was common for the
Aztecs to celebrate an annual festival in May, in honor of their patron
war-god. It was called the “incensing of Huitzilopochtli,” and was
commemorated by sacrifice, religious songs, and dances, in which most of
the nobles engaged, for it was one of the great festivals which
displayed the pomp of the Aztec ritual. As it was held in the court of
the _teocalli_, in the immediate neighborhood of the Spanish quarters,
and as a part of the temple itself was reserved for a Christian chapel,
the caciques asked permission of Alvarado to perform their rites there.
They requested also, it is said, to be allowed the presence of
Montezuma. This latter petition Alvarado declined, in obedience to the
injunctions of Cortés; but acquiesced in the former, on condition that
the Aztecs should celebrate no human sacrifices and should come without

They assembled accordingly on the day appointed, to the number of six
hundred, at the smallest computation.[92] They were dressed in their
most magnificent gala costumes, with their graceful mantles of
feather-work sprinkled with precious stones, and their necks, arms, and
legs ornamented with collars and bracelets of gold. They had that love
of gaudy splendor which belongs to semi-civilized nations, and on these
occasions displayed all the pomp and profusion of their barbaric

Alvarado and his soldiers attended as spectators, some of them taking
their station at the gates as if by chance, and others mingling in the
crowd. They were all armed,--a circumstance which, as it was usual,
excited no attention. The Aztecs were soon engrossed by the exciting
movement of the dance, accompanied by their religious chant and wild,
discordant minstrelsy. While thus occupied, Alvarado and his men, at a
concerted signal, rushed with drawn swords on their victims. Unprotected
by armor or weapons of any kind, they were hewn down without resistance
by their assailants, who in their bloody work, says a contemporary,
showed no touch of pity or compunction.[93] Some fled to the gates, but
were caught on the long pikes of the soldiers. Others, who attempted to
scale the _coatepantli_, or Wall of Serpents, as it was called, which
surrounded the area, shared the like fate, or were cut to pieces, or
shot by the ruthless soldiery. The pavement, says a writer of the age,
ran with streams of blood, like water in a heavy shower.[94] Not an
Aztec, of all that gay company, was left alive! It was repeating the
dreadful scene of Cholula, with the disgraceful addition that the
Spaniards, not content with slaughtering their victims, rifled them of
the precious ornaments on their persons! On this sad day fell the
flower of the Aztec nobility. Not a family of note but had mourning and
desolation brought within its walls.[95] And many a doleful ballad,
rehearsing the tragic incidents of the story, and adapted to the
plaintive national airs, continued to be chanted by the natives long
after the subjugation of the country.[96]

Various explanations have been given of this atrocious deed. But few
historians have been content to admit that of Alvarado himself.
According to this, intelligence had been obtained through his
spies--some of them Mexicans--of an intended rising of the Indians. The
celebration of this festival was fixed on as the period for its
execution, when the caciques would be met together and would easily
rouse the people to support them. Alvarado, advised of all this, had
forbidden them to wear arms at their meeting. While affecting to comply,
they had secreted their weapons in the neighboring arsenals, whence they
could readily withdraw them. But his own blow, by anticipating theirs,
defeated the design, and, as he confidently hoped, would deter the
Aztecs from a similar attempt in future.[97]

Such is the account of the matter given by Alvarado. But, if true, why
did he not verify his assertion by exposing the arms thus secreted? Why
did he not vindicate his conduct in the eyes of the Mexicans generally,
by publicly avowing the treason of the nobles, as was done by Cortés at
Cholula? The whole looks much like an apology devised after the
commission of the deed, to cover up its atrocity.

Some contemporaries assign a very different motive for the massacre,
which, according to them, originated in the cupidity of the Conquerors,
as shown by their plundering the bodies of their victims.[98] Bernal
Diaz, who, though not present, had conversed familiarly with those who
were, vindicates them from the charge of this unworthy motive. According
to him, Alvarado struck the blow in order to intimidate the Aztecs from
any insurrectionary movement.[99] But whether he had reason to apprehend
such, or even affected to do so before the massacre, the old chronicler
does not inform us.

On reflection, it seems scarcely possible that so foul a deed, and one
involving so much hazard to the Spaniards themselves, should have been
perpetrated from the mere desire of getting possession of the baubles
worn on the persons of the natives. It is more likely this was an
after-thought, suggested to the rapacious soldiery by the display of the
spoil before them. It is not improbable that Alvarado may have gathered
rumors of a conspiracy among the nobles,--rumors, perhaps, derived
through the Tlascalans, their inveterate foes, and for that reason very
little deserving of credit.[100] He proposed to defeat it by imitating
the example of his commander at Cholula. But he omitted to imitate his
leader in taking precautions against the subsequent rising of the
populace. And he grievously miscalculated when he confounded the bold
and warlike Aztec with the effeminate Cholulan.[101]

No sooner was the butchery accomplished, than the tidings spread like
wildfire through the capital. Men could scarcely credit their senses.
All they had hitherto suffered, the desecration of their temples, the
imprisonment of their sovereign, the insults heaped on his person, all
were forgotten in this one act.[102] Every feeling of long-smothered
hostility and rancor now burst forth in the cry for vengeance. Every
former sentiment of superstitious dread was merged in that of
inextinguishable hatred. It required no effort of the priests--though
this was not wanting--to fan these passions into a blaze. The city rose
in arms to a man; and on the following dawn, almost before the Spaniards
could secure themselves in their defences, they were assaulted with
desperate fury. Some of the assailants attempted to scale the walls;
others succeeded in partially undermining and setting fire to the works.
Whether they would have succeeded in carrying the place by storm is
doubtful. But, at the prayers of the garrison, Montezuma himself
interfered, and, mounting the battlements, addressed the populace, whose
fury he endeavored to mitigate by urging considerations for his own
safety. They respected their monarch so far as to desist from further
attempts to storm the fortress, but changed their operations into a
regular blockade. They threw up works around the palace to prevent the
egress of the Spaniards. They suspended the _tianguez_, or market, to
preclude the possibility of their enemy’s obtaining supplies; and they
then quietly sat down, with feelings of sullen desperation, waiting for
the hour when famine should throw their victims into their hands.

The condition of the besieged, meanwhile, was sufficiently distressing.
Their magazines of provisions, it is true, were not exhausted; but they
suffered greatly from want of water, which, within the enclosure, was
exceedingly brackish, for the soil was saturated with the salt of the
surrounding element. In this extremity, they discovered, it is said, a
spring of fresh water in the area. Such springs were known in some other
parts of the city; but, discovered first under these circumstances, it
was accounted as nothing less than a miracle. Still they suffered much
from their past encounters. Seven Spaniards, and many Tlascalans, had
fallen, and there was scarcely one of either nation who had not received
several wounds. In this situation, far from their own countrymen,
without expectation of succor from abroad, they seemed to have no
alternative before them but a lingering death by famine, or one more
dreadful on the altar of sacrifice. From this gloomy state they were
relieved by the coming of their comrades.[103]

Cortés calmly listened to the explanation made by Alvarado. But, before
it was ended, the conviction must have forced itself on his mind that he
had made a wrong selection for this important post. Yet the mistake was
natural. Alvarado was a cavalier of high family, gallant and chivalrous,
and his warm personal friend. He had talents for action, was possessed
of firmness and intrepidity, while his frank and dazzling manners made
the _Tonatiuh_ an especial favorite with the Mexicans. But underneath
this showy exterior the future conqueror of Guatemala concealed a heart
rash, rapacious, and cruel. He was altogether destitute of that
moderation which, in the delicate position he occupied, was a quality of
more worth than all the rest.

When Alvarado had concluded his answers to the several interrogatories
of Cortés, the brow of the latter darkened, as he said to his
lieutenant, “You have done badly. You have been false to your trust.
Your conduct has been that of a madman!” And, turning abruptly on his
heel, he left him in undisguised displeasure.

Yet this was not a time to break with one so popular, and, in many
respects, so important to him, as this captain, much less to inflict on
him the punishment he merited. The Spaniards were like mariners laboring
in a heavy tempest, whose bark nothing but the dexterity of the pilot
and the hearty co-operation of the crew can save from foundering.
Dissensions at such a moment must be fatal. Cortés, it is true, felt
strong in his present resources. He now found himself at the head of a
force which could scarcely amount to less than twelve hundred and fifty
Spaniards, and eight thousand native warriors, principally
Tlascalans.[104] But, though relying on this to overawe resistance, the
very augmentation of numbers increased the difficulty of subsistence.
Discontented with himself, disgusted with his officer, and embarrassed
by the disastrous consequences in which Alvarado’s intemperance had
involved him, he became irritable, and indulged in a petulance by no
means common; for, though a man of lively passions by nature, he held
them habitually under control.[105]

On the day that Cortés arrived, Montezuma had left his own quarters to
welcome him. But the Spanish commander, distrusting, as it would seem,
however unreasonably, his good faith, received him so coldly that the
Indian monarch withdrew, displeased and dejected, to his apartment. As
the Mexican populace made no show of submission, and brought no supplies
to the army, the general’s ill humor with the emperor continued. When,
therefore, Montezuma sent some of the nobles to ask an interview with
Cortés, the latter, turning to his own officers, haughtily exclaimed,
“What have I to do with this dog of a king who suffers us to starve
before his eyes?”

His captains, among whom were Olid, De Avila, and Velasquez de Leon,
endeavored to mitigate his anger, reminding him, in respectful terms,
that had it not been for the emperor the garrison might even now have
been overwhelmed by the enemy. This remonstrance only chafed him the
more. “Did not the dog,” he asked, repeating the opprobrious epithet,
“betray us in his communications with Narvaez? And does he not now
suffer his markets to be closed, and leave us to die of famine?” Then,
turning fiercely to the Mexicans, he said, “Go tell your master and his
people to open the markets, or we will do it for them, at their cost!”
The chiefs, who had gathered the import of his previous taunt on their
sovereign, from his tone and gesture, or perhaps from some comprehension
of his language, left his presence swelling with resentment, and, in
communicating his message, took care it should lose none of its

Shortly after, Cortés, at the suggestion, it is said, of Montezuma,
released his brother Cuitlahua, lord of Iztapalapan, who, it will be
remembered, had been seized on suspicion of co-operating with the chief
of Tezcuco in his meditated revolt.{*} It was thought he might be of
service in allaying the present tumult and bringing the populace to a
better state of feeling. But he returned no more to the fortress.[107]
He was a bold, ambitious prince, and the injuries he had received from
the Spaniards rankled deep in his bosom. He was presumptive heir to the
crown, which, by the Aztec laws of succession, descended much more
frequently in a collateral than in a direct line. The people welcomed
him as the representative of their sovereign, and chose him to supply
the place of Montezuma during his captivity. Cuitlahua willingly
accepted the post of honor and of danger. He was an experienced warrior,
and exerted himself to reorganize the disorderly levies and to arrange a
more efficient plan of operations. The effect was soon visible.

{*} [This was the enormous blunder committed by Cortés, because of his
ignorance of Aztec tribal customs, which was mentioned in the note on p.
346, vol. ii. In releasing Cuitlahua from captivity Cortés put away the
last guaranty of safety his forces possessed. Cuitlahua was next in the
line of succession of the eligibles from whom the priest commander was
chosen. The Tlatocan, or tribal council, was the power which controlled
all the affairs of the tribe. This council, which elected a ruler, could
also in extraordinary circumstances depose him and set another man in
his place. As soon as he was released Cuitlahua convened the Tlatocan.
That body at once deposed Montezuma and made Cuitlahua priest commander.
It was not a captive _sovereign_ the Spaniards guarded, but only a
deposed _priest commander_ whose person was no longer sacred. When, a
little later, Montezuma was put forward to address the mob that raged
about the walls of the tecpan, another man wore the golden beak of the
war-god. It was not against their hereditary ruler, but only against the
discredited agent who had once directed the affairs of the tribe that
the Aztec warriors hurled their missiles. Montezuma deposed was no more
to them than was any member of the tribal council. The spell that had
protected the invaders was broken when his office was taken from

Cortés meanwhile had so little doubt of his ability to overawe the
insurgents, that he wrote to that effect to the garrison of Villa Rica
by the same despatches in which he informed them of his safe arrival in
the capital. But scarcely had his messenger been gone half an hour, when
he returned breathless with terror and covered with wounds. “The city,”
he said, “was all in arms! The draw-bridges were raised, and the enemy
would soon be upon them!” He spoke truth. It was not long before a
hoarse, sullen sound became audible, like that of the roaring of distant
waters. It grew louder and louder; till, from the parapet surrounding
the enclosure, the great avenues which led to it might be seen dark with
the masses of warriors, who came rolling on in a confused tide towards
the fortress. At the same time, the terraces and _azoteas_ or flat
roofs, in the neighborhood, were thronged with combatants brandishing
their missiles, who seemed to have risen up as if by magic![108] It was
a spectacle to appall the stoutest. But the dark storm to which it was
the prelude, and which gathered deeper and deeper round the Spaniards
during the remainder of their residence in the capital, must form the
subject of a separate Book.

     Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdés was born in 1478. He belonged
     to an ancient family of the Asturias. Every family, indeed, claims
     to be ancient in this last retreat of the intrepid Goths. He was
     early introduced at court, and was appointed page to Prince Juan,
     the only son of Ferdinand and Isabella, on whom their hopes, and
     those of the nation, deservedly rested. Oviedo accompanied the camp
     in the latter campaigns of the Moorish war, and was present at the
     memorable siege of Granada. On the untimely death of his royal
     master, in 1496, he passed over to Italy and entered the service of
     King Frederick of Naples. At the death of that prince he returned
     to his own country, and in the beginning of the sixteenth century
     we find him again established in Castile, where he occupied the
     place of keeper of the crown jewels. In 1513 he was named by
     Ferdinand the Catholic _veedor_, or inspector, of the gold
     founderies in the American colonies. Oviedo, accordingly,
     transported himself to the New World, where he soon took a
     commission under Pedrarias, governor of Darien, and shared in the
     disastrous fortunes of that colony. He obtained some valuable
     privileges from the crown, built a fortress on Tierra Firme and
     entered into traffic with the natives. In this we may presume he
     was prosperous, since we find him at length established with a wife
     and family at Hispaniola, or Fernandina, as it was then called.
     Although he continued to make his principal residence in the New
     World, he made occasional visits to Spain, and in 1526 published at
     Madrid his _Sumario_. It is dedicated to the Emperor Charles the
     Fifth, and contains an account of the West Indies, their geography,
     climate, the races who inhabited them, together with their animals
     and vegetable productions. The subject was of great interest to the
     inquisitive minds of Europe, and one of which they had previously
     gleaned but scanty information. In 1535, in a subsequent visit to
     Spain, Oviedo gave to the world the first volume of his great work,
     which he had been many years in compiling,--the _Historia de las
     Indias occidentales_. In the same year he was appointed by Charles
     the Fifth alcayde of the fortress of Hispaniola. He continued in
     the island the ten following years, actively engaged in the
     prosecution of his historical researches, and then returned for the
     last time to his native land. The veteran scholar was well received
     at court, and obtained the honorable appointment of Chronicler of
     the Indies. He occupied this post until the period of his death,
     which took place at Valladolid in 1557, in the seventy-ninth year
     of his age, at the very time when he was employed in preparing the
     residue of his history for the press.

     Considering the intimate footing on which Oviedo lived with the
     eminent persons of his time, it is singular that so little is
     preserved of his personal history and his character. Nic. Antonio
     speaks of him as a “man of large experience, courteous in his
     manners, and of great probity.” His long and active life is a
     sufficient voucher for his experience, and one will hardly doubt
     his good breeding when we know the high society in which he moved.
     He left a large mass of manuscripts, embracing a vast range both of
     civil and natural history. By far the most important is his
     _Historia general de las Indias_. It is divided into three parts,
     containing fifty books. The first part, consisting of nineteen
     books, is the one already noticed as having been published during
     his lifetime. It gives in a more extended form the details of
     geographical and natural history embodied in his _Sumario_, with a
     narrative, moreover, of the discoveries and conquests of the
     Islands. A translation of this portion of the work was made by the
     learned Ramusio, with whom Oviedo was in correspondence, and is
     published in the third volume of his inestimable collection. The
     two remaining parts relate to the conquests of Mexico, of Peru, and
     other countries of South America. It is that portion of the work
     consulted for these pages. The manuscript was deposited, at his
     death, in the _Casa de la Contratacion_, at Seville. It afterwards
     came into the possession of the Dominican monastery of Monserrat.
     In process of time, mutilated copies found their way into several
     private collections; when, in 1775, Don Francisco Cerda y Rico, an
     officer in the Indian department, ascertained the place in which
     the original was preserved, and, prompted by his literary zeal,
     obtained an order from the government for its publication. Under
     his supervision the work was put in order for the press, and
     Oviedo’s biographer, Alvarez y Baena, assures us that a complete
     edition of it, prepared with the greatest care, would soon be given
     to the world. (Hijos de Madrid (Madrid, 1790), tom. ii. pp.
     354-361.) It still remains in manuscript.{*}

     {*} [The _Historia General y Natural de las Indias, Islas y
     Tierrafirme del Mar Océano, por El Capitan Gonzalo Fernandez de
     Oviedo y Valdéz, Primer Cronista del Nuevo Mundo_, was published in
     four volumes at Madrid, 1851-55, by the Real Academia de la

     No country has been more fruitful in the field of historical
     composition than Spain. Her ballads are chronicles done into verse.
     The chronicles themselves date from the twelfth and thirteenth
     centuries. Every city, every small town, every great family, and
     many a petty one, has its chronicler. These were often mere monkish
     chroniclers, who in the seclusion of the convent found leisure for
     literary occupation. Or, not unfrequently, they were men who had
     taken part in the affairs they described, more expert with the
     sword than with the pen. The compositions of this latter class have
     a general character of that indifference to fine writing which
     shows a mind intent on the facts with which it is occupied, much
     more than on forms of expression. The monkish chroniclers, on the
     other hand, often make a pedantic display of obsolete erudition,
     which contrasts rather whimsically with the homely texture of the
     narrative. The chronicles of both the one and the other class of
     writers may frequently claim the merit of picturesque and animated
     detail, showing that the subject was one of living interest, and
     that the writer’s heart was in his subject.

     Many of the characteristic blemishes of which I have been speaking
     may be charged on Oviedo. His style is cast in no classic mould.
     His thoughts find themselves a vent in tedious, interminable
     sentences, that may fill the reader with despair; and the thread
     of the narrative is broken by impertinent episodes that lead to
     nothing. His scholarship was said to be somewhat scanty. One will
     hardly be led to doubt it, from the tawdry display of Latin
     quotations with which he garnishes his pages, like a poor gallant
     who would make the most of his little store of finery. He affected
     to take the elder Pliny as his model, as appears from the preface
     to his _Sumario_. But his own work fell far short of the model of
     erudition and eloquence which that great writer of natural history
     has bequeathed to us.

     Yet, with his obvious defects, Oviedo showed an enlightened
     curiosity, and a shrewd spirit of observation, which place him far
     above the ordinary range of chroniclers. He may even be said to
     display a philosophic tone in his reflections, though his
     philosophy must be regarded as cold and unscrupulous wherever the
     rights of the aborigines are in question. He was indefatigable in
     amassing materials for his narratives, and for this purpose
     maintained a correspondence with the most eminent men of his time
     who had taken part in the transactions which he commemorates. He
     even condescended to collect information from more humble sources,
     from popular tradition and the reports of the common soldiers.
     Hence his work often presents a medley of inconsistent and
     contradictory details, which perplex the judgment, making it
     exceedingly difficult, at this distance of time, to disentangle the
     truth. It was perhaps for this reason that Las Casas complimented
     the author by declaring that “his works were a wholesale
     fabrication, as full of lies as of pages!” Yet another explanation
     of this severe judgment may be found in the different characters of
     the two men. Oviedo shared in the worldly feelings common to the
     Spanish Conquerors, and, while he was ever ready to magnify the
     exploits of his countrymen, held lightly the claims and the
     sufferings of the unfortunate aborigines. He was incapable of
     appreciating the generous philanthropy of Las Casas, or of rising
     to his lofty views, which he doubtless derided as those of a
     benevolent, it might be, but visionary fanatic. Las Casas, on the
     other hand, whose voice had been constantly uplifted against the
     abuses of the Conquerors, was filled with abhorrence at the
     sentiments avowed by Oviedo, and it was natural that his aversion
     to the principles should be extended to the person who professed
     them. Probably no two men could have been found less competent to
     form a right estimate of each other.

     Oviedo showed the same activity in gathering materials for natural
     history as he had done for the illustration of civil. He collected
     the different plants of the Islands in his garden, and domesticated
     many of the animals, or kept them in confinement under his eye,
     where he could study their peculiar habits. By this course, if he
     did not himself rival Pliny and Hernandez in science, he was, at
     least, enabled to furnish the man of science with facts of the
     highest interest and importance.

     Besides these historical writings, Oviedo left a work in six
     volumes, called by the whimsical title of _Quincuagenas_. It
     consists of imaginary dialogues between the most eminent Spaniards
     of the time, in respect to their personal history, their families,
     and genealogy. It is a work of inestimable value to the historian
     of the times of Ferdinand and Isabella, and of Charles the Fifth.
     But it has attracted little attention in Spain, where it still
     remains in manuscript. A complete copy of Oviedo’s History of the
     Indies is in the archives of the Royal Academy of History in
     Madrid, and it is understood that this body has now an edition
     prepared for the press. Such parts as are literally transcribed
     from preceding narratives, like the Letters of Cortés, which Oviedo
     transferred without scruple entire and unmutilated into his own
     pages, though enlivened, it is true, by occasional criticism of his
     own, might as well be omitted. But the remainder of the great work
     affords a mass of multifarious information which would make an
     important contribution to the colonial history of Spain.

     An authority of frequent reference in these pages is Diego Muñoz
     Camargo. He was a noble Tlascalan _mestee_, and lived in the latter
     half of the sixteenth century. He was educated in the Christian
     faith, and early instructed in Castilian, in which tongue he
     composed his _Historia de Tlascala_. In this work he introduces the
     reader to the different members of the great Nahuatlac family who
     came successively up the Mexican plateau. Born and bred among the
     aborigines of the country, when the practices of the pagan age had
     not wholly become obsolete, Camargo was in a position perfectly to
     comprehend the condition of the ancient inhabitants; and his work
     supplies much curious and authentic information respecting the
     social and religious institutions of the land at the time of the
     Conquest. His patriotism warms as he recounts the old hostilities
     of his countrymen with the Aztecs; and it is singular to observe
     how the detestation of the rival nations survived their common
     subjection under the Castilian yoke.

     Camargo embraces in his narrative an account of this great event,
     and of the subsequent settlement of the country. As one of the
     Indian family, we might expect to see his chronicle reflect the
     prejudices, or, at least, partialities, of the Indian. But the
     Christian convert yielded up his sympathies as freely to the
     Conquerors as to his own countrymen. The desire to magnify the
     exploits of the latter, and at the same time to do full justice to
     the prowess of the white men, produces occasionally a most
     whimsical contrast in his pages, giving the story a strong air of
     inconsistency. In point of literary execution the work has little
     merit; as great, however, as could be expected from a native
     Indian, indebted for his knowledge of the tongue to such imperfect
     instruction as he could obtain from the missionaries. Yet in style
     of composition it may compare not unfavorably with the writings of
     some of the missionaries themselves.

     The original manuscript was long preserved in the convent of _San
     Felipe Neri_ in Mexico, where Torquemada, as appears from
     occasional references, had access to it. It has escaped the
     attention of other historians, but was embraced by Muñoz in his
     magnificent collection, and deposited in the archives of the Royal
     Academy of History at Madrid; from which source the copy in my
     possession was obtained. It bears the title of _Pedazo de Historia
     verdadera_, and is without the author’s name, and without division
     into books or chapters.






The palace of Axayacatl, in which the Spaniards were quartered, was, as
the reader may remember, a vast, irregular pile of stone buildings,
having but one floor, except in the centre, where another story was
added, consisting of a suite of apartments which rose like turrets on
the main building of the edifice. A vast area stretched around,
encompassed by a stone wall of no great height. This was supported by
towers or bulwarks at certain intervals, which gave it some degree of
strength, not, indeed, as compared with European fortifications, but
sufficient to resist the rude battering enginery of the Indians. The
parapet had been pierced here and there with embrasures for the
artillery, which consisted of thirteen guns; and smaller apertures were
made in other parts for the convenience of the arquebusiers. The
Spanish forces found accommodations within the great building; but the
numerous body of Tlascalan auxiliaries could have had no other shelter
than what was afforded by barracks or sheds hastily constructed for the
purpose, in the spacious court-yard. Most of them, probably, bivouacked
under the open sky, in a climate milder than that to which they were
accustomed among the rude hills of their native land. Thus crowded into
a small and compact compass, the whole army could be assembled at a
moment’s notice; and, as the Spanish commander was careful to enforce
the strictest discipline and vigilance, it was scarcely possible that he
could be taken by surprise. No sooner, therefore, did the trumpet call
to arms, as the approach of the enemy was announced, than every soldier
was at his post, the cavalry mounted, the artillery-men at their guns,
and the archers and arquebusiers stationed so as to give the assailants
a warm reception.

On they came, with the companies, or irregular masses, into which the
multitude was divided, rushing forward each in its own dense column,
with many a gay banner displayed, and many a bright gleam of light
reflected from helmet, arrow, and spear-head, as they were tossed about
in their disorderly array. As they drew near the enclosure, the Aztecs
set up a hideous yell, or rather that shrill whistle used in fight by
the nations of Anahuac, which rose far above the sound of shell and
atabal and their other rude instruments of warlike melody. They followed
this by a tempest of missiles,--stones, darts, and arrows,--which fell
thick as rain on the besieged, while volleys of the same kind descended
from the crowded terraces in the neighborhood.[109]

The Spaniards waited until the foremost column had arrived within the
best distance for giving effect to their fire, when a general discharge
of artillery and arquebuses swept the ranks of the assailants and mowed
them down by hundreds.[110] The Mexicans were familiar with the report
of these formidable engines as they had been harmlessly discharged on
some holiday festival; but never till now had they witnessed their
murderous power. They stood aghast for a moment, as with bewildered
looks they staggered under the fury of the fire;[111] but, soon
rallying, the bold barbarians uttered a piercing cry, and rushed forward
over the prostrate bodies of their comrades. A second and a third
volley checked their career, and threw them into disorder, but still
they pressed on, letting off clouds of arrows; while their comrades on
the roofs of the houses took more deliberate aim at the combatants in
the court-yard. The Mexicans were particularly expert in the use of the
sling;[112] and the stones which they hurled from their elevated
positions on the heads of their enemies did even greater execution than
the arrows. They glanced, indeed, from the mail-covered bodies of the
cavaliers, and from those who were sheltered under the cotton panoply,
or _escaupil_. But some of the soldiers, especially the veterans of
Cortés, and many of their Indian allies, had but slight defences, and
suffered greatly under this stony tempest.

The Aztecs, meanwhile, had advanced close under the walls of the
intrenchment, their ranks broken and disordered and their limbs mangled
by the unintermitting fire of the Christians. But they still pressed on,
under the very muzzles of the guns. They endeavored to scale the
parapet, which, from its moderate height, was in itself a work of no
great difficulty. But the moment they showed their heads above the
rampart they were shot down by the unerring marksmen within, or
stretched on the ground by a blow of a Tlascalan _maquahuitl_. Nothing
daunted, others soon appeared to take the place of the fallen, and
strove by raising themselves on the writhing bodies of their dying
comrades, or by fixing their spears in the crevices of the wall, to
surmount the barrier. But the attempt proved equally vain.

Defeated here, they tried to effect a breach in the parapet by battering
it with heavy pieces of timber. The works were not constructed on those
scientific principles by which one part is made to overlook and protect
another. The besiegers, therefore, might operate at their pleasure, with
but little molestation from the garrison within, whose guns could not be
brought into a position to bear on them, and who could mount no part of
their own works for their defence without exposing their persons to the
missiles of the whole besieging army. The parapet, however, proved too
strong for the efforts of the assailants. In their despair, they
endeavored to set the Christian quarters on fire, shooting burning
arrows into them, and climbing up so as to dart their firebrands through
the embrasures. The principal edifice was of stone. But the temporary
defences of the Indian allies, and other parts of the exterior works,
were of wood. Several of these took fire, and the flame spread rapidly
among the light, combustible materials. This was a disaster for which
the besieged were wholly unprepared. They had little water, scarcely
enough for their own consumption. They endeavored to extinguish the
flames by heaping on earth. But in vain. Fortunately, the great building
was of materials which defied the destroying element. But the fire raged
in some of the outworks, connected with the parapet, with a fury which
could only be checked by throwing down a part of the wall itself, thus
laying open a formidable breach. This, by the general’s order, was
speedily protected by a battery of heavy guns, and a file of
arquebusiers, who kept up an incessant volley through the opening on the

The fight now raged with fury on both sides. The walls around the palace
belched forth an unintermitting sheet of flame and smoke. The groans of
the wounded and dying were lost in the fiercer battle-cries of the
combatants, the roar of the artillery, the sharper rattle of the
musketry, and the hissing sound of Indian missiles. It was the conflict
of the European with the American; of civilized man with the barbarian;
of the science of the one with the rude weapons and warfare of the
other. And as the ancient walls of Tenochtitlan shook under the thunders
of the artillery, it announced that the white man, the destroyer, had
set his foot within her precincts.[114]

Night at length came, and drew her friendly mantle over the contest. The
Aztec seldom fought by night. It brought little repose, however, to the
Spaniards, in hourly expectation of an assault; and they found abundant
occupation in restoring the breaches in their defences and in repairing
their battered armor. The beleaguering host lay on their arms through
the night, giving token of their presence, now and then, by sending a
stone or shaft over the battlements, or by a solitary cry of defiance
from some warrior more determined than the rest, till all other sounds
were lost in the vague, indistinct murmurs which float upon the air in
the neighborhood of a vast assembly.

The ferocity shown by the Mexican seems to have been a thing for which
Cortés was wholly unprepared. His past experience, his uninterrupted
career of victory with a much feebler force at his command, had led him
to underrate the military efficiency, as well as the valor, of the
Indians. The apparent facility with which the Mexicans had acquiesced in
the outrages on their sovereign and themselves had led him to hold their
courage, in particular, too lightly. He could not believe the present
assault to be anything more than a temporary ebullition of the populace,
which would soon waste itself by its own fury. And he proposed, on the
following day, to sally out and inflict such chastisement on his foes as
should bring them to their senses and show who was master in the

With early dawn, the Spaniards were up and under arms; but not before
their enemies had given evidence of their hostility by the random
missiles which from time to time were sent into the enclosure. As the
gray light of morning advanced, it showed the besieging army, far from
being diminished in numbers, filling up the great square and neighboring
avenues in more dense array than on the preceding evening. Instead of a
confused, disorderly rabble, it had the appearance of something like a
regular force, with its battalions distributed under their respective
banners, the devices of which showed a contribution from the principal
cities and districts in the Valley. High above the rest was conspicuous
the ancient standard of Mexico, with its well-known cognizance, an eagle
pouncing on an ocelot, emblazoned on a rich mantle of feather-work. Here
and there priests might be seen mingling in the ranks of the besiegers,
and, with frantic gestures, animating them to avenge their insulted

The greater part of the enemy had little clothing save the _maxtlatl_,
or sash round the loins. They were variously armed, with long spears
tipped with copper or flint, or sometimes merely pointed and hardened in
the fire. Some were provided with slings, and others with darts having
two or three points, with long strings attached to them, by which, when
discharged, they could be torn away again from the body of the wounded.
This was a formidable weapon, much dreaded by the Spaniards. Those of a
higher order yielded the terrible _maquahuitl_, with its sharp and
brittle blades of obsidian. Amidst the motley bands of warriors were
seen many whose showy dress and air of authority intimated persons of
high military consequence. Their breasts were protected by plates of
metal, over which was thrown the gay surcoat of feather-work. They wore
casques resembling in their form the head of some wild and ferocious
animal, crested with bristly hair, or overshadowed by tall and graceful
plumes of many a brilliant color. Some few were decorated with the red
fillet bound round the hair, having tufts of cotton attached to it,
which denoted by their number that of the victories they had won, and
their own pre-eminent rank among the warriors of the nation. The motley
assembly plainly showed that priest, warrior, and citizen had all united
to swell the tumult.

Before the sun had shot his beams into the Castilian quarters, the enemy
were in motion, evidently preparing to renew the assault of the
preceding day. The Spanish commander determined to anticipate them by a
vigorous sortie, for which he had already made the necessary
dispositions. A general discharge of ordnance and musketry sent death
far and wide into the enemy’s ranks, and, before they had time to
recover from their confusion, the gates were thrown open, and Cortés,
sallying out at the head of his cavalry, supported by a large body of
infantry and several thousand Tlascalans, rode at full gallop against
them. Taken thus by surprise, it was scarcely possible to offer much
resistance. Those who did were trampled down under the horses’ feet, cut
to pieces with the broadswords, or pierced with the lances of the
riders. The infantry followed up the blow, and the rout for the moment
was general.

But the Aztecs fled only to take refuge behind a barricade, or strong
work of timber and earth, which had been thrown across the great street
through which they were pursued. Rallying on the other side, they made a
gallant stand, and poured in turn a volley of their light weapons on
the Spaniards, who, saluted with a storm of missiles at the same time
from the terraces of the houses, were checked in their career and thrown
into some disorder.[115]

Cortés, thus impeded, ordered up a few pieces of heavy ordnance, which
soon swept away the barricades and cleared a passage for the army. But
it had lost the momentum acquired in its rapid advance. The enemy had
time to rally and to meet the Spaniards on more equal terms. They were
attacked in flank, too, as they advanced, by fresh battalions, who
swarmed in from the adjoining streets and lanes. The canals were alive
with boats filled with warriors, who with their formidable darts
searched every crevice or weak place in the armor of proof, and made
havoc on the unprotected bodies of the Tlascalans. By repeated and
vigorous charges, the Spaniards succeeded in driving the Indians before
them; though many, with a desperation which showed they loved vengeance
better than life, sought to embarrass the movements of their horses by
clinging to their legs, or, more successfully, strove to pull the riders
from their saddles. And woe to the unfortunate cavalier who was thus
dismounted,--to be despatched by the brutal _maquahuitl_, or to be
dragged on board a canoe to the bloody altar of sacrifice!

But the greatest annoyance which the Spaniards endured was from the
missiles from the _azoteas_, consisting often of large stones, hurled
with a force that would tumble the stoutest rider from his saddle.
Galled in the extreme by these discharges, against which even their
shields afforded no adequate protection, Cortés ordered fire to be set
to the buildings. This was no very difficult matter, since, although
chiefly of stone, they were filled with mats, cane-work, and other
combustible materials, which were soon in a blaze. But the buildings
stood separated from one another by canals and draw-bridges, so that the
flames did not easily communicate to the neighboring edifices. Hence the
labor of the Spaniards was incalculably increased, and their progress in
the work of destruction--fortunately for the city--was comparatively
slow.[116] They did not relax their efforts, however, till several
hundred houses had been consumed, and the miseries of a conflagration,
in which the wretched inmates perished equally with the defenders, were
added to the other horrors of the scene.

The day was now far spent. The Spaniards had been everywhere victorious.
But the enemy, though driven back on every point, still kept the field.
When broken by the furious charges of the cavalry, he soon rallied
behind the temporary defences, which, at different intervals, had been
thrown across the streets, and, facing about, renewed the fight with
undiminished courage, till the sweeping away of the barriers by the
cannon of the assailants left a free passage for the movements of their
horse. Thus the action was a succession of rallying and retreating, in
which both parties suffered much, although the loss inflicted on the
Indians was probably tenfold greater than that of the Spaniards. But the
Aztecs could better afford the loss of a hundred lives than their
antagonists that of one. And, while the Spaniards showed an array broken
and obviously thinned in numbers, the Mexican army, swelled by the
tributary levies which flowed in upon it from the neighboring streets,
exhibited, with all its losses, no sign of diminution. At length, sated
with carnage, and exhausted by toil and hunger, the Spanish commander
drew off his men, and sounded a retreat.[117]

On his way back to his quarters, he beheld his friend the secretary
Duero, in a street adjoining, unhorsed, and hotly engaged with a body of
Mexicans, against whom he was desperately defending himself with his
poniard. Cortés, roused at the sight, shouted his war-cry, and, dashing
into the midst of the enemy, scattered them like chaff by the fury of
his onset; then, recovering his friend’s horse, he enabled him to
remount, and the two cavaliers, striking their spurs into their steeds,
burst through their opponents and joined the main body of the army.[118]
Such displays of generous gallantry were not uncommon in these
engagements, which called forth more feats of personal adventure than
battles with antagonists better skilled in the science of war. The
chivalrous bearing of the general was emulated in full measure by
Sandoval, De Leon, Olid, Alvarado, Ordaz, and his other brave
companions, who won such glory under the eye of their leader as prepared
the way for the independent commands which afterwards placed provinces
and kingdoms at their disposal.

The undaunted Aztecs hung on the rear of their retreating foes, annoying
them at every step by fresh flights of stones and arrows; and, when the
Spaniards had re-entered their fortress, the Indian host encamped around
it, showing the same dogged resolution as on the preceding evening.
Though true to their ancient habits of inaction during the night, they
broke the stillness of the hour by insulting cries and menaces, which
reached the ears of the besieged. “The gods have delivered you, at last,
into our hands,” they said; “Huitzilopochtli has long cried for his
victims. The stone of sacrifice is ready. The knives are sharpened. The
wild beasts in the palace are roaring for their offal. And the cages,”
they added, taunting the Tlascalans with their leanness, “are waiting
for the false sons of Anahuac, who are to be fattened for the
festival!” These dismal menaces, which sounded fearfully in the ears of
the besieged, who understood too well their import, were mingled with
piteous lamentations for their sovereign, whom they called on the
Spaniards to deliver up to them.

Cortés suffered much from a severe wound which he had received in the
hand in the late action. But the anguish of his mind must have been
still greater as he brooded over the dark prospect before him. He had
mistaken the character of the Mexicans. Their long and patient endurance
had been a violence to their natural temper, which, as their whole
history proves, was arrogant and ferocious beyond that of most of the
races of Anahuac. The restraint which, in deference to their monarch
more than to their own fears, they had so long put on their natures,
being once removed, their passions burst forth with accumulated
violence. The Spaniards had encountered in the Tlascalan an open enemy,
who had no grievance to complain of, no wrong to redress. He fought
under the vague apprehension only of some coming evil to his country.
But the Aztec, hitherto the proud lord of the land, was goaded by insult
and injury, till he had reached that pitch of self-devotion which made
life cheap in comparison with revenge. Armed thus with the energy of
despair, the savage is almost a match for the civilized man; and a whole
nation, moved to its depths by a common feeling, which swallows up all
selfish considerations of personal interest and safety, becomes,
whatever be its resources, like the earthquake and the tornado, the most
formidable among the agencies of nature.

Considerations of this kind may have passed through the mind of Cortés,
as he reflected on his own impotence to restrain the fury of the
Mexicans, and resolved, in despite of his late supercilious treatment of
Montezuma, to employ his authority to allay the tumult,--an authority so
successfully exerted in behalf of Alvarado at an earlier stage of the
insurrection. He was the more confirmed in his purpose on the following
morning, when the assailants, redoubling their efforts, succeeded in
scaling the works in one quarter and effecting an entrance into the
enclosure. It is true, they were met with so resolute a spirit that not
a man of those who entered was left alive. But, in the impetuosity of
the assault, it seemed, for a few moments, as if the place was to be
carried by storm.[119]

Cortés now sent to the Aztec emperor to request his interposition with
his subjects in behalf of the Spaniards. But Montezuma was not in the
humor to comply. He had remained moodily in his quarters ever since the
general’s return. Disgusted with the treatment he had received, he had
still further cause for mortification in finding himself the ally of
those who were the open enemies of his nation. From his apartment he had
beheld the tragical scenes in his capital, and seen another, the
presumptive heir to his throne, taking the place which he should have
occupied at the head of his warriors and fighting the battles of his
country.[120] Distressed by his position, indignant at those who had
placed him in it, he coldly answered, “What have I to do with Malinche?
I do not wish to hear from him. I desire only to die. To what a state
has my willingness to serve him reduced me!”[121] When urged still
further to comply by Olid and Father Olmedo, he added, “It is of no use.
They will neither believe me, nor the false words and promises of
Malinche. You will never leave these walls alive.” On being assured,
however, that the Spaniards would willingly depart if a way were opened
to them by their enemies, he at length--moved, probably, more
by the desire to spare the blood of his subjects than of the
Christians--consented to expostulate with his people.[122]

In order to give the greater effect to his presence, he put on his
imperial robes. The _tilmatli_, his mantle of white and blue, flowed
over his shoulders, held together by its rich clasp of the green
_chalchivitl_. The same precious gem, with emeralds of uncommon size,
set in gold, profusely ornamented other parts of his dress. His feet
were shod with the golden sandals, and his brows covered by the
_copilli_, or Mexican diadem, resembling in form the pontifical tiara.
Thus attired, and surrounded by a guard of Spaniards and several Aztec
nobles, and preceded by the golden wand, the symbol of sovereignty, the
Indian monarch ascended the central turret of the palace. His presence
was instantly recognized by the people, and, as the royal retinue
advanced along the battlements, a change, as if by magic, came over the
scene. The clang of instruments, the fierce cries of the assailants,
were hushed, and a deathlike stillness pervaded the whole assembly, so
fiercely agitated, but a few moments before, by the wild tumult of war!
Many prostrated themselves on the ground; others bent the knee; and all
turned with eager expectation towards the monarch whom they had been
taught to reverence with slavish awe, and from whose countenance they
had been wont to turn away as from the intolerable splendors of
divinity. Montezuma saw his advantage; and, while he stood thus
confronted with his awe-struck people, he seemed to recover all his
former authority and confidence, as he felt himself to be still a king.
With a calm voice, easily heard over the silent assembly, he is said by
the Castilian writers to have thus addressed them:

“Why do I see my people here in arms against the palace of my fathers?
Is it that you think your sovereign a prisoner, and wish to release him?
If so, you have acted rightly. But you are mistaken. I am no prisoner.
The strangers are my guests. I remain with them only from choice, and
can leave them when I list. Have you come to drive them from the city?
That is unnecessary. They will depart of their own accord, if you will
open a way for them. Return to your homes, then. Lay down your arms.
Show your obedience to me who have a right to it. The white men shall go
back to their own land; and all shall be well again within the walls of

As Montezuma announced himself the friend of the detested strangers, a
murmur ran through the multitude; a murmur of contempt for the
pusillanimous prince who could show himself so insensible to the insults
and injuries for which the nation was in arms. The swollen tide of their
passions swept away all the barriers of ancient reverence, and, taking a
new direction, descended on the head of the unfortunate monarch, so far
degenerated from his warlike ancestors. “Base Aztec,” they exclaimed,
“woman, coward! the white men have made you a woman,--fit only to weave
and spin!” These bitter taunts were soon followed by still more hostile
demonstrations. A chief, it is said, of high rank, bent a bow or
brandished a javelin with an air of defiance against the emperor,[123]
when, in an instant, a cloud of stones and arrows descended on the spot
where the royal train was gathered. The Spaniards appointed to protect
his person had been thrown off their guard by the respectful deportment
of the people during their lord’s address. They now hastily interposed
their bucklers. But it was too late. Montezuma was wounded by three of
the missiles, one of which, a stone, fell with such violence on his
head, near the temple, as brought him senseless to the ground. The
Mexicans, shocked at their own sacrilegious act, experienced a sudden
revulsion of feeling, and, setting up a dismal cry, dispersed,
panic-struck, in different directions. Not one of the multitudinous
array remained in the great square before the palace!

The unhappy prince, meanwhile, was borne by his attendants to his
apartments below. On recovering from the insensibility caused by the
blow, the wretchedness of his condition broke upon him. He had tasted
the last bitterness of degradation. He had been reviled, rejected, by
his people. The meanest of the rabble had raised their hands against
him. He had nothing more to live for. It was in vain that Cortés and his
officers endeavored to soothe the anguish of his spirit and fill him
with better thoughts. He spoke not a word in answer. His wound, though
dangerous, might still, with skilful treatment, not prove mortal. But
Montezuma refused all the remedies prescribed for it. He tore off the
bandages as often as they were applied, maintaining, all the while, the
most determined silence. He sat with eyes dejected, brooding over his
fallen fortunes, over the image of ancient majesty and present
humiliation. He had survived his honor. But a spark of his ancient
spirit seemed to kindle in his bosom, as it was clear he did not mean to
survive his disgrace. From this painful scene the Spanish general and
his followers were soon called away by the new dangers which menaced the




Opposite to the Spanish quarters, at only a few rods’ distance, stood
the great _teocalli_ of Huitzilopochtli. This pyramidal mound, with the
sanctuaries that crowned it, rising altogether to the height of near a
hundred and fifty feet, afforded an elevated position that completely
commanded the palace of Axayacatl, occupied by the Christians. A body of
five or six hundred Mexicans, many of them nobles and warriors of the
highest rank, had got possession of the _teocalli_, whence they
discharged such a tempest of arrows on the garrison that no one could
leave his defences for a moment without imminent danger; while the
Mexicans, under shelter of the sanctuaries, were entirely covered from
the fire of the besieged. It was obviously necessary to dislodge the
enemy, if the Spaniards would remain longer in their quarters.

Cortés assigned this service to his chamberlain, Escobar, giving him a
hundred men for the purpose, with orders to storm the _teocalli_ and
set fire to the sanctuaries. But that officer was thrice repulsed in the
attempt, and, after the most desperate efforts, was obliged to return
with considerable loss and without accomplishing his object.

Cortés, who saw the immediate necessity of carrying the place,
determined to lead the storming party himself. He was then suffering
much from the wound in his left hand, which had disabled it for the
present. He made the arm serviceable, however, by fastening his buckler
to it,[125] and, thus crippled, sallied out at the head of three hundred
chosen cavaliers and several thousand of his auxiliaries.

In the court-yard of the temple he found a numerous body of Indians
prepared to dispute his passage. He briskly charged them; but the flat
smooth stones of the pavement were so slippery that the horses lost
their footing and many of them fell. Hastily dismounting, they sent back
the animals to their quarters, and, renewing the assault, the Spaniards
succeeded without much difficulty in dispersing the Indian warriors and
opening a free passage for themselves to the _teocalli_. This building,
as the reader may remember, was a huge pyramidal structure, about three
hundred feet square at the base. A flight of stone steps on the outside,
at one of the angles of the mound, led to a platform, or terraced walk,
which passed round the building until it reached a similar flight of
stairs directly over the preceding, that conducted to another landing as
before. As there were five bodies or divisions of the _teocalli_, it
became necessary to pass round its whole extent four times, or nearly a
mile, in order to reach the summit, which, it may be recollected, was an
open area, crowned only by the two sanctuaries dedicated to the Aztec

Cortés, having cleared a way for the assault, sprang up the lower
stairway, followed by Alvarado, Sandoval, Ordaz, and the other gallant
cavaliers of his little band, leaving a file of arquebusiers and a
strong corps of Indian allies to hold the enemy in check at the foot of
the monument. On the first landing, as well as on the several galleries
above, and on the summit, the Aztec warriors were drawn up to dispute
his passage. From their elevated position they showered down volleys of
lighter missiles, together with heavy stones, beams, and burning
rafters, which, thundering along the stairway, overturned the ascending
Spaniards and carried desolation through their ranks. The more
fortunate, eluding or springing over these obstacles, succeeded in
gaining the first terrace; where, throwing themselves on their enemies,
they compelled them, after a short resistance, to fall back. The
assailants pressed on, effectually supported by a brisk fire of the
musketeers from below, which so much galled the Mexicans in their
exposed situation that they were glad to take shelter on the broad
summit of the _teocalli_.

Cortés and his comrades were close upon their rear, and the two parties
soon found themselves face to face on this aerial battle-field, engaged
in mortal combat in presence of the whole city, as well as of the troops
in the court-yard, who paused, as if by mutual consent, from their own
hostilities, gazing in silent expectation on the issue of those above.
The area, though somewhat smaller than the base of the _teocalli_, was
large enough to afford a fair field of fight for a thousand combatants.
It was paved with broad, flat stones. No impediment occurred over its
surface, except the huge sacrificial block, and the temples of stone
which rose to the height of forty feet, at the farther extremity of the
arena. One of these had been consecrated to the Cross. The other was
still occupied by the Mexican war-god. The Christian and the Aztec
contended for their religions under the very shadow of their respective
shrines; while the Indian priests, running to and fro, with their hair
wildly streaming over their sable mantles, seemed hovering in mid-air,
like so many demons of darkness urging on the work of slaughter!

The parties closed with the desperate fury of men who had no hope but in
victory. Quarter was neither asked nor given; and to fly was impossible.
The edge of the area was unprotected by parapet or battlement. The least
slip would be fatal; and the combatants, as they struggled in mortal
agony, were sometimes seen to roll over the sheer


_Goupil & Cº. Paris_]

sides of the precipice together.[127] Cortés himself is said to have had
a narrow escape from this dreadful fate. Two warriors, of strong,
muscular frames, seized on him, and were dragging him violently towards
the brink of the pyramid. Aware of their intention, he struggled with
all his force, and, before they could accomplish their purpose,
succeeded in tearing himself from their grasp and hurling one of them
over the walls with his own arm! The story is not improbable in itself,
for Cortés was a man of uncommon agility and strength. It has been often
repeated; but not by contemporary history.[128]

The battle lasted with unintermitting fury for three hours. The number
of the enemy was double that of the Christians; and it seemed as if it
were a contest which must be determined by numbers and brute force,
rather than by superior science. But it was not so. The invulnerable
armor of the Spaniard, his sword of matchless temper, and his skill in
the use of it, gave him advantages which far outweighed the odds of
physical strength and numbers. After doing all that the courage of
despair could enable men to do, resistance grew fainter and fainter on
the side of the Aztecs. One after another they had fallen. Two or three
priests only survived, to be led away in triumph by the victors. Every
other combatant was stretched a corpse on the bloody arena, or had been
hurled from the giddy heights. Yet the loss of the Spaniards was not
inconsiderable. It amounted to forty-five of their best men; and nearly
all the remainder were more or less injured in the desperate

The victorious cavaliers now rushed towards the sanctuaries. The lower
story was of stone; the two upper were of wood. Penetrating into their
recesses, they had the mortification to find the image of the Virgin and
the Cross removed.[130] But in the other edifice they still beheld the
grim figure of Huitzilopochtli, with his censer of smoking hearts, and
the walls of his oratory reeking with gore,--not improbably of their own
countrymen! With shouts of triumph the Christians tore the uncouth
monster from his niche, and tumbled him, in the presence of the
horror-struck Aztecs, down the steps of the _teocalli_.{*} They then set
fire to the accursed building. The flames speedily ran up the slender
towers, sending forth an ominous light over city, lake, and valley, to
the remotest hut among the mountains. It was the funeral pyre of
paganism, and proclaimed the fall of that sanguinary religion which had
so long hung like a dark cloud over the fair regions of Anahuac![131]

{*} [Sir Arthur Helps speaks, rather oddly, of Cortés having set fire to
this image. Neither Cortés himself nor Bernal Diaz mentions any such
attempt to burn what is described as a “huge block of basalt, covered
with sculptured figures.”--K.]

Having accomplished this good work, the Spaniards descended the winding
slopes of the _teocalli_ with more free and buoyant step, as if
conscious that the blessing of Heaven now rested on their arms. They
passed through the dusky files of Indian warriors in the court-yard, too
much dismayed by the appalling scenes they had witnessed to offer
resistance, and reached their own quarters in safety. That very night
they followed up the blow by a sortie on the sleeping town, and burned
three hundred houses, the horrors of conflagration being made still more
impressive by occurring at the hour when the Aztecs, from their own
system of warfare, were least prepared for them.[132]

Hoping to find the temper of the natives somewhat subdued by these
reverses, Cortés now determined, with his usual policy, to make them a
vantage-ground for proposing terms of accommodation. He accordingly
invited the enemy to a parley, and, as the principal chiefs, attended by
their followers, assembled in the great square, he mounted the turret
before occupied by Montezuma, and made signs that he would address them.
Marina, as usual, took her place by his side, as his interpreter. The
multitude gazed with earnest curiosity on the Indian girl, whose
influence with the Spaniards was well known, and whose connection with
the general, in particular, had led the Aztecs to designate him by her
Mexican name of Malinche.[133] Cortés, speaking through the soft,
musical tones of his mistress, told his audience they must now be
convinced that they had nothing further to hope from opposition to the
Spaniards. They had seen their gods trampled in the dust, their altars
broken, their dwellings burned, their warriors falling on all sides.
“All this,” continued he, “you have brought on yourselves by your
rebellion. Yet, for the affection the sovereign whom you have so
unworthily treated still bears you, I would willingly stay my hand, if
you will lay down your arms and return once more to your obedience. But,
if you do not,” he concluded, “I will make your city a heap of ruins,
and leave not a soul alive to mourn over it!”

But the Spanish commander did not yet comprehend the character of the
Aztecs, if he thought to intimidate them by menaces. Calm in their
exterior, and slow to move, they were the more difficult to pacify when
roused; and now that they had been stirred to their inmost depths, it
was no human voice that could still the tempest. It may be, however,
that Cortés did not so much misconceive the character of the people. He
may have felt that an authoritative tone was the only one he could
assume with any chance of effect in his present position, in which
milder and more conciliatory language would, by intimating a
consciousness of inferiority, have too certainly defeated its own

It was true, they answered, he had destroyed their temples, broken in
pieces their gods, massacred their countrymen. Many more, doubtless,
were yet to fall under their terrible swords. But they were content so
long as for every thousand Mexicans they could shed the blood of a
single white man![134] “Look out,” they continued, “on our terraces and
streets; see them still thronged with warriors as far as your eyes can
reach. Our numbers are scarcely diminished by our losses. Yours, on the
contrary, are lessening every hour. You are perishing from hunger and
sickness. Your provisions and water are failing. You must soon fall into
our hands. _The bridges are broken down, and you cannot escape!_”[135]
There will be too few of you left to glut the vengeance of our gods!” As
they concluded, they sent a volley of arrows over the battlements, which
compelled the Spaniards to descend and take refuge in their defences.

The fierce and indomitable spirit of the Aztecs filled the besieged with
dismay. All, then, that they had done and suffered, their battles by
day, their vigils by night, the perils they had braved, even the
victories they had won, were of no avail. It was too evident that they
had no longer the spring of ancient superstition to work upon in the
breasts of the natives, who, like some wild beast that has burst the
bonds of his keeper, seemed now to swell and exult in the full
consciousness of their strength. The annunciation respecting the bridges
fell like a knell on the ears of the Christians. All that they had heard
was too true; and they gazed on one another with looks of anxiety and

The same consequences followed which sometimes take place among the crew
of a shipwrecked vessel. Subordination was lost in the dreadful sense of
danger. A spirit of mutiny broke out, especially among the recent levies
drawn from the army of Narvaez. They had come into the country from no
motive of ambition, but attracted simply by the glowing reports of its
opulence, and they had fondly hoped to return in a few months with their
pockets well lined with the gold of the Aztec monarch. But how different
had been their lot! From the first hour of their landing, they had
experienced only trouble and disaster, privations of every description,
sufferings unexampled, and they now beheld in perspective a fate yet
more appalling. Bitterly did they lament the hour when they left the
sunny fields of Cuba for these cannibal regions! And heartily did they
curse their own folly in listening to the call of Velasquez, and still
more in embarking under the banner of Cortés![136]

They now demanded, with noisy vehemence, to be led instantly from the
city, and refused to serve longer in defence of a place where they were
cooped up like sheep in the shambles, waiting only to be dragged to
slaughter. In all this they were rebuked by the more orderly,
soldier-like conduct of the veterans of Cortés. These latter had shared
with their general the day of his prosperity, and they were not disposed
to desert him in the tempest. It was, indeed, obvious, on a little
reflection, that the only chance of safety, in the existing crisis,
rested on subordination and union, and that even this chance must be
greatly diminished under any other leader than their present one.

Thus pressed by enemies without and by factions within, that leader was
found, as usual, true to himself. Circumstances so appalling as would
have paralyzed a common mind only stimulated his to higher action and
drew forth all its resources. He combined, what is most rare, singular
coolness and constancy of purpose with a spirit of enterprise that might
well be called romantic. His presence of mind did not now desert him. He
calmly surveyed his condition and weighed the difficulties which
surrounded him, before coming to a decision. Independently of the hazard
of a retreat in the face of a watchful and desperate foe, it was a deep
mortification to surrender up the city where he had so long lorded it as
a master; to abandon the rich treasures which he had secured to himself
and his followers; to forego the very means by which he had hoped to
propitiate the favor of his sovereign and secure an amnesty for his
irregular proceedings. This, he well knew, must, after all, be dependent
on success. To fly now was to acknowledge himself further removed from
the conquest than ever. What a close was this to a career so
auspiciously begun! What a contrast to his magnificent vaunts! What a
triumph would it afford to his enemies! The governor of Cuba would be
amply revenged.

But, if such humiliating reflections crowded on his mind, the
alternative of remaining, in his present crippled condition, seemed yet
more desperate.[137] With his men daily diminishing in strength and
numbers, their provisions reduced so low that a small daily ration of
bread was all the sustenance afforded to the soldier under his
extraordinary fatigues,[138] with the breaches every day widening in his
feeble fortifications, with his ammunition, in fine, nearly expended, it
would be impossible to maintain the place much longer--and none but men
of iron constitutions and tempers, like the Spaniards, could have held
it so long--against the enemy. The chief embarrassment was as to the
time and manner in which it would be expedient to evacuate the city. The
best route seemed to be that of Tlacopan (Tacuba). For the causeway, the
most dangerous part of the road, was but two miles long in that
direction, and would, therefore, place the fugitives, much sooner than
either of the other great avenues, on terra firma. Before his final
departure, however, Cortés proposed to make another sally, in order to
reconnoitre the ground, and, at the same time, divert the enemy’s
attention from his real purpose by a show of active operations.

For some days his workmen had been employed in constructing a military
machine of his own invention. It was called a _manta_, and was contrived
somewhat on the principle of the mantelets used in the wars of the
Middle Ages. It was, however, more complicated, consisting of a tower
made of light beams and planks, having two chambers, one over the other.
These were to be filled with musketeers, and the sides were provided
with loop-holes through which a fire could be kept up on the enemy. The
great advantage proposed by this contrivance was to afford a defence to
the troops against the missiles hurled from the terraces. These
machines, three of which were made, rested on rollers, and were provided
with strong ropes, by which they were to be dragged along the streets by
the Tlascalan auxiliaries.[139]

The Mexicans gazed with astonishment on this warlike machinery, and, as
the rolling fortresses advanced, belching forth fire and smoke from
their entrails, the enemy, incapable of making an impression on those
within, fell back in dismay. By bringing the _mantas_ under the walls of
the houses, the Spaniards were enabled to fire with effect on the
mischievous tenants of the _azoteas_, and, when this did not silence
them, by letting a ladder, or light draw-bridge, fall on the roof from
the top of the _manta_, they opened a passage to the terrace, and closed
with the combatants hand to hand. They could not, however, thus approach
the higher buildings, from which the Indian warriors threw down such
heavy masses of stone and timber as dislodged the planks that covered
the machines, or, thundering against their sides, shook the frail
edifices to their foundations, threatening all within with
indiscriminate ruin. Indeed, the success of the experiment was doubtful,
when the intervention of a canal put a stop to their further progress.

The Spaniards now found the assertion of their enemies too well
confirmed. The bridge which traversed the opening had been demolished;
and, although the canals which intersected the city were, in general, of
no great width or depth, the removal of the bridges not only impeded the
movements of the general’s clumsy machines, but effectually disconcerted
those of his cavalry. Resolving to abandon the _mantas_, he gave orders
to fill up the chasm with stone, timber, and other rubbish drawn from
the ruined buildings, and to make a new passageway for the army. While
this labor was going on, the Aztec slingers and archers on the other
side of the opening kept up a galling discharge on the Christians, the
more defenceless from the nature of their occupation. When the work was
completed, and a safe passage secured, the Spanish cavaliers rode
briskly against the enemy, who, unable to resist the shock of the
steel-clad column, fell back with precipitation to where another canal
afforded a similar strong position for defence.[140]

There were no less than seven of these canals intersecting the great
street of Tlacopan,[141] and at every one the same scene was renewed,
the Mexicans making a gallant stand and inflicting some loss, at each,
on their persevering antagonists. These operations consumed two days,
when, after incredible toil, the Spanish general had the satisfaction to
find the line of communication completely re-established through the
whole length of the avenue, and the principal bridges placed under
strong detachments of infantry. At this juncture, when he had driven the
foe before him to the farthest extremity of the street, where it touches
on the causeway, he was informed that the Mexicans, disheartened by
their reverses, desired to open a parley with him respecting the terms
of an accommodation, and that their chiefs awaited his return for that
purpose at the fortress. Overjoyed at the intelligence, he instantly
rode back, attended by Alvarado, Sandoval, and about sixty of the
cavaliers, to his quarters.

The Mexicans proposed that he should release the two priests captured in
the temple, who might be the bearers of his terms and serve as agents
for conducting the negotiations. They were accordingly sent with the
requisite instructions to their countrymen. But they did not return. The
whole was an artifice of the enemy, anxious to procure the liberation of
their religious leaders, one of whom was their _teoteuctli_, or
high-priest, whose presence was indispensable in the probable event of a
new coronation.

Cortés, meanwhile, relying on the prospects of a speedy arrangement, was
hastily taking some refreshment with his officers, after the fatigues of
the day, when he received the alarming tidings that the enemy were in
arms again, with more fury than ever; that they had overpowered the
detachments posted under Alvarado at three of the bridges and were
busily occupied in demolishing them. Stung with shame at the facility
with which he had been duped by his wily foe, or rather by his own
sanguine hopes, Cortés threw himself into the saddle, and followed by
his brave companions, galloped back at full speed to the scene of
action. The Mexicans recoiled before the impetuous charge of the
Spaniards. The bridges were again restored; and Cortés and his chivalry
rode down the whole extent of the great street, driving the enemy like
frightened deer, at the points of their lances. But, before he could
return on his steps, he had the mortification to find that the
indefatigable foe, gathering from the adjoining lanes and streets, had
again closed on his infantry, who, worn down by fatigue, were unable to
maintain their position at one of the principal bridges. New swarms of
warriors now poured in on all sides, overwhelming the little band of
Christian cavaliers with a storm of stones, darts, and arrows, which
rattled like hail on their armor and on that of their well-barbed
horses. Most of the missiles, indeed, glanced harmless from the good
panoplies of steel, or thick quilted cotton, but, now and then, one
better aimed penetrated the joints of the harness and stretched the
rider on the ground.

The confusion became greater around the broken bridge. Some of the
horsemen were thrown into the canal, and their steeds floundered wildly
about without a rider. Cortés himself, at this crisis, did more than any
other to cover the retreat of his followers. While the bridge was
repairing, he plunged boldly into the midst of the barbarians, striking
down an enemy at every vault of his charger, cheering on his own men,
and spreading terror through the ranks of his opponents by the
well-known sound of his battle-cry. Never did he display greater
hardihood, or more freely expose his person, emulating, says an old
chronicler, the feats of the Roman Cocles.[142] In this way he stayed
the tide of assailants till the last man had crossed the bridge, when,
some of the planks having given way, he was compelled to leap a chasm of
full six feet in width, amidst a cloud of missiles, before he could
place himself in safety.[143] A report ran through the army that the
general was slain. It soon spread through the city, to the great joy of
the Mexicans, and reached the fortress, where the besieged were thrown
into no less consternation. But, happily for them, it was false. He,
indeed, received two severe contusions on the knee, but in other
respects remained uninjured. At no time, however, had he been in such
extreme danger; and his escape, and that of his companions, were
esteemed little less than a miracle. More than one grave historian
refers the preservation of the Spaniards to the watchful care of their
patron Apostle, St. James, who, in these desperate conflicts, was beheld
careering on his milk-white steed at the head of the Christian
squadrons, with his sword flashing lightning, while a lady robed in
white--supposed to be the Virgin--was distinctly seen by his side,
throwing dust in the eyes of the infidel! The fact is attested both by
Spaniards and Mexicans,--by the latter after their conversion to
Christianity. Surely, never was there a time when the interposition of
their tutelar saint was more strongly demanded.[144]

The coming of night dispersed the Indian battalions, which, vanishing
like birds of ill omen from the field, left the well-contested pass in
possession of the Spaniards. They returned, however, with none of the
joyous feelings of conquerors to their citadel, but with slow step and
dispirited, with weapons hacked, armor battered, and fainting under the
loss of blood, fasting, and fatigue. In this condition they had yet to
learn the tidings of a fresh misfortune in the death of Montezuma.[145]

The Indian monarch had rapidly declined, since he had received his
injury, sinking, however, quite as much under the anguish of a wounded
spirit as under disease. He continued in the same moody state of
insensibility as that already described; holding little communication
with those around him, deaf to consolation, obstinately rejecting all
medical remedies as well as nourishment. Perceiving his end approach,
some of the cavaliers present in the fortress, whom the kindness of his
manners had personally attached to him, were anxious to save the soul of
the dying prince from the sad doom of those who perish in the darkness
of unbelief. They accordingly waited on him, with Father Olmedo at their
head, and in the most earnest manner implored him to open his eyes to
the error of his creed, and consent to be baptized. But
Montezuma--whatever may have been suggested to the contrary--seems never
to have faltered in his hereditary faith, or to have contemplated
becoming an apostate; for surely he merits that name in its most odious
application, who, whether Christian or pagan, renounces his religion
without conviction of its falsehood.[146] Indeed, it was a too implicit
reliance on its oracles which had led him to give such easy confidence
to the Spaniards. His intercourse with them had, doubtless, not
sharpened his desire to embrace their communion; and the calamities of
his country he might consider as sent by his gods to punish him for his
hospitality to those who had desecrated and destroyed their

When Father Olmedo, therefore, kneeling at his side, with the uplifted
crucifix, affectionately besought him to embrace the sign of man’s
redemption, he coldly repulsed the priest, exclaiming, “I have but a few
moments to live, and will not at this hour desert the faith of my
fathers.”[148] One thing, however, seemed to press heavily on
Montezuma’s mind. This was the fate of his children, especially of three
daughters, whom he had by his two wives; for there were certain rites of
marriage which distinguished the lawful wife from the concubine. Calling
Cortés to his bedside, he earnestly commended these children to his
care, as “the most precious jewels that he could leave him.” He besought
the general to interest his master, the emperor, in their behalf, and to
see that they should not be left destitute, but be allowed some portion
of their rightful inheritance. “Your lord will do this,” he concluded,
“if it were only for the friendly offices I have rendered the Spaniards,
and for the love I have shown them,--though it has brought me to this
condition! But for this I bear them no ill will.”[149] Such, according
to Cortés himself, were the words of the dying monarch. Not long after,
on the 30th of June, 1520,[150] he expired in the arms of some of his
own nobles, who still remained faithful in their attendance on his
person. “Thus,” exclaims a native historian, one of his enemies, a
Tlascalan, “thus died the unfortunate Montezuma, who had swayed the
sceptre with such consummate policy and wisdom, and who was held in
greater reverence and awe than any other prince of his lineage, or any,
indeed, that ever sat on a throne in this Western World. With him may be
said to have terminated the royal line of the Aztecs, and the glory to
have passed away from the empire, which under him had reached the zenith
of its prosperity.”[151] “The tidings of his death,” says the old
Castilian chronicler, Diaz, “were received with real grief by every
cavalier and soldier in the army who had had access to his person; for
we all loved him as a father,--and no wonder, seeing how good he
was.”[152] This simple but emphatic testimony to his desert, at such a
time, is in itself the best refutation of the suspicions occasionally
entertained of his fidelity to the Christians.[153]

It is not easy to depict the portrait of Montezuma in its true colors,
since it has been exhibited to us under two aspects, of the most
opposite and contradictory character. In the accounts gathered of him by
the Spaniards on coming into the country, he was uniformly represented
as bold and warlike, unscrupulous as to the means of gratifying his
ambition, hollow and perfidious, the terror of his foes, with a haughty
bearing which made him feared even by his own people. They found him, on
the contrary, not merely affable and gracious, but disposed to waive all
the advantages of his own position, and to place them on a footing with
himself; making their wishes his law; gentle even to effeminacy in his
deportment, and constant in his friendship while his whole nation was in
arms against them. Yet these traits, so contradictory, were truly enough
drawn. They are to be explained by the extraordinary circumstances of
his position.

When Montezuma ascended the throne, he was scarcely twenty-three years
of age. Young, and ambitious of extending his empire, he was continually
engaged in war, and is said to have been present himself in nine pitched
battles.[154] He was greatly renowned for his martial prowess, for he
belonged to the _Quachictin_, the highest military order of his nation,
and one into which but few even of its sovereigns had been
admitted.[155] In later life, he preferred intrigue to violence, as more
consonant to his character and priestly education. In this he was as
great an adept as any prince of his time, and, by arts not very
honorable to himself, succeeded in filching away much of the territory
of his royal kinsman of Tezcuco. Severe in the administration of
justice, he made important reforms in the arrangement of the tribunals.
He introduced other innovations in the royal household, creating new
officers, introducing a lavish magnificence and forms of courtly
etiquette unknown to his ruder predecessors. He was, in short, most
attentive to all that concerned the exterior and pomp of royalty.[156]
Stately and decorous, he was careful of his own dignity, and might be
said to be as great an “actor of majesty” among the barbarian potentates
of the New World as Louis the Fourteenth was among the polished princes
of Europe.

He was deeply tinctured, moreover, with that spirit of bigotry which
threw such a shade over the latter days of the French monarch. He
received the Spaniards as the beings predicted by his oracles. The
anxious dread with which he had evaded their proffered visit was founded
on the same feelings which led him so blindly to resign himself to them
on their approach. He felt himself rebuked by their superior genius. He
at once conceded all that they demanded,--his treasures, his power, even
his person. For their sake, he forsook his wonted occupations, his
pleasures, his most familiar habits. He might be said to forego his
nature, and, as his subjects asserted, to change his sex and become a
woman. If we cannot refuse our contempt for the pusillanimity of the
Aztec monarch, it should be mitigated by the consideration that this
pusillanimity sprung from his superstition, and that superstition in the
savage is the substitute for religious principle in the civilized man.

It is not easy to contemplate the fate of Montezuma without feelings of
the strongest compassion;--to see him thus borne along the tide of
events beyond his power to avert or control; to see him, like some
stately tree, the pride of his own Indian forests, towering aloft in the
pomp and majesty of its branches, by its very eminence a mark for the
thunderbolt, the first victim of the tempest which was to sweep over its
native hills! When the wise king of Tezcuco addressed his royal relative
at his coronation, he exclaimed, “Happy the empire which is now in the
meridian of its prosperity, for the sceptre is given to one whom the
Almighty has in his keeping; and the nations shall hold him in
reverence!”[157] Alas! the subject of this auspicious invocation lived
to see his empire melt away like the winter’s wreath; to see a strange
race drop, as it were, from the clouds on his land; to find himself a
prisoner in the palace of his fathers, the companion of those who were
the enemies of his gods and his people; to be insulted, reviled, trodden
in the dust, by the meanest of his subjects, by those who, a few months
previous, had trembled at his glance; drawing his last breath in the
halls of the stranger,--a lonely outcast in the heart of his own
capital! He was the sad victim of destiny,--a destiny as dark and
irresistible in its march as that which broods over the mythic legends
of antiquity![158]

Montezuma, at the time of his death, was about forty-one years old, of
which he reigned eighteen. His person and manners have been already
described. He left a numerous progeny by his various wives, most of
whom, having lost their consideration after the Conquest, fell into
obscurity, as they mingled with the mass of the Indian population.[159]
Two of them, however, a son and a daughter, who embraced Christianity,
became the founders of noble houses in Spain.[160] The government,
willing to show its gratitude for the large extent of empire derived
from their ancestor, conferred on them ample estates and important
hereditary honors; and the counts of Montezuma and Tula, intermarrying
with the best blood of Castile, intimated by their names and titles
their illustrious descent from the royal dynasty of Mexico.[161]

Montezuma’s death was a misfortune to the Spaniards. While he lived,
they had a precious pledge in their hands, which, in extremity, they
might possibly have turned to account. Now the last link was snapped
which connected them with the natives of the country. But, independently
of interested feelings, Cortés and his officers were much affected by
his death, from personal considerations, and, when they gazed on the
cold remains of the ill-starred monarch, they may have felt a natural
compunction, as they contrasted his late flourishing condition with that
to which his friendship for them had reduced him.

The Spanish commander showed all respect for his memory. His body,
arrayed in its royal robes, was laid decently on a bier, and borne on
the shoulders of his nobles to his subjects in the city. What honors, if
any, indeed, were paid to his remains, is uncertain. A sound of wailing,
distinctly heard in the western quarters of the capital, was interpreted
by the Spaniards into the moans of a funeral procession, as it bore the
body to be laid among those of his ancestors, under the princely shades
of Chapoltepec.[162] Others state that it was removed to a burial-place
in the city named Copalco, and there burned with the usual solemnities
and signs of lamentation by his chiefs, but not without some unworthy
insults from the Mexican populace.[163] Whatever be the fact, the
people, occupied with the stirring scenes in which they were engaged,
were probably not long mindful of the monarch who had taken no share in
their late patriotic movements. Nor is it strange that the very memory
of his sepulchre should be effaced in the terrible catastrophe which
afterwards overwhelmed the capital and swept away every landmark from
its surface.




There was no longer any question as to the expediency of evacuating the
capital. The only doubt was as to the time of doing so, and the route.
The Spanish commander called a council of officers to deliberate on
these matters. It was his purpose to retreat on Tlascala, and in that
capital to decide, according to circumstances, on his future operations.
After some discussion, they agreed on the causeway of Tlacopan as the
avenue by which to leave the city. It would, indeed, take them back by a
circuitous route, considerably longer than either of those by which they
had approached the capital. But, for that reason, it would be less
likely to be guarded, as least suspected; and the causeway itself, being
shorter than either of the other entrances, would sooner place the army
in comparative security on the main land.

There was some difference of opinion in respect to the hour of
departure. The daytime, it was argued by some, would be preferable,
since it would enable them to see the nature and extent of their danger
and to provide against it. Darkness would be much more likely to
embarrass their own movements than those of the enemy, who were familiar
with the ground. A thousand impediments would occur in the night, which
might prevent their acting in concert, or obeying, or even ascertaining,
the orders of the commander. But, on the other hand, it was urged that
the night presented many obvious advantages in dealing with a foe who
rarely carried hostilities beyond the day. The late active operations of
the Spaniards had thrown the Mexicans off their guard, and it was
improbable they would anticipate so speedy a departure of their enemies.
With celerity and caution they might succeed, therefore, in making their
escape from the town, possibly over the causeway, before their retreat
should be discovered; and, could they once get beyond that pass of
peril, they felt little apprehension for the rest.

These views were fortified, it is said, by the counsels of a soldier
named Botello, who professed the mysterious science of judicial
astrology. He had gained credit with the army by some predictions which
had been verified by the events; those lucky hits which make chance pass
for calculation with the credulous multitude.[164] This man recommended
to his countrymen by all means to evacuate the place in the night, as
the hour most propitious to them, although he should perish in it. The
event proved the astrologer better acquainted with his own horoscope
than with that of others.[165]

It is possible Botello’s predictions had some weight in determining the
opinion of Cortés. Superstition was the feature of the age, and the
Spanish general, as we have seen, had a full measure of its bigotry.
Seasons of gloom, moreover, dispose the mind to a ready acquiescence in
the marvellous. It is, however, quite as probable that he made use of
the astrologer’s opinion, finding it coincided with his own, to
influence that of his men and inspire them with higher confidence. At
all events, it was decided to abandon the city that very night.

The general’s first care was to provide for the safe transportation of
the treasure. Many of the common soldiers had converted their share of
the prize, as we have seen, into gold chains, collars, or other
ornaments, which they easily carried about their persons. But the royal
fifth, together with that of Cortés himself, and much of the rich booty
of the principal cavaliers, had been converted into bars and wedges of
solid gold, and deposited in one of the strong apartments of the palace.
Cortés delivered the share belonging to the crown to the royal officers,
assigning them one of the strongest horses, and a guard of Castilian
soldiers, to transport it.[166] Still, much of the treasure, belonging
both to the crown and to individuals, was necessarily abandoned, from
the want of adequate means of conveyance. The metal lay scattered in
shining heaps along the floor, exciting the cupidity of the soldiers.
“Take what you will of it,” said Cortés to his men. “Better you should
have it, than these Mexican hounds.[167] But be careful not to overload
yourselves. He travels safest in the dark night who travels lightest.”
His own more wary followers took heed to his counsel, helping themselves
to a few articles of least bulk, though it might be, of greatest
value.[168] But the troops of Narvaez, pining for riches of which they
had heard so much and hitherto seen so little, showed no such
discretion. To them it seemed as if the very mines of Mexico were
turned up before them, and, rushing on the treacherous spoil, they
greedily loaded themselves with as much of it, not merely as they could
accommodate about their persons, but as they could stow away in wallets,
boxes, or any other means of conveyance at their disposal.[169]

Cortés next arranged the order of march. The van, composed of two
hundred Spanish foot, he placed under the command of the valiant Gonzalo
de Sandoval, supported by Diego de Ordaz, Francisco de Lujo, and about
twenty other cavaliers. The rear-guard, constituting the strength of the
infantry, was intrusted to Pedro de Alvarado and Velasquez de Leon. The
general himself took charge of the “battle,” or centre, in which went
the baggage, some of the heavy guns, most of which, however, remained in
the rear, the treasure, and the prisoners. These consisted of a son and
two daughters of Montezuma, Cacama, the deposed lord of Tezcuco, and
several other nobles, whom Cortés retained as important pledges in his
future negotiations with the enemy. The Tlascalans were distributed
pretty equally among the three divisions; and Cortés had under his
immediate command a hundred picked soldiers, his own veterans most
attached to his service, who, with Cristóval de Olid, Francisco de
Morla, Alonso de Avila, and two or three other cavaliers, formed a
select corps, to act wherever occasion might require.

The general had already superintended the construction of a portable
bridge to be laid over the open canals in the causeway. This was given
in charge to an officer named Magarino, with forty soldiers under his
orders, all pledged to defend the passage to the last extremity. The
bridge was to be taken up when the entire army had crossed one of the
breaches, and transported to the next. There were three of these
openings in the causeway, and most fortunate would it have been for the
expedition if the foresight of the commander had provided the same
number of bridges. But the labor would have been great, and time was

At midnight the troops were under arms, in readiness for the march. Mass
was performed by Father Olmedo, who invoked the protection of the
Almighty through the awful perils of the night. The gates were thrown
open, and on the first of July, 1520, the Spaniards for the last time
sallied forth from the walls of the ancient fortress, the scene of so
much suffering and such indomitable courage.[171]

The night was cloudy, and a drizzling rain, which fell without
intermission, added to the obscurity. The great square before the palace
was deserted, as, indeed, it had been since the fall of Montezuma.
Steadily, and as noiselessly as possible, the Spaniards held their way
along the great street of Tlacopan, which so lately had resounded with
the tumult of battle. All was now hushed in silence; and they were only
reminded of the past by the occasional presence of some solitary corpse,
or a dark heap of the slain, which too plainly told where the strife had
been hottest. As they passed along the lanes and alleys which opened
into the great street, or looked down the canals, whose polished surface
gleamed with a sort of ebon lustre through the obscurity of night, they
easily fancied that they discerned the shadowy forms of their foe
lurking in ambush and ready to spring on them. But it was only fancy;
and the city slept undisturbed even by the prolonged echoes of the tramp
of the horses and the hoarse rumbling of the artillery and
baggage-trains. At length, a lighter space beyond the dusky line of
buildings showed the van of the army that it was emerging on the open
causeway. They might well have congratulated themselves on having thus
escaped the dangers of an assault in the city itself, and that a brief
time would place them in comparative safety on the opposite shore. But
the Mexicans were not all asleep.

As the Spaniards drew near the spot where the street opened on the
causeway, and were preparing to lay the portable bridge across the
uncovered breach, which now met their eyes, several Indian sentinels,
who had been stationed at this, as at the other approaches to the city,
took the alarm, and fled, rousing their countrymen by their cries. The
priests, keeping their night-watch on the summit of the _teocallis_,
instantly caught the tidings and sounded their shells, while the huge
drum in the desolate temple of the war-god sent forth those solemn
tones, which, heard only in seasons of calamity, vibrated through every
corner of the capital. The Spaniards saw that no time was to be lost.
The bridge was brought forward and fitted with all possible expedition.
Sandoval was the first to try its strength, and, riding across, was
followed by his little body of chivalry, his infantry, and Tlascalan
allies, who formed the first division of the army. Then came Cortés and
his squadrons, with the baggage, ammunition-wagons, and a part of the
artillery. But before they had time to defile across the narrow passage,
a gathering sound was heard, like that of a mighty forest agitated by
the winds. It grew louder and louder, while on the dark waters of the
lake was heard a plashing noise, as of many oars. Then came a few stones
and arrows striking at random among the hurrying troops. They fell every
moment faster and more furious, till they thickened into a terrible
tempest, while the very heavens were rent with the yells and war-cries
of myriads of combatants, who seemed all at once to be swarming over
land and lake!

The Spaniards pushed steadily on through this arrowy sleet, though the
barbarians, dashing their canoes against the sides of the causeway,
clambered up and broke in upon their ranks. But the Christians, anxious
only to make their escape, declined all combat except for
self-preservation. The cavaliers, spurring forward their steeds, shook
off their assailants and rode over their prostrate bodies, while the men
on foot with their good swords or the butts of their pieces drove them
headlong again down the sides of the dike.

But the advance of several thousand men, marching, probably, on a front
of not more than fifteen or twenty abreast, necessarily required much
time, and the leading files had already reached the second breach in the
causeway before those in the rear had entirely traversed the first.[172]
Here they halted, as they had no means of effecting a passage, smarting
all the while under unintermitting volleys from the enemy, who were
clustered thick on the waters around this second opening. Sorely
distressed, the van-guard sent repeated messages to the rear to demand
the portable bridge. At length the last of the army had crossed, and
Magarino and his sturdy followers endeavored to raise the ponderous
framework. But it stuck fast in the sides of the dike. In vain they
strained every nerve. The weight of so many men and horses, and above
all of the heavy artillery, had wedged the timbers so firmly in the
stones and earth that it was beyond their power to dislodge them. Still
they labored amidst a torrent of missiles, until, many of them slain,
and all wounded, they were obliged to abandon the attempt.

The tidings soon spread from man to man, and no sooner was their
dreadful import comprehended than a cry of despair arose, which for a
moment drowned all the noise of conflict. All means of retreat were cut
off. Scarcely hope was left. The only hope was in such desperate
exertions as each could make for himself. Order and subordination were
at an end. Intense danger produced intense selfishness. Each thought
only of his own life. Pressing forward, he trampled down the weak and
the wounded, heedless whether it were friend or foe. The leading files,
urged on by the rear, were crowded on the brink of the gulf. Sandoval,
Ordaz, and the other cavaliers dashed into the water. Some succeeded in
swimming their horses across. Others failed, and some, who reached the
opposite bank, being overturned in the ascent, rolled headlong with
their steeds into the lake. The infantry followed pellmell, heaped
promiscuously on one another, frequently pierced by the shafts or struck
down by the war-clubs of the Aztecs; while many an unfortunate victim
was dragged half stunned on board their canoes, to be reserved for a
protracted but more dreadful death.[173]

The carnage raged fearfully along the length of the causeway. Its
shadowy bulk presented a mark of sufficient distinctness for the enemy’s
missiles, which often prostrated their own countrymen in the blind fury
of the tempest. Those nearest the dike, running their canoes alongside,
with a force that shattered them to pieces, leaped on the land, and
grappled with the Christians, until both came rolling down the side of
the causeway together. But the Aztec fell among his friends, while his
antagonist was borne away in triumph to the sacrifice. The struggle was
long and deadly. The Mexicans were recognized by their white cotton
tunics, which showed faint through the darkness. Above the combatants
rose a wild and discordant clamor, in which horrid shouts of vengeance
were mingled with groans of agony, with invocations of the saints and
the blessed Virgin, and with the screams of women;[174] for there were
several women, both natives and Spaniards, who had accompanied the
Christian camp. Among these, one named María de Estrada is particularly
noticed for the courage she displayed, battling with broadsword and
target like the stanchest of the warriors.[175]

[Illustration: THE NOCHE TRISTE

_Goupil & Cº., Paris_]

The opening in the causeway, meanwhile, was filled up with the wreck of
matter which had been forced into it, ammunition-wagons, heavy guns,
bales of rich stuffs scattered over the waters, chests of solid ingots,
and bodies of men and horses, till over this dismal ruin a passage was
gradually formed, by which those in the rear were enabled to clamber to
the other side.[176] Cortés, it is said, found a place that was
fordable, where, halting, with the water up to his saddle-girths, he
endeavored to check the confusion, and lead his followers by a safer
path to the opposite bank. But his voice was lost in the wild uproar,
and finally, hurrying on with the tide, he pressed forward with a few
trusty cavaliers, who remained near his person, to the van; but not
before he had seen his favorite page, Juan de Salazar, struck down, a
corpse, by his side. Here he found Sandoval and his companions, halting
before the third and last breach, endeavoring to cheer on their
followers to surmount it. But their resolution faltered. It was wide and
deep; though the passage was not so closely beset by the enemy as the
preceding ones. The cavaliers again set the example by plunging into the
water. Horse and foot followed as they could, some swimming, others with
dying grasp clinging to the manes and tails of the struggling animals.
Those fared best, as the general had predicted, who travelled lightest;
and many were the unfortunate wretches who, weighed down by the fatal
gold which they loved so well, were buried with it in the salt floods of
the lake.[177] Cortes, with his gallant comrades, Olid, Morla, Sandoval,
and some few others, still kept in the advance, leading his broken
remnant off the fatal causeway. The din of battle lessened in the
distance; when the rumor reached them that the rear-guard would be
wholly overwhelmed without speedy relief. It seemed almost an act of
desperation; but the generous hearts of the Spanish cavaliers did not
stop to calculate danger when the cry for succor reached them. Turning
their horses’ bridles, they galloped back to the theatre of action,
worked their way through the press, swam the canal, and placed
themselves in the thick of the _mêlée_ on the opposite bank.[178]

The first gray of the morning was now coming over the waters. It showed
the hideous confusion of the scene which had been shrouded in the
obscurity of night. The dark masses of combatants, stretching along the
dike, were seen struggling for mastery, until the very causeway on which
they stood appeared to tremble, and reel to and fro, as if shaken by an
earthquake; while the bosom of the lake, as far as the eye could reach,
was darkened by canoes crowded with warriors, whose spears and
bludgeons, armed with blades of “volcanic glass,” gleamed in the morning

The cavaliers found Alvarado unhorsed, and defending himself with a poor
handful of followers against an overwhelming tide of the enemy. His good
steed, which had borne him through many a hard fight, had fallen under
him.[179] He was himself wounded in several places, and was striving in
vain to rally his scattered column, which was driven to the verge of the
canal by the fury of the enemy, then in possession of the whole rear of
the causeway, where they were reinforced every hour by fresh combatants
from the city. The artillery in the earlier part of the engagement had
not been idle, and its iron shower, sweeping along the dike, had mowed
down the assailants by hundreds. But nothing could resist their
impetuosity. The front ranks, pushed on by those behind, were at length
forced up to the pieces, and, pouring over them like a torrent,
overthrew men and guns in one general ruin. The resolute charge of the
Spanish cavaliers, who had now arrived, created a temporary check, and
gave time for their countrymen to make a feeble rally. But they were
speedily borne down by the returning flood. Cortés and his companions
were compelled to plunge again into the lake,--though all did not
escape. Alvarado stood on the brink for a moment, hesitating what to
do. Unhorsed as he was, to throw himself into the water, in the face of
the hostile canoes that now swarmed around the opening, afforded but a
desperate chance of safety. He had but a second for thought. He was a
man of powerful frame, and despair gave him unnatural energy. Setting
his long lance firmly on the wreck which strewed the bottom of the lake,
he sprung forward with all his might, and cleared the wide gap at a
leap! Aztecs and Tlascalans gazed in stupid amazement, exclaiming, as
they beheld the incredible feat, “This is truly the _Tonatiuh_,--the
child of the Sun!”[180] The breadth of the opening is not given. But it
was so great that the valorous captain Diaz, who well remembered the
place, says the leap was impossible to any man.[181] Other
contemporaries, however, do not discredit the story.[182] It was,
beyond doubt, matter of popular belief at the time; it is to this day
familiarly known to every inhabitant of the capital; and the name of the
_Salto de Alvarado_, “Alvarado’s Leap,” given to the spot, still
commemorates an exploit which rivalled those of the demi-gods of Grecian

Cortés and his companions now rode forward to the front, where the
troops, in a loose, disorderly manner, were marching off the fatal
causeway. A few only of the enemy hung on their rear, or annoyed them by
occasional flights of arrows from the lake. The attention of the Aztecs
was diverted by the rich spoil that strewed the battle-ground;
fortunately for the Spaniards, who, had their enemy pursued with the
same ferocity with which he had fought, would, in their crippled
condition, have been cut off, probably, to a man. But little molested,
therefore, they were allowed to defile through the adjacent village, or
suburbs, it might be called, of Popotla.[184]

The Spanish commander there dismounted from his jaded steed, and,
sitting down on the steps of an Indian temple, gazed mournfully on the
broken files as they passed before him. What a spectacle did they
present! The cavalry, most of them dismounted, were mingled with the
infantry, who dragged their feeble limbs along with difficulty; their
shattered mail and tattered garments dripping with the salt ooze,
showing through their rents many a bruise and ghastly wound; their
bright arms soiled, their proud crests and banners gone, the baggage,
artillery, all, in short, that constitutes the pride and panoply of
glorious war, forever lost. Cortés, as he looked wistfully on their
thin and disordered ranks, sought in vain for many a familiar face, and
missed more than one dear companion who had stood side by side with him
through all the perils of the Conquest. Though accustomed to control his
emotions, or, at least, to conceal them, the sight was too much for him.
He covered his face with his hands, and the tears, which trickled down,
revealed too plainly the anguish of his soul.[185]

He found some consolation, however, in the sight of several of the
cavaliers on whom he most relied. Alvarado, Sandoval, Olid, Ordaz,
Avila, were yet safe. He had the inexpressible satisfaction, also, of
learning the safety of the Indian interpreter, Marina, so dear to him,
and so important to the army. She had been committed, with a daughter of
a Tlascalan chief, to several of that nation. She was fortunately placed
in the van, and the faithful escort had carried her securely through all
the dangers of the night. Aguilar, the other interpreter, had also
escaped. And it was with no less satisfaction that Cortés learned the
safety of the ship-builder, Martin Lopez.[186] The general’s solicitude
for the fate of this man, so indispensable, as he proved, to the success
of his subsequent operations, showed that, amidst all his affliction,
his indomitable spirit was looking forward to the hour of vengeance.

Meanwhile, the advancing column had reached the neighboring city of
Tlacopan (Tacuba), once the capital of an independent principality.
There it halted in the great street, as if bewildered and altogether
uncertain what course to take; like a herd of panic-struck deer, who,
flying from the hunters, with the cry of hound and horn still ringing in
their ears, look wildly around for some glen or copse in which to plunge
for concealment. Cortés, who had hastily mounted and rode on to the
front again, saw the danger of remaining in a populous place, where the
inhabitants might sorely annoy the troops from the _azoteas_, with
little risk to themselves. Pushing forward, therefore, he soon led them
into the country. There he endeavored to reform his disorganized
battalions and bring them to something like order.[187]

Hard by, at no great distance on the left, rose an eminence, looking
towards a chain of mountains which fences in the Valley on the west. It
was called the Hill of Otoncalpolco, and sometimes the Hill of
Montezuma.[188] It was crowned with an Indian _teocalli_, with its large
outworks of stone covering an ample space, and by its strong position,
which commanded the neighboring plain, promised a good place of refuge
for the exhausted troops. But the men, disheartened and stupefied by
their late reverses, seemed for the moment incapable of further
exertion; and the place was held by a body of armed Indians. Cortés saw
the necessity of dislodging them if he would save the remains of his
army from entire destruction. The event showed he still held a control
over their wills stronger than circumstances themselves. Cheering them
on, and supported by his gallant cavaliers, he succeeded in infusing
into the most sluggish something of his own intrepid temper, and led
them up the ascent in face of the enemy. But the latter made slight
resistance, and, after a few feeble volleys of missiles which did little
injury, left the ground to the assailants.

It was covered by a building of considerable size, and furnished ample
accommodations for the diminished numbers of the Spaniards. They found
there some provisions; and more, it is said, were brought to them, in
the course of the day, from some friendly Otomi villages in the
neighborhood. There was, also, a quantity of fuel in the courts,
destined to the uses of the temple. With this they made fires to dry
their drenched garments, and busily employed themselves in dressing one
another’s wounds, stiff and extremely painful from exposure and long
exertion. Thus refreshed, the weary soldiers threw themselves down on
the floor and courts of the temple, and soon found the temporary
oblivion which Nature seldom denies even in the greatest extremity of

There was one eye in that assembly, however, which we may well believe
did not so speedily close. For what agitating thoughts must have crowded
on the mind of their commander, as he beheld his poor remnant of
followers thus huddled together in this miserable bivouac! And this was
all that survived of the brilliant array with which but a few weeks
since he had entered the capital of Mexico! Where now were his dreams of
conquest and empire? And what was he but a luckless adventurer, at whom
the finger of scorn would be uplifted as a madman? Whichever way he
turned, the horizon was almost equally gloomy, with scarcely one light
spot to cheer him. He had still a weary journey before him, through
perilous and unknown paths, with guides of whose fidelity he could not
be assured. And how could he rely on his reception at Tlascala, the
place of his destination,--the land of his ancient enemies, where,
formerly as a foe, and now as a friend, he had brought desolation to
every family within its borders?

Yet these agitating and gloomy reflections, which might have crushed a
common mind, had no power over that of Cortés; or, rather, they only
served to renew his energies and quicken his perceptions, as the war of
the elements purifies and gives elasticity to the atmosphere. He looked
with an unblenching eye on his past reverses; but, confident in his own
resources, he saw a light through the gloom which others could not. Even
in the shattered relics which lay around him, resembling in their
haggard aspect and wild attire a horde of famished outlaws, he discerned
the materials out of which to reconstruct his ruined fortunes. In the
very hour of discomfiture and general despondency, there is no doubt
that his heroic spirit was meditating the plan of operations which he
afterwards pursued with such dauntless constancy.

The loss sustained by the Spaniards on this fatal night, like every
other event in the history of the Conquest, is reported with the
greatest discrepancy. If we believe Cortés’ own letter, it did not
exceed one hundred and fifty Spaniards and two thousand Indians. But the
general’s bulletins, while they do full justice to the difficulties to
be overcome and the importance of the results, are less scrupulous in
stating the extent either of his means or of his losses. Thoan Cano, one
of the cavaliers present, estimates the slain at eleven hundred and
seventy Spaniards and eight thousand allies. But this is a greater
number than we have allowed for the whole army. Perhaps we may come
nearest the truth by taking the computation of Gomara, who was the
chaplain of Cortés, and who had free access, doubtless, not only to the
general’s papers, but to other authentic sources of information.
According to him, the number of Christians killed and missing was four
hundred and fifty, and that of natives four thousand. This, with the
loss sustained in the conflicts of the previous week, may have reduced
the former to something more than a third, and the latter to a fourth,
or perhaps fifth, of the original force with which they entered the
capital.[190] The brunt of the action fell on the rear-guard, few of
whom escaped. It was formed chiefly of the soldiers of Narvaez, who fell
the victims, in some measure, of their cupidity.[191] Forty-six of the
cavalry were cut off, which with previous losses reduced the number in
this branch of the service to twenty-three, and some of these in very
poor condition. The greater part of the treasure, the baggage, the
general’s papers, including his accounts, and a minute diary of
transactions since leaving Cuba,--which, to posterity at least, would
have been of more worth than the gold,--had been swallowed up by the
waters.[192] The ammunition, the beautiful little train of artillery
with which Cortés had entered the city, were all gone. Not a musket even
remained, the men having thrown them away, eager to disencumber
themselves of all that might retard their escape on that disastrous
night. Nothing, in short, of their military apparatus was left, but
their swords, their crippled cavalry, and a few damaged cross-bows, to
assert the superiority of the European over the barbarian.

The prisoners, including, as already noticed, the children of Montezuma
and the cacique of Tezcuco, all perished by the hands of their ignorant
countrymen, it is said, in the indiscriminate fury of the assault. There
were, also, some persons of consideration among the Spaniards whose
names were inscribed on the same bloody roll of slaughter. Such was
Francisco de Morla, who fell by the side of Cortés on returning with him
to the rescue. But the greatest loss was that of Juan Velasquez de Leon,
who, with Alvarado, had command of the rear. It was the post of danger
on that night, and he fell, bravely defending it, at an early part of
the retreat. He was an excellent officer, possessed of many knightly
qualities, though somewhat haughty in his bearing, being one of the
best-connected cavaliers in the army. The near relation of the governor
of Cuba, he looked coldly, at first, on the pretensions of Cortés; but,
whether from a conviction that the latter had been wronged, or from
personal preference, he afterwards attached himself zealously to his
leader’s interests. The general requited this with a generous
confidence, assigning him, as we have seen, a separate and independent
command, where misconduct, or even a mistake, would have been fatal to
the expedition. Velasquez proved himself worthy of the trust; and there
was no cavalier in the army, with the exception, perhaps, of Sandoval
and Alvarado, whose loss would have been so deeply deplored by the
commander. Such were the disastrous results of this terrible passage of
the causeway; more disastrous than those occasioned by any other reverse
which has stained the Spanish arms in the New World; and which have
branded the night on which it happened, in the national annals, with the
name of the _noche triste_, “the sad or melancholy night.”[193]




The Mexicans, during the day which followed the retreat of the
Spaniards, remained, for the most part, quiet in their own capital,
where they found occupation in cleansing the streets and causeways from
the dead, which lay festering in heaps that might have bred a
pestilence. They may have been employed, also, in paying the last honors
to such of their warriors as had fallen, solemnizing the funeral rites
by the sacrifice of their wretched prisoners, who, as they contemplated
their own destiny, may well have envied the fate of their companions who
left their bones on the battle-field. It was most fortunate for the
Spaniards, in their extremity, that they had this breathing-time allowed
them by the enemy. But Cortés knew that he could not calculate on its
continuance, and, feeling how important it was to get the start of his
vigilant foe, he ordered his troops to be in readiness to resume their
march by midnight. Fires were left burning, the better to deceive the
enemy; and at the appointed hour the little army, without sound of drum
or trumpet, but with renewed spirits, sallied forth from the gates of
the _teocalli_, within whose hospitable walls they had found such
seasonable succor. The place is now indicated by a Christian church,
dedicated to the Virgin, under the title of _Nuestra Señora de los
Remedios_, whose miraculous image--the very same, _it is said_, brought
over by the followers of Cortés[194]--still extends her beneficent sway
over the neighboring capital; and the traveller who pauses within the
precincts of the consecrated fane may feel that he is standing on the
spot made memorable by the refuge it afforded to the Conquerors in the
hour of their deepest despondency.[195]

It was arranged that the sick and wounded should occupy the centre,
transported on litters, or on the backs of the _tamanes_, while those
who were strong enough to keep their seats should mount behind the
cavalry. The able-bodied soldiers were ordered to the front and rear,
while others protected the flanks, thus affording all the security
possible to the invalids.

The retreating army held on its way unmolested under cover of the
darkness. But, as morning dawned, they beheld parties of the natives
moving over the heights, or hanging at a distance, like a cloud of
locusts, on their rear. They did not belong to the capital, but were
gathered from the neighboring country, where the tidings of their rout
had already penetrated. The charm which had hitherto covered the white
men was gone. The dread _Teules_ were no longer invincible.[196]

The Spaniards, under the conduct of their Tlascalan guides, took a
circuitous route to the north, passing through Quauhtitlan, and round
lake Tzompanco (Zumpango), thus lengthening their march, but keeping at
a distance from the capital. From the eminences, as they passed along,
the Indians rolled down heavy stones, mingled with volleys of darts and
arrows, on the heads of the soldiers. Some were even bold enough to
descend into the plain and assault the extremities of the column. But
they were soon beaten off by the horse, and compelled to take refuge
among the hills, where the ground was too rough for the rider to follow.
Indeed, the Spaniards did not care to do so, their object being rather
to fly than to fight.

In this way they slowly advanced, halting at intervals to drive off
their assailants when they became too importunate, and greatly
distressed by their missiles and their desultory attacks. At night, the
troops usually found shelter in some town or hamlet, whence the
inhabitants, in anticipation of their approach, had been careful to
carry off all the provisions. The Spaniards were soon reduced to the
greatest straits for subsistence. Their principal food was the wild
cherry, which grew in the woods or by the roadside. Fortunate were they
if they found a few ears of corn unplucked. More frequently nothing was
left but the stalks; and with them, and the like unwholesome fare, they
were fain to supply the cravings of appetite. When a horse happened to
be killed, it furnished an extraordinary banquet; and Cortés himself
records the fact of his having made one of a party who thus sumptuously
regaled themselves, devouring the animal even to his hide.[197]

The wretched soldiers, faint with famine and fatigue, were sometimes
seen to drop down lifeless on the road. Others loitered behind, unable
to keep up with the march, and fell into the hands of the enemy, who
followed in the track of the army like a flock of famished vultures,
eager to pounce on the dying and the dead. Others, again, who strayed
too far, in their eagerness to procure sustenance, shared the same fate.
The number of these, at length, and the consciousness of the cruel lot
for which they were reserved, compelled Cortés to introduce stricter
discipline, and to enforce it by sterner punishments than he had
hitherto done,--though too often ineffectually, such was the
indifference to danger, under the overwhelming pressure of present

In their prolonged distresses, the soldiers ceased to set a value on
those very things for which they had once been content to hazard life
itself. More than one who had brought his golden treasure safe through
the perils of the _noche triste_ now abandoned it as an intolerable
burden; and the rude Indian peasant gleaned up, with wondering delight,
the bright fragments of the spoils of the capital.[198]

Through these weary days Cortés displayed his usual serenity and
fortitude. He was ever in the post of danger, freely exposing himself in
encounters with the enemy; in one of which he received a severe wound in
the head that afterwards gave him much trouble.[199] He fared no better
than the humblest soldier, and strove, by his own cheerful countenance
and counsels, to fortify the courage of those who faltered, assuring
them that their sufferings would soon be ended by their arrival in the
hospitable “land of bread.”[200] His faithful officers co-operated with
him in these efforts; and the common file, indeed, especially his own
veterans, must be allowed, for the most part, to have shown a full
measure of the constancy and power of endurance so characteristic of
their nation,--justifying the honest boast of an old chronicler, “that
there was no people so capable of supporting hunger as the Spaniards,
and none of them who were ever more severely tried than the soldiers of
Cortés.”[201] A similar fortitude was shown by the Tlascalans, trained
in a rough school that made them familiar with hardship and privations.
Although they sometimes threw themselves on the ground, in the extremity
of famine, imploring their gods not to abandon them, they did their duty
as warriors, and, far from manifesting coldness towards the Spaniards as
the cause of their distresses, seemed only the more firmly knit to them
by the sense of a common suffering.

On the seventh morning, the army had reached the mountain rampart which
overlooks the plains of Otompan, or Otumba, as commonly called, from the
Indian city--now a village--situated in them. The distance from the
capital is hardly nine leagues. But the Spaniards had travelled more
than thrice that distance, in their circuitous march round the lakes.
This had been performed so slowly that it consumed a week, two nights
of which had been passed in the same quarters, from the absolute
necessity of rest. It was not, therefore, till the seventh of July that
they reached the heights commanding the plains which stretched far away
towards the territory of Tlascala, in full view of the venerable
pyramids of Teotihuacan, two of the most remarkable monuments of the
antique American civilization now existing north of the Isthmus. During
all the preceding day they had seen parties of the enemy hovering like
dark clouds above the highlands, brandishing their weapons, and calling
out, in vindictive tones, “Hasten on! You will soon find yourselves
where you cannot escape!” words of mysterious import, which they were
made fully to comprehend on the following morning.[202]

The monuments of San Juan Teotihuacan are, with the exception of the
temple of Cholula, the most ancient remains, probably, on the Mexican
soil. They were found by the Aztecs, according to their traditions, on
their entrance into the country, when Teotihuacan, _the habitation of
the gods_, now a paltry village, was a flourishing city, the rival of
Tula, the great Toltec capital.[203] The two principal pyramids were
dedicated to _Tonatiuh_, the Sun, and _Meztli_, the Moon. The former,
which is considerably the larger, is found by recent measurements to be
six hundred and eighty-two feet long at the base, and one hundred and
eighty feet high, dimensions not inferior to those of some of the
kindred monuments of Egypt.[204] They were divided into four stories, of
which three are now discernible, while the vestiges of the intermediate
gradations are nearly effaced. In fact, time has dealt so roughly with
them, and the materials have been so much displaced by the treacherous
vegetation of the tropics, muffling up with its flowery mantle the ruin
which it causes, that it is not easy to discern at once the pyramidal
form of the structures.[205] The huge masses bear such resemblance to
the North American mounds that some have fancied them to be only natural
eminences shaped by the hand of man into a regular form, and ornamented
with the temples and terraces the wreck of which still covers their
slopes. But others, seeing no example of a similar elevation in the wide
plain in which they stand, infer, with more probability, that they are
wholly of an artificial construction.[206]

The interior is composed of clay mixed with pebbles, incrusted on the
surface with the light porous stone, _tetzontli_, so abundant in the
neighboring quarries. Over this was a thick coating of stucco,
resembling, in its reddish color, that found in the ruins of Palenque.
According to tradition, the pyramids are hollow; but hitherto the
attempt to discover the cavity in that dedicated to the Sun has been
unsuccessful. In the smaller mound an aperture has been found on the
southern side, at two-thirds of the elevation. It is formed by a narrow
gallery, which, after penetrating to the distance of several yards,
terminates in two pits or wells. The largest of these is about fifteen
feet deep,[207] and the sides are faced with unbaked bricks; but to what
purpose it was devoted, nothing is left to show. It may have been to
hold the ashes of some powerful chief, like the solitary apartment
discovered in the great Egyptian pyramid. That these monuments were
dedicated to religious uses, there is no doubt; and it would be only
conformable to the practice of antiquity in the Eastern continent that
they should have served for tombs as well as temples.[208]

Distinct traces of the latter destination are said to be visible on the
summit of the smaller pyramid, consisting of the remains of stone walls
showing a building of considerable size and strength.[209] There are no
remains on the top of the pyramid of the Sun. But the traveller who will
take the trouble to ascend its bald summit will be amply compensated by
the glorious view it will open to him;--towards the southeast, the hills
of Tlascala, surrounded by their green plantations and cultivated
corn-fields, in the midst of which stands the little village, once the
proud capital of the republic. Somewhat farther to the south, the eye
passes across the beautiful plains lying around the city of Puebla de
los Angeles, founded by the old Spaniards, and still rivalling, in the
splendor of its churches, the most brilliant capitals of Europe; and far
in the west he may behold the Valley of Mexico, spread out like a map,
with its diminished lakes, its princely capital rising in still greater
glory from its ruins, and its rugged hills gathering darkly around it,
as in the days of Montezuma.

The summit of this larger mound is said to have been crowned by a
temple, in which was a colossal statue of its presiding deity, the Sun,
made of one entire block of stone, and facing the east. Its breast was
protected by a plate of burnished gold and silver, on which the first
rays of the rising luminary rested.[210] An antiquary, in the early
part of the last century, speaks of having seen some fragments of the
statue. It was still standing, according to report, on the invasion of
the Spaniards, and was demolished by the indefatigable Bishop Zumárraga,
whose hand fell more heavily than that of Time itself on the Aztec

Around the principal pyramids are a great number of smaller ones, rarely
exceeding thirty feet in height, which, according to tradition, were
dedicated to the stars and served as sepulchres for the great men of the
nation. They are arranged symmetrically in avenues terminating at the
sides of the great pyramids, which face the cardinal points. The plain
on which they stand was called _Micoatl_, or “Path of the Dead.” The
laborer, as he turns up the ground, still finds there numerous
arrow-heads, and blades of obsidian, attesting the warlike character of
its primitive population.[212]

What thoughts must crowd on the mind of the traveller as he wanders
amidst these memorials of the past; as he treads over the ashes of the
generations who reared these colossal fabrics, which take us from the
present into the very depths of time! But who were their builders? Was
it the shadowy Olmecs, whose history, like that of the ancient Titans,
is lost in the mists of fable? or, as commonly reported, the peaceful
and industrious Toltecs, of whom all that we can glean rests on
traditions hardly more secure? What has become of the races who built
them? Did they remain on the soil, and mingle and become incorporated
with the fierce Aztecs who succeeded them? Or did they pass on to the
South, and find a wider field for the expansion of their civilization,
as shown by the higher character of the architectural remains in the
distant regions of Central America and Yucatan? It is all a
mystery,--over which time has thrown an impenetrable veil, that no
mortal hand may raise. A nation has passed away,--powerful, populous,
and well advanced in refinement, as attested by their monuments,--but it
has perished without a name. It has died and made no sign!

Such speculations, however, do not seem to have disturbed the minds of
the Conquerors, who have not left a single line respecting these
time-honored structures, though they passed in full view of
them,--perhaps under their very shadows. In the sufferings of the
present they had little leisure to bestow on the past. Indeed, the new
and perilous position in which at this very spot they found themselves
must naturally have excluded every other thought from their bosoms but
that of self-preservation.

As the army was climbing the mountain steeps which shut in the Valley of
Otompan, the vedettes came in with the intelligence that a powerful body
was encamped on the other side, apparently awaiting their approach. The
intelligence was soon confirmed by their own eyes as they turned the
crest of the sierra, and saw spread out, below, a mighty host, filling
up the whole depth of the valley, and giving to it the appearance, from
the white cotton mail of the warriors, of being covered with snow.[213]
It consisted of levies from the surrounding country, and especially the
populous territory of Tezcuco, drawn together at the instance of
Cuitlahua, Montezuma’s successor, and now concentrated on this point to
dispute the passage of the Spaniards. Every chief of note had taken the
field with his whole array gathered under his standard, proudly
displaying all the pomp and rude splendor of his military equipment. As
far as the eye could reach, were to be seen shields and waving banners,
fantastic helmets, forests of shining spears, the bright feather-mail of
the chief, and the coarse cotton panoply of his follower, all mingled
together in wild confusion and tossing to and fro like the billows of a
troubled ocean.[214] It was a sight to fill the stoutest heart among the
Christians with dismay, heightened by the previous expectation of soon
reaching the friendly land which was to terminate their wearisome
pilgrimage. Even Cortés, as he contrasted the tremendous array before
him with his own diminished squadrons, wasted by disease and enfeebled
by hunger and fatigue, could not escape the conviction that his last
hour had arrived.[215]

But his was not the heart to despond; and he gathered strength from the
very extremity of his situation. He had no room for hesitation; for
there was no alternative left to him. To escape was impossible. He could
not retreat on the capital, from which he had been expelled. He must
advance,--cut through the enemy, or perish. He hastily made his
dispositions for the fight. He gave his force as broad a front as
possible, protecting it on each flank by his little body of horse, now
reduced to twenty. Fortunately, he had not allowed the invalids, for the
last two days, to mount behind the riders, from a desire to spare the
horses, so that these were now in tolerable condition; and, indeed, the
whole army had been refreshed by halting, as we have seen, two nights
and a day in the same place, a delay, however, which had allowed the
enemy time to assemble in such force to dispute its progress.

Cortés instructed his cavaliers not to part with their lances, and to
direct them at the face. The infantry were to thrust, not strike, with
their swords; passing them at once through the bodies of their enemies.
They were, above all, to aim at the leaders, as the general well knew
how much depends on the life of the commander in the wars of barbarians,
whose want of subordination makes them impatient of any control but that
to which they are accustomed.

He then addressed to his troops a few words of encouragement, as
customary with him on the eve of an engagement. He reminded them of the
victories they had won with odds nearly as


_Goupil & Cº., Paris_]

discouraging as the present; thus establishing the superiority of
science and discipline over numbers. Numbers, indeed, were of no
account, where the arm of the Almighty was on their side. And he bade
them have full confidence that He who had carried them safely through so
many perils would not now abandon them and his own good cause to perish
by the hand of the infidel. His address was brief, for he read in their
looks that settled resolve which rendered words unnecessary. The
circumstances of their position spoke more forcibly to the heart of
every soldier than any eloquence could have done, filling it with that
feeling of desperation which makes the weak arm strong and turns the
coward into a hero. After they had earnestly commended themselves,
therefore, to the protection of God, the Virgin, and St. James, Cortés
led his battalions straight against the enemy.[216]

It was a solemn moment, that in which the devoted little band, with
steadfast countenances and their usual intrepid step, descended on the
plain, to be swallowed up, as it were, in the vast ocean of their
enemies. The latter rushed on with impetuosity to meet them, making the
mountains ring to their discordant yells and battle-cries, and sending
forth volleys of stones and arrows which for a moment shut out the light
of day. But, when the leading files of the two armies closed, the
superiority of the Christians was felt, as their antagonists, falling
back before the charges of cavalry, were thrown into confusion by their
own numbers who pressed on them from behind. The Spanish infantry
followed up the blow, and a wide lane was opened in the ranks of the
enemy, who, receding on all sides, seemed willing to allow a free
passage for their opponents. But it was to return on them with
accumulated force, as rallying they poured upon the Christians,
enveloping the little army on all sides, which, with its bristling array
of long swords and javelins, stood firm,--in the words of a
contemporary,--like an islet against which the breakers, roaring and
surging, spend their fury in vain.[217] The struggle was desperate of
man against man. The Tlascalan seemed to renew his strength, as he
fought almost in view of his own native hills, as did the Spaniard, with
the horrible doom of the captive before his eyes. Well did the cavaliers
do their duty on that day; charging, in little bodies of four or five
abreast, deep into the enemy’s ranks, riding over the broken files, and
by this temporary advantage giving strength and courage to the infantry.
Not a lance was there which did not reek with the blood of the infidel.
Among the rest, the young captain Sandoval is particularly commemorated
for his daring prowess. Managing his fiery steed with easy horsemanship,
he darted, when least expected, into the thickest of the _mêlée_,
overturning the stanchest warriors, and rejoicing in danger, as if it
were his natural element.[218]

But these gallant displays of heroism served only to ingulf the
Spaniards deeper and deeper in the mass of the enemy, with scarcely any
more chance of cutting their way through his dense and interminable
battalions than of hewing a passage with their swords through the
mountains. Many of the Tlascalans and some of the Spaniards had fallen,
and not one but had been wounded. Cortés himself had received a second
cut on the head, and his horse was so much injured that he was compelled
to dismount, and take one from the baggage train, a strong-boned animal,
who carried him well through the turmoil of the day.[219] The contest
had now lasted several hours. The sun rode high in the heavens, and shed
an intolerable fervor over the plain. The Christians, weakened by
previous sufferings, and faint with loss of blood, began to relax in
their desperate exertions. Their enemies, constantly supported by fresh
relays from the rear, were still in good heart, and, quick to perceive
their advantage, pressed with redoubled force on the Spaniards. The
horse fell back, crowded on the foot; and the latter, in vain seeking a
passage amidst the dusky throngs of the enemy, who now closed up the
rear, were thrown into some disorder. The tide of battle was setting
rapidly against the Christians. The fate of the day would soon be
decided; and all that now remained for them seemed to be to sell their
lives as dearly as possible.

At this critical moment, Cortés, whose restless eye had been roving
round the field in quest of any object that might offer him the means of
arresting the coming ruin, rising in his stirrups, descried at a
distance, in the midst of the throng, the chief who from his dress and
military cortége he knew must be the commander of the barbarian forces.
He was covered with a rich surcoat of feather-work; and a panache of
beautiful plumes, gorgeously set in gold and precious stones, floated
above his head. Rising above this, and attached to his back, between the
shoulders, was a short staff bearing a golden net for a banner,--the
singular, but customary, symbol of authority for an Aztec commander. The
cacique, whose name was Cihuaca, was borne on a litter, and a body of
young warriors, whose gay and ornamented dresses showed them to be the
flower of the Indian nobles, stood round as a guard of his person and
the sacred emblem.

The eagle eye of Cortés no sooner fell on this personage than it lighted
up with triumph. Turning quickly round to the cavaliers at his side,
among whom were Sandoval, Olid, Alvarado, and Avila, he pointed out the
chief, exclaiming, “There is our mark! Follow and support me!” Then,
crying his war-cry, and striking his iron heel into his weary steed, he
plunged headlong into the thickest of the press. His enemies fell back,
taken by surprise and daunted by the ferocity of the attack. Those who
did not were pierced through with his lance or borne down by the weight
of his charger. The cavaliers followed close in the rear. On they swept
with the fury of a thunderbolt, cleaving the solid ranks asunder,
strewing their path with the dying and the dead, and bounding over every
obstacle in their way. In a few minutes they were in the presence of the
Indian commander, and Cortés, overturning his supporters, sprang forward
with the strength of a lion, and, striking him through with his lance,
hurled him to the ground. A young cavalier, Juan de Salamanca, who had
kept close by his general’s side, quickly dismounted and despatched the
fallen chief. Then, tearing away his banner, he presented it to Cortés,
as a trophy to which he had the best claim.[220] It was all the work of
a moment. The guard, overpowered by the suddenness of the onset, made
little resistance, but, flying, communicated their own panic to their
comrades. The tidings of the loss soon spread over the field. The
Indians, filled with consternation, now thought only of escape. In their
blind terror, their numbers augmented their confusion. They trampled on
one another, fancying it was the enemy in their rear.[221]

The Spaniards and Tlascalans were not slow to avail themselves of the
marvellous change in their affairs. Their fatigue, their wounds, hunger,
thirst, all were forgotten in the eagerness for vengeance; and they
followed up the flying foe, dealing death at every stroke, and taking
ample retribution for all they had suffered in the bloody marshes of
Mexico.[222] Long did they pursue, till, the enemy having abandoned the
field, they returned, sated with slaughter, to glean the booty which he
had left. It was great, for the ground was covered with the bodies of
chiefs, at whom the Spaniards, in obedience to the general’s
instructions, had particularly aimed; and their dresses displayed all
the barbaric pomp of ornament in which the Indian warrior
delighted.[223] When his men had thus indemnified themselves, in some
degree, for their late reverses, Cortés called them again under their
banners; and, after offering up a grateful acknowledgment to the Lord of
Hosts for their miraculous preservation,[224] they renewed their march
across the now deserted valley. The sun was declining in the heavens,
but, before the shades of evening had gathered around, they reached an
Indian temple on an eminence, which afforded a strong and commodious
position for the night.

Such was the famous battle of Otompan,--or Otumba, as commonly called,
from the Spanish corruption of the name. It was fought on the eighth of
July, 1520. The whole amount of the Indian force is reckoned by
Castilian writers at two hundred thousand! that of the slain at twenty
thousand! Those who admit the first part of the estimate will find no
difficulty in receiving the last.[225] It is about as difficult to form
an accurate calculation of the numbers of a disorderly savage multitude
as of the pebbles on the beach or the scattered leaves in autumn. Yet it
was, undoubtedly, one of the most remarkable victories ever achieved in
the New World. And this, not merely on account of the disparity of the
forces, but of their unequal condition. For the Indians were in all
their strength, while the Christians were wasted by disease, famine, and
long-protracted sufferings; without cannon or fire-arms, and deficient
in the military apparatus which had so often struck terror into their
barbarian foe,--deficient even in the terrors of a victorious name. But
they had discipline on their side, desperate resolve, and implicit
confidence in their commander. That they should have triumphed against
such odds furnishes an inference of the same kind as that established by
the victories of the European over the semi-civilized hordes of Asia.

Yet even here all must not be referred to superior discipline and
tactics. For the battle would certainly have been lost had it not been
for the fortunate death of the Indian general. And, although the
selection of the victim may be called the result of calculation, yet it
was by the most precarious chance that he was thrown in the way of the
Spaniards. It is, indeed, one among many examples of the influence of
fortune in determining the fate of military operations. The star of
Cortés was in the ascendant. Had it been otherwise, not a Spaniard would
have survived that day to tell the bloody tale of the battle of Otumba.




On the following morning the army broke up its encampment at an early
hour. The enemy does not seem to have made an attempt to rally. Clouds
of skirmishers, however, were seen during the morning, keeping at a
respectful distance, though occasionally venturing near enough to salute
the Spaniards with a volley of missiles.

On a rising ground they discovered a fountain, a blessing not too often
met with in these arid regions, and gratefully commemorated by the
Christians for the refreshment it afforded by its cool and abundant
waters.[226] A little farther on they descried the rude works which
served as the bulwark and boundary of the Tlascalan territory. At the
sight, the allies sent up a joyous shout of congratulation, in which the
Spaniards heartily joined, as they felt they were soon to be on friendly
and hospitable ground.

But these feelings were speedily followed by others of a different
nature; and, as they drew nearer the territory, their minds were
disturbed with the most painful apprehensions as to their reception by
the people among whom they were bringing desolation and mourning, and
who might so easily, if ill disposed, take advantage of their present
crippled condition. “Thoughts like these,” says Cortés, “weighed as
heavily on my spirit as any which I ever experienced in going to battle
with the Aztecs.”[227] Still he put, as usual, a good face on the
matter, and encouraged his men to confide in their allies, whose past
conduct had afforded every ground for trusting to their fidelity in
future. He cautioned them, however, as their own strength was so much
impaired, to be most careful to give no umbrage or ground for jealousy
to their high-spirited allies. “Be but on your guard,” continued the
intrepid general, “and we have still stout hearts and strong hands to
carry us through the midst of them!”[228] With these anxious surmises,
bidding adieu to the Aztec domain, the Christian army crossed the
frontier, and once more trod the soil of the Republic.

The first place at which they halted was the town of Huejotlipan, a
place of about twelve or fifteen thousand inhabitants.[229] They were
kindly greeted by the people, who came out to receive them, inviting the
troops to their habitations, and administering all the relief of their
simple hospitality. Yet this was not so disinterested, according to some
of the Spaniards, as to prevent their expecting in requital a share of
the plunder taken in the late action.[230] Here the weary forces
remained two or three days, when, the news of their arrival having
reached the capital, not more than four or five leagues distant, the old
chief Maxixca, their efficient friend on their former visit, and
Xicotencatl, the young warrior who, it will be remembered, had commanded
the troops of his nation in their bloody encounters with the Spaniards,
came with a numerous concourse of the citizens to welcome the fugitives
to Tlascala. Maxixca, cordially embracing the Spanish commander,
testified the deepest sympathy for his misfortunes. That the white men
could so long have withstood the confederated power of the Aztecs was
proof enough of their marvellous prowess. “We have made common cause
together,” said the lord of Tlascala, “and we have common injuries to
avenge; and, come weal or come woe, be assured we will prove true and
loyal friends and stand by you to the death.”[231]

This cordial assurance and sympathy, from one who exercised a control
over the public counsels beyond any other ruler, effectually dispelled
the doubts that lingered in the mind of Cortés. He readily accepted his
invitation to continue his march at once to the capital, where he would
find so much better accommodations for his army than in a small town on
the frontier. The sick and wounded, placed in hammocks, were borne on
the shoulders of the friendly natives; and, as the troops drew near the
city, the inhabitants came flocking out in crowds to meet them, rending
the air with joyous acclamations and wild bursts of their rude Indian
minstrelsy. Amidst the general jubilee, however, were heard sounds of
wailing and sad lament, as some unhappy relative or friend, looking
earnestly into the diminished files of their countrymen, sought in vain
for some dear and familiar countenance, and, as they turned disappointed
away, gave utterance to their sorrow in tones that touched the heart of
every soldier in the army. With these mingled accompaniments of joy and
woe,--the motley web of human life,--the way-worn columns of Cortés at
length re-entered the republican capital.[232]

The general and his suite were lodged in the rude but spacious palace of
Maxixca. The rest of the army took up their quarters in the district
over which the Tlascalan lord presided. Here they continued several
weeks, until, by the attentions of the hospitable citizens, and such
medical treatment as their humble science could supply, the wounds of
the soldiers were healed, and they recovered from the debility to which
they had been reduced by their long and unparalleled sufferings. Cortés
was one of those who suffered severely. He lost the use of two of the
fingers of his left hand.[233] He had received, besides, two injuries on
the head; one of which was so much exasperated by his subsequent
fatigues and excitement of mind that it assumed an alarming appearance.
A part of the bone was obliged to be removed.[234] A fever ensued, and
for several days the hero who had braved danger and death in their most
terrible forms lay stretched on his bed, as helpless as an infant. His
excellent constitution, however, got the better of disease, and he was
at length once more enabled to resume his customary activity. The
Spaniards, with politic generosity, requited the hospitality of their
hosts by sharing with them the spoils of their recent victory, and
Cortés especially rejoiced the heart of Maxixca by presenting him with
the military trophy which he had won from the Indian commander.[235]

But while the Spaniards were thus recruiting their health and spirits
under the friendly treatment of their allies, and recovering the
confidence and tranquillity of mind which had sunk under their hard
reverses, they received tidings, from time to time, which showed that
their late disaster had not been confined to the Mexican capital. On his
descent from Mexico to encounter Narvaez, Cortés had brought with him a
quantity of gold, which he left for safe keeping at Tlascala. To this
was added a considerable sum collected by the unfortunate Velasquez de
Leon in his expedition to the coast, as well as contributions from other
sources. From the unquiet state of the capital, the general thought it
best, on his return there, still to leave the treasure under the care of
a number of invalid soldiers, who, when in marching condition, were to
rejoin him in Mexico. A party from Vera Cruz, consisting of five
horsemen and forty foot, had since arrived at Tlascala, and, taking
charge of the invalids and treasure, undertook to escort them to the
capital. He now learned that they had been intercepted on the route and
all cut off, with the entire loss of the treasure. Twelve other
soldiers, marching in the same direction, had been massacred in the
neighboring province of Tepeaca; and accounts continually arrived of
some unfortunate Castilian, who, presuming on the respect hitherto shown
to his countrymen, and ignorant of the disasters in the capital, had
fallen a victim to the fury of the enemy.[236]

These dismal tidings filled the mind of Cortés with gloomy apprehensions
for the fate of the settlement at Villa Rica,--the last stay of their
hopes. He despatched a trusty messenger, at once, to that place, and had
the inexpressible satisfaction to receive a letter in return from the
commander of the garrison, acquainting him with the safety of the colony
and its friendly relations with the neighboring Totonacs. It was the
best guarantee of the fidelity of the latter, that they had offended the
Mexicans too deeply to be forgiven.

While the affairs of Cortés wore so gloomy an aspect without, he had to
experience an annoyance scarcely less serious from the discontents of
his followers. Many of them had fancied that their late appalling
reverses would put an end to the expedition, or, at least, postpone all
thoughts of resuming it for the present. But they knew little of Cortés
who reasoned thus. Even while tossing on his bed of sickness, he was
ripening in his mind fresh schemes for retrieving his honor, and for
recovering the empire which had been lost more by another’s rashness
than his own. This was apparent, as he became convalescent, from the new
regulations he made respecting the army, as well as from the orders sent
to Vera Cruz for fresh reinforcements.

The knowledge of all this occasioned much disquietude to the disaffected
soldiers. They were, for the most part, the ancient followers of
Narvaez, on whom, as we have seen, the brunt of the war had fallen the
heaviest. Many of them possessed property in the Islands, and had
embarked on this expedition chiefly from the desire of increasing it.
But they had gathered neither gold nor glory in Mexico. Their present
service filled them only with disgust; and the few, comparatively, who
had been so fortunate as to survive, languished to return to their rich
mines and pleasant farms in Cuba, bitterly cursing the day when they had
left them.

Finding their complaints little heeded by the general, they prepared a
written remonstrance, in which they made their demand more formally.
They represented the rashness of persisting in the enterprise in his
present impoverished state, without arms or ammunition, almost without
men; and this, too, against a powerful enemy, who had been more than a
match for him with all the strength of his late resources. It was
madness to think of it. The attempt would bring them all to the
sacrifice-block. Their only course was to continue their march to Vera
Cruz. Every hour of delay might be fatal. The garrison in that place
might be overwhelmed from want of strength to defend itself; and thus
their last hope would be annihilated. But, once there, they might wait
in comparative security for such reinforcements as would join them from
abroad; while in case of failure they could the more easily make their
escape. They concluded with insisting on being permitted to return at
once to the port of Villa Rica. This petition, or rather remonstrance,
was signed by all the disaffected soldiers, and, after being formally
attested by the royal notary, was presented to Cortés.[237]

It was a trying circumstance for him. What touched him most nearly was
to find the name of his friend the secretary Duero, to whose good
offices he had chiefly owed his command, at the head of the paper. He
was not, however, to be shaken from his purpose for a moment; and, while
all outward resources seemed to be fading away, and his own friends
faltered, or failed him, he was still true to himself. He knew that to
retreat to Vera Cruz would be to abandon the enterprise. Once there, his
army would soon find a pretext and a way for breaking up and returning
to the Islands. All his ambitious schemes would be blasted. The great
prize, already once in his grasp, would then be lost forever. He would
be a ruined man.

In his celebrated letter to Charles the Fifth, he says that, in
reflecting on his position, he felt the truth of the old adage, “that
fortune favors the brave.” The Spaniards were the followers of the
Cross; and, trusting in the infinite goodness and mercy of God, he could
not believe that He would suffer them and his own good cause thus to
perish among the heathen.[238] He was resolved, therefore, not to
descend to the coast, but at all hazards to retrace his steps and beard
the enemy again in his capital.”

It was in the same resolute tone that he answered his discontented
followers.[239] He urged every argument which could touch their pride or
honor as cavaliers. He appealed to that ancient Castilian valor which
had never been known to falter before an enemy; besought them not to
discredit the great deeds which had made their name ring throughout
Europe; not to leave the emprise half achieved, for others more daring
and adventurous to finish. How could they with any honor, he asked,
desert their allies whom they had involved in the war, and leave them
unprotected to the vengeance of the Aztecs? To retreat but a single step
towards Villa Rica would be to proclaim their own weakness. It would
dishearten their friends and give confidence to their foes. He implored
them to resume the confidence in him which they had ever showed, and to
reflect that, if they had recently met with reverses, he had up to that
point accomplished all, and more than all, that he had promised. It
would be easy now to retrieve their losses, if they would have patience
and abide in this friendly land until the reinforcements, which would be
ready to come in at his call, should enable them to act on the
offensive. If, however, there were any so insensible to the motives
which touch a brave man’s heart, as to prefer ease at home to the glory
of this great achievement, he would not stand in their way. Let them go,
in God’s name. Let them leave their general in his extremity. He should
feel stronger in the service of a few brave spirits than if surrounded
by a host of the false or the faint-hearted.[240]

The disaffected party, as already noticed, was chiefly drawn from the
troops of Narvaez. When the general’s own veterans heard this
appeal,[241] their blood warmed with indignation at the thoughts of
abandoning him or the cause at such a crisis. They pledged themselves to
stand by him to the last; and the malecontents, silenced, if not
convinced, by this generous expression of sentiment from their comrades,
consented to postpone their departure for the present, under the
assurance that no obstacle would be thrown in their way when a more
favorable season should present itself.[242]

Scarcely was this difficulty adjusted, when Cortés was menaced with one
more serious, in the jealousy springing up between his soldiers and
their Indian allies. Notwithstanding the demonstrations of regard by
Maxixca and his immediate followers, there were others of the nation who
looked with an evil eye on their guests, for the calamities in which
they had involved them; and they tauntingly asked if, in addition to
this, they were now to be burdened by the presence and maintenance of
the strangers. These sallies of discontent were not so secret as
altogether to escape the ears of the Spaniards, in whom they occasioned
no little disquietude. They proceeded for the most part, it is true,
from persons of little consideration, since the four great chiefs of the
republic appear to have been steadily secured to the interests of
Cortés. But they derived some importance from the countenance of the
warlike Xicotencatl, in whose bosom still lingered the embers of that
implacable hostility which he had displayed so courageously on the field
of battle; and sparkles of this fiery temper occasionally gleamed forth
in the intimate intercourse into which he was now reluctantly brought
with his ancient opponents.

Cortés, who saw with alarm the growing feeling of estrangement which
must sap the very foundations on which he was to rest the lever for
future operations, employed every argument which suggested itself, to
restore the confidence of his own men. He reminded them of the good
services they had uniformly received from the great body of the nation.
They had a sufficient pledge of the future constancy of the Tlascalans
in their long-cherished hatred of the Aztecs, which the recent disasters
they had suffered from the same quarter could serve only to sharpen. And
he urged, with much force, that if any evil designs had been meditated
by them against the Spaniards the Tlascalans would, doubtless, have
taken advantage of their late disabled condition, and not waited till
they had recovered their strength and means of resistance.[243]

While Cortés was thus endeavoring, with somewhat doubtful success, to
stifle his own apprehensions, as well as those in the bosoms of his
followers, an event occurred which happily brought the affair to an
issue, and permanently settled the relations in which the two parties
were to stand to each other. This will make it necessary to notice some
events which had occurred in Mexico since the expulsion of the

On Montezuma’s death, his brother, Cuitlahua, lord of Iztapalapan,
conformably to the usage regulating the descent of the Aztec crown, was
chosen to succeed him. He was an active prince, of large experience in
military affairs, and, by the strength of his character, was well fitted
to sustain the tottering fortunes of the monarchy. He appears, moreover,
to have been a man of liberal, and what may be called enlightened,
taste, to judge from the beautiful gardens which he had filled with rare
exotics and which so much attracted the admiration of the Spaniards in
his city of Iztapalapan. Unlike his predecessor, he held the white men
in detestation, and had, probably, the satisfaction of celebrating his
own coronation by the sacrifice of many of them. From the moment of his
release from the Spanish quarters, where he had been detained by Cortés,
he entered into the patriotic movements of his people. It was he who
conducted the assaults both in the streets of the city and on the
“Melancholy Night;” and it was at his instigation that the powerful
force had been assembled to dispute the passage of the Spaniards in the
Vale of Otumba.[244]

Since the evacuation of the capital, he had been busily occupied in
repairing the mischief it had received,--restoring the buildings and the
bridges and putting it in the best posture of defence. He had endeavored
to improve the discipline and arms of his troops. He introduced the long
spear among them, and, by attaching the sword-blades taken from the
Christians to long poles, contrived a weapon that should be formidable
against the cavalry. He summoned his vassals, far and near, to hold
themselves in readiness to march to the relief of the capital, if
necessary, and, the better to secure their good will, relieved them from
some of the burdens usually laid on them. But he was now to experience
the instability of a government which rested not on love, but on fear.
The vassals in the neighborhood of the Valley remained true to their
allegiance; but others held themselves aloof, uncertain what course to
adopt; while others, again, in the more distant provinces, refused
obedience altogether, considering this a favorable moment for throwing
off the yoke which had so long galled them.[245]

In this emergency, the government sent a deputation to its ancient
enemies the Tlascalans. It consisted of six Aztec nobles, bearing a
present of cotton cloth, salt, and other articles rarely seen, of late
years, in the republic. The lords of the state, astonished at this
unprecedented act of condescension in their ancient foe, called the
council or senate of the great chiefs together, to give the envoys

Before this body the Aztecs stated the purpose of their mission. They
invited the Tlascalans to bury all past grievances in oblivion, and to
enter into a treaty with them. All the nations of Anahuac should make
common cause in defence of their country against the white men. The
Tlascalans would bring down on their own heads the wrath of the gods, if
they longer harbored the strangers who had violated and destroyed their
temples. If they counted on the support and friendship of their guests,
let them take warning from the fate of Mexico, which had received them
kindly within its walls, and which, in return, they had filled with
blood and ashes. They conjured them, by their reverence for their common
religion, not to suffer the white men, disabled as they now were, to
escape from their hands, but to sacrifice them at once to the gods,
whose temples they had profaned. In that event, they proffered them
their alliance, and the renewal of that friendly traffic which would
restore to the republic the possession of the comforts and luxuries of
which it had been so long deprived.

The proposals of the ambassadors produced different effects on their
audience. Xicotencatl was for embracing them at once. Far better was it,
he said, to unite with their kindred, with those who held their own
language, their faith and usages, than to throw themselves into the arms
of the fierce strangers, who, however they might talk of religion,
worshipped no god but gold. This opinion was followed by that of the
younger warriors, who readily caught the fire of his enthusiasm. But the
elder chiefs, especially his blind old father, one of the four rulers of
the state, who seem to have been all heartily in the interests of the
Spaniards, and one of them, Maxixca, their stanch friend, strongly
expressed their aversion to the proposed alliance with the Aztecs. They
were always the same, said the latter,--fair in speech, and false in
heart. They now proffered friendship to the Tlascalans. But it was fear
which drove them to it, and, when that fear was removed, they would
return to their old hostility. Who was it, but these insidious foes,
that had so long deprived the country of the very necessaries of life,
of which they were now so lavish in their offers? Was it not owing to
the white men that the nation at length possessed them? Yet they were
called on to sacrifice the white men to the gods!--the warriors who,
after fighting the battles of the Tlascalans, now threw themselves on
their hospitality. But the gods abhorred perfidy. And were not their
guests the very beings whose coming had been so long predicted by the
oracles? “Let us avail ourselves of it,” he concluded, “and unite and
make common cause with them, until we have humbled our haughty enemy.”

This discourse provoked a sharp rejoinder from Xicotencatl, till the
passion of the elder chieftain got the better of his patience, and,
substituting force for argument, he thrust his younger antagonist, with
some violence, from the council-chamber. A preceding so contrary to the
usual decorum of Indian debate astonished the assembly. But, far from
bringing censure on its author, it effectually silenced opposition. Even
the hot-headed followers of Xicotencatl shrunk from supporting a leader
who had incurred such a mark of contemptuous displeasure from the ruler
whom they most venerated. His own father openly condemned him; and the
patriotic young warrior, gifted with a truer foresight into futurity
than his countrymen, was left without support in the council, as he had
formerly been on the field of battle. The proffered alliance of the
Mexicans was unanimously rejected; and the envoys, fearing that even the
sacred character with which they were invested might not protect them
from violence, made their escape secretly from the capital.[246]

The result of the conference was of the last importance to the
Spaniards, who, in their present crippled condition, especially if taken
unawares, would have been, probably, at the mercy of the Tlascalans. At
all events, the union of these latter with the Aztecs would have settled
the fate of the expedition; since, in the poverty of his own resources,
it was only by adroitly playing off one part of the Indian population
against the other that Cortés could ultimately hope for success.




The Spanish commander, reassured by the result of the deliberations in
the Tlascalan senate, now resolved on active operations, as the best
means of dissipating the spirit of faction and discontent inevitably
fostered by a life of idleness. He proposed to exercise his troops, at
first, against some of the neighboring tribes who had laid violent hands
on such of the Spaniards as, confiding in their friendly spirit, had
passed through their territories. Among these were the Tepeacans, a
people often engaged in hostility with the Tlascalans, and who, as
mentioned in a preceding chapter, had lately massacred twelve Spaniards
in their march to the capital. An expedition against them would receive
the ready support of his allies, and would assert the dignity of the
Spanish name, much dimmed in the estimation of the natives by the late

The Tepeacans were a powerful tribe of the same primitive stock as the
Aztecs, to whom they acknowledged allegiance. They had transferred this
to the Spaniards, on their first march into the country, intimidated by
the bloody defeats of their Tlascalan neighbors. But, since the troubles
in the capital, they had again submitted to the Aztec sceptre. Their
capital, now a petty village, was a flourishing city at the time of the
Conquest, situated in the fruitful plains that stretch far away towards
the base of Orizaba.[247] The province contained, moreover, several
towns of considerable size, filled with a bold and warlike population.

As these Indians had once acknowledged the authority of Castile, Cortés
and his officers regarded their present conduct in the light of
rebellion, and, in a council of war, it was decided that those engaged
in the late massacre had fairly incurred the doom of slavery.[248]
Before proceeding against them, however, the general sent a summons
requiring their submission, and offering full pardon for the past, but,
in case of refusal, menacing them with the severest retribution. To this
the Indians, now in arms, returned a contemptuous answer, challenging
the Spaniards to meet them in fight, as they were in want of victims for
their sacrifices.

Cortés, without further delay, put himself at the head of his small
corps of Spaniards and a large reinforcement of Tlascalan warriors. They
were led by the younger Xicotencatl, who now appeared to bury his
recent animosity, and desirous to take a lesson in war under the chief
who had so often foiled him in the field.[249]

The Tepeacans received their enemy on their borders. A bloody battle
followed, in which the Spanish horse were somewhat embarrassed by the
tall maize that covered part of the plain. They were successful in the
end, and the Tepeacans, after holding their ground like good warriors,
were at length routed with great slaughter. A second engagement, which
took place a few days after, was followed by like decisive results; and
the victorious Spaniards with their allies, marching straightway on the
city of Tepeaca, entered it in triumph.[250] No further resistance was
attempted by the enemy, and the whole province, to avoid further
calamities, eagerly tendered its submission. Cortés, however, inflicted
the meditated chastisement on the places implicated in the massacre. The
inhabitants were branded with a hot iron as slaves, and, after the royal
fifth had been reserved, were distributed between his own men and the
allies.[251] The Spaniards were familiar with the system of
_repartimientos_ established in the islands; but this was the first
example of slavery in New Spain.{*} It was justified, in the opinion of
the general and his military casuists, by the aggravated offences of the
party. The sentence, however, was not countenanced by the crown,[252]
which, as the colonial legislation abundantly shows, was ever at issue
with the craving and mercenary spirit of the colonist.

{*} [It may have been the first instance of natives being reduced to
slavery by the Spaniards, but female slaves at least had been given to
them on several previous occasions by the Mexican chiefs. The present
case has also no connection with the system of _repartimientos_, by
which, after the conquest was effected, the soil and its inhabitants
were divided among the new possessors. In the case of the Tepeacans, no
attempt was made to enslave the adult males, whose services were not
needed, and who would have brought only embarrassment to their captors.
See Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 135.--K.]]

Satisfied with this display of his vengeance, Cortés now established his
headquarters at Tepeaca, which, situated in a cultivated country,
afforded easy means for maintaining an army, while its position on the
Mexican frontier made it a good _point d’appui_ for future operations.

The Aztec government, since it had learned the issue of its negotiations
at Tlascala, had been diligent in fortifying its frontier in that
quarter. The garrisons usually maintained there were strengthened, and
large bodies of men were marched in the same direction, with orders to
occupy the strong positions on the borders. The conduct of these troops
was in their usual style of arrogance and extortion, and greatly
disgusted the inhabitants of the country.

Among the places thus garrisoned by the Aztecs was Quauhquechollan,[253]
a city containing thirty thousand inhabitants, according to the
historians, and lying to the southwest twelve leagues or more from the
Spanish quarters. It stood at the extremity of a deep valley, resting
against a bold range of hills, or rather mountains, and flanked by two
rivers with exceedingly high and precipitous banks. The only avenue by
which the town could be easily approached was protected by a stone wall
more than twenty feet high and of great thickness.[254] Into this place,
thus strongly defended by art as well as by nature, the Aztec emperor
had thrown a garrison of several thousand warriors, while a much more
formidable force occupied the heights commanding the city.

The cacique of this strong post, impatient of the Mexican yoke, sent to
Cortés, inviting him to march to his relief, and promising a
co-operation of the citizens in an assault on the Aztec quarters. The
general eagerly embraced the proposal, and detached Cristóval de Olid,
with two hundred Spaniards and a strong body of Tlascalans, to support
the friendly cacique.[255] On the way, Olid was joined by many
volunteers from the Indian city and from the neighboring capital of
Cholula, all equally pressing their services. The number and eagerness
of these auxiliaries excited suspicions in the bosom of the cavalier.
They were strengthened by the surmises of the soldiers of Narvaez, whose
imaginations were still haunted, it seems, by the horrors of the _noche
triste_, and who saw in the friendly alacrity of their new allies
evidence of an insidious understanding with the Aztecs. Olid, catching
this distrust, made a countermarch on Cholula, where he seized the
suspected chiefs, who had been most forward in offering their services,
and sent them under a strong guard to Cortés.

The general, after a careful examination, was satisfied of the integrity
of the suspected parties. He, expressing his deep regret at the
treatment they had received, made them such amends as he could by
liberal presents, and, as he now saw the impropriety of committing an
affair of such importance to other hands, put himself at the head of his
remaining force and effected a junction with his officer in Cholula. He
had arranged with the cacique of the city against which he was marching,
that on the appearance of the Spaniards the inhabitants should rise on
the garrison. Everything succeeded as he had planned. No sooner had the
Christian battalions defiled on the plain before the town, than the
inhabitants attacked the garrison with the utmost fury. The latter,
abandoning the outer defences of the place, retreated to their own
quarters in the principal _teocalli_, where they maintained a hard
struggle with their adversaries. In the heat of it, Cortes, at the head
of his little body of horse, rode into the place, and directed the
assault in person. The Aztecs made a fierce defence. But, fresh troops
constantly arriving to support the assailants, the works were stormed,
and every one of the garrison was put to the sword.[256]

The Mexican forces, meanwhile, stationed on the neighboring eminences,
had marched down to the support of their countrymen in the town, and
formed in order of battle in the suburbs, where they were encountered by
the Tlascalan levies. “They mustered,” says Cortés, speaking of the
enemy, “at least thirty thousand men; and it was a brave sight for the
eye to look on,--such a beautiful array of warriors glistening with gold
and jewels and variegated feather-work.”[257] The action was well
contested between the two Indian armies. The suburbs were set on fire,
and, in the midst of the flames, Cortés and his squadrons, rushing on
the enemy, at length broke their array, and compelled them to fall back
in disorder into the narrow gorge of the mountain, from which they had
lately descended. The pass was rough and precipitous. Spaniards and
Tlascalans followed close in the rear, and the light troops, scaling the
high wall of the valley, poured down on the enemy’s flanks. The heat was
intense, and both parties were so much exhausted by their efforts that
it was with difficulty, says the chronicler, that the one could pursue,
or the other fly.[258] They were not too weary, however, to slay. The
Mexicans were routed with terrible slaughter. They found no pity from
their Indian foes, who had a long account of injuries to settle with
them. Some few sought refuge by flying higher up into the fastnesses of
the sierra. They were followed by their indefatigable enemy, until, on
the bald summit of the ridge, they reached the Mexican encampment. It
covered a wide tract of ground. Various utensils, ornamented dresses,
and articles of luxury, were scattered round, and the number of slaves
in attendance showed the barbaric pomp with which the nobles of Mexico
went to their campaigns.[259] It was a rich booty for the victors, who
spread over the deserted camp, and loaded themselves with the spoil,
until the gathering darkness warned them to descend.[260]

Cortés followed up the blow by assaulting the strong town of Itzocan,
held also by a Mexican garrison, and situated in the depths of a green
valley watered by artificial canals and smiling in all the rich
abundance of this fruitful region of the plateau.[261] The place, though
stoutly defended, was stormed and carried; the Aztecs were driven across
a river which ran below the town, and, although the light bridges that
traversed it were broken down in the flight, whether by design or
accident, the Spaniards, fording and swimming the stream as they could,
found their way to the opposite bank, following up the chase with the
eagerness of bloodhounds. Here, too, the booty was great; and the Indian
auxiliaries flocked by thousands to the banners of the chief who so
surely led them on to victory and plunder.[262]

Soon afterwards, Cortés returned to his headquarters at Tepeaca. Thence
he detached his officers on expeditions which were usually successful.
Sandoval, in particular, marched against a large body of the enemy lying
between the camp and Vera Cruz, defeated them in two decisive battles,
and thus restored the communications with the port.

The result of these operations was the reduction of that populous and
cultivated territory which lies between the great _volcan_, on the west,
and the mighty skirts of Orizaba, on the east. Many places, also, in the
neighboring province of Mixtecapan acknowledged the authority of the
Spaniards, and others from the remote region of Oaxaca sent to claim
their protection. The conduct of Cortés towards his allies had gained
him great credit for disinterestedness and equity. The Indian cities in
the adjacent territory appealed to him, as their umpire, in their
differences with one another, and cases of disputed succession in their
governments were referred to his arbitration. By his discreet and
moderate policy he insensibly acquired an ascendency over their counsels
which had been denied to the ferocious Aztec. His authority extended
wider and wider every day; and a new empire grew up in the very heart of
the land, forming a counterpoise to the colossal power which had so long
overshadowed it.[263]

Cortés now felt himself strong enough to put in execution the plans for
recovering the capital, over which he had been brooding ever since the
hour of his expulsion. He had greatly undervalued the resources of the
Aztec monarchy. He was now aware, from bitter experience, that, to
vanquish it, his own forces, and all he could hope to muster, would be
incompetent, without a very extensive support from the Indians
themselves. A large army would, moreover, require large supplies for its
maintenance, and these could not be regularly obtained, during a
protracted siege, without the friendly co-operation of the natives. On
such support he might now safely calculate from Tlascala and the other
Indian territories, whose warriors were so eager to serve under his
banners. His past acquaintance with them had instructed him in their
national character and system of war; while the natives who had fought
under his command, if they had caught little of the Spanish tactics, had
learned to act in concert with the white men and to obey him implicitly
as their commander. This was a considerable improvement in such wild and
disorderly levies, and greatly augmented the strength derived from

Experience showed that in a future conflict with the capital it would
not do to trust to the causeways, but that, to succeed, he must command
the lake. He proposed, therefore, to build a number of vessels like
those constructed under his orders in Montezuma’s time and afterwards
destroyed by the inhabitants. For this he had still the services of the
same experienced shipbuilder, Martin Lopez, who, as we have seen, had
fortunately escaped the slaughter of the “Melancholy Night.” Cortés now
sent this man to Tlascala, with orders to build thirteen brigantines,
which might be taken to pieces and carried on the shoulders of the
Indians to be launched on the waters of Lake Tezcuco. The sails,
rigging, and iron-work were to be brought from Vera Cruz, where they had
been stored since their removal from the dismantled ships. It was a bold
conception, that of constructing a fleet to be transported across forest
and mountain before it was launched on its destined waters! But it
suited the daring genius of Cortés, who, with the co-operation of his
stanch Tlascalan confederates, did not doubt his ability to carry it
into execution.

It was with no little regret that the general learned at this time the
death of his good friend Maxixca, the old lord of Tlascala, who had
stood by him so steadily in the hour of adversity. He had fallen a
victim to that terrible epidemic, the smallpox, which was now sweeping
over the land like fire over the prairies, smiting down prince and
peasant, and adding another to the long train of woes that followed the
march of the white men. It was imported into the country, it is said, by
a negro slave in the fleet of Narvaez.[264] It first broke out in
Cempoalla. The poor natives, ignorant of the best mode of treating the
loathsome disorder, sought relief in their usual practice of bathing in
cold water, which greatly aggravated their trouble. From Cempoalla it
spread rapidly over the neighboring country, and, penetrating through
Tlascala, reached the Aztec capital, where Montezuma’s successor,
Cuitlahua, fell one of its first victims. Thence it swept down towards
the borders of the Pacific, leaving its path strewn with the dead bodies
of the natives, who, in the strong language of a contemporary, perished
in heaps like cattle stricken with the murrain.[265] It does not seem to
have been fatal to the Spaniards, many of whom, probably, had already
had the disorder, and who were, at all events, acquainted with the
proper method of treating it.

The death of Maxixca was deeply regretted by the troops, who lost in him
a true and most efficient ally. With his last breath he commended them
to his son and successor, as the great beings whose coming into the
country had been so long predicted by the oracles.[266] He expressed a
desire to die in the profession of the Christian faith. Cortés no sooner
learned his condition than he despatched Father Olmedo to Tlascala. The
friar found that Maxixca had already caused a crucifix to be placed
before his sick couch, as the object of his adoration. After
explaining, as intelligibly as he could, the truths of revelation, he
baptized the dying chieftain; and the Spaniards had the satisfaction to
believe that the soul of their benefactor was exempted from the doom of
eternal perdition that hung over the unfortunate Indian who perished in
his unbelief.[267]

Their late brilliant successes seem to have reconciled most of the
disaffected soldiers to the prosecution of the war. There were still a
few among them, the secretary Duero, Bermudez the treasurer, and others
high in office, or wealthy hidalgos, who looked with disgust on another
campaign, and now loudly reiterated their demand of a free passage to
Cuba. To this Cortés, satisfied with the support on which he could
safely count, made no further objection. Having once given his consent,
he did all in his power to facilitate their departure and provide for
their comfort. He ordered the best ship at Vera Cruz to be placed at
their disposal, to be well supplied with provisions and everything
necessary for the voyage, and sent Alvarado to the coast to superintend
the embarkation. He took the most courteous leave of them, with
assurances of his own unalterable regard. But, as the event proved,
those who could part from him at this crisis had little sympathy with
his fortunes; and we find Duero not long afterwards in Spain, supporting
claims of Velasquez before the emperor, in opposition to those of his
former friend and commander.

The loss of these few men was amply compensated by the arrival of
others, whom Fortune--to use no higher term--most unexpectedly threw in
his way. The first of these came in a small vessel sent from Cuba by the
governor, Velasquez, with stores for the colony at Vera Cruz. He was not
aware of the late transactions in the country, and of the discomfiture
of his officer. In the vessel came despatches, it is said, from Fonseca,
bishop of Burgos, instructing Narvaez to send Cortés, if he had not
already done so, for trial to Spain.[268] The alcalde of Vera Cruz,
agreeably to the general’s instructions, allowed the captain of the bark
to land, who had no doubt that the country was in the hands of Narvaez.
He was undeceived by being seized, together with his men, so soon as
they had set foot on shore. The vessel was then secured; and the
commander and his crew, finding out their error, were persuaded without
much difficulty to join their countrymen in Tlascala.

A second vessel, sent soon after by Velasquez, shared the same fate, and
those on board consented, also, to take their chance in the expedition
under Cortés.

About the same time, Garay, the governor of Jamaica, fitted out three
ships with an armed force to plant a colony on the Panuco, a river which
pours into the Gulf a few degrees north of Villa Rica. Garay persisted
in establishing this settlement, in contempt of the claims of Cortés,
who had already entered into a friendly communication with the
inhabitants of that region. But the crews experienced such a rough
reception from the natives on landing, and lost so many men, that they
were glad to take to their vessels again. One of these foundered in a
storm. The others put into the port of Vera Cruz to restore the men,
much weakened by hunger and disease. Here they were kindly received,
their wants supplied, their wounds healed; when they were induced, by
the liberal promises of Cortés, to abandon the disastrous service of
their employer and enlist under his own prosperous banner. The
reinforcements obtained from these sources amounted to full a hundred
and fifty men, well provided with arms and ammunition, together with
twenty horses. By this strange concurrence of circumstances, Cortés saw
himself in possession of the supplies he most needed; that, too, from
the hands of his enemies, whose costly preparations were thus turned to
the benefit of the very man whom they were designed to ruin.

His good fortune did not stop here. A ship from the Canaries touched at
Cuba, freighted with arms and military stores for the adventurers in the
New World. Their commander heard there of the recent discoveries in
Mexico, and, thinking it would afford a favorable market for him,
directed his course to Vera Cruz. He was not mistaken. The alcalde, by
the general’s orders, purchased both ship and cargo; and the crews,
catching the spirit of adventure, followed their countrymen into the
interior. There seemed to be a magic in the name of Cortés, which drew
all who came within hearing of it under his standard.[269]

Having now completed the arrangements for settling his new conquests,
there seemed to be no further reason for postponing his departure to
Tlascala. He was first solicited by the citizens of Tepeaca to leave a
garrison with them, to protect them from the vengeance of the Aztecs.
Cortés acceded to the request, and, considering the central position of
the town favorable for maintaining his conquests, resolved to plant a
colony there. For this object he selected sixty of his soldiers, most of
whom were disabled by wounds or infirmity. He appointed the alcaldes,
regidores, and other functionaries of a civic magistracy. The place he
called _Segura de la Frontera_, or Security of the Frontier.[270] It
received valuable privileges as a city, a few years later, from the
emperor Charles the Fifth,[271] and rose to some consideration in the
age of the Conquest. But its consequence soon after declined. Even its
Castilian name, with the same caprice which has decided the fate of more
than one name in our own country, was gradually supplanted by its
ancient one, and the little village of Tepeaca is all that now
commemorates the once flourishing Indian capital, and the second Spanish
colony in Mexico.

While at Segura, Cortés wrote that celebrated letter to the emperor--the
second in the series--so often cited in the preceding pages. It takes up
the narrative with the departure from Vera Cruz, and exhibits in a brief
and comprehensive form the occurrences up to the time at which we are
now arrived. In the concluding page, the general, after noticing the
embarrassments under which he labors, says, in his usual manly spirit,
that he holds danger and fatigue light in comparison with the attainment
of his object, and that he is confident a short time will restore the
Spaniards to their former position and repair all their losses.[272]

He notices the resemblance of Mexico, in many of its features and
productions, to the mother country, and requests that it may henceforth
be called “New Spain of the Ocean Sea.”[273] He finally requests that a
commission may be sent out, at once, to investigate his conduct and to
verify the accuracy of his statements.

This letter, which was printed at Seville the year after its reception,
has been since reprinted, and translated, more than once.[274] It
excited a great sensation at the court, and among the friends of science
generally. The previous discoveries in the New World had disappointed
the expectations which had been formed after the solution of the grand
problem of its existence. They had brought to light only rude tribes,
which, however gentle and inoffensive in their manners, were still in
the primitive stages of barbarism. Here was an authentic account of a
vast nation, potent and populous, exhibiting an elaborate social polity,
well advanced in the arts of civilization, occupying a soil that teemed
with mineral treasures and with a boundless variety of vegetable
products, stores of wealth, both natural and artificial, that seemed,
for the first time, to realize the golden dreams in which the great
discoverer of the New World had so fondly, and in his own day so
fallaciously, indulged. Well might the scholar of that age exult in the
revelation of these wonders, which so many had long, but in vain,
desired to see.[275]

With this letter went another to the emperor, signed, as it would seem,
by nearly every officer and soldier in the camp. It expatiated on the
obstacles thrown in the way of the expedition by Velasquez and Narvaez,
and the great prejudice this had caused to the royal interests. It then
set forth the services of Cortés, and besought the emperor to confirm
him in his authority, and not to allow any interference with one who,
from his personal character, his intimate knowledge of the land and its
people, and the attachment of his soldiers, was the man best qualified
in all the world to achieve the conquest of the country.[276]

It added not a little to the perplexities of Cortés that he was still in
entire ignorance of the light in which his conduct was regarded in
Spain. He had not even heard whether his despatches, sent the year
preceding from Vera Cruz, had been received. Mexico was as far removed
from all intercourse with the civilized world as if it had been placed
at the antipodes. Few vessels had entered, and none had been allowed to
leave, its ports. The governor of Cuba, an island distant but a few
days’ sail, was yet ignorant, as we have seen, of the fate of his
armament. On the arrival of every new vessel or fleet on these shores,
Cortés might well doubt whether it brought aid to his undertaking, or a
royal commission to supersede him. His sanguine spirit relied on the
former; though the latter was much the more probable, considering the
intimacy of his enemy, the governor, with Bishop Fonseca, a man jealous
of his authority, and one who, from his station at the head of the
Indian department, held a predominant control over the affairs of the
New World. It was the policy of Cortés, therefore, to lose no time; to
push forward his preparations, lest another should be permitted to
snatch the laurel now almost within his grasp. Could he but reduce the
Aztec capital, he felt that he should be safe, and that, in whatever
light his irregular proceedings might now be viewed, his services in
that event would far more than counterbalance them in the eyes both of
the crown and of the country.

The general wrote, also, to the Royal Audience at St. Domingo, in order
to interest them in his cause. He sent four vessels to the same island,
to obtain a further supply of arms and ammunition; and, the better to
stimulate the cupidity of adventurers and allure them to the expedition,
he added specimens of the beautiful fabrics of the country, and of its
precious metals.[277] The funds for procuring these important supplies
were, probably, derived from the plunder gathered in the late battles,
and the gold which, as already remarked, had been saved from the general
wreck by the Castilian convoy.

It was the middle of December when Cortés, having completed all his
arrangements, set out on his return to Tlascala, ten or twelve leagues
distant. He marched in the van of the army, and took the way of Cholula.
How different was his condition from that in which he had left the
republican capital not five months before! His march was a triumphal
procession, displaying the various banners and military ensigns taken
from the enemy, long files of captives, and all the rich spoils of
conquest gleaned from many a hard-fought field. As the army passed
through the towns and villages, the inhabitants poured out to greet
them, and as they drew near to Tlascala, the whole population, men,
women, and children, came forth, celebrating their return with songs,
dancing, and music. Arches decorated with flowers were thrown across the
streets through which they passed, and a Tlascalan orator addressed the
general, on his entrance into the city, in a lofty panegyric on his late
achievements, proclaiming him the “avenger of the nation.” Amidst this
pomp and triumphal show, Cortés and his principal officers were seen
clad in deep mourning in honor of their friend Maxixca. And this tribute
of respect to the memory of their venerated ruler touched the Tlascalans
more sensibly than all the proud display of military trophies.[278]

The general’s first act was to confirm the son of his deceased friend in
the succession, which had been contested by an illegitimate brother. The
youth was but twelve years of age; and Cortés prevailed on him without
difficulty to follow his father’s example and receive baptism. He
afterwards knighted him with his own hand; the first instance, probably,
of the order of chivalry being conferred on an American Indian.[279] The
elder Xicotencatl was also persuaded to embrace Christianity; and the
example of their rulers had its obvious effect in preparing the minds
of the people for the reception of the truth. Cortés, whether from the
suggestions of Olmedo, or from the engrossing nature of his own affairs,
did not press the work of conversion further at this time, but wisely
left the good seed, already sown, to ripen in secret, till time should
bring forth the harvest.

The Spanish commander, during his short stay in Tlascala, urged forward
the preparations for the campaign. He endeavored to drill the Tlascalans
and to give them some idea of European discipline and tactics. He caused
new arms to be made, and the old ones to be put in order. Powder was
manufactured with the aid of sulphur obtained by some adventurous
cavaliers from the smoking throat of Popocatepetl.[280] The construction
of the brigantines went forward prosperously under the direction of
Lopez, with the aid of the Tlascalans.[281] Timber was cut in the
forests, and pitch, an article unknown to the Indians, was obtained from
the pines on the neighboring Sierra de Malinche. The rigging and other
appurtenances were transported by the Indian _tamanes_ from Villa Rica;
and by Christmas the work was so far advanced that it was no longer
necessary for Cortés to delay the march to Mexico.




While the events related in the preceding chapter were passing, an
important change had taken place in the Aztec monarchy. Montezuma’s
brother and successor, Cuitlahua, had suddenly died of the smallpox,
after a brief reign of four months,--brief, but glorious, for it had
witnessed the overthrow of the Spaniards and their expulsion from
Mexico.[282] On the death of their warlike chief, the electors were
convened, as usual, to supply the vacant throne. It was an office of
great responsibility in the dark hour of their fortunes. The
_teoteuctli_, or high-priest, invoked the blessing of the supreme God on
their deliberations. His prayer is still extant. It was the last one
ever made on a similar occasion in Anahuac, and a few extracts from it
may interest the reader, as a specimen of Aztec eloquence:

“O Lord! thou knowest that the days of our sovereign are at an end, for
thou hast placed him beneath thy feet. He abides in the place of his
retreat; he has trodden the path which we are all to tread; he has gone
to the house whither we are all to follow,--the house of eternal
darkness, where no light cometh. He is gathered to his rest, and no one
henceforth shall disquiet him.... All these were the princes, his
predecessors, who sat on the imperial throne, directing the affairs of
thy kingdom; for thou art the universal lord and emperor, by whose will
and movement the whole world is directed; thou needest not the counsel
of another. They laid down the intolerable burden of government, and
left it to him, their successor. Yet he sojourned but a few days in his
kingdom,--but a few days had we enjoyed his presence, when thou
summonedst him away to follow those who had ruled over the land before
him. And great cause has he for thankfulness, that thou hast relieved
him from so grievous a load, and placed him in tranquillity and rest....
Who now shall order matters for the good of the people and the realm?
Who shall appoint the judges to administer justice to thy people? Who
now shall bid the drum and the flute to sound, and gather together the
veteran soldiers and the men mighty in battle? Our Lord and our
Defence! wilt thou, in thy wisdom, elect one who shall be worthy to sit
on the throne of thy kingdom; one who shall bear the grievous burden of
government; who shall comfort and cherish thy poor people, even as the
mother cherisheth her offspring?... O Lord most merciful! pour forth thy
light and thy splendor over this thine empire!... Order it so that thou
shalt be served in all, and through all.”[283]

The choice fell on Quauhtemotzin, or Guatemozin, as euphoniously
corrupted by the Spaniards.[284] He was nephew to the two last monarchs,
and married his cousin, the beautiful princess Tecuichpo, Montezuma’s
daughter. “He was not more than twenty-five years old, and elegant in
his person for an Indian,” says one who had seen him often; “valiant,
and so terrible that his followers trembled in his presence.”[285] He
did not shrink from the perilous post that was offered to him; and, as
he saw the tempest gathering darkly around, he prepared to meet it like
a man. Though young, he had ample experience in military matters, and
had distinguished himself above all others in the bloody conflicts of
the capital. He bore a sort of religious hatred to the Spaniards, like
that which Hannibal is said to have sworn, and which he certainly
cherished, against his Roman foes.

By means of his spies, Guatemozin made himself acquainted with the
movements of the Spaniards and their design to besiege the capital. He
prepared for it by sending away the useless part of the population,
while he called in his potent vassals from the neighborhood. He
continued the plans of his predecessor for strengthening the defences of
the city, reviewed his troops, and stimulated them by prizes to excel in
their exercises. He made harangues to his soldiers to rouse them to a
spirit of desperate resistance. He encouraged his vassals throughout the
empire to attack the white men wherever they were to be met with,
setting a price on their heads, as well as on the persons of all who
should be brought alive to him in Mexico.[286] And it was no uncommon
thing for the Spaniards to find hanging up in the temples of the
conquered places the arms and accoutrements of their unfortunate
countrymen who had been seized and sent to the capital for
sacrifice.[287] Such was the young monarch who was now called to the
tottering throne of the Aztecs; worthy, by his bold and magnanimous
nature, to sway the sceptre of his country in the most flourishing
period of her renown, and now, in her distress, devoting himself in the
true spirit of a patriot prince to uphold her falling fortunes or
bravely perish with them.[288]

We must now return to the Spaniards in Tlascala, where we left them
preparing to resume their march on Mexico. Their commander had the
satisfaction to see his troops tolerably complete in their
appointments; varying, indeed, according to the condition of the
different reinforcements which had arrived from time to time, but, on
the whole, superior to those of the army with which he had first invaded
the country. His whole force fell little short of six hundred men; forty
of whom were cavalry, together with eighty arquebusiers and crossbowmen.
The rest were armed with sword and target, and with the copper-headed
pike of Chinantla. He had nine cannon of a moderate calibre, and was
indifferently supplied with powder.[289]

As his forces were drawn up in order of march, Cortés rode through the
ranks, exhorting his soldiers, as usual with him on these occasions, to
be true to themselves and the enterprise in which they were embarked. He
told them they were to march against _rebels_, who had once acknowledged
allegiance to the Spanish sovereign;[290] against barbarians, the
enemies of their religion. They were to fight the battles of the Cross
and of the crown; to fight their own battles, to wipe away the stain
from their arms, to avenge their injuries, and the loss of the dear
companions who had been butchered on the field or on the accursed altar
of sacrifice. Never was there a war which offered higher incentives to
the Christian cavalier; a war which opened to him riches and renown in
this life, and an imperishable glory in that to come.[291]

Thus did the politic chief touch all the secret springs of devotion,
honor, and ambition in the bosoms of his martial audience, waking the
mettle of the most sluggish before leading him on the perilous emprise.
They answered with acclamations that they were ready to die in defence
of the Faith, and would either conquer, or leave their bones with those
of their countrymen in the waters of the Tezcuco.

The army of the allies next passed in review before the general. It is
variously estimated by writers from a hundred and ten to a hundred and
fifty thousand soldiers! The palpable exaggeration, no less than the
discrepancy, shows that little reliance can be placed on any estimate.
It is certain, however, that it was a multitudinous array, consisting
not only of the flower of the Tlascalan warriors, but of those of
Cholula, Tepeaca, and the neighboring territories, which had submitted
to the Castilian crown.[292]

They were armed, after the Indian fashion, with bows and arrows, the
glassy _maquahuitl_, and the long pike, which formidable weapon Cortés,
as we have seen, had introduced among his own troops. They were divided
into battalions, each having its own banner, displaying the appropriate
arms or emblem of its company. The four great chiefs of the nation
marched in the van; three of them venerable for their years, and
showing, in the insignia which decorated their persons, the evidence of
many a glorious feat in arms. The panache of many-colored plumes floated
from their casques, set in emeralds or other precious stones. Their
_escaupil_, or stuffed doublet of cotton, was covered with the graceful
surcoat of feather-work, and their feet were protected by sandals
embossed with gold. Four young pages followed, bearing their weapons,
and four others supported as many standards, on which were emblazoned
the armorial bearings of the four great divisions of the republic.[293]
The Tlascalans, though frugal in the extreme, and rude in their way of
life, were as ambitious of display in their military attire as any of
the races on the plateau. As they defiled before Cortés, they saluted
him by waving their banners and by a flourish of their wild music, which
the general acknowledged by courteously raising his cap as they
passed.[294] The Tlascalan warriors, and especially the younger
Xicotencatl, their commander, affected to imitate their European
masters, not merely in their tactics, but in minuter matters of military

Cortés, with the aid of Marina, made a brief address to his Indian
allies. He reminded them that he was going to fight their battles
against their ancient enemies. He called on them to support him in a
manner worthy of their renowned republic. To those who remained at home,
he committed the charge of aiding in the completion of the brigantines,
on which the success of the expedition so much depended; and he
requested that none would follow his banner who were not prepared to
remain till the final reduction of the capital.[295] This address was
answered by shouts, or rather yells, of defiance, showing the exultation
felt by his Indian confederates at the prospect of at last avenging
their manifold wrongs and humbling their haughty enemy.

Before setting out on the expedition, Cortés published a code of
ordinances, as he terms them, or regulations for the army, too
remarkable to be passed over in silence. The preamble sets forth that in
all institutions, whether divine or human,--if the latter have any
worth,--order is the great law. The ancient chronicles inform us that
the greatest captains in past times owed their successes quite as much
to the wisdom of their ordinances as to their own valor and virtue. The
situation of the Spaniards eminently demanded such a code; a mere
handful of men as they were, in the midst of countless enemies, most
cunning in the management of their weapons and in the art of war. The
instrument then reminds the army that the conversion of the heathen is
the work most acceptable in the eye of the Almighty, and one that will
be sure to receive his support. It calls on every soldier to regard this
as the prime object of the expedition, _without which the war would be
manifestly unjust, and every acquisition made by it, a robbery_.[296]

The general solemnly protests that the principal motive which operates
in his own bosom is the desire to wean the natives from their gloomy
idolatry and to impart to them the knowledge of a purer faith; and next,
to recover for his master, the emperor, the dominions which of right
belong to him.[297]

The ordinances then prohibit all blasphemy against God or the saints; a
vice much more frequent among Catholic than Protestant nations, arising,
perhaps, less from difference of religion than of physical
temperament,--for the warm sun of the South, under which Catholicism
prevails, stimulates the sensibilities to the more violent expression of

Another law is directed against gaming, to which the Spaniards, in all
ages, have been peculiarly addicted. Cortés, making allowance for the
strong national propensity, authorizes it under certain limitations, but
prohibits the use of dice altogether.[299] Then follow other laws
against brawls and private combats, against personal taunts and the
irritating sarcasms of rival companies; rules for the more perfect
discipline of the troops, whether in camp or the field. Among others is
one prohibiting any captain, under pain of death, from charging the
enemy without orders; a practice noticed as most pernicious and of too
frequent occurrence,--showing the impetuous spirit and want of true
military subordination in the bold cavaliers who followed the standard
of Cortés.

The last ordinance prohibits any man, officer or private, from securing
to his own use any of the booty taken from the enemy, whether it be
gold, silver, precious stones, feather-work, stuffs, slaves, or other
commodity, however or wherever obtained, in the city or in the field,
and requires him to bring it forthwith to the presence of the general,
or the officer appointed to receive it. The violation of this law was
punished with death and confiscation of property. So severe an edict
may be thought to prove that, however much the _Conquistador_ may have
been influenced by spiritual considerations, he was by no means
insensible to those of a temporal character.[300]

These provisions were not suffered to remain a dead letter. The Spanish
commander, soon after their proclamation, made an example of two of his
own slaves, whom he hanged for plundering the natives. A similar
sentence was passed on a soldier for the like offence, though he allowed
him to be cut down before the sentence was entirely executed. Cortés
knew well the character of his followers; rough and turbulent spirits,
who required to be ruled with an iron hand. Yet he was not eager to
assert his authority on light occasions. The intimacy into which they
were thrown by their peculiar situation, perils, and sufferings, in
which all equally shared, and a common interest in the adventure,
induced a familiarity between men and officers, most unfavorable to
military discipline. The general’s own manners, frank and liberal,
seemed to invite this freedom, which, on ordinary occasions, he made no
attempt to repress; perhaps finding it too difficult, or at least
impolitic, since it afforded a safety-valve for the spirits of a
licentious soldiery, that, if violently coerced, might have burst forth
into open mutiny. But the limits of his forbearance were clearly
defined; and any attempt to overstep them, or to violate the established
regulations of the camp, brought a sure and speedy punishment on the
offender. By thus tempering severity with indulgence, masking an iron
will under the open bearing of a soldier, Cortés established a control
over his band of bold and reckless adventurers, such as a pedantic
martinet, scrupulous in enforcing the minutiæ of military etiquette,
could never have obtained.

The ordinances, dated on the twenty-second of December, were proclaimed
to the assembled army on the twenty-sixth. Two days afterwards, the
troops were on their march, and Cortés, at the head of his battalions,
with colors flying and music playing, issued forth from the gates of the
republican capital, which had so generously received him in his
distress, and which now, for the second time, supplied him with the
means for consummating his great enterprise. The population of the city,
men, women, and children, hung on the rear of the army, taking a last
leave of their countrymen, and imploring the gods to crown their arms
with victory.

Notwithstanding the great force mustered by the Indian confederates, the
Spanish general allowed but a small part of them now to attend him. He
proposed to establish his headquarters at some place on the Tezcucan
lake, whence he could annoy the Aztec capital by reducing the
surrounding country, cutting off the supplies, and thus placing the city
in a state of blockade.[301]

The direct assault on Mexico itself he intended to postpone until the
arrival of the brigantines should enable him to make it with the
greatest advantage. Meanwhile, he had no desire to encumber himself with
a superfluous multitude, whom it would be difficult to feed; and he
preferred to leave them at Tlascala, whence they might convey the
vessels, when completed, to the camp, and aid him in his future

Three routes presented themselves to Cortés by which he might penetrate
into the Valley. He chose the most difficult, traversing the bold sierra
which divides the eastern plateau from the western, and so rough and
precipitous as to be scarcely practicable for the march of an army. He
wisely judged that he should be less likely to experience annoyance from
the enemy in this direction, as they might naturally confide in the
difficulties of the ground for their protection.

The first day, the troops advanced five or six leagues, Cortés riding in
the van, at the head of his little body of cavalry. They halted at the
village of Tetzmellocan, at the base of the mountain chain which
traverses the country, touching, at its southern limit, the mighty
Iztaccihuatl, or “White Woman,”--white with the snows of ages.[302] At
this village they met with a friendly reception, and on the following
morning began the ascent of the sierra.

The path was steep and exceedingly rough. Thick matted bushes covered
its surface, and the winter torrents had broken it into deep stony
channels, hardly practicable for the passage of artillery, while the
straggling branches of the trees, flung horizontally across the road,
made it equally difficult for cavalry. The cold, as they rose higher,
became intense. It was keenly felt by the Spaniards, accustomed of late
to a warm, or at least temperate, climate; though the extreme toil with
which they forced their way upward furnished the best means of resisting
the weather. The only vegetation to be seen in these higher regions was
the pine, dark forests of which clothed the sides of the mountains, till
even these dwindled into a thin and stunted growth. It was night before
the way-worn soldiers reached the bald crest of the sierra, where they
lost no time in kindling their fires; and, huddling round their
bivouacs, they warmed their frozen limbs and prepared their evening

With the earliest dawn, the troops were again in motion. Mass was said,
and they began their descent, more difficult and painful than their
ascent on the day preceding; for, in addition to the natural obstacles
of the road, they found it strewn with huge pieces of timber and trees,
obviously felled for the purpose by the natives. Cortés ordered up a
body of light troops to clear away the impediments, and the army again
resumed its march, but with the apprehension that the enemy had
prepared an ambuscade, to surprise them when they should be entangled in
the pass. They moved cautiously forward, straining their vision to
pierce the thick gloom of the forest, where the wily foe might be
lurking. But they saw no living thing, except only the wild inhabitants
of the woods, and flocks of the _zopilote_, the voracious vulture of the
country, which, in anticipation of a bloody banquet, hung, like a troop
of evil spirits, on the march of the army.

As they descended, the Spaniards felt a sensible and most welcome change
in the temperature. The character of the vegetation changed with it, and
the funereal pine, their only companion of late, gave way to the sturdy
oak, to the sycamore, and, lower down, to the graceful pepper-tree
mingling its red berry with the dark foliage of the forest; while, in
still lower depths, the gaudy-colored creepers might be seen flinging
their gay blossoms over the branches and telling of a softer and more
luxurious climate.

At length the army emerged on an open level, where the eye, unobstructed
by intervening wood or hill-top, could range, far and wide, over the
Valley of Mexico. There it lay bathed in the golden sunshine, stretched
out, as it were, in slumber, in the arms of the giant hills which
clustered, like a phalanx of guardian genii, around it. The magnificent
vision, new to many of the spectators, filled them with rapture. Even
the veterans of Cortés could not withhold their admiration, though this
was soon followed by a bitter feeling, as they recalled the sufferings
which had befallen them within these beautiful but treacherous
precincts. It made us feel, says the lion-hearted Conqueror, in his
Letters, that “we had no choice but victory or death; and, our minds
once resolved, we moved forward with as light a step as if we had been
going on an errand of certain pleasure.”[303]

As the Spaniards advanced, they beheld the neighboring hill-tops blazing
with beacon-fires showing that the country was already alarmed and
mustering to oppose them. The general called on his men to be mindful of
their high reputation; to move in order, closing up their ranks, and to
obey implicitly the commands of their officers.[304] At every turn among
the hills, they expected to meet the forces of the enemy drawn up to
dispute their passage. And, as they were allowed to pass the defiles
unmolested, and drew near to the open plains, they were prepared to see
them occupied by a formidable host, who would compel them to fight over
again the battle of Otumba. But, although clouds of dusky warriors were
seen, from time to time, hovering on the highlands, as if watching their
progress, they experienced no interruption till they reached a
_barranca_, or deep ravine, through which flowed a little river, crossed
by a bridge partly demolished. On the opposite side a considerable body
of Indians was stationed, as if to dispute the passage; but, whether
distrusting their own numbers, or intimidated by the steady advance of
the Spaniards, they offered them no annoyance, and were quickly
dispersed by a few resolute charges of cavalry. The army then proceeded,
without molestation, to a small town, called Coatepec, where they halted
for the night. Before retiring to his own quarters, Cortés made the
rounds of the camp, with a few trusty followers, to see that all was
safe.[305] He seemed to have an eye that never slumbered, and a frame
incapable of fatigue. It was the indomitable spirit within, which
sustained him.[306]

Yet he may well have been kept awake through the watches of the night,
by anxiety and doubt. He was now but three leagues from Tezcuco, the
far-famed capital of the Acolhuans. He proposed to establish his
headquarters, if possible, at this place. Its numerous dwellings would
afford ample accommodations for his army. An easy communication with
Tlascala, by a different route from that which he had traversed, would
furnish him with the means of readily obtaining supplies from that
friendly country, and for the safe transportation of the brigantines,
when finished, to be launched on the waters of the Tezcuco. But he had
good reason to distrust the reception he should meet with in the
capital; for an important revolution had taken place there since the
expulsion of the Spaniards from Mexico, of which it will be necessary to
give some account.

The reader will remember that the cacique of that place, named Cacama,
was deposed by Cortés, during his first residence in the Aztec
metropolis, in consequence of a projected revolt against the Spaniards,
and that the crown had been placed on the head of a younger brother,
Cuicuitzca. The deposed prince was among the prisoners carried away by
Cortés, and perished with the others, in the terrible passage of the
causeway, on the _noche triste_. His brother, afraid, probably, after
the flight of the Spaniards, of continuing with his own vassals, whose
sympathies were altogether with the Aztecs, accompanied his friends in
their retreat, and was so fortunate as to reach Tlascala in safety.

Meanwhile, a second son of Nezahualpilli, named Coanaco, claimed the
crown, on his elder brother’s death, as his own rightful inheritance. As
he heartily joined his countrymen and the Aztecs in their detestation of
the white men, his claims were sanctioned by the Mexican emperor. Soon
after his accession, the new lord of Tezcuco had an opportunity of
showing his loyalty to his imperial patron in an effectual manner.

A body of forty-five Spaniards, ignorant of the disasters in Mexico,
were transporting thither a large quantity of gold, at the very time
their countrymen were on the retreat to Tlascala. As they passed
through the Tezcucan territory, they were attacked by Coanaco’s orders,
most of them massacred on the spot, and the rest sent for sacrifice to
Mexico. The arms and accoutrements of these unfortunate men were hung up
as trophies in the temples, and their skins, stripped from their dead
bodies, were suspended over the bloody shrines, as the most acceptable
offering to the offended deities.[307]

Some months after this event, the exiled prince, Cuicuitzca, wearied
with his residence in Tlascala, and pining for his former royal state,
made his way back secretly to Tezcuco, hoping, it would seem, to raise a
party there in his favor. But, if such were his expectations, they were
sadly disappointed; for no sooner had he set foot in the capital than he
was betrayed to his brother, who, by the advice of Guatemozin, put him
to death, as a traitor to his country.[308] Such was the posture of
affairs in Tezcuco when Cortés, for the second time, approached its
gates; and well might he doubt, not merely the nature of his reception
there, but whether he would be permitted to enter it at all, without
force of arms.

These apprehensions were dispelled the following morning, when, before
the troops were well under arms, an embassy was announced from the lord
of Tezcuco. It consisted of several nobles, some of whom were known to
the companions of Cortés. They bore a golden flag in token of amity, and
a present of no great value to Cortés. They brought also a message from
the cacique, imploring the general to spare his territories, inviting
him to take up his quarters in his capital, and promising on his arrival
to become the vassal of the Spanish sovereign.

Cortés dissembled the satisfaction with which he listened to these
overtures, and sternly demanded of the envoys an account of the
Spaniards who had been massacred, insisting, at the same time, on the
immediate restitution of the plunder. But the Indian nobles excused
themselves by throwing the whole blame upon the Aztec emperor, by whose
orders the deed had been perpetrated, and who now had possession of the
treasure. They urged Cortés not to enter the city that day, but to pass
the night in the suburbs, that their master might have time to prepare
suitable accommodations for him. The Spanish commander, however, gave no
heed to this suggestion, but pushed forward his march, and at noon, on
the thirty-first of December, 1520, entered, at the head of his legions,
the venerable walls of Tezcuco, “the place of rest,” as not inaptly

He was struck, as when he before visited this populous city, with the
solitude and silence which reigned throughout its streets. He was
conducted to the palace of Nezahualpilli,{*} which was assigned as his
quarters. It was an irregular pile of low buildings, covering a wide
extent of ground, like the royal residence occupied by the troops in
Mexico. It was spacious enough to furnish accommodations not only for
all the Spaniards, says Cortés, but for twice their number.[310] He gave
orders, on his arrival, that all regard should be paid to the persons
and property of the citizens, and forbade any Spaniard to leave his
quarters, under pain of death.

{*} [Nezahualcoytl. According to Ixtlilxochitl, the only authority on
this point, it was the palace of Nezahualpilli that was burned by the
Tlascalans soon after their arrival.--M.]

His commands were not effectual to suppress some excesses of his Indian
allies, if the report of the Tezcucan chronicler be correct, who states
that the Tlascalans burned down one of the royal palaces soon after
their arrival. It was the depository of the national archives; and the
conflagration, however it may have occurred, may well be deplored by the
antiquary, who might have found in its hieroglyphic records some clue to
the migrations of the mysterious races which first settled on the
highlands of Anahuac.[311]

Alarmed at the apparent desertion of the place, as well as by the fact
that none of its principal inhabitants came to welcome him, Cortés
ordered some soldiers to ascend the neighboring _teocalli_ and survey
the city. They soon returned with the report that the inhabitants were
leaving it in great numbers, with their families and effects, some in
canoes upon the lake, others on foot towards the mountains. The general
now comprehended the import of the cacique’s suggestion that the
Spaniards should pass the night in the suburbs,--in order to secure time
for evacuating the city. He feared that the chief himself might have
fled. He lost no time in detaching troops to secure the principal
avenues, where they were to turn back the fugitives, and arrest the
cacique, if he were among the number. But it was too late. Coanaco was
already far on his way across the lake to Mexico.

Cortés now determined to turn this event to his own account, by placing
another ruler on the throne, who should be more subservient to his
interests. He called a meeting of the few principal persons still
remaining in the city, and, by their advice and ostensible election,
advanced a brother of the late sovereign to the dignity, which they
declared vacant. This prince, who consented to be baptized, was a
willing instrument in the hands of the Spaniards. He survived but a few
months,[312] and was succeeded by another member of the royal house,
named Ixtlilxochitl, who, indeed, as general of his armies, may be said
to have held the reins of government in his hands during his brother’s
lifetime. As this person was intimately associated with the Spaniards in
their subsequent operations, to the success of which he essentially
contributed, it is proper to give some account of his early history,
which, in truth, is as much enveloped in the marvellous as that of any
fabulous hero of antiquity.[313]

He was son, by a second queen, of the great Nezahualpilli. Some alarming
prodigies at his birth, and the gloomy aspect of the planets, led the
astrologers who cast his horoscope to advise the king, his father, to
take away the infant’s life, since, if he lived to grow up, he was
destined to unite with the enemies of his country and overturn its
institutions and religion. But the old monarch replied, says the
chronicler, that “the time had arrived when the sons of Quetzalcoatl
were to come from the East to take possession of the land, and, if the
Almighty had selected his child to co-operate with them in the work, His
will be done.”[314]

As the boy advanced in years, he exhibited a marvellous precocity not
merely of talent, but of mischievous activity, which afforded an
alarming prognostic for the future. When about twelve years old, he
formed a little corps of followers of about his own age, or somewhat
older, with whom he practised the military exercises of his nation,
conducting mimic fights and occasionally assaulting the peaceful
burghers and throwing the whole city as well as palace into uproar and
confusion. Some of his father’s ancient counsellors, connecting this
conduct with the predictions at his birth, saw in it such alarming
symptoms that they repeated the advice of the astrologers to take away
the prince’s life, if the monarch would not see his kingdom one day
given up to anarchy. This unpleasant advice was reported to the juvenile
offender, who was so much exasperated by it that he put himself at the
head of a party of his young desperadoes, and, entering the houses of
the offending counsellors, dragged them forth and administered to them
the _garrote_,--the mode in which capital punishment was inflicted in

He was seized and brought before his father. When questioned as to his
extraordinary conduct, he coolly replied “that he had done no more than
he had a right to do. The guilty ministers had deserved their fate, by
endeavoring to alienate his father’s affections from him, for no other
reason than his too great fondness for the profession of arms,--the most
honorable profession in the state, and the one most worthy of a prince.
If they had suffered death, it was no more than they had intended for
him.” The wise Nezahualpilli, says the chronicler, found much force in
these reasons; and, as he saw nothing low and sordid in the action, but
rather the ebullition of a daring spirit, which in after-life might lead
to great things, he contented himself with bestowing a grave admonition
on the juvenile culprit.[315] Whether this admonition had any salutary
effect on his subsequent demeanor, we are not informed. It is said,
however, that as he grew older he took an active part in the wars of his
country, and, when no more than seventeen, had won for himself the
insignia of a valiant and victorious captain.[316]

On his father’s death, he disputed the succession with his elder
brother, Cacama. The country was menaced with a civil war, when the
affair was compromised by his brother’s ceding to him that portion of
his territories which lay among the mountains. On the arrival of the
Spaniards, the young chieftain--for he was scarcely twenty years of
age--made, as we have seen, many friendly demonstrations towards them,
induced, no doubt, by his hatred of Montezuma, who had supported the
pretensions of Cacama.[317] It was not, however, till his advancement to
the lordship of Tezcuco that he showed the full extent of his good will.
From that hour he became the fast friend of the Christians, supporting
them with his personal authority and the whole strength of his military
array and resources, which, although much shorn of their ancient
splendor since the days of his father, were still considerable, and made
him a most valuable ally. His important services have been gratefully
commemorated by the Castilian historians; and history should certainly
not defraud him of his just meed of glory,--the melancholy glory of
having contributed more than any other chieftain of Anahuac to rivet the
chains of the white man round the necks of his countrymen.

     The two pillars on which the story of the Conquest mainly rests are
     the Chronicles of Gomara and of Bernal Diaz, two individuals having
     as little resemblance to each other as the courtly and cultivated
     churchman has to the unlettered soldier.

     The first of these, Francisco Lopez de Gomara, was a native of
     Seville. On the return of Cortés to Spain after the Conquest,
     Gomara became his chaplain, and on his patron’s death continued in
     the service of his son, the second Marquis of the Valley. It was
     then that he wrote his Chronicle; and the circumstances under which
     it was produced might lead one to conjecture that the narrative
     would not be conducted on the strict principles of historic
     impartiality. Nor would such a conjecture be without foundation.
     The history of the Conquest is necessarily that of the great man
     who achieved it. But Gomara has thrown his hero’s character into so
     bold relief that it has entirely overshadowed that of his brave
     companions in arms; and, while he has tenderly drawn the veil over
     the infirmities of his favorite, he is ever studious to display his
     exploits in the full blaze of panegyric. His situation may in some
     degree excuse his partiality. But it did not vindicate him in the
     eyes of the honest Las Casas, who seldom concludes a chapter of his
     own narrative of the Conquest without administering a wholesome
     castigation to Gomara. He even goes so far as to tax the chaplain
     with “downright falsehood,” assuring us “that he had neither eyes
     nor ears but for what his patron chose to dictate to him.” That
     this is not literally true is evident from the fact that the
     narrative was not written till several years after the death of
     Cortés. Indeed, Gomara derived his information from the highest
     sources; not merely from his patron’s family, but also from the
     most distinguished actors in the great drama, with whom his
     position in society placed him in intimate communication.

     The materials thus obtained he arranged with a symmetry little
     understood by the chroniclers of the time. Instead of their
     rambling incoherencies, his style displays an elegant brevity; it
     is as clear as it is concise. If the facts are somewhat too thickly
     crowded on the reader, and occupy the mind too busily for
     reflection, they at least all tend to a determinate point, and the
     story, instead of dragging its slow length along till our patience
     and interest are exhausted, steadily maintains its onward march. In
     short, the execution of the work is not only superior to that of
     most contemporary narratives, but, to a certain extent, may aspire
     to the rank of a classical composition.

     Owing to these circumstances, Gomara’s History soon obtained
     general circulation and celebrity; and, while many a letter of
     Cortés, and the more elaborate compositions of Oviedo and Las
     Casas, were suffered to slumber in manuscript, Gomara’s writings
     were printed and reprinted in his own day, and translated into
     various languages of Europe. The first edition of the _Crónica de
     la Nueva-España_ appeared at Medina, in 1553; it was republished at
     Antwerp the following year. It has since been incorporated in
     Barcia’s collection, and lastly, in 1826, made its appearance on
     this side of the water from the Mexican press. The circumstances
     attending this last edition are curious. The Mexican government
     appropriated a small sum to defray the expense of translating what
     was supposed to be an original chronicle of Chimalpain, an Indian
     writer who lived at the close of the sixteenth century. The care of
     the translation was committed to the laborious Bustamante. But
     this scholar had not proceeded far in his labor when he
     ascertained that the supposed original was itself an Aztec
     translation of Gomara’s Chronicle. He persevered, however, in his
     editorial labors, until he had given to the public an American
     edition of Gomara. It is a fact more remarkable that the editor in
     his different compilations constantly refers to this same work as
     the Chronicle of Chimalpain.

     The other authority to which I have adverted is Bernal Diaz del
     Castillo, a native of Medina del Campo in Old Castile. He was born
     of a poor and humble family, and in 1514 came over to seek his
     fortunes in the New World. He embarked as a common soldier under
     Cordova in the first expedition to Yucatan. He accompanied Grijalva
     in the following year to the same quarter, and finally enlisted
     under the banner of Cortés. He followed this victorious chief in
     his first march up the great plateau; descended with him to make
     the assault on Narvaez; shared the disasters of the _noche triste_;
     and was present at the siege and surrender of the capital. In
     short, there was scarcely an event or an action of importance in
     the whole war in which he did not bear a part. He was engaged in a
     hundred and nineteen different battles and rencontres, in several
     of which he was wounded, and in more than one narrowly escaped
     falling into the enemy’s hands. In all these Bernal Diaz displayed
     the old Castilian valor, and a loyalty which made him proof against
     the mutinous spirit that too often disturbed the harmony of the
     camp. On every occasion he was found true to his commander and to
     the cause in which he was embarked. And his fidelity is attested
     not only by his own report, but by the emphatic commendations of
     his general; who selected him on this account for offices of trust
     and responsibility, which furnished the future chronicler with
     access to the best means of information in respect to the Conquest.

     On the settlement of the country, Bernal Diaz received his share of
     the _repartimientos_ of land and laborers. But the arrangement was
     not to his satisfaction; and he loudly murmurs at the selfishness
     of his commander, too much engrossed by the care for his own
     emoluments to think of his followers. The division of spoil is
     usually an unthankful office. Diaz had been too long used to a life
     of adventure to be content with one of torpid security. He took
     part in several expeditions conducted by the captains of Cortés,
     and he accompanied that chief in his terrible passage through the
     forests of Honduras. At length, in 1568, we find the veteran
     established as regidor of the city of Guatemala, peacefully
     employed in recounting the valorous achievements of his youth. It
     was then nearly half a century after the Conquest. He had survived
     his general and nearly all his ancient companions in arms. Five
     only remained of that gallant band who had accompanied Cortés on
     his expedition from Cuba; and those five, to borrow the words of
     the old chronicler, were “poor, aged, and infirm, with children and
     grandchildren looking to them for support, but with scarcely the
     means of affording it,--ending their days, as they had begun them,
     in toil and trouble.” Such was the fate of the Conquerors of golden

     The motives which induced Bernal Diaz to take up his pen at so late
     a period of life were to vindicate for himself and his comrades
     that share of renown in the Conquest which fairly belonged to them.
     Of this they had been deprived, as he conceived, by the exaggerated
     reputation of their general; owing, no doubt, in part, to the
     influence of Gomara’s writings. It was not, however, till he had
     advanced beyond the threshold of his own work that Diaz met with
     that of the chaplain. The contrast presented by his own homely
     diction to the clear and polished style of his predecessor filled
     him with so much disgust that he threw down his pen in despair.
     But, when he had read further, and saw the gross inaccuracies and
     what he deemed disregard of truth in his rival, he resumed his
     labors, determined to exhibit to the world a narrative which should
     at least have the merit of fidelity. Such was the origin of the
     _Historia verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva-España_.

     The chronicler may be allowed to have succeeded in his object. In
     reading his pages, we feel that, whatever are the errors into which
     he has fallen, from oblivion of ancient transactions, or from
     unconscious vanity,--of which he had full measure,--or from
     credulity, or any other cause, there is nowhere a wilful perversion
     of truth. Had he attempted it, indeed, his very simplicity would
     have betrayed him. Even in relation to Cortés, while he endeavors
     to adjust the true balance between his pretensions and those of his
     followers, and while he freely exposes his cunning or cupidity, and
     sometimes his cruelty, he does ample justice to his great and
     heroic qualities. With all his defects, it is clear that he
     considers his own chief as superior to any other of ancient or
     modern times. In the heat of remonstrance, he is ever ready to
     testify his loyalty and personal attachment. When calumnies assail
     his commander, or he experiences unmerited slight or indignity, the
     loyal chronicler is prompt to step forward and shield him. In
     short, it is evident that, however much he may at times censure
     Cortés, he will allow no one else to do it.

     Bernal Diaz, the untutored child of nature, is a most true and
     literal copyist of nature. He transfers the scenes of real life by
     a sort of _daguerreotype_ process, if I may so say, to his pages.
     He is among chroniclers what De Foe is among novelists. He
     introduces us into the heart of the camp, we huddle round the
     bivouac with the soldiers, loiter with them on their wearisome
     marches, listen to their stories, their murmurs of discontent,
     their plans of conquest, their hopes, their triumphs, their
     disappointments. All the picturesque scenes and romantic incidents
     of the campaign are reflected in his page as in a mirror. The lapse
     of fifty years has had no power over the spirit of the veteran. The
     fire of youth glows in every line of his rude history; and, as he
     calls up the scenes of the past, the remembrance of the brave
     companions who are gone gives, it may be, a warmer coloring to the
     picture than if it had been made at an earlier period. Time, and
     reflection, and the apprehensions for the future, which might steal
     over the evening of life, have no power over the settled opinions
     of his earlier days. He has no misgivings as to the right of
     conquest, or as to the justice of the severities inflicted on the
     natives. He is still the soldier of the Cross; and those who fell
     by his side in the fight were martyrs for the faith. “Where are now
     my companions?” he asks; “they have fallen in battle or been
     devoured by the cannibal, or been thrown to fatten the wild beasts
     in their cages! they whose remains should rather have been gathered
     under monuments emblazoned with their achievements, which deserve
     to be commemorated in letters of gold; for they died in the service
     of God and of his Majesty, and to give light to those who sat in
     darkness,--_and also to acquire that wealth which most men covet_.”
     The last motive--thus tardily and incidentally expressed--may be
     thought by some to furnish a better key than either of the
     preceding to the conduct of the Conquerors. It is, at all events, a
     specimen of that _naïveté_ which gives an irresistible charm to the
     old chronicler, and which, in spite of himself, unlocks his bosom,
     as it were, and lays it open to the eye of the reader.

     It may seem extraordinary that after so long an interval, the
     incidents of his campaigns should have been so freshly remembered.
     But we must consider that they were of the most strange and
     romantic character, well fitted to make an impression on a young
     and susceptible imagination. They had probably been rehearsed by
     the veteran again and again to his family and friends, until every
     passage of the war was as familiar to his mind as the “tale of
     Troy” to the Greek rhapsodist, or the interminable adventures of
     Sir Lancelot or Sir Gawain to the Norman minstrel. The throwing of
     his narrative into the form of chronicle was but repeating it once

     The literary merits of the work are of a very humble order; as
     might be expected from the condition of the writer. He has not even
     the art to conceal his own vulgar vanity, which breaks out with a
     truly comic ostentation in every page of the narrative. And yet we
     should have charity for this, when we find that it is attended with
     no disposition to depreciate the merits of others, and that its
     display may be referred in part to the singular simplicity of the
     man. He honestly confesses his infirmity, though, indeed, to excuse
     it. “When my chronicle was finished,” he says, “I submitted it to
     two licentiates, who were desirous of reading the story, and for
     whom I felt all the respect which an ignorant man naturally feels
     for a scholar. I besought them, at the same time, to make no change
     or correction in the manuscript, as all there was set down in good
     faith. When they had read the work, they much commended me for my
     wonderful memory. The language, they said, was good old Castilian,
     without any of the flourishes and finicalities so much affected by
     our fine writers. But they remarked that it would have been as well
     if I had not praised myself and my comrades so liberally, but had
     left that to others. To this I answered that it was common for
     neighbors and kindred to speak kindly of one another; and, if we
     did not speak well of ourselves, who would? Who else witnessed our
     exploits and our battles,--unless, indeed, the clouds in the sky,
     and the birds that were flying over our heads?”

     Notwithstanding the liberal encomiums passed by the licentiates on
     our author’s style, it is of a very homely texture, abounding in
     colloquial barbarisms, and seasoned occasionally by the piquant
     sallies of the camp. It has the merit, however, of clearly
     conveying the writer’s thoughts, and is well suited to their simple
     character. His narrative is put together with even less skill than
     is usual among his craft, and abounds in digressions and
     repetitions, such as vulgar gossips are apt to use in telling their
     stories. But it is superfluous to criticise a work by the rules of
     art which was written manifestly in total ignorance of those rules,
     and which, however we may criticise it, will be read and re-read by
     the scholar and the schoolboy, while the compositions of more
     classic chroniclers sleep undisturbed on their shelves.

     In what, then, lies the charm of the work? In that spirit of truth
     which pervades it; which shows us situations as they were, and
     sentiments as they really existed in the heart of the writer. It is
     this which imparts a living interest to his story, and which is
     more frequently found in the productions of the untutored penman
     solely intent upon facts, than in those of the ripe and fastidious
     scholar occupied with the mode of expressing them.

     It was by a mere chance that this inimitable chronicle was rescued
     from the oblivion into which so many works of higher pretensions
     have fallen in the Peninsula. For more than sixty years after its
     composition the manuscript lay concealed in the obscurity of a
     private library, when it was put into the hands of Father Alonso
     Remon, Chronicler-General of the Order of Mercy. He had the
     sagacity to discover, under its rude exterior, its high value in
     illustrating the history of the Conquest. He obtained a license for
     the publication of the work, and under his auspices it appeared at
     Madrid in 1632,--the edition used in the preparation of these






The city of Tezcuco was the best position, probably, which Cortés could
have chosen for the headquarters of the army. It supplied all the
accommodations for lodging a numerous body of troops, and all the
facilities for subsistence, incident to a large and populous town.[318]
It furnished, moreover, a multitude of artisans and laborers for the
uses of the army. Its territories, bordering on the Tlascalan, afforded
a ready means of intercourse with the country of his allies; while its
vicinity to Mexico enabled the general, without much difficulty, to
ascertain the movements in that capital. Its central situation, in
short, opened facilities for communication with all parts of the Valley,
and made it an excellent _point d’appui_ for his future operations.

The first care of Cortés was to strengthen himself in the palace
assigned to him, and to place his quarters in a state of defence which
might secure them against surprise not only from the Mexicans, but from
the Tezcucans themselves. Since the election of their new ruler, a large
part of the population had returned to their homes, assured of
protection in person and property. But the Spanish general,
notwithstanding their show of submission, very much distrusted its
sincerity; for he knew that many of them were united too intimately with
the Aztecs, by marriage and other social relations, not to have their
sympathies engaged in their behalf.[319] The young monarch, however,
seemed wholly in his interests; and, to secure him more effectually,
Cortés placed several Spaniards near his person, whose ostensible
province it was to instruct him in their language and religion, but who
were in reality to watch over his conduct and prevent his correspondence
with those who might be unfriendly to the Spanish interests.[320]

Tezcuco stood about half a league from the lake. It would be necessary
to open a communication with it, so that the brigantines, when put
together in the capital, might be launched upon its waters. It was
proposed, therefore, to dig a canal reaching from the gardens of
Nezahualcoyotl, as they were called, from the old monarch who planned
them, to the edge of the basin. A little stream, or rivulet, which
flowed in that direction, was to be deepened sufficiently for the
purpose; and eight thousand Indian laborers were forthwith employed on
this great work, under the direction of the young Ixtlilxochitl.[321]

Meanwhile, Cortés received messages from several places in the
neighborhood, intimating their desire to become the vassals of his
sovereign and to be taken under his protection. The Spanish commander
required, in return, that they should deliver up every Mexican who
should set foot in their territories. Some noble Aztecs, who had been
sent on a mission to these towns, were consequently delivered into his
hands. He availed himself of it to employ them as bearers of a message
to their master the emperor. In it he deprecated the necessity of the
present hostilities. Those who had most injured him, he said, were no
longer among the living. He was willing to forget the past, and invited
the Mexicans, by a timely submission, to save their capital from the
horrors of a siege.[322] Cortés had no expectation of producing any
immediate result by this appeal. But he thought it might lie in the
minds of the Mexicans, and that, if there was a party among them
disposed to treat with him, it might afford them encouragement, as
showing his own willingness to co-operate with their views. At this
time, however, there was no division of opinion in the capital. The
whole population seemed animated by a spirit of resistance, as one man.

In a former page I have mentioned that it was the plan of Cortés, on
entering the Valley, to commence operations by reducing the subordinate
cities before striking at the capital itself, which, like some goodly
tree whose roots had been severed one after another, would be thus left
without support against the fury of the tempest. The first point of
attack which he selected was the ancient city of Iztapalapan; a place
containing fifty thousand inhabitants, according to his own account, and
situated about six leagues distant, on the narrow tongue of land which
divides the waters of the great salt lake from those of the fresh. It
was the private domain of the last sovereign of Mexico; where, as the
reader may remember, he entertained the white men the night before their
entrance into the capital, and astonished them by the display of his
princely gardens. To this monarch they owed no good will, for he had
conducted the operations on the _noche triste_. He was, indeed, no more;
but the people of his city entered heartily into his hatred of the
strangers, and were now the most loyal vassals of the Mexican crown.

In a week after his arrival at his new quarters, Cortés, leaving the
command of the garrison to Sandoval, marched against this Indian city,
at the head of two hundred Spanish foot, eighteen horse, and between
three and four thousand Tlascalans. Their route lay along the eastern
border of the lake, gemmed with many a bright town and hamlet, or,
unlike its condition at the present day, darkened with overhanging
groves of cypress and cedar, and occasionally opening a broad expanse to
their view, with the Queen of the Valley rising gloriously from the
waters, as if proudly conscious of her supremacy over the fair cities
around her. Farther on, the eye ranged along the dark line of causeway
connecting Mexico with the main land, and suggesting many a bitter
recollection to the Spaniards.

They quickened their step, and had advanced within two leagues of their
point of destination, when they were encountered by a strong Aztec force
drawn up to dispute their progress. Cortés instantly gave them battle.
The barbarians showed their usual courage, but, after some hard
fighting, were compelled to give way before the steady valor of the
Spanish infantry, backed by the desperate fury of the Tlascalans, whom
the sight of an Aztec seemed to inflame almost to madness. The enemy
retreated in disorder, closely followed by the Spaniards. When they had
arrived within half a league of Iztapalapan, they observed a number of
canoes filled with Indians, who appeared to be laboring on the mole
which hemmed in the waters of the salt lake. Swept along in the tide of
pursuit, they gave little heed to it, but, following up the chase,
entered pell-mell with the fugitives into the city.

The houses stood some of them on dry ground, some on piles in the
water. The former were deserted by the inhabitants, most of whom had
escaped in canoes across the lake, leaving, in their haste, their
effects behind them. The Tlascalans poured at once into the vacant
dwellings and loaded themselves with booty; while the enemy, making the
best of their way through this part of the town, sought shelter in the
buildings erected over the water, or among the reeds which sprung from
its shallow bottom. In the houses were many of the citizens also, who
still lingered with their wives and children, unable to find the means
of transporting themselves from the scene of danger.

Cortés, supported by his own men, and by such of the allies as could be
brought to obey his orders, attacked the enemy in this last place of
their retreat. Both parties fought up to their girdles in the water. A
desperate struggle ensued; as the Aztec fought with the fury of a tiger
driven to bay by the huntsmen. It was all in vain. The enemy was
overpowered in every quarter. The citizen shared the fate of the
soldier, and a pitiless massacre succeeded, without regard to sex or
age. Cortés endeavored to stop it. But it would have been as easy to
call away the starving wolf from the carcass he was devouring, as the
Tlascalan who had once tasted the blood of an enemy. More than six
thousand, including women and children, according to the Conqueror’s own
statement, perished in the conflict.[323]

Darkness meanwhile had set in; but it was dispelled in some measure by
the light of the burning houses, which the troops had set on fire, in
different parts of the town. Their insulated position, it is true,
prevented the flames from spreading from one building to another, but
the solitary masses threw a strong and lurid glare over their own
neighborhood, which gave additional horror to the scene. As resistance
was now at an end, the soldiers abandoned themselves to pillage, and
soon stripped the dwellings of every portable article of any value.

While engaged in this work of devastation, a murmuring sound was heard
as of the hoarse rippling of waters, and a cry soon arose among the
Indians that the dikes were broken! Cortés now comprehended the business
of the men whom he had seen in the canoes at work on the mole which
fenced in the great basin of Lake Tezcuco.[324] It had been pierced by
the desperate Indians, who thus laid the country under an inundation, by
suffering the waters of the salt lake to spread themselves over the
lower level, through the opening. Greatly alarmed, the general called
his men together, and made all haste to evacuate the city. Had they
remained three hours longer, he says, not a soul could have
escaped.[325] They came staggering under the weight of booty, wading
with difficulty through the water, which was fast gaining upon them. For
some distance their path was illumined by the glare of the burning
buildings. But, as the light faded away in the distance, they wandered
with uncertain steps, sometimes up to their knees, at others up to their
waists, in the water, through which they floundered on with the greatest
difficulty. As they reached the opening in the dike, the stream became
deeper, and flowed out with such a current that the men were unable to
maintain their footing. The Spaniards, breasting the flood, forced their
way through; but many of the Indians, unable to swim, were borne down by
the waters. All the plunder was lost. The powder was spoiled; the arms
and clothes of the soldiers were saturated with the brine, and the cold
night-wind, as it blew over them, benumbed their weary limbs till they
could scarcely drag them along. At dawn they beheld the lake swarming
with canoes, full of Indians, who had anticipated their disaster, and
who now saluted them with showers of stones, arrows, and other deadly
missiles. Bodies of light troops, hovering in the distance, disquieted
the flanks of the army in like manner. The Spaniards had no desire to
close with the enemy. They only wished to regain their comfortable
quarters in Tezcuco, where they arrived on the same day, more
disconsolate and fatigued than after many a long march and hard-fought

The close of the expedition, so different from its brilliant
commencement, greatly disappointed Cortés. His numerical loss had,
indeed, not been great; but this affair convinced him how much he had to
apprehend from the resolution of a people who, with a spirit worthy of
the ancient Hollanders, were prepared to bury their country under water
rather than to submit. Still, the enemy had little cause for
congratulation; since, independently of the number of slain, they had
seen one of their most flourishing cities sacked, and in part, at least,
laid in ruins,--one of those, too, which in its public works displayed
the nearest approach to civilization. Such are the triumphs of war!

The expedition of Cortés, notwithstanding the disasters which checkered
it, was favorable to the Spanish cause. The fate of Iztapalapan struck a
terror throughout the Valley. The consequences were soon apparent in the
deputations sent by the different places eager to offer their
submission. Its influence was visible, indeed, beyond the mountains.
Among others, the people of Otumba, the town near which the Spaniards
had gained their famous victory, sent to tender their allegiance and to
request the protection of the powerful strangers. They excused
themselves, as usual, for the part they had taken in the late
hostilities, by throwing the blame on the Aztecs.

But the place of most importance which thus claimed their protection was
Chalco, situated on the eastern extremity of the lake of that name. It
was an ancient city, peopled by a kindred tribe of the Aztecs, and once
their formidable rival. The Mexican emperor, distrusting their loyalty,
had placed a garrison within their walls to hold them in check. The
rulers of the city now sent a message secretly to Cortés, proposing to
put themselves under his protection, if he would enable them to expel
the garrison.

The Spanish commander did not hesitate, but instantly detached a
considerable force under Sandoval for this object. On the march, his
rear-guard, composed of Tlascalans, was roughly handled by some light
troops of the Mexicans. But he took his revenge in a pitched battle
which took place with the main body of the enemy at no great distance
from Chalco. They were drawn up on a level ground, covered with green
crops of maize and maguey. The field is traversed by the road which at
this day leads from the last-mentioned city to Tezcuco.[327] Sandoval,
charging the enemy at the head of his cavalry, threw them into disorder.
But they quickly rallied, formed again, and renewed the battle with
greater spirit than ever. In a second attempt he was more fortunate;
and, breaking through their lines by a desperate onset, the brave
cavalier succeeded, after a warm but ineffectual struggle on their part,
in completely routing and driving them from the field. The conquering
army continued its march to Chalco, which the Mexican garrison had
already evacuated, and was received in triumph by the assembled
citizens, who seemed eager to testify their gratitude for their
deliverance from the Aztec yoke. After taking such measures as he could
for the permanent security of the place, Sandoval returned to Tezcuco,
accompanied by the two young lords of the city, sons of the late

They were courteously received by Cortés; and they informed him that
their father had died, full of years, a short time before. With his last
breath he had expressed his regret that he should not have lived to see
Malinche. He believed that the white men were the beings predicted by
the oracles as one day to come from the East and take possession of the
land;[328] and he enjoined it on his children, should the strangers
return to the Valley, to render them their homage and allegiance. The
young caciques expressed their readiness to do so; but, as this must
bring on them the vengeance of the Aztecs, they implored the general to
furnish a sufficient force for their protection.[329]

Cortés received a similar application from various other towns, which
were disposed, could they do so with safety, to throw off the Mexican
yoke. But he was in no situation to comply with their request. He now
felt more sensibly than ever the incompetency of his means to his
undertaking. “I assure your Majesty,” he writes in his letter to the
emperor, “the greatest uneasiness which I feel, after all my labors and
fatigues, is from my inability to succor and support our Indian friends,
your Majesty’s loyal vassals.”[330] Far from having a force competent to
this, he had scarcely enough for his own protection. His vigilant enemy
had an eye on all his movements, and, should he cripple his strength by
sending away too many detachments or by employing them at too great a
distance, would be prompt to take advantage of it. His only expeditions,
hitherto, had been in the neighborhood, where the troops, after striking
some sudden and decisive blow, might speedily regain their quarters. The
utmost watchfulness was maintained there, and the Spaniards lived in as
constant preparation for an assault as if their camp was pitched under
the walls of Mexico.

On two occasions the general had sallied forth and engaged the enemy in
the environs of Tezcuco. At one time a thousand canoes filled with
Aztecs, crossed the lake to gather in a large crop of Indian corn,
nearly ripe, on its borders. Cortés thought it important to secure this
for himself. He accordingly marched out and gave battle to the enemy,
drove them from the field, and swept away the rich harvest to the
granaries of Tezcuco. Another time a strong body of Mexicans had
established themselves in some neighboring towns friendly to their
interests. Cortés, again sallying, dislodged them from their quarters,
beat them in several skirmishes, and reduced the places to obedience.
But these enterprises demanded all his resources, and left him nothing
to spare for his allies. In this exigency, his fruitful genius suggested
an expedient for supplying the deficiency of his means.

Some of the friendly cities without the Valley, observing the numerous
beacon-fires on the mountains, inferred that the Mexicans were mustering
in great strength, and that the Spaniards must be hard pressed in their
new quarters. They sent messengers to Tezcuco, expressing their
apprehension, and offering reinforcements, which the general, when he
set out on his march, had declined. He returned many thanks for the
proffered aid; but, while he declined it for himself, as unnecessary, he
indicated in what manner their services might be effectual for the
defence of Chalco and the other places which had invoked his protection.
But his Indian allies were in deadly feud with these places, whose
inhabitants had too often fought under the Aztec banner not to have been
engaged in repeated wars with the people beyond the mountains.

Cortés set himself earnestly to reconcile these differences. He told the
hostile parties that they should be willing to forget their mutual
wrongs, since they had entered into new relations. They were now vassals
of the same sovereign, engaged in a common enterprise against the
formidable foe who had so long trodden them in the dust. Singly they
could do little, but united they might protect each other’s weakness and
hold their enemy at bay till the Spaniards could come to their
assistance. These arguments finally prevailed; and the politic general
had the satisfaction to see the high-spirited and hostile tribes forego
their long-cherished rivalry, and, resigning the pleasures of revenge,
so dear to the barbarian, embrace one another as friends and champions
in a common cause. To this wise policy the Spanish commander owed quite
as much of his subsequent success as to his arms.[331]

Thus the foundations of the Mexican empire were hourly loosening, as the
great vassals around the capital, on whom it most relied, fell off one
after another from their allegiance. The Aztecs, properly so called,
formed but a small part of the population of the Valley. This was
principally composed of cognate tribes, members of the same great family
of the Nahuatlacs who had come upon the plateau at nearly the same time.
They were mutual rivals, and were reduced one after another by the more
warlike Mexican, who held them in subjection, often by open force,
always by fear. Fear was the great principle of cohesion which bound
together the discordant members of the monarchy; and this was now fast
dissolving before the influence of a power more mighty than that of the
Aztec. This, it is true, was not the first time that the conquered races
had attempted to recover their independence. But all such attempts had
failed for want of concert. It was reserved for the commanding genius of
Cortés to extinguish their old hereditary feuds, and, combining their
scattered energies, to animate them with a common principle of

Encouraged by this state of things, the Spanish general thought it a
favorable moment to press his negotiations with the capital. He availed
himself of the presence of some noble Mexicans, taken in the late action
with Sandoval, to send another message to their master. It was in
substance a repetition of the first, with a renewed assurance that, if
the city would return to its allegiance to the Spanish crown, the
authority of Guatemozin should be confirmed and the persons and property
of his subjects be respected. To this communication no reply was made.
The young Indian emperor had a spirit as dauntless as that of Cortés
himself. On his head descended the full effects of that vicious system
of government bequeathed to him by his ancestors. But, as he saw his
empire crumbling beneath him, he sought to uphold it by his own energy
and resources. He anticipated the defection of some vassals by
establishing garrisons within their walls. Others he conciliated by
exempting them from tributes or greatly lightening their burdens, or by
advancing them to posts of honor and authority in the state. He showed,
at the same time, his implacable animosity towards the Christians by
commanding that every one taken within his dominions should be
straightway sent to the capital, where he was sacrificed, with all the
barbarous ceremonies prescribed by the Aztec ritual.[333]

While these occurrences were passing, Cortés received the welcome
intelligence that the brigantines were completed and waiting to be
transported to Tezcuco. He detached a body for the service, consisting
of two hundred Spanish foot and fifteen horse, which he placed under the
command of Sandoval. This cavalier had been rising daily in the
estimation both of the general and of the army. Though one of the
youngest officers in the service, he possessed a cool head and a ripe
judgment, which fitted him for the most delicate and difficult
undertakings. There were others, indeed, as Alvarado and Olid, for
example, whose intrepidity made them equally competent to achieve a
brilliant _coup-de-main_. But the courage of Alvarado was too often
carried to temerity or perverted by passion; while Olid, dark and
doubtful in his character, was not entirely to be trusted. Sandoval was
a native of Medellin, the birthplace of Cortés himself. He was warmly
attached to his commander, and had on all occasions proved himself
worthy of his confidence. He was a man of few words, showing his worth
rather by what he did than what he said. His honest, soldier-like
deportment made him a favorite with the troops, and had its influence
even on his enemies. He unfortunately died in the flower of his age. But
he discovered talents and military skill which, had he lived to later
life, would undoubtedly have placed his name on the roll with those of
the greatest captains of his nation.

Sandoval’s route was to lead him by Zoltepec, a small city where the
massacre of the forty-five Spaniards, already noticed, had been
perpetrated. The cavalier received orders to find out the guilty
parties, if possible, and to punish them for their share in the

When the Spaniards arrived at the spot, they found that the inhabitants,
who had previous notice of their approach, had all fled. In the deserted
temples they discovered abundant traces of the fate of their countrymen;
for, besides their arms and clothing, and the hides of their horses, the
heads of several soldiers, prepared in such a way that they could be
well preserved, were found suspended as trophies of the victory. In a
neighboring building, traced with charcoal on the walls, they found the
following inscription in Castilian: “In this place the unfortunate Juan
Juste, with many others of his company, was imprisoned.”[334] This
hidalgo was one of the followers of Narvaez, and had come with him into
the country in quest of gold, but had found, instead, an obscure and
inglorious death. The eyes of the soldiers were suffused with tears as
they gazed on the gloomy record, and their bosoms swelled with
indignation as they thought of the horrible fate of the captives.
Fortunately, the inhabitants were not then before them. Some few, who
subsequently fell into their hands, were branded as slaves. But the
greater part of the population, who threw themselves, in the most abject
manner, on the mercy of the Conquerors, imputing the blame of the affair
to the Aztecs, the Spanish commander spared, from pity, or

He now resumed his march on Tlascala; but scarcely had he crossed the
borders of the republic, when he descried the flaunting banners of the
convoy which transported the brigantines, as it was threading its way
through the defiles of the mountains. Great was his satisfaction at the
spectacle, for he had feared a detention of some days at Tlascala before
the preparations for the march could be completed.

There were thirteen vessels in all, of different sizes. They had been
constructed under the direction of the experienced ship-builder, Martin
Lopez, aided by three or four Spanish carpenters and the friendly
natives, some of whom showed no mean degree of imitative skill. The
brigantines, when completed, had been fairly tried on the waters of the
Zahuapan. They were then taken to pieces, and, as Lopez was impatient of
delay, the several parts, the timbers, anchors, iron-work, sails, and
cordage, were placed on the shoulders of the _tamanes_, and, under a
numerous military escort, were thus far advanced on the way to
Tezcuco.[336] Sandoval dismissed a part of the Indian convoy, as

Twenty thousand warriors he retained, dividing them into two equal
bodies for the protection of the _tamanes_ in the centre.[337] His own
little body of Spaniards he distributed in like manner. The Tlascalans
in the van marched under the command of a chief who gloried in the name
of Chichemecatl. For some reason Sandoval afterwards changed the order
of march, and placed this division in the rear,--an arrangement which
gave great umbrage to the doughty warrior that led it, who asserted his
right to the front, the place which he and his ancestors had always
occupied, as the post of danger. He was somewhat appeased by Sandoval’s
assurance that it was for that very reason he had been transferred to
the rear, the quarter most likely to be assailed by the enemy. But even
then he was greatly dissatisfied on finding that the Spanish commander
was to march by his side, grudging, it would seem, that any other should
share the laurel with himself.

Slowly and painfully, encumbered with their heavy burden, the troops
worked their way over steep eminences and rough mountain-passes,
presenting, one might suppose, in their long line of march, many a
vulnerable point to an enemy. But, although small parties of warriors
were seen hovering at times on their flanks and rear, they kept at a
respectful distance, not caring to encounter so formidable a foe. On the
fourth day the warlike caravan arrived in safety before Tezcuco.

Their approach was beheld with joy by Cortés and the soldiers, who
hailed it as the signal of a speedy termination of the war. The general,
attended by his officers, all dressed in their richest attire, came out
to welcome the convoy. It extended over a space of two leagues; and so
slow was its progress that six hours elapsed before the closing files
had entered the city.[338] The Tlascalan chiefs displayed all their
wonted bravery of apparel, and the whole array, composed of the flower
of their warriors, made a brilliant appearance. They marched by the
sound of atabal and cornet, and, as they traversed the streets of the
capital amidst the acclamations of the soldiery, they made the city ring
with the shouts of “Castile and Tlascala, long live our sovereign, the

“It was a marvellous thing,” exclaims the Conqueror, in his Letters,
“that few have seen, or even heard of,--this transportation of thirteen
vessels of war on the shoulders of men for nearly twenty leagues across
the mountains!”[340] It was, indeed, a stupendous achievement, and not
easily matched in ancient or modern story; one which only a genius like
that of Cortés could have devised, or a daring spirit like his have so
successfully executed. Little did he foresee, when he ordered the
destruction of the fleet which first brought him to the country, and
with his usual forecast commanded the preservation of the iron-work and
rigging,--little did he foresee the important uses for which they were
to be reserved; so important, that on their preservation may be said to
have depended the successful issue of his great enterprise.[341]

He greeted his Indian allies with the greatest cordiality, testifying
his sense of their services by those honors and attentions which he knew
would be most grateful to their ambitious spirits. “We come,” exclaimed
the hardy warriors, “to fight under your banner; to avenge our common
quarrel, or to fall by your side;” and, with their usual impatience,
they urged him to lead them at once against the enemy. “Wait,” replied
the general, bluntly, “till you are rested, and you shall have your
hands full.”[342]




In the course of three or four days, the Spanish general furnished the
Tlascalans with the opportunity so much coveted, and allowed their
boiling spirits to effervesce in active operations. He had for some time
meditated an expedition to reconnoitre the capital and its environs, and
to chastise, on the way, certain places which had sent him insulting
messages of defiance and which were particularly active in their
hostilities. He disclosed his design to a few only of his principal
officers, from his distrust of the Tezcucans, whom he suspected to be in
correspondence with the enemy.

Early in the spring, he left Tezcuco, at the head of three hundred and
fifty Spaniards and the whole strength of his allies. He took with him
Alvarado and Olid, and intrusted the charge of the garrison to Sandoval.
Cortés had had practical acquaintance with the incompetence of the first
of these cavaliers for so delicate a post, during his short but
disastrous rule in Mexico.

But all his precautions had not availed to shroud his designs from the
vigilant foe, whose eye was on all his movements; who seemed even to
divine his thoughts and to be prepared to thwart their execution. He had
advanced but a few leagues, when he was met by a considerable body of
Mexicans, drawn up to dispute his progress. A sharp skirmish took place,
in which the enemy were driven from the ground, and the way was left
open to the Christians. They held a circuitous route to the north, and
their first point of attack was the insular town of Xaltocan, situated
on the northern extremity of the lake of that name, now called San
Christóbal. The town was entirely surrounded by water, and communicated
with the main land by means of causeways, in the same manner as the
Mexican capital. Cortés, riding at the head of his cavalry, advanced
along the dike till he was brought to a stand by finding a wide opening
in it, through which the waters poured, so as to be altogether
impracticable, not only for horse, but for infantry. The lake was
covered with canoes filled with Aztec warriors, who, anticipating the
movement of the Spaniards, had come to the aid of the city. They now
began a furious discharge of stones and arrows on the assailants, while
they were themselves tolerably well protected from the musketry of their
enemy by the light bulwarks with which, for that purpose, they had
fortified their canoes.

The severe volleys of the Mexicans did some injury to the Spaniards and
their allies, and began to throw them into disorder, crowded as they
were on the narrow causeway, without the means of advancing, when
Cortés ordered a retreat. This was followed by renewed tempests of
missiles, accompanied by taunts and fierce yells of defiance. The
battle-cry of the Aztec, like the war-whoop of the North American
Indian, was an appalling note, according to the Conqueror’s own
acknowledgment, in the ears of the Spaniards.[343] At this juncture, the
general fortunately obtained information from a deserter, one of the
Mexican allies, of a ford, by which the army might traverse the shallow
lake and penetrate into the place. He instantly despatched the greater
part of the infantry on the service, posting himself with the remainder
and with the horse at the entrance of the passage, to cover the attack
and prevent any interruption in the rear.

The soldiers, under the direction of the Indian guide, forded the lake
without much difficulty, though in some places the water came above
their girdles. During the passage, they were annoyed by the enemy’s
missiles; but when they had gained the dry level they took ample
revenge, and speedily put all who resisted to the sword. The greater
part, together with the townsmen, made their escape in the boats. The
place was now abandoned to pillage. The troops found in it many women,
who had been left to their fate; and these, together with a considerable
quantity of cotton stuffs, gold, and articles of food, fell into the
hands of the victors, who, setting fire to the deserted city, returned
in triumph to their comrades.[344]

Continuing his circuitous route, Cortés presented himself successively
before three other places, each of which had been deserted by the
inhabitants in anticipation of his arrival.[345] The principal of these,
Azcapozalco, had once been the capital of an independent state. It was
now the great slave-market of the Aztecs, where their unfortunate
captives were brought and disposed of at public sale. It was also the
quarter occupied by the jewellers, and the place whence the Spaniards
obtained the goldsmiths who melted down the rich treasures received from
Montezuma. But they found there only a small supply of the precious
metals, or, indeed, of anything else of value, as the people had been
careful to remove their effects. They spared the buildings, however, in
consideration of their having met with no resistance.

During the nights, the troops bivouacked in the open fields, maintaining
the strictest watch, for the country was all in arms, and beacons were
flaming on every hill-top, while dark masses of the enemy were
occasionally descried in the distance. The Spaniards were now traversing
the most opulent region of Anahuac. Cities and villages were scattered
over hill and valley, with cultivated environs blooming around them, all
giving token of a dense and industrious population. In the centre of
this brilliant circumference stood the Indian metropolis, with its
gorgeous tiara of pyramids and temples, attracting the eye of the
soldier from every other object, as he wound round the borders of the
lake. Every inch of ground which the army trod was familiar to
them,--familiar as the scenes of childhood, though with very different
associations, for it had been written on their memories in characters of
blood. On the right rose the hill of Montezuma,[346] crowned by the
_teocalli_ under the roof of which the shattered relics of the army had
been gathered on the day following the flight from the capital. In front
lay the city of Tacuba, through whose inhospitable streets they had
hurried in fear and consternation; and away to the east of it stretched
the melancholy causeway.

It was the general’s purpose to march at once on Tacuba and establish
his quarters in that ancient capital for the present. He found a strong
force encamped under its walls, prepared to dispute his entrance.
Without waiting for their advance, he rode at full gallop against them
with his little body of horse. The arquebuses and cross-bows opened a
lively volley on their extended wings, and the infantry, armed with
their swords and copper-headed lances and supported by the Indian
battalions, followed up the attack of the horse with an alacrity which
soon put the enemy to flight. The Spaniards usually opened the combat
with a charge of cavalry. But, had the science of the Aztecs been equal
to their courage, they might with their long spears have turned the
scale of battle, sometimes at least, in their own favor; for it was with
the same formidable weapon that the Swiss mountaineers, but a few years
before this period of our history, broke and completely foiled the
famous _ordonnance_ of Charles the Bold, the best-appointed cavalry of
their day. But the barbarians were ignorant of the value of this weapon
when opposed to cavalry. And, indeed, the appalling apparition of the
warhorse and his rider still held a mysterious power over their
imaginations, which contributed, perhaps, quite as much as the effective
force of the cavalry itself, to their discomfiture. Cortés led his
troops without further opposition into the suburbs of Tacuba, the
ancient Tlacopan, where he established himself for the night.

On the following morning he found the indefatigable Aztecs again under
arms, and, on the open ground before the city, prepared to give him
battle. He marched out against them, and, after an action hotly
contested, though of no long duration, again routed them. They fled
towards the town, but were driven through the streets at the point of
the lance, and were compelled, together with the inhabitants, to
evacuate the place. The city was then delivered over to pillage; and the
Indian allies, not content with plundering the houses of everything
portable within them, set them on fire, and in a short time a quarter of
the town--the poorer dwellings, probably, built of light, combustible
materials--was in flames. Cortés and his troops did all in their power
to stop the conflagration, but the Tlascalans were a fierce race, not
easily guided at any time, and when their passions were once kindled it
was impossible even for the general himself to control them. They were a
terrible auxiliary, and, from their insubordination, as terrible
sometimes to friend as to foe.[347]

Cortés proposed to remain in his present quarters for some days, during
which time he established his own residence in the ancient palace of the
lords of Tlacopan. It was a long range of low buildings, like most of
the royal residences in the country, and offered good accommodations for
the Spanish forces. During his halt here, there was not a day on which
the army was not engaged in one or more rencontres with the enemy. They
terminated almost uniformly in favor of the Spaniards, though with more
or less injury to them and to their allies. One encounter, indeed, had
nearly been attended with more fatal consequences.

The Spanish general, in the heat of pursuit, had allowed himself to be
decoyed upon the great causeway,--the same which had once been so fatal
to his army. He followed the flying foe until he had gained the farther
side of the nearest bridge, which had been repaired since the disastrous
action of the _noche triste_. When thus far advanced, the Aztecs, with
the rapidity of lightning, turned on him, and he beheld a large
reinforcement in their rear, all fresh on the field, prepared to support
their countrymen. At the same time, swarms of boats, unobserved in the
eagerness of the chase, seemed to start up as if by magic, covering the
waters around. The Spaniards were now exposed to a perfect hail-storm of
missiles, both from the causeway and the lake; but they stood unmoved
amidst the tempest, when Cortés, too late perceiving his error, gave
orders for the retreat. Slowly, and with admirable coolness, his men
receded, step by step, offering a resolute front to the enemy.[348] The
Mexicans came on with their usual vociferation, making the shores echo
to their war-cries, and striking at the Spaniards with their long pikes,
and with poles, to which the swords taken from the Christians had been
fastened. A cavalier, named Volante, bearing the standard of Cortés,
was felled by one of their weapons, and, tumbling into the lake, was
picked up by the Mexican boats. He was a man of a muscular frame, and,
as the enemy were dragging him off, he succeeded in extricating himself
from their grasp, and, clenching his colors in his hand, with a
desperate effort sprang back upon the causeway. At length, after some
hard fighting, in which many of the Spaniards were wounded and many of
their allies slain, the troops regained the land, where Cortés, with a
full heart, returned thanks to Heaven for what he might well regard as a
providential deliverance.[349] It was a salutary lesson; though he
should scarcely have needed one, so soon after the affair of
Iztapalapan, to warn him of the wily tactics of his enemy.

It had been one of Cortés’ principal objects in this expedition to
obtain an interview, if possible, with the Aztec emperor, or with some
of the great lords at his court, and to try if some means for an
accommodation could not be found, by which he might avoid the appeal to
arms. An occasion for such a parley presented itself when his forces
were one day confronted with those of the enemy, with a broken bridge
interposed between them. Cortés, riding in advance of his people,
intimated by signs his peaceful intent, and that he wished to confer
with the Aztecs. They respected the signal, and, with the aid of his
interpreter, he requested that if there were any great chief among them
he would come forward and hold a parley with him. The Mexicans replied,
in derision, they were all chiefs, and bade him speak openly whatever he
had to tell them. As the general returned no answer, they asked why he
did not make another visit to the capital, and tauntingly added,
“Perhaps Malinche does not expect to find there another Montezuma, as
obedient to his commands as the former.”[350] Some of them complimented
the Tlascalans with the epithet of _women_, who, they said, would never
have ventured so near the capital but for the protection of the white

The animosity of the two nations was not confined to these harmless
though bitter jests, but showed itself in regular cartels of defiance,
which daily passed between the principal chieftains. These were followed
by combats, in which one or more champions fought on a side, to
vindicate the honor of their respective countries. A fair field of fight
was given to the warriors, who conducted these combats _à l’outrance_
with the punctilio of a European tourney; displaying a valor worthy of
the two boldest of the races of Anahuac, and a skill in the management
of their weapons, which drew forth the admiration of the Spaniards.[351]

Cortés had now been six days in Tacuba. There was nothing further to
detain him, as he had accomplished the chief objects of his expedition.
He had humbled several of the places which had been most active in
their hostility; and he had revived the credit of the Castilian arms,
which had been much tarnished by their former reverses in this quarter
of the Valley. He had also made himself acquainted with the condition of
the capital, which he found in a better posture of defence than he had
imagined. All the ravages of the preceding year seemed to be repaired,
and there was no evidence, even to his experienced eye, that the wasting
hand of war had so lately swept over the land. The Aztec troops, which
swarmed through the Valley, seemed to be well appointed, and showed an
invincible spirit, as if prepared to resist to the last. It is true,
they had been beaten in every encounter. In the open field they were no
match for the Spaniards, whose cavalry they could never comprehend, and
whose fire-arms easily penetrated the cotton mail which formed the
stoutest defence of the Indian warrior. But, entangled in the long
streets and narrow lanes of the metropolis, where every house was a
citadel, the Spaniards, as experience had shown, would lose much of
their superiority. With the Mexican emperor, confident in the strength
of his preparations, the general saw there was no probability of
effecting an accommodation. He saw, too, the necessity of the most
careful preparations on his own part--indeed, that he must strain his
resources to the utmost--before he could safely venture to rouse the
lion in his lair.

The Spaniards returned by the same route by which they had come. Their
retreat was interpreted into a flight by the natives, who hung on the
rear of the army, uttering vainglorious vaunts, and saluting the troops
with showers of arrows, which did some mischief. Cortés resorted to one
of their own stratagems to rid himself of this annoyance. He divided his
cavalry into two or three small parties, and concealed them among some
thick shrubbery which fringed both sides of the road. The rest of the
army continued its march. The Mexicans followed, unsuspicious of the
ambuscade, when the horse, suddenly darting from their place of
concealment, threw the enemy’s flanks into confusion, and the retreating
columns of infantry, facing about suddenly, commenced a brisk attack,
which completed their consternation. It was a broad and level plain,
over which the panic-struck Mexicans made the best of their way, without
attempting resistance; while the cavalry, riding them down and piercing
the fugitives with their lances, followed up the chase for several
miles, in what Cortés calls a truly beautiful style.[352] The army
experienced no further annoyance from the enemy.

On their arrival at Tezcuco they were greeted with joy by their
comrades, who had received no tidings of them during the fortnight which
had elapsed since their departure. The Tlascalans, immediately on their
return, requested the general’s permission to carry back to their own
country the valuable booty which they had gathered in their foray,--a
request which, however unpalatable, he could not refuse.[353]

The troops had not been in quarters more than two or three days, when an
embassy arrived from Chalco, again soliciting the protection of the
Spaniards against the Mexicans, who menaced them from several points in
their neighborhood. But the soldiers were so much exhausted by
unintermitted vigils, forced marches, battles, and wounds, that Cortés
wished to give them a breathing-time to recruit, before engaging in a
new expedition. He answered the application of the Chalcans by sending
his missives to the allied cities, calling on them to march to the
assistance of their confederate. It is not to be supposed that they
could comprehend the import of his despatches. But the paper, with its
mysterious characters, served for a warrant to the officer who bore it,
as the interpreter of the general’s commands.

But, although these were implicitly obeyed, the Chalcans felt the danger
so pressing that they soon repeated their petition for the Spaniards to
come in person to their relief. Cortés no longer hesitated; for he was
well aware of the importance of Chalco, not merely on its own account,
but from its position, which commanded one of the great avenues to
Tlascala, and to Vera Cruz, the intercourse with which should run no
risk of interruption. Without further loss of time, therefore, he
detached a body of three hundred Spanish foot and twenty horse, under
the command of Sandoval, for the protection of the city.

That active officer soon presented himself before Chalco, and,
strengthened by the reinforcement of its own troops and those of the
confederate towns, directed his first operations against Huaxtepec, a
place of some importance, lying five leagues or more to the south among
the mountains. It was held by a strong Mexican force, watching their
opportunity to make a descent upon Chalco. The Spaniards found the enemy
drawn up at a distance from the town, prepared to receive them. The
ground was broken and tangled with bushes, unfavorable to the cavalry,
which, in consequence, soon fell into disorder; and Sandoval, finding
himself embarrassed by their movements, ordered them, after sustaining
some loss, from the field. In their place he brought up his musketeers
and crossbowmen, who poured a rapid fire into the thick columns of the
Indians. The rest of the infantry, with sword and pike, charged the
flanks of the enemy, who, bewildered by the shock, after sustaining
considerable slaughter, fell back in an irregular manner, leaving the
field of battle to the Spaniards.

The victors proposed to bivouac there for the night. But, while engaged
in preparations for their evening meal, they were aroused by the cry of
“To arms, to arms! the enemy is upon us!” In an instant the trooper was
in his saddle, the soldier grasped his musket or his good Toledo, and
the action was renewed with greater fury than before. The Mexicans had
received a reinforcement from the city. But their second attempt was not
more fortunate than their first; and the victorious Spaniards, driving
their antagonists before them, entered and took possession of the town
itself, which had already been evacuated by the inhabitants.[354]

Sandoval took up his quarters in the dwelling of the lord of the place,
surrounded by gardens which rivalled those of Iztapalapan in
magnificence and surpassed them in extent. They are said to have been
two leagues in circumference, having pleasure-houses, and numerous tanks
stocked with various kinds of fish; and they were embellished with
trees, shrubs, and plants, native and exotic, some selected for their
beauty and fragrance, others for their medicinal properties. They were
scientifically arranged; and the whole establishment displayed a degree
of horticultural taste and knowledge of which it would not have been
easy to find a counterpart, at that day, in the more civilized
communities of Europe.[355] Such is the testimony not only of the rude
Conquerors, but of men of science, who visited these beautiful
repositories in the day of their glory.[356]

After halting two days to refresh his forces in this agreeable spot,
Sandoval marched on Jacapichtla, about twelve miles to the eastward. It
was a town, or rather fortress, perched on a rocky eminence almost
inaccessible from its steepness. It was garrisoned by a Mexican force,
who rolled down on the assailants, as they attempted to scale the
heights, huge fragments of rock, which, thundering over the sides of the
precipice, carried ruin and desolation in their path. The Indian
confederates fell back in dismay from the attempt. But Sandoval,
indignant that any achievement should be too difficult for a Spaniard,
commanded his cavaliers to dismount, and, declaring that he “would carry
the place or die in the attempt,” led on his men with the cheering cry
of “St. Jago.”[357] With renewed courage, they now followed their
gallant leader up the ascent, under a storm of lighter missiles, mingled
with huge masses of stone, which, breaking into splinters, overturned
the assailants and made fearful havoc in their ranks. Sandoval, who had
been wounded on the preceding day, received a severe contusion on the
head, while more than one of his brave comrades were struck down by his
side. Still they clambered up, sustaining themselves by the bushes or
projecting pieces of rock, and seemed to force themselves onward as much
by the energy of their wills as by the strength of their bodies.

After incredible toil, they stood on the summit, face to face with the
astonished garrison. For a moment they paused to recover breath, then
sprang furiously on their foes. The struggle was short, but desperate.
Most of the Aztecs were put to the sword. Some were thrown headlong over
the battlements, and others letting themselves down the precipice, were
killed on the borders of a little stream that wound round its base, the
waters of which were so polluted with blood that the victors were unable
to slake their thirst with them for a full hour![358]

Sandoval, having now accomplished the object of his expedition, by
reducing the strongholds which had so long held the Chalcans in awe,
returned in triumph to Tezcuco. Meanwhile, the Aztec emperor, whose
vigilant eye had been attentive to all that had passed, thought that the
absence of so many of its warriors afforded a favorable opportunity for
recovering Chalco. He sent a fleet of boats, for this purpose, across
the lake, with a numerous force under the command of some of his most
valiant chiefs.[359] Fortunately, the absent Chalcans reached their
city before the arrival of the enemy; but, though supported by their
Indian allies, they were so much alarmed by the magnitude of the hostile
array that they sent again to the Spaniards, invoking their aid.

The messengers arrived at the same time with Sandoval and his army.
Cortés was much puzzled by the contradictory accounts. He suspected some
negligence in his lieutenant, and, displeased with his precipitate
return in this unsettled state of the affair, ordered him back at once,
with such of his forces as were in fighting condition. Sandoval felt
deeply injured by this proceeding, but he made no attempt at
exculpation, and, obeying his commander in silence, put himself at the
head of his troops and made a rapid countermarch on the Indian

Before he reached it, a battle had been fought between the Mexicans and
the confederates, in which the latter, who had acquired unwonted
confidence from their recent successes, were victorious. A number of
Aztec nobles fell into their hands in the engagement, whom they
delivered to Sandoval to be carried off as prisoners to Tezcuco. On his
arrival there, the cavalier, wounded by the unworthy treatment he had
received, retired to his own quarters without presenting himself before
his chief.

During his absence, the inquiries of Cortés had satisfied him of his own
precipitate conduct, and of the great injustice he had done his
lieutenant. There was no man in the army on whose services he set so
high a value, as the responsible situations in which he had placed him
plainly showed; and there was none for whom he seems to have entertained
a greater personal regard. On Sandoval’s return, therefore, Cortés
instantly sent to request his attendance; when, with a soldier’s
frankness, he made such an explanation as soothed the irritated spirit
of the cavalier,--a matter of no great difficulty, as the latter had too
generous a nature, and too earnest a devotion to his commander and the
cause in which they were embarked, to harbor a petty feeling of
resentment in his bosom.[361]

During the occurrence of these events the work was going forward
actively on the canal, and the brigantines were within a fortnight of
their completion. The greatest vigilance was required, in the mean time,
to prevent their destruction by the enemy, who had already made three
ineffectual attempts to burn them on the stocks. The precautions which
Cortés thought it necessary to take against the Tezcucans themselves
added not a little to his embarrassment.

At this time he received embassies from different Indian states, some of
them on the remote shores of the Mexican Gulf, tendering their
allegiance and soliciting his protection. For this he was partly
indebted to the good offices of Ixtlilxochitl, who, in consequence of
his brother’s death, was now advanced to the sovereignty of Tezcuco.
This important position greatly increased his consideration and
authority through the country, of which he freely availed himself to
bring the natives under the dominion of the Spaniards.[362]

The general received also at this time the welcome intelligence of the
arrival of three vessels at Villa Rica, with two hundred men on board,
well provided with arms and ammunition, and with seventy or eighty
horses. It was the most seasonable reinforcement. From what quarter it
came is uncertain; most probably from Hispaniola. Cortés, it may be
remembered, had sent for supplies to that place; and the authorities of
the island, who had general jurisdiction over the affairs of the
colonies, had shown themselves, on more than one occasion, well inclined
towards him, probably considering him, under all circumstances, as
better fitted than any other man to achieve the conquest of the

The new recruits soon found their way to Tezcuco; as the communications
with the port were now open and unobstructed. Among them were several
cavaliers of consideration, one of whom, Julian de Alderete, the royal
treasurer, came over to superintend the interests of the crown.

There was also in the number a Dominican friar, who brought a quantity
of pontifical bulls, offering indulgences to those engaged in war
against the infidel. The soldiers were not slow to fortify themselves
with the good graces of the Church; and the worthy father, after driving
a prosperous traffic with his spiritual wares, had the satisfaction to
return home, at the end of a few months, well freighted, in exchange,
with the more substantial treasures of the Indies.[364]




Notwithstanding the relief which had been afforded to the people of
Chalco, it was so ineffectual that envoys from that city again arrived
at Tezcuco, bearing a hieroglyphical chart, on which were depicted
several strong places in their neighborhood, garrisoned by the Aztecs,
from which they expected annoyance. Cortés determined, this time, to
take the affair into his own hands, and to scour the country so
effectually as to place Chalco, if possible, in a state of security. He
did not confine himself to this object, but proposed, before his return,
to pass quite round the great lakes, and reconnoitre the country to the
south of them, in the same manner as he had before done to the west. In
the course of his march he would direct his arms against some of the
strong places from which the Mexicans might expect support in the siege.
Two or three weeks must elapse before the completion of the brigantines;
and, if no other good resulted from the expedition, it would give
active occupation to his troops, whose turbulent spirits might fester
into discontent in the monotonous existence of a camp.

He selected for the expedition thirty horse and three hundred Spanish
infantry, with a considerable body of Tlascalan and Tezcucan warriors.
The remaining garrison he left in charge of the trusty Sandoval, who,
with the friendly lord of the capital, would watch over the construction
of the brigantines and protect them from the assaults of the Aztecs.

On the fifth of April he began his march, and on the following day
arrived at Chalco, where he was met by a number of the confederate
chiefs. With the aid of his faithful interpreters, Doña Marina and
Aguilar, he explained to them the objects of his present expedition,
stated his purpose soon to enforce the blockade of Mexico, and required
their co-operation with the whole strength of their levies. To this they
readily assented; and he soon received a sufficient proof of their
friendly disposition in the forces which joined him on the march,
amounting, according to one of the army, to more than had ever before
followed his banner.[365]

Taking a southerly direction, the troops, after leaving Chalco, struck
into the recesses of the wild sierra, which, with its bristling peaks,
serves as a formidable palisade to fence round the beautiful Valley;
while within its rugged arms it shuts up many a green and fruitful
pasture of its own. As the Spaniards passed through its deep gorges,
they occasionally wound round the base of some huge cliff or rocky
eminence, on which the inhabitants had built their towns, in the same
manner as was done by the people of Europe in the feudal ages; a
position which, however favorable to the picturesque, intimates a sense
of insecurity as the cause of it, which may reconcile us to the absence
of this striking appendage of the landscape in our own more fortunate

The occupants of these airy pinnacles took advantage of their situation
to shower down stones and arrows on the troops as they defiled through
the narrow passes of the sierra. Though greatly annoyed by their
incessant hostilities, Cortés held on his way, till, winding round the
base of a castellated cliff occupied by a strong garrison of Indians, he
was so severely pressed that he felt to pass on without chastising the
aggressors would imply a want of strength which must disparage him in
the eyes of his allies. Halting in the Valley, therefore, he detached a
small body of light troops to scale the heights, while he remained with
the main body of the army below, to guard against surprise from the

The lower region of the rocky eminence was so steep that the soldiers
found it no easy matter to ascend, scrambling, as well as they could,
with hand and knee. But, as they came into the more exposed view of the
garrison, the latter rolled down huge masses of rock, which, bounding
along the declivity and breaking into fragments, crushed the foremost
assailants and mangled their limbs in a frightful manner. Still they
strove to work their way upward, now taking advantage of some gully worn
by the winter torrent, now sheltering themselves behind a projecting
cliff, or some straggling tree anchored among the crevices of the
mountain. It was all in vain. For no sooner did they emerge again into
open view than the rocky avalanche thundered on their heads with a fury
against which steel helm and cuirass were as little defence as gossamer.
All the party were more or less wounded. Eight of the number were killed
on the spot,--a loss the little band could ill afford,--and the gallant
ensign, Corral, who led the advance, saw the banner in his hand torn
into shreds.[366] Cortés, at length, convinced of the impracticability
of the attempt, at least without a more severe loss than he was disposed
to incur, commanded a retreat. It was high time; for a large body of the
enemy were on full march across the Valley to attack him.

He did not wait for their approach, but, gathering his broken files
together, headed his cavalry and spurred boldly against them. On the
level plain the Spaniards were on their own ground. The Indians, unable
to sustain the furious onset, broke, and fell back before it. The flight
soon became a rout, and the fiery cavaliers, dashing over them at full
gallop, or running them through with their lances, took some revenge for
their late discomfiture. The pursuit continued for some miles, till the
nimble foe made their escape into the rugged fastnesses of the sierra,
where the Spaniards did not care to follow. The weather was sultry, and,
as the country was nearly destitute of water, the men and horses
suffered extremely. Before evening they reached a spot overshadowed by a
grove of wild mulberry-trees, in which some scanty springs afforded a
miserable supply to the army.

Near the place rose another rocky summit of the sierra, garrisoned by a
stronger force than the one which they had encountered in the former
part of the day; and at no great distance stood a second fortress at a
still greater height, though considerably smaller than its neighbor.
This was also tenanted by a body of warriors, who, as well as those of
the adjoining cliff, soon made active demonstration of their hostility
by pouring down missiles on the troops below. Cortés, anxious to
retrieve the disgrace of the morning, ordered an assault on the larger
and, as it seemed, more practicable eminence. But, though two attempts
were made with great resolution, they were repulsed with loss to the
assailants. The rocky sides of the hill had been artificially cut and
smoothed, so as greatly to increase the natural difficulties of the
ascent. The shades of evening now closed around; and Cortés drew off his
men to the mulberry-grove, where he took up his bivouac for the night,
deeply chagrined at having been twice foiled by the enemy on the same

During the night, the Indian force which occupied the adjoining height
passed over to their brethren, to aid them in the encounter which they
foresaw would be renewed on the following morning. No sooner did the
Spanish general, at the break of day, become aware of this manœuvre,
than, with his usual quickness, he took advantage of it. He detached a
body of musketeers and crossbowmen to occupy the deserted eminence,
purposing, as soon as this was done, to lead the assault in person
against the other. It was not long before the Castilian banner was seen
streaming from the rocky pinnacle, when the general instantly led up his
men to the attack. And, while the garrison were meeting them resolutely
on that quarter, the detachment on the neighboring heights poured into
the place a well-directed fire, which so much distressed the enemy that
in a very short time they signified their willingness to

On entering the place, the Spaniards found that a plain of some extent
ran along the crest of the sierra, and that it was tenanted not only by
men, but by women and their families, with their effects. No violence
was offered by the victors to the property or persons of the vanquished;
and the knowledge of this lenity induced the Indian garrison, who had
made so stout a resistance on the morning of the preceding day, to
tender their submission.[368]

After a halt of two days in this sequestered region, the army resumed
its march in a southwesterly direction on Huaxtepec, the same city which
had surrendered to Sandoval. Here they were kindly received by the
cacique, and entertained in his magnificent gardens, which Cortés and
his officers, who had not before seen them, compared with the best in
Castile.[369] Still threading the wild mountain mazes, the army passed
through Jauhtepec and several other places, which were abandoned at
their approach. As the inhabitants, however, hung in armed bodies on
their flanks and rear, doing them occasionally some mischief, the
Spaniards took their revenge by burning the deserted towns.

Thus holding on their fiery track, they descended the bold slope of the
Cordilleras, which on the south are far more precipitous than on the
Atlantic side. Indeed, a single day’s journey is sufficient to place the
traveller on a level several thousand feet lower than that occupied by
him in the morning; thus conveying him, in a few hours, through the
climates of many degrees of latitude. The route of the army led them
across many an acre covered with lava and blackened scoriæ, attesting
the volcanic character of the region; though this was frequently
relieved by patches of verdure, and even tracts of prodigal fertility,
as if Nature were desirous to compensate by these extraordinary efforts
for the curse of barrenness which elsewhere had fallen on the land. On
the ninth day of their march the troops arrived before the strong city
of Quauhnahuac, or Cuernavaca, as since called by the Spaniards.[370] It
was the ancient capital of the Tlahuicas, and the most considerable
place for wealth and population in this part of the country. It was
tributary to the Aztecs, and a garrison of this nation was quartered
within its walls. The town was singularly situated, on a projecting
piece of land, encompassed by _barrancas_, or formidable ravines, except
on one side, which opened on a rich and well-cultivated country. For
though the place stood at an elevation of between five and six thousand
feet above the level of the sea, it had a southern exposure so sheltered
by the mountain barrier on the north that its climate was as soft and
genial as that of a much lower region.

The Spaniards, on arriving before the city, the limit of their southerly
progress, found themselves separated from it by one of the vast
barrancas before noticed, which resembled one of those frightful rents
not unfrequent in the Mexican Andes, the result, no doubt, of some
terrible convulsion in earlier ages. The rocky sides of the ravine sank
perpendicularly down, so bare as scarcely to exhibit even a vestige of
the cactus, or of the other hardy plants with which Nature in these
fruitful regions so gracefully covers up her deformities. The bottom of
the chasm, however, showed a striking contrast to this, being literally
choked up with a rich and spontaneous vegetation; for the huge walls of
rock which shut in these barrancas, while they screen them from the cold
winds of the Cordilleras, reflect the rays of a vertical sun, so as to
produce an almost suffocating heat in the enclosure, stimulating the
soil to the rank fertility of the _tierra caliente_. Under the action of
this forcing apparatus,--so to speak,--the inhabitants of the towns on
their margin above may with ease obtain the vegetable products which are
to be found on the sultry level of the lowlands.{*}

{*} [“The whole of this description,” remarks Alaman, “agrees perfectly
with the present aspect of Cuernavaca and the _barrancas_ surrounding

At the bottom of the ravine was seen a little stream, which, oozing from
the stony bowels of the sierra, tumbled along its narrow channel and
contributed by its perpetual moisture to the exuberant fertility of the
valley. This rivulet, which at certain seasons of the year was swollen
to a torrent, was traversed at some distance below the town, where the
sloping sides of the barranca afforded a more practicable passage, by
two rude bridges, both of which had been broken, in anticipation of the
coming of the Spaniards. The latter had now arrived on the brink of the
chasm which intervened between them and the city. It was, as has been
remarked, of no great width, and the army drawn up on its borders was
directly exposed to the archery of the garrison, on whom its own fire
made little impression, protected as they were by their defences.

The general, annoyed by his position, sent a detachment to seek a
passage lower down, by which the troops might be landed on the other
side. But, although the banks of the ravine became less formidable as
they descended, they found no means of crossing the river, till a path
unexpectedly presented itself, on which, probably, no one before had
ever been daring enough to venture.

From the cliffs on the opposite sides of the barranca, two huge trees
shot up to an enormous height, and, inclining towards each other,
interlaced their boughs so as to form a sort of natural bridge. Across
this avenue, in mid-air, a Tlascalan conceived it would not be difficult
to pass to the opposite bank. The bold mountaineer succeeded in the
attempt, and was soon followed by several others of his countrymen,
trained to feats of agility and strength among their native hills. The
Spaniards imitated their example. It was a perilous effort for an armed
man to make his way over this aerial causeway, swayed to and fro by the
wind, where the brain might become giddy, and where a single false
movement of hand or foot would plunge him in the abyss below. Three of
the soldiers lost their hold and fell. The rest, consisting of some
twenty or thirty Spaniards and a considerable number of Tlascalans,
alighted in safety on the other bank.[371] There hastily forming, they
marched with all speed on the city. The enemy, engaged in their contest
with the Castilians on the opposite brink of the ravine, were taken by
surprise,--which, indeed, could scarcely have been exceeded if they had
seen their foe drop from the clouds on the field of battle.

They made a brave resistance, however, when fortunately the Spaniards
succeeded in repairing one of the dilapidated bridges in such a manner
as to enable both cavalry and foot to cross the river, though with much
delay. The horse, under Olid and Andres de Tápia, instantly rode up to
the succor of their countrymen. They were soon followed by Cortés at the
head of the remaining battalions, and the enemy, driven from one point
to another, were compelled to evacuate the city and to take refuge among
the mountains. The buildings in one quarter of the town were speedily
wrapped in flames. The place was abandoned to pillage, and, as it was
one of the most opulent marts in the country, it amply compensated the
victors for the toil and danger they had encountered. The trembling
caciques, returning soon after to the city, appeared before Cortés, and
deprecating his resentment by charging the blame, as usual, on the
Mexicans, threw themselves on his mercy. Satisfied with their
submission, he allowed no further violence to the inhabitants.[372]

Having thus accomplished the great object of his expedition across the
mountains, the Spanish commander turned his face northwards, to recross
the formidable barrier which divided him from the Valley. The ascent,
steep and laborious, was rendered still more difficult by fragments of
rock and loose stones, which encumbered the passes. The mountain sides
and summits were shaggy with thick forests of pine and stunted oak,
which threw a melancholy gloom over the region, still further heightened
at the present day by its being a favorite haunt of banditti.

The weather was sultry, and, as the stony soil was nearly destitute of
water, the troops suffered severely from thirst. Several of them,
indeed, fainted on the road, and a few of the Indian allies perished
from exhaustion.[373] The line of march must have taken the army across
the eastern shoulder of the mountain, called the _Cruz del Marques_, or
Cross of the Marquess, from a huge stone cross erected there to indicate
the boundary of the territories granted by the Crown to Cortés, as
Marquis of the Valley. Much, indeed, of the route lately traversed by
the troops lay across the princely domain subsequently assigned to the

The Spaniards were greeted from these heights with a different view from
any which they had before had of the Mexican Valley, made more
attractive in their eyes, doubtless, by contrast with the savage scenery
in which they had lately been involved. It was its most pleasant and
populous quarter; for nowhere did its cities and villages cluster
together in such numbers as round the lake of sweet water. From whatever
quarter seen, however, the enchanting region presented the same aspect
of natural beauty and cultivation, with its flourishing villas, and its
fair lake in the centre, whose dark and polished surface glistened like
a mirror, deep set in the huge frame-work of porphyry in which nature
had enclosed it.

The point of attack selected by the general was Xochimilco, or “the
field of flowers,” as its name implies, from the floating gardens which
rode at anchor, as it were, on the neighboring waters.[375] It was one
of the most potent and wealthy cities in the Valley, and a stanch vassal
of the Aztec crown. It stood, like the capital itself, partly in the
water, and was approached in that quarter by causeways of no great
length. The town was composed of houses like those of most other places
of like magnitude in the country, mostly of cottages or huts made of
clay and the light bamboo, mingled with aspiring _teocallis_, and
edifices of stone, belonging to the more opulent classes.

As the Spaniards advanced, they were met by skirmishing parties of the
enemy, who, after dismissing a light volley of arrows, rapidly retreated
before them. As they took the direction of Xochimilco, Cortés inferred
that they were prepared to resist him in considerable force. It exceeded
his expectations.

On traversing the principal causeway, he found it occupied at the
farther extremity by a numerous body of warriors, who, stationed on the
opposite side of a bridge, which had been broken, were prepared to
dispute his passage. They had constructed a temporary barrier of
palisades, which screened them from the fire of the musketry. But the
water in its neighborhood was very shallow, and the cavaliers and
infantry, plunging into it, soon made their way, swimming or wading, as
they could, in the face of a storm of missiles, to the landing near the
town. Here they closed with the enemy, and hand to hand, after a sharp
struggle, drove them back on the city; a few, however, taking the
direction of the open country, were followed up by the cavalry. The
great mass, hotly pursued by the infantry, were driven through street
and lane, without much further resistance. Cortés, with a few followers,
disengaging himself from the tumult, remained near the entrance of the
city. He had not been there long when he was assailed by a fresh body of
Indians, who suddenly poured into the place from a neighboring dike.
The general, with his usual fearlessness, threw himself into the midst,
in hopes to check their advance. But his own followers were too few to
support him, and he was overwhelmed by the crowd of combatants. His
horse lost his footing and fell; and Cortés, who received a severe blow
on the head before he could rise, was seized and dragged off in triumph
by the Indians. At this critical moment, a Tlascalan, who perceived the
general’s extremity, sprang, like one of the wild ocelots of his own
forests, into the midst of the assailants, and endeavored to tear him
from their grasp. Two of the general’s servants also speedily came to
the rescue, and Cortés, with their aid and that of the brave Tlascalan,
succeeded in regaining his feet and shaking off his enemies. To vault
into the saddle and brandish his good lance was but the work of a
moment. Others of his men quickly came up, and the clash of arms
reaching the ears of the Spaniards, who had gone in pursuit, they
returned, and, after a desperate conflict, forced the enemy from the
city. Their retreat, however, was intercepted by the cavalry, returning
from the country, and, thus hemmed in between the opposite columns, they
were cut to pieces, or saved themselves only by plunging into the

This was the greatest personal danger which Cortés had yet encountered.
His life was in the power of the barbarians, and, had it not been for
their eagerness to take him prisoner, he must undoubtedly have lost it.
To the same cause may be frequently attributed the preservation of the
Spaniards in these engagements. The next day he sought, it is said, for
the Tlascalan who came so boldly to his rescue, and, as he could learn
nothing of him, he gave the credit of his preservation to his patron,
St. Peter.[377] He may well be excused for presuming the interposition
of his good Genius to shield him from the awful doom of the captive,--a
doom not likely to be mitigated in his case. That heart must have been a
bold one, indeed, which, from any motive, could voluntarily encounter
such a peril! Yet his followers did as much, and that, too, for a much
inferior reward.

The period which we are reviewing was still the age of chivalry,--that
stirring and adventurous age, of which we can form little conception in
the present day of sober, practical reality. The Spaniard, with his nice
point of honor, high romance, and proud, vainglorious vaunt, was the
true representative of that age. The Europeans generally had not yet
learned to accommodate themselves to a life of literary toil, or to the
drudgery of trade or the patient tillage of the soil. They left these
to the hooded inmate of the cloister, the humble burgher, and the
miserable serf. Arms was the only profession worthy of gentle
blood,--the only career which the high-mettled cavalier could tread with
honor. The New World, with its strange and mysterious perils, afforded a
noble theatre for the exercise of his calling; and the Spaniard entered
on it with all the enthusiasm of a paladin of romance.

Other nations entered on it also, but with different motives. The French
sent forth their missionaries to take up their dwelling among the
heathen, who, in the good work of winning souls to Paradise, were
content to wear--nay, sometimes seemed to court--the crown of martyrdom.
The Dutch, too, had their mission, but it was one of worldly lucre, and
they found a recompense for toil and suffering in their gainful traffic
with the natives. While our own Puritan fathers, with the true
Anglo-Saxon spirit, left their pleasant homes across the waters, and
pitched their tents in the howling wilderness, that they might enjoy the
sweets of civil and religious freedom. But the Spaniard came over to the
New World in the true spirit of a knight-errant, courting adventure,
however perilous, wooing danger, as it would seem, for its own sake.
With sword and lance, he was ever ready to do battle for the Faith; and,
as he raised his old war-cry of “St. Jago,” he fancied himself fighting
under the banner of the military apostle, and felt his single arm a
match for more than a hundred infidels! It was the expiring age of
chivalry; and Spain, romantic Spain was the land where its light
lingered longest above the horizon.

It was not yet dusk when Cortés and his followers re-entered the city;
and the general’s first act was to ascend a neighboring _teocalli_ and
reconnoitre the surrounding country. He there beheld a sight which might
have troubled a bolder spirit than his. The surface of the salt lake was
darkened with canoes, and the causeway, for many a mile, with Indian
squadrons, apparently on their march toward the Christian camp. In fact,
no sooner had Guatemozin been apprised of the arrival of the white men
at Xochimilco than he mustered his levies in great force to relieve the
city. They were now on their march, and, as the capital was but four
leagues distant, would arrive soon after nightfall.[378]

Cortés made active preparations for the defence of his quarters. He
stationed a corps of pikemen along the landing where the Aztecs would be
likely to disembark. He doubled the sentinels, and, with his principal
officers, made the rounds repeatedly in the course of the night. In
addition to other causes for watchfulness, the bolts of the crossbowmen
were nearly exhausted, and the archers were busily employed in preparing
and adjusting shafts to the copper heads, of which great store had been
provided for the army. There was little sleep in the camp that

It passed away, however, without molestation from the enemy. Though not
stormy, it was exceedingly dark. But, although the Spaniards on duty
could see nothing, they distinctly heard the sound of many oars in the
water, at no great distance from the shore. Yet those on board the
canoes made no attempt to land, distrusting, or advised, it may be, of
the preparations made for their reception. With early dawn they were
under arms, and, without waiting for the movement of the Spaniards,
poured into the city and attacked them in their own quarters.

The Spaniards, who were gathered in the area round one of the
_teocallis_, were taken at disadvantage in the town, where the narrow
lanes and streets, many of them covered with a smooth and slippery
cement, offered obvious impediments to the manœuvres of cavalry. But
Cortés hastily formed his musketeers and crossbowmen, and poured such a
lively, well-directed fire into the enemy’s ranks as threw him into
disorder and compelled him to recoil. The infantry, with their long
pikes, followed up the blow; and the horse, charging at full speed as
the retreating Aztecs emerged from the city, drove them several miles
along the main land.

At some distance, however, they were met by a strong reinforcement of
their countrymen, and, rallying, the tide of battle turned, and the
cavaliers, swept along by it, gave the rein to their steeds and rode
back at full gallop towards the town. They had not proceeded very far,
when they came upon the main body of the army, advancing rapidly to
their support. Thus strengthened, they once more returned to the charge,
and the rival hosts met together in full career, with the shock of an
earthquake. For a time, victory seemed to hang in the balance, as the
mighty press reeled to and fro under the opposite impulse, and a
confused shout rose up towards heaven, in which the war-whoop of the
savage was mingled with the battle-cry of the Christian,--a still
stranger sound on these sequestered shores. But, in the end, Castilian
valor, or rather Castilian arms and discipline, proved triumphant. The
enemy faltered, gave way, and, recoiling step by step, the retreat soon
terminated in a rout, and the Spaniards, following up the flying foe,
drove them from the field with such dreadful slaughter that they made no
further attempt to renew the battle.

The victors were now undisputed masters of the city. It was a wealthy
place, well stored with Indian fabrics, cotton, gold, feather-work, and
other articles of luxury and use, affording a rich booty to the
soldiers. While engaged in the work of plunder, a party of the enemy,
landing from their canoes, fell on some of the stragglers, laden with
merchandise, and made four of them prisoners. It created a greater
sensation among the troops than if ten times that number had fallen on
the field. Indeed, it was rare that a Spaniard allowed himself to be
taken alive. In the present instance the unfortunate men were taken by
surprise. They were hurried to the capital, and soon after sacrificed;
when their arms and legs were cut off, by the command of the ferocious
young chief of the Aztecs, and sent round to the different cities, with
the assurance that this should be the fate of the enemies of

From the prisoners taken in the late engagement, Cortés learned that the
forces already sent by Guatemozin formed but a small part of his levies;
that his policy was to send detachment after detachment, until the
Spaniards, however victorious they might come off from the contest with
each individually, would, in the end, succumb from mere exhaustion, and
thus be vanquished, as it were, by their own victories.

The soldiers having now sacked the city, Cortés did not care to await
further assaults from the enemy in his present quarters. On the fourth
morning after his arrival, he mustered his forces on a neighboring
plain. They came, many of them reeling under the weight of their
plunder. The general saw this with uneasiness. They were to march, he
said, through a populous country, all in arms to dispute their passage.
To secure their safety, they should move as light and unencumbered as
possible. The sight of so much spoil would sharpen the appetite of
their enemies, and draw them on, like a flock of famished eagles after
their prey. But his eloquence was lost on his men, who plainly told him
they had a right to the fruit of their victories, and that what they had
won with their swords they knew well enough how to defend with them.

Seeing them thus bent on their purpose, the general did not care to balk
their inclinations. He ordered the baggage to the centre, and placed a
few of the cavalry over it; dividing the remainder between the front and
rear, in which latter post, as that most exposed to attack, he also
stationed his arquebusiers and crossbowmen. Thus prepared, he resumed
his march, but first set fire to the combustible buildings of
Xochimilco, in retaliation for the resistance he had met there.[381] The
light of the burning city streamed high into the air, sending its
ominous glare far and wide across the waters, and telling the
inhabitants on their margin that the fatal strangers so long predicted
by their oracles had descended like a consuming flame upon their

Small bodies of the enemy were seen occasionally at a distance, but they
did not venture to attack the army on its march, which, before noon,
brought them to Cojohuacan, a large town about two leagues distant from
Xochimilco. One could scarcely travel that distance in this populous
quarter of the Valley without meeting with a place of considerable size,
oftentimes the capital of what had formerly been an independent state.
The inhabitants, members of different tribes, and speaking dialects
somewhat different, belonged to the same great family of nations, who
had come from the real or imaginary region of Aztlan, in the far
Northwest. Gathered round the shores of their Alpine sea, these petty
communities continued, after their incorporation with the Aztec
monarchy, to maintain a spirit of rivalry in their intercourse with one
another, which--as with the cities on the Mediterranean in the feudal
ages--quickened their mental energies, and raised the Mexican Valley
higher in the scale of civilization than most other quarters of Anahuac.

The town at which the army had now arrived was deserted by its
inhabitants; and Cortés halted two days there to restore his troops and
give the needful attention to the wounded.[383] He made use of the time
to reconnoitre the neighboring ground, and, taking with him a strong
detachment, descended on the causeway which led from Cojohuacan to the
great avenue of Iztapalapan.[384] At the point of intersection, called
Xoloc, he found a strong barrier, or fortification, behind which a
Mexican force was intrenched. Their archery did some mischief to the
Spaniards as they came within bowshot. But the latter, marching
intrepidly forward in face of the arrowy shower, stormed the works, and,
after an obstinate struggle, drove the enemy from their position.[385]
Cortés then advanced some way on the great causeway of Iztapalapan; but
he beheld the farther extremity darkened by a numerous array of
warriors, and, as he did not care to engage in unnecessary hostilities,
especially as his ammunition was nearly exhausted, he fell back and
retreated to his own quarters.

The following day, the army continued its march, taking the road to
Tacuba, but a few miles distant. On the way it experienced much
annoyance from straggling parties of the enemy, who, furious at the
sight of the booty which the invaders were bearing away, made repeated
attacks on their flanks and rear. Cortés retaliated, as on the former
expedition, by one of their own stratagems, but with less success than
before; for, pursuing the retreating enemy too hotly, he fell with his
cavalry into an ambuscade which they had prepared for him in their turn.
He was not yet a match for their wily tactics. The Spanish cavaliers
were enveloped in a moment by their subtle foe, and separated from the
rest of the army. But, spurring on their good steeds, and charging in a
solid column together, they succeeded in breaking through the Indian
array, and in making their escape, except two individuals, who fell into
the enemy’s hands. They were the general’s own servants, who had
followed him faithfully through the whole campaign, and he was deeply
affected by their loss,--rendered the more distressing by the
consideration of the dismal fate that awaited them. When the little band
rejoined the army, which had halted, in some anxiety at their absence,
under the walls of Tacuba, the soldiers were astonished at the dejected
mien of their commander, which too visibly betrayed his emotion.[386]

The sun was still high in the heavens when they entered the ancient
capital of the Tepanecs. The first care of Cortés was to ascend the
principal _teocalli_ and survey the surrounding country. It was an
admirable point of view, commanding the capital, which lay but little
more than a league distant, and its immediate environs. Cortés was
accompanied by Alderete, the treasurer, and some other cavaliers, who
had lately joined his banner. The spectacle was still new to them; and,
as they gazed on the stately city, with its broad lake covered with
boats and barges hurrying to and fro, some laden with merchandise, or
fruits and vegetables, for the markets of Tenochtitlan, others crowded
with warriors, they could not withhold their admiration at the life and
activity of the scene, declaring that nothing but the hand of Providence
could have led their countrymen safe through the heart of this powerful

In the midst of the admiring circle, the brow of Cortés alone was
observed to be overcast, and a sigh, which now and then stole audibly
from his bosom, showed the gloomy working of his thoughts.[388] “Take
comfort,” said one of the cavaliers, approaching his commander, and
wishing to console him, in his rough way, for his recent loss; “you must
not lay these things so much to heart; it is, after all, but the fortune
of war.” The general’s answer showed the nature of his meditations. “You
are my witness,” said he, “how often I have endeavored to persuade
yonder capital peacefully to submit. It fills me with grief when I think
of the toil and the dangers my brave followers have yet to encounter
before we can call it ours. But the time is come when we must put our
hands to the work.”[389]

There can be no doubt that Cortés, with every other man in his army,
felt he was engaged on a holy crusade, and that, independently of
personal considerations, he could not serve Heaven better than by
planting the Cross on the blood-stained towers of the heathen
metropolis. But it was natural that he should feel some compunction as
he gazed on the goodly scene, and thought of the coming tempest, and how
soon the opening blossoms of civilization which there met his eye must
wither under the rude breath of War. It was a striking spectacle, that
of the great Conqueror thus brooding in silence over the desolation he
was about to bring on the land! It seems to have made a deep impression
on his soldiers, little accustomed to such proofs of his sensibility;
and it forms the burden of some of those _romances_, or national
ballads, with which the Castilian minstrel, in the olden time, delighted
to commemorate the favorite heroes of his country, and which, coming
mid-way between oral tradition and chronicle, have been found as
imperishable a record as chronicle itself.[390]

Tacuba was the point which Cortés had reached on his former expedition
round the northern side of the Valley. He had now, therefore, made the
entire circuit of the great lake; had reconnoitred the several
approaches to the capital, and inspected with his own eyes the
dispositions made on the opposite quarters for its defence. He had no
occasion to prolong his stay in Tacuba, the vicinity of which to Mexico
must soon bring on him its whole warlike population.

Early on the following morning he resumed his march, taking the route
pursued in the former expedition north of the small lakes. He met with
less annoyance from the enemy than on the preceding days; a circumstance
owing in some degree, perhaps, to the state of the weather, which was
exceedingly tempestuous. The soldiers, with their garments heavy with
moisture, ploughed their way with difficulty through miry roads flooded
by the torrents. On one occasion, as their military chronicler informs
us, the officers neglected to go the rounds of the camp at night, and
the sentinels to mount guard, trusting to the violence of the storm for
their protection. Yet the fate of Narvaez might have taught them not to
put their faith in the elements.

At Acolman, in the Acolhuan territory, they were met by Sandoval, with
the friendly cacique of Tezcuco, and several cavaliers, among whom were
some recently arrived from the Islands. They cordially greeted their
countrymen, and communicated the tidings that the canal was completed,
and that the brigantines, rigged and equipped, were ready to be launched
on the bosom of the lake. There seemed to be no reason, therefore, for
longer postponing operations against Mexico.--With this welcome
intelligence, Cortés and his victorious legions made their entry for the
last time into the Acolhuan capital, having consumed just three weeks in
completing the circuit of the Valley.




At the very time when Cortés was occupied with reconnoitring the Valley,
preparatory to his siege of the capital, a busy faction in Castile was
laboring to subvert his authority and defeat his plans of conquest
altogether. The fame of his brilliant exploits had spread not only
through the Isles, but to Spain and many parts of Europe, where a
general admiration was felt for the invincible energy of the man who
with his single arm, as it were, could so long maintain a contest with
the powerful Indian empire. The absence of the Spanish monarch from his
dominions, and the troubles of the country, can alone explain the supine
indifference shown by the government to the prosecution of this great
enterprise. To the same causes it may be ascribed that no action was had
in regard to the suits of Velasquez and Narvaez, backed as they were by
so potent an advocate as Bishop Fonseca, president of the Council of the
Indies. The reins of government had fallen into


_Goupil & Cº. Paris_]

the hands of Adrian of Utrecht, Charles’s preceptor, and afterwards
Pope,--a man of learning, and not without sagacity, but slow and timid
in his policy, and altogether incapable of that decisive action which
suited the bold genius of his predecessor, Cardinal Ximenes.

In the spring of 1521, however, a number of ordinances passed the
Council of the Indies, which threatened an important innovation in the
affairs of New Spain. It was decreed that the Royal Audience of
Hispaniola should abandon the proceedings already instituted against
Narvaez for his treatment of the commissioner Ayllon; that that
unfortunate commander should be released from his confinement at Vera
Cruz; and that an arbitrator should be sent to Mexico with authority to
investigate the affairs and conduct of Cortés, and to render ample
justice to the governor of Cuba. There were not wanting persons at court
who looked with dissatisfaction on these proceedings, as an unworthy
requital of the services of Cortés, and who thought the present moment,
at any rate, not the most suitable for taking measures which might
discourage the general and perhaps render him desperate. But the
arrogant temper of the bishop of Burgos overruled all objections; and
the ordinances, having been approved by the Regency, were signed by that
body, April 11, 1521. A person named Tápia, one of the functionaries of
the Audience at St. Domingo, was selected as the new commissioner to be
despatched to Vera Cruz. Fortunately, circumstances occurred which
postponed the execution of the design for the present, and permitted
Cortés to go forward unmolested in his career of conquest.[391]

But, while thus allowed to remain, for the present at least, in
possession of authority, he was assailed by a danger nearer home, which
menaced not only his authority, but his life. This was a conspiracy in
the army, of a more dark and dangerous character than any hitherto
formed there. It was set on foot by a common soldier, named Antonio
Villafaña, a native of Old Castile, of whom nothing is known but his
share in this transaction. He was one of the troop of Narvaez,--that
leaven of disaffection, which had remained with the army, swelling with
discontent on every light occasion, and ready at all times to rise into
mutiny. They had voluntarily continued in the service after the
secession of their comrades at Tlascala; but it was from the same
mercenary hopes with which they had originally embarked in the
expedition,--and in these they were destined still to be disappointed.
They had little of the true spirit of adventure which distinguished the
old companions of Cortés; and they found the barren laurels of victory
but a sorry recompense for all their toils and sufferings.

With these men were joined others, who had causes of personal disgust
with the general; and others, again, who looked with distrust on the
result of the war. The gloomy fate of their countrymen who had fallen
into the enemy’s hands filled them with dismay. They felt themselves the
victims of a chimerical spirit in their leader, who, with such
inadequate means, was urging to extremity so ferocious and formidable a
foe; and they shrank with something like apprehension from thus pursuing
the enemy into his own haunts, where he would gather tenfold energy from

These men would have willingly abandoned the enterprise and returned to
Cuba; but how could they do it? Cortés had control over the whole route
from the city to the sea-coast; and not a vessel could leave its port
without his warrant. Even if he were put out of the way, there were
others, his principal officers, ready to step into his place and avenge
the death of their commander. It was necessary to embrace these, also,
in the scheme of destruction; and it was proposed, therefore, together
with Cortés, to assassinate Sandoval, Olid, Alvarado, and two or three
others most devoted to his interests. The conspirators would then raise
the cry of liberty, and doubted not that they should be joined by the
greater part of the army, or enough, at least, to enable them to work
their own pleasure. They proposed to offer the command, on Cortés’
death, to Francisco Verdugo, a brother-in-law of Velasquez. He was an
honorable cavalier, and not privy to their design. But they had little
doubt that he would acquiesce in the command thus in a manner forced
upon him, and this would secure them the protection of the governor of
Cuba, who, indeed, from his own hatred of Cortés, would be disposed to
look with a lenient eye on their proceedings.

The conspirators even went so far as to appoint the subordinate
officers, an _alguacil mayor_ in place of Sandoval, a
quartermaster-general to succeed Olid, and some others.[392] The time
fixed for the execution of the plot was soon after the return of Cortés
from his expedition. A parcel, pretended to have come by a fresh arrival
from Castile, was to be presented to him while at table, and, when he
was engaged in breaking open the letters, the conspirators were to fall
on him and his officers and despatch them with their poniards. Such was
the iniquitous scheme devised for the destruction of Cortés and the
expedition. But a conspiracy, to be successful, especially when numbers
are concerned, should allow but little time to elapse between its
conception and its execution.

On the day previous to that appointed for the perpetration of the deed,
one of the party, feeling a natural compunction at the commission of the
crime, went to the general’s quarters and solicited a private interview
with him. He threw himself at his commander’s feet, and revealed all the
particulars relating to the conspiracy, adding that in Villafaña’s
possession a paper would be found, containing the names of his
accomplices. Cortés, thunderstruck at the disclosure, lost not a moment
in profiting by it. He sent for Alvarado, Sandoval, and one or two other
officers marked out by the conspirator, and, after communicating the
affair to them, went at once with them to Villafaña’s quarters,
attended by four alguacils.

They found him in conference with three or four friends, who were
instantly taken from the apartment and placed in custody. Villafaña,
confounded at this sudden apparition of his commander, had barely time
to snatch a paper, containing the signatures of the confederates, from
his bosom, and attempt to swallow it. But Cortés arrested his arm, and
seized the paper. As he glanced his eye rapidly over the fatal list, he
was much moved at finding there the names of more than one who had some
claim to consideration in the army. He tore the scroll in pieces, and
ordered Villafaña to be taken into custody. He was immediately tried by
a military court hastily got together, at which the general himself
presided. There seems to have been no doubt of the man’s guilt. He was
condemned to death, and, after allowing him time for confession and
absolution, the sentence was executed by hanging him from the window of
his own quarters.[393]

Those ignorant of the affair were astonished at the spectacle; and the
remaining conspirators were filled with consternation when they saw that
their plot was detected, and anticipated a similar fate for themselves.
But they were mistaken. Cortés pursued the matter no further. A little
reflection convinced him that to do so would involve him in the most
disagreeable, and even dangerous, perplexities. And, however much the
parties implicated in so foul a deed might deserve death, he could ill
afford the loss even of the guilty, with his present limited numbers. He
resolved, therefore, to content himself with the punishment of the

He called his troops together, and briefly explained to them the nature
of the crime for which Villafaña had suffered. He had made no
confession, he said, and the guilty secret had perished with him. He
then expressed his sorrow that any should have been found in their ranks
capable of so base an act, and stated his own unconsciousness of having
wronged any individual among them; but, if he had done so, he invited
them frankly to declare it, as he was most anxious to afford them all
the redress in his power.[394] But there was no one of his audience,
whatever might be his grievances, who cared to enter his complaint at
such a moment; least of all were the conspirators willing to do so, for
they were too happy at having, as they fancied, escaped detection, to
stand forward now in the ranks of the malecontents. The affair passed
off, therefore, without further consequences.

The conduct of Cortés in this delicate conjuncture shows great coolness,
and knowledge of human nature. Had he suffered his detection, or even
his suspicion, of the guilty parties to take air, it would have placed
him in hostile relations with them for the rest of his life. It was a
disclosure of this kind, in the early part of Louis the Eleventh’s
reign, to which many of the troubles of his later years were
attributed.[395] The mask once torn away, there is no longer occasion to
consult even appearances. The door seems to be closed against reform.
The alienation, which might have been changed by circumstances or
conciliated by kindness, settles into a deep and deadly rancor. And
Cortés would have been surrounded by enemies in his own camp more
implacable than those in the camp of the Aztecs.

As it was, the guilty soldiers had suffered too serious apprehensions to
place their lives hastily in a similar jeopardy. They strove, on the
contrary, by demonstrations of loyalty, and the assiduous discharge of
their duties, to turn away suspicion from themselves. Cortes, on his
part, was careful to preserve his natural demeanor, equally removed from
distrust and--what was perhaps more difficult--that studied courtesy
which intimates, quite as plainly, suspicion of the party who is the
object of it. To do this required no little address. Yet he did not
forget the past. He had, it is true, destroyed the scroll containing the
list of the conspirators. But the man that has once learned the names of
those who have conspired against his life has no need of a written
record to keep them fresh in his memory. Cortés kept his eye on all
their movements, and took care to place them in no situation,
afterwards, where they could do him injury.[396]

This attempt on the life of their commander excited a strong sensation
in the army, with whom his many dazzling qualities and brilliant
military talents had made him a general favorite. They were anxious to
testify their reprobation of so foul a deed, coming from their own body,
and they felt the necessity of taking some effectual measures for
watching over the safety of one with whom their own destinies, as well
as the fate of the enterprise, were so intimately connected. It was
arranged, therefore, that he should be provided with a guard of
soldiers, who were placed under the direction of a trusty cavalier named
Antonio de Quiñones. They constituted the general’s body-guard during
the rest of the campaign, watching over him day and night, and
protecting him from domestic treason no less than from the sword of the

As was stated at the close of the last chapter, the Spaniards, on their
return to quarters, found the construction of the brigantines completed,
and that they were fully rigged, equipped, and ready for service. The
canal, also, after having occupied eight thousand men for nearly two
months, was finished.

It was a work of great labor; for it extended half a league in length,
was twelve feet wide, and as many deep. The sides were strengthened by
palisades of wood, or solid masonry. At intervals, dams and locks were
constructed, and part of the opening was through the hard rock. By this
avenue the brigantines might now be safely introduced on the lake.[397]

Cortés was resolved that so auspicious an event should be celebrated
with due solemnity. On the 28th of April, the troops were drawn up under
arms, and the whole population of Tezcuco assembled to witness the
ceremony. Mass was performed, and every man in the army, together with
the general, confessed and received the sacrament. Prayers were offered
up by Father Olmedo, and a benediction invoked on the little navy, the
first--worthy of the name--ever launched on American waters.[398] The
signal was given by the firing of a cannon, when the vessels, dropping
down the canal, one after another, reached the lake in good order; and,
as they emerged on its ample bosom, with music sounding, and the royal
ensign of Castile proudly floating from their masts, a shout of
admiration arose from the countless multitudes of spectators, which
mingled with the roar of artillery and musketry from the vessels and the
shore![399] It was a novel spectacle to the simple natives; and they
gazed with wonder on the gallant ships, which, fluttering like sea-birds
on their snowy pinions, bounded lightly over the waters, as if rejoicing
in their element. It touched the stern hearts of the Conquerors with a
glow of rapture, and, as they felt that Heaven had blessed their
undertaking, they broke forth, by general accord, into the noble anthem
of the _Te Deum_. But there was no one of that vast multitude for whom
the sight had deeper interest than their commander. For he looked on it
as the work, in a manner, of his own hands; and his bosom swelled with
exultation, as he felt he was now possessed of a power strong enough to
command the lake, and to shake the haughty towers of Tenochtitlan.[400]

The general’s next step was to muster his forces in the great square of
the capital. He found they amounted to eighty-seven horse, and eight
hundred and eighteen foot, of which one hundred and eighteen were
arquebusiers and crossbowmen. He had three large field-pieces of iron,
and fifteen lighter guns or falconets of brass.[401] The heavier cannon
had been transported from Vera Cruz to Tezcuco, a little while before,
by the faithful Tlascalans. He was well supplied with shot and balls,
with about ten hundred-weight of powder, and fifty thousand
copper-headed arrows, made after a pattern furnished by him to the
natives.[402] The number and appointments of the army much exceeded what
they had been at any time since the flight from Mexico, and showed the
good effects of the late arrivals from the Islands. Indeed, taking the
fleet into the account, Cortés had never before been in so good a
condition for carrying on his operations. Three hundred of the men were
sent to man the vessels, thirteen, or rather twelve, in number, one of
the smallest having been found, on trial, too dull a sailer to be of
service. Half of the crews were required to navigate the ships. There
was some difficulty in finding hands for this, as the men were averse to
the employment. Cortés selected those who came from Palos, Moguer, and
other maritime towns, and, notwithstanding their frequent claims of
exemption, as hidalgos, from this menial occupation, he pressed them
into the service.[403] Each vessel mounted a piece of heavy ordnance,
and was placed under an officer of respectability, to whom Cortés gave a
general code of instructions for the government of the little navy, of
which he proposed to take the command in person.

He had already sent to his Indian confederates, announcing his purpose
of immediately laying siege to Mexico, and called on them to furnish
their promised levies within the space of ten days at furthest. The
Tlascalans he ordered to join him in Tezcuco; the others were to
assemble at Chalco, a more convenient place of rendezvous for the
operations in the southern quarter of the Valley. The Tlascalans arrived
within the time prescribed, led by the younger Xicotencatl, supported by
Chichemecatl, the same doughty warrior who had convoyed the brigantines
to Tezcuco. They came fifty thousand strong, according to Cortés,[404]
making a brilliant show with their military finery, and marching proudly
forward under the great national banner, emblazoned with a spread eagle,
the arms of the republic.[405] With as blithe and manly a step as if
they were going to the battle-ground, they defiled through the gates of
the capital, making its walls ring with the friendly shouts of “Castile
and Tlascala.”

The observations which Cortes had made in his late tour of
reconnoissance had determined him to begin the siege by distributing his
forces into three separate camps, which he proposed to establish at the
extremities of the principal causeways. By this arrangement the troops
would be enabled to move in concert on the capital, and be in the best
position to intercept its supplies from the surrounding country. The
first of these points was Tacuba, commanding the fatal causeway of the
_noche triste_. This was assigned to Pedro de Alvarado, with a force
consisting, according to Cortés’ own statement, of thirty horse, one
hundred and sixty-eight Spanish infantry, and five-and-twenty thousand
Tlascalans. Cristóval de Olid had command of the second army, of much
the same magnitude, which was to take up its position at Cojohuacan, the
city, it will be remembered, overlooking the short causeway connected
with that of Iztapalapan. Gonzalo de Sandoval had charge of the third
division, of equal strength with each of the two preceding, but which
was to draw its Indian levies from the forces assembled at Chalco. This
officer was to march on Iztapalapan and complete the destruction of that
city, begun by Cortés soon after his entrance into the Valley. It was
too formidable a post to remain in the rear of the army. The general
intended to support the attack with his brigantines, after which the
subsequent movements of Sandoval would be determined by

Having announced his intended dispositions to his officers, the Spanish
commander called his troops together, and made one of those brief and
stirring harangues with which he was wont on great occasions to kindle
the hearts of his soldiery. “I have taken the last step,” he said; “I
have brought you to the goal for which you have so long panted. A few
days will place you before the gates of Mexico,--the capital from which
you were driven with so much ignominy. But we now go forward under the
smiles of Providence. Does any one doubt it? Let him but compare our
present condition with that in which we found ourselves not twelve
months since, when, broken and dispirited, we sought shelter within the
walls of Tlascala; nay, with that in which we were but a few months
since, when we took up our quarters in Tezcuco.[407] Since that time our
strength has been nearly doubled. We are fighting the battles of the
Faith, fighting for our honor, for riches, for revenge. I have brought
you face to face with your foe. It is for you to do the rest.”[408]

The address of the bold chief was answered by the thundering
acclamations of his followers, who declared that every man would do his
duty under such a leader; and they only asked to be led against the
enemy.[409] Cortés then caused the regulations for the army, published
at Tlascala, to be read again to the troops, with the assurance that
they should be enforced to the letter.

It was arranged that the Indian forces should precede the Spanish by a
day’s march, and should halt for their confederates on the borders of
the Tezcucan territory. A circumstance occurred soon after their
departure which gave bad augury for the future. A quarrel had arisen in
the camp at Tezcuco between a Spanish soldier and a Tlascalan chief, in
which the latter was badly hurt. He was sent back to Tlascala, and the
matter was hushed up, that it might not reach the ears of the general,
who, it was known, would not pass it over lightly. Xicotencatl was a
near relative of the injured party, and on the first day’s halt he took
the opportunity to leave the army, with a number of his followers, and
set off for Tlascala. Other causes are assigned for his desertion.[410]
It is certain that from the first he had looked on the expedition with
an evil eye, and had predicted that no good would come of it. He came
into it with reluctance, as, indeed, he detested the Spaniards in his

His partner in the command instantly sent information of the affair to
the Spanish general, still encamped at Tezcuco. Cortés, who saw at once
the mischievous consequences of this defection at such a time, detached
a party of Tlascalans and Tezcucan Indians after the fugitive, with
instructions to prevail on him, if possible, to return to his duty. They
overtook him on the road, and remonstrated with him on his conduct,
contrasting it with that of his countrymen generally, and of his own
father in particular, the steady friend of the white men. “So much the
worse,” replied the chieftain: “if they had taken my counsel, they would
never have become the dupes of the perfidious strangers.”[411] Finding
their remonstrances received only with anger or contemptuous taunts, the
emissaries returned without accomplishing their object.

Cortés did not hesitate on the course he was to pursue. “Xicotencatl,”
he said, “had always been the enemy of the Spaniards, first in the
field, and since in the council-chamber; openly, or in secret, still the
same,--their implacable enemy. There was no use in parleying with the
false-hearted Indian.” He instantly despatched a small body of horse
with an alguacil to arrest the chief wherever he might be found, even
though it were in the streets of Tlascala, and to bring him back to
Tezcuco. At the same time, he sent information of Xicotencatl’s
proceedings to the Tlascalan senate, adding that desertion among the
Spaniards was punished with death.

The emissaries of Cortés punctually fulfilled his orders. They arrested
the fugitive chief,--whether in Tlascala or in its neighborhood is
uncertain,--and brought him a prisoner to Tezcuco, where a high gallows,
erected in the great square, was prepared for his reception. He was
instantly led to the place of execution; his sentence and the cause for
which he suffered were publicly proclaimed, and the unfortunate cacique
expiated his offence by the vile death of a malefactor. His ample
property, consisting of lands, slaves, and some gold, was all
confiscated to the Castilian crown.[412]

Thus perished Xicotencatl, in the flower of his age,--as dauntless a
warrior as ever led an Indian army to battle. He was the first chief
who successfully resisted the arms of the invaders; and, had the natives
of Anahuac, generally, been animated with a spirit like his, Cortés
would probably never have set foot in the capital of Montezuma. He was
gifted with a clearer insight into the future than his countrymen; for
he saw that the European was an enemy far more to be dreaded than the
Aztec. Yet, when he consented to fight under the banner of the white
men, he had no right to desert it, and he incurred the penalty
prescribed by the code of savage as well as of civilized nations. It is
said, indeed, that the Tlascalan senate aided in apprehending him,
having previously answered Cortés that his crime was punishable with
death by their own laws.[413] It was a bold act, however, thus to
execute him in the midst of his people. For he was a powerful chief,
heir to one of the four seigniories of the republic. His chivalrous
qualities made him popular, especially with the younger part of his
countrymen; and his garments were torn into shreds at his death and
distributed as sacred relics among them. Still, no resistance was
offered to the execution of the sentence, and no commotion followed it.
He was the only Tlascalan who ever swerved from his loyalty to the

According to the plan of operations settled by Cortés, Sandoval, with
his division, was to take a southern direction, while Alvarado and Olid
would make the northern circuit of the lakes. These two cavaliers,
after getting possession of Tacuba, were to advance to Chapoltepec and
demolish the great aqueduct there, which supplied Mexico with water. On
the tenth of May they commenced their march; but at Acolman, where they
halted for the night, a dispute arose between the soldiers of the two
divisions, respecting their quarters. From words they came to blows, and
a defiance was even exchanged between the leaders, who entered into the
angry feelings of their followers.[414] Intelligence of this was soon
communicated to Cortés, who sent at once to the fiery chiefs, imploring
them, by their regard for him and the common cause, to lay aside their
differences, which must end in their own ruin and that of the
expedition. His remonstrance prevailed, at least, so far as to establish
a show of reconciliation between the parties. But Olid was not a man to
forget, or easily to forgive; and Alvarado, though frank and liberal,
had an impatient temper much more easily excited than appeased. They
were never afterwards friends.[415]

The Spaniards met with no opposition on their march. The principal towns
were all abandoned by the inhabitants, who had gone to strengthen the
garrison of Mexico, or taken refuge with their families among the
mountains. Tacuba was in like manner deserted, and the troops once more
established themselves in their old quarters in the lordly city of the

Their first undertaking was to cut off the pipes that conducted the
water from the royal streams of Chapoltepec to feed the numerous tanks
and fountains which sparkled in the court-yards of the capital. The
aqueduct, partly constructed of brickwork and partly of stone and
mortar, was raised on a strong though narrow dike, which transported it
across an arm of the lake; and the whole work was one of the most
pleasing monuments of Mexican civilization. The Indians, well aware of
its importance, had stationed a large body of troops for its protection.
A battle followed, in which both sides suffered considerably, but the
Spaniards were victorious. A part of the aqueduct was demolished, and
during the siege no water found its way again to the capital through
this channel.

On the following day the combined forces descended on the fatal
causeway, to make themselves masters, if possible, of the nearest
bridge. They found the dike covered with a swarm of warriors, as
numerous as on the night of their disaster, while the surface of the
lake was dark with the multitude of canoes. The intrepid Christians
strove to advance under a perfect hurricane of missiles from the water
and the land, but they made slow progress. Barricades thrown across the
causeway embarrassed the cavalry and rendered it nearly useless. The
sides of the Indian boats were fortified with bulwarks, which shielded
the crews from the arquebuses and cross-bows; and, when the warriors on
the dike were hard pushed by the pikemen, they threw themselves
fearlessly into the water, as if it were their native element, and,
reappearing along the sides of the dike, shot off their arrows and
javelins with fatal execution. After a long and obstinate struggle, the
Christians were compelled to fall back on their own quarters with
disgrace, and--including the allies--with nearly as much damage as they
had inflicted on the enemy. Olid, disgusted with the result of the
engagement, inveighed against his companion as having involved them in
it by his wanton temerity, and drew off his forces the next morning to
his own station at Cojohuacan.

The camps, separated by only two leagues, maintained an easy
communication with each other. They found abundant employment in
foraging the neighboring country for provisions, and in repelling the
active sallies of the enemy; on whom they took their revenge by cutting
off his supplies. But their own position was precarious, and they looked
with impatience for the arrival of the brigantines under Cortés. It was
in the latter part of May that Olid took up his quarters at Cojohuacan;
and from that time may be dated the commencement of the siege of


[1] “Y mucho os ruego, pues á todos os es notorio todo esto, que assí
como hasta aquí á mí me habeis tenido, y obedecido por Señor vuestro,
de aquí adelante tengais, y obedescais á este Gran Rey, pues él es
vuestro natural Señor, y en su lugar tengais á este su Capitan: y todos
los Tributos, y Servicios, que fasta aquí á mí me haciades, los haced,
y dad á él, porque yo assimismo tengo de contribuir, y servir con todo
lo que me mandaré.” Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 97.

[2] “Lo qual todo les dijo llorando, con las mayores lágrimas, y
suspiros, que un hombre podia manifestar; é assimismo todos aquellos
Señores, que le estaban oiendo, lloraban tanto, que en gran rato no le
pudiéron responder.” Ibid., loc. cit.

[3] Solís regards this ceremony as supplying what was before
defective in the title of the Spaniards to the country. The remarks
are curious, even from a professed casuist: “Y siendo una como
insinuacion misteriosa del título que se debió despues al derecho
de las armas, sobre justa provocacion, como lo verémos en su lugar:
circunstancia particular, que concurrió en la conquista de Méjico para
mayor justificacion de aquel dominio, sobre las demas consideraciones
generales que no solo hiciéron lícita la guerra en otras partes, sino
legítima y razonable siempre que se puso en términos de medio necesario
para la introduccion del Evangelio.” Conquista, lib. 4, cap. 3.

[4] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 101.--Solís,
Conquista, loc. cit.--Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 9, cap.
4.--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 87.--Oviedo considers the
grief of Montezuma as sufficient proof that his homage, far from being
voluntary, was extorted by necessity. The historian appears to have
seen the drift of events more clearly than some of the actors in them.
“Y en la verdad si como Cortés lo dice, ó escrivió, passó en efecto,
mui gran cosa me parece la conciencia y liberalidad de Montezuma en
esta su restitucion é obediencia al Rey de Castilla, por la simple
ó cautelosa informacion de Cortés, que le podia hacer para ello;
Mas aquellas lágrimas con que dice, que Montezuma hizo su oracion,
é amonestamiento, despojándose de su señorío, é las de aquellos con
que les respondiéron aceptando lo que les mandaba, y exortaba, y á mi
parecer su llanto queria decir, ó enseñar otra cosa de lo que él, y
ellos dixéron; porque las obediencias que se suelen dar á los Príncipes
con riza, é con cámaras; é diversidad de Música, é leticia, enseñales
de placer, se suele hacer; é no con lucto ni lágrimas, é sollozos, ni
estando preso quien obedece; porque como dice Marco Varron: Lo que por
fuerza se da no es servicio sino robo.” Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib.
33, cap. 9.

[5] Gomara, Crónica, cap. 92.--Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. ii.
p. 256.

[6] “Pareceria que ellos comenzaban á servir, y Vuestra Alteza tendria
mas concepto de las voluntades, que á su servicio mostraban.” Rel. Seg.
de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 98.

[7] Peter Martyr, distrusting some extravagance in this statement of
Cortés, found it fully confirmed by the testimony of others. “Referunt
non credenda. Credenda tamen, quando vir talis ad Cæsarem et nostri
collegii Indici senatores audeat exscribere. Addes insuper se multa
prætermittere, ne tanta recensendo sit molestus. _Idem affirmant qui ad
nos inde regrediuntur._” De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3.

[8] “Las quales, demas de su valor, eran tales, y tan maravillosas, que
consideradas por su novedad, y estrañeza, no tenian precio, ni es de
creer, que alguno de todos los Príncipes del Mundo de quien se tiene
noticia, las pudiesse tener tales, y de tal calidad.” Rel. Seg. de
Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 99.--See, also, Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind.,
MS., lib. 33, cap. 9.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 104.

[9] “Dezilde en vuestros anales y cartas: Esto os embia vuestro buen
vassallo Monteçuma.” Bernal Diaz, ubi supra.


              “Fluctibus auri
    Expleri calor ille nequit.”
              CLAUDIAN, In Ruf., lib. 1.

[11] “Y quando aquello le oyó Cortés, y todos nosotros, estuvímos
espantados de la gran bondad, y liberalidad del gran Monteçuma, y con
mucho acato le quitámos todos las gorras de armas, y le dixímos, que se
lo teniamos en merced, y con palabras de mucho amor,” etc. Bernal Diaz,
ubi supra.

[12] Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 99.--This estimate of
the royal fifth is confirmed (with the exception of the four hundred
ounces) by the affidavits of a number of witnesses cited on behalf of
Cortés to show the amount of the treasure. Among these witnesses we
find some of the most respectable names in the army, as Olid, Ordaz,
Avila, the priests Olmedo and Diaz,--the last, it may be added, not too
friendly to the general. The instrument, which is without date, is in
the collection of Vargas Ponçe. Probanza fecha á pedimento de Juan de
Lexalde, MS.

[13] “Eran tres montones _de oro_, y pesado huvo en ellos sobre _seis
cientos mil pesos_, como adelante diré, sin la plata, é otras muchas
riquezas.” Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 104.

[14] The quantity of silver taken from the American mines has exceeded
that of gold in the ratio of forty-six to one. (Humboldt, Essai
politique, tom. iii. p. 401.) The value of the latter metal, says
Clemencin, which on the discovery of the New World was only eleven
times greater than that of the former, has now come to be sixteen
times. (Memorias de la Real Acad. de Hist. tom. vi. Ilust. 20.) This
does not vary materially from Smith’s estimate made after the middle of
the last century. (Wealth of Nations, book 1, chap. 11.) The difference
would have been much more considerable, but for the greater demand for
silver for objects of ornament and use.

[15] Dr. Robertson, preferring the authority, it seems, of Diaz, speaks
of the value of the treasure as 600,000 _pesos_. (History of America,
vol. ii. pp. 296, 298.) The value of the _peso_ is an ounce of silver,
or dollar, which, making allowance for the depreciation of silver,
represented, in the time of Cortés, nearly four times its value at the
present day. But that of the _peso de oro_ was nearly three times that
sum, or eleven dollars sixty-seven cents. (See _ante_, Book II. chap.
6, note 18.) Robertson makes his own estimate, so much reduced below
that of his original, an argument for doubting the existence, in any
great quantity, of either gold or silver in the country. In accounting
for the scarcity of the former metal in this argument, he falls into an
error in stating that gold was not one of the standards by which the
value of other commodities in Mexico was estimated. Comp. _ante_, vol.
i. p. 161.

[16] Many of them, indeed, could boast little or nothing in their
coffers. Maximilian of Germany, and the more prudent Ferdinand of
Spain, left scarcely enough to defray their funeral expenses. Even as
late as the beginning of the next century we find Henry IV. of France
embracing his minister, Sully, with rapture when he informed him that,
by dint of great economy, he had 36,000,000 livres--about 1,500,000
pounds sterling--in his treasury. See Mémoires du Duc de Sully, tom.
iii. liv. 27.

[17] “Por ser tan poco, muchos soldados huuo que no lo quisiéron
recebir.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 105.

[18] “Palabras muy melifluas; ... razones mui bien dichas, que las
sabia bien proponer.” Bernal Diaz, ubi supra.

[19] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 105, 106.--Gomara,
Crónica, cap. 93.--Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 8, cap. 5.

[20] “Ex jureconsulto Cortesius theologus effectus,” says Martyr, in
his pithy manner. De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 4.

[21] According to Ixtlilxochitl, Montezuma got as far on the road to
conversion as the _Credo_ and the _Ave Maria_, both of which he could
repeat, but his baptism was postponed, and he died before receiving
it. That he ever consented to receive it is highly improbable. I quote
the historian’s words, in which he further notices the general’s
unsuccessful labors among the Indians: “Cortés comenzó á-dar órden de
la conversion de los Naturales, deciéndoles, que pues eran vasallos
del Rey de España que se tornasen Cristianos como él lo era, y así se
comenzáron á Bautizar algunos aunque fuéron muy pocos, y Motecuhzoma
aunque pidió el Bautismo, y sabia algunas de las oraciones como eran el
Ave María, y el Credo, se dilató por la Pasqua siguiente, que era la de
Resurreccion, y fué tan desdichado que nunca alcanzó tanto bien, y los
Nuestros con la dilacion y aprieto en que se viéron, se descuidáron, de
que pesó á todos mucho muriese sin Bautismo.” Hist. Chich., MS., cap.

[22] “O Malinche, y como nos quereis echar á perder á toda esta
ciudad, porque estarán mui enojados nuestros Dioses contra nosotros,
y aun vuestras vidas no sé en que pararán.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la
Conquista, cap. 107.

[23] This transaction is told with more discrepancy than usual by the
different writers. Cortés assures the emperor that he occupied the
temple, and turned out the false gods by force, in spite of the menaces
of the Mexicans. (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 106.) The improbability
of this Quixotic feat startles Oviedo, who nevertheless reports it.
(Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 10.) It looks, indeed, very much
as if the general was somewhat too eager to set off his militant zeal
to advantage in the eyes of his master. The statements of Diaz, and of
other chroniclers, conformably to that in the text, seem far the most
probable. Comp. Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, ubi supra,--Herrera, Hist.
general, dec. 2, lib. 8, cap. 6,--Argensola, Anales, lib. 1, cap. 88.{*}

{*} [According to Andrés de Tapia, an eyewitness whose account was not
accessible to Prescott, Cortés did use violence in occupying the temple
and turning out the false gods. Two chapels, those of Huitzilopochtli
and Tezcatlipopoca, were set apart for the use of the Christians. The
fact that the image of the first god was found in this chapel during
the later siege is easily accounted for. It had been restored to its
old position when the invaders were forced to leave the city.--M.]

[24] “Para mí yo tengo por marabilla, é grande, la mucha paciencia de
Montezuma, y de los Indios principales, que assí viéron tratar sus
Templos, é Idolos: Mas su disimulacion adelante se mostró ser otra cosa
viendo, que vna Gente Extrangera, é de tan poco número, les prendió
su Señor é porque formas los hacia tributarios, é se castigaban é
quemaban los principales, é se aniquilaban y disipaban sus templos,
é hasta en aquellos y sus antecesores estaban. Recia cosa me parece
soportarla con tanta quietud; pero adelante, como lo dirá la Historia,
mostró el tiempo lo que en el pecho estaba oculto en todos los Indios
generalmente.” Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 10.

[25] According to Herrera, it was the Devil himself who communicated
this to Montezuma, and he reports the substance of the dialogue between
the parties. (Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 9, cap. 6.) Indeed, the
apparition of Satan in his own bodily presence, on this occasion,
is stoutly maintained by most historians of the time. Oviedo, a
man of enlarged ideas on most subjects, speaks with a little more
qualification on this: “Porque la Misa y Evangelio, que predicaban y
decian los christianos, le [al Diablo] daban gran tormento; y débese
pensar, si verdad es, que esas gentes tienen tanta conversacion y
comunicacion con nuestro adversario, _como se tiene por cierto en estas
Indias_, que no le podia á nuestro enemigo placer con los misterios y
sacramentos de la sagrada religion christiana.” Hist. de las Ind., MS.,
lib. 33, cap. 47.

[26] “E Cortés proveió de maestros é personas que entendiesen en la
labor de los Navíos, é dixo despues á los Españoles desta manera:
Señores y hermanos, este Señor Montezuma quiere que nos vamos de la
tierra, y conviene que se hagan Navíos. Id con estos Indios é córtese
la madera; é entretanto Dios nos proveherá de gente é socorro; por
tanto, poned tal dilacion que parezca que haceis algo y se haga con
ella lo quo nos conviene; é siempre me escrivid é avisad que tales
estáis en la Montaña, é que no sientan los Indios nuestra disimulacion.
E así se puso por obra.” (Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap.
47.) So, also, Gomara. (Crónica, cap. 95.) Diaz denies any such secret
orders, alleging that Martin Lopez, the principal builder, assured him
they made all the expedition possible in getting three ships on the
stocks. Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 108.

[27] “I may say without vaunting,” observes our stout-hearted old
chronicler, Bernal Diaz, “that I was so accustomed to this way of
life, that since the conquest of the country I have never been able
to lie down undressed, or in a bed; yet I sleep as sound as if I were
on the softest down. Even when I make the rounds of my _encomienda_,
I never take a bed with me, unless, indeed, I go in the company of
other cavaliers, who might impute this to parsimony. But even then
I throw myself on it with my clothes on. Another thing I must add,
that I cannot sleep long in the night without getting up to look at
the heavens and the stars, and stay awhile in the open air, and this
without a bonnet or covering of any sort on my head. And, thanks to
God, I have received no harm from it. I mention these things, that
the world may understand of what stuff we, the true Conquerors, were
made, and how well drilled we were to arms and watching.” Hist. de la
Conquista, cap. 108.

[28] In the collection of MSS. made by Don Vargas Ponce, former
President of the Academy of History, is a Memorial of this same Benito
Martin to the emperor, setting forth the services of Velasquez and
the ingratitude and revolt of Cortés and his followers. The paper is
without date; written after the arrival of the envoys, probably at the
close of 1519 or the beginning of the following year.

[29] Sandoval, indeed, gives a singular reason,--that of being near the
coast, so as to enable Chièvres and the other Flemish blood-suckers to
escape suddenly, if need were, with their ill-gotten treasures, from
the country. Hist. de Cárlos Quinto, tom. i. p. 203, ed. Pamplona, 1634.

[30] See the letter of Peter Martyr to his noble friend and pupil, the
Marquis de Mondejar, written two months after the arrival of the vessel
from Vera Cruz. Opus Epist., ep. 650.

[31] Zuñiga, Anales eclesiásticos y seculares de Sevilla (Madrid,
1677), fol. 414.--Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 5, cap. 14; lib.
9, cap. 17, et alibi.

[32] Velasquez, it appears, had sent home an account of the doings of
Cortés and of the vessel which touched with the treasures at Cuba, as
early as October, 1519. Carta de Velasquez al Lic. Figueroa, MS., Nov.
17, 1519.

[33] “With loud music from clarions and flutes, and with great
demonstration of joy, they weighed anchor and unfurled their sails
to the wind, leaving unhappy Spain oppressed with sorrows and
misfortunes.” Sandoval, Hist. de Cárlos Quinto, tom. i. p. 219.

[34] The instrument was dated at Barcelona, Nov. 13, 1518. Cortés left
St. Jago the 18th of the same month. Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2,
lib. 3, cap. 11.

[35] Gomara (Crónica, cap. 96) and Robertson (History of America,
vol. ii. p. 304, 466) consider that the new dignity of _adelantado_
stimulated the governor to this enterprise. By a letter of his own
writing in the Muñoz collection, it appears he had begun operations
some months previous to his receiving notice of his appointment. Carta
de Velasquez al Señor de Xêvres, Isla Fernandina, MS., Octubre 12, 1519.

[36] Carta de Velasquez al Lic. Figueroa, MS., Nov. 17, 1519.

[37] The person of Narvaez is thus whimsically described by Diaz: “He
was tall, stout-limbed, with a large head and red beard, an agreeable
presence, a voice deep and sonorous, as if it rose from a cavern. He
was a good horseman and valiant.” Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 205.

[38] The danger of such a result is particularly urged in a memorandum
of the licentiate Ayllon. Carta al Emperador Guaniguanico, Marzo 4,
1520, MS.

[39] Processo y Pesquiza hecha por la Real Audiencia de la Española,
Santo Domingo, Diciembre 24, 1519, MS.

[40] Parecer del Lic. Ayllon al Adelantado Diego Velasquez, Isla
Fernandina, 1520, MS.

[41] Relacion del Lic. Ayllon, Santo Domingo, 30 de Agosto, 1520,
MS.--Processo y Pesquiza por la Real Audiencia, MS.--According to Diaz,
the ordnance amounted to twenty cannon. Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 109.

[42] The great fleet under Ovando, 1501, in which Cortés had intended
to embark for the New World. Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 1, lib. 4,
cap. 11.

[43] “De allí seguímos el viage por toda la costa de la Isla de
Yucatan.” Relacion del Lic. Ayllon, MS.

[44] “La cual tierra sabe é ha visto este testigo, que el dicho
Hernando Cortés tiene pacífica, é le sirven é obedecen todos los
Indios; é que cree este testigo que lo hacen por cabsa que el dicho
Hernando Cortés tiene preso á un Cacique que dicen Montesuma, que es
Señor de lo mas de la tierra, á lo que este testigo alcanza, al cual
los Indios obedecen, é facen lo que les manda, é los Cristianos andan
por toda esta tierra seguros, é un solo Cristiano la ha atravesado
toda sin temor.” Processo y Pesquiza hecha por la Real Audiencia de la
Española, MS.

[45] Relacion del Lic. Ayllon, MS.--Demanda de Zavallos en nombre de
Narvaez, MS.

[46] This report is to be found among the MSS. of Vargas Ponçe, in the
archives of the Royal Academy of History. It embraces a hundred and
ten folio pages, and is entitled “El Processo y Pesquiza hecha por la
Real Audiencia de la Española é tierra nuevamente descubierta. Para el
Consejo de su Majestad.”

[47] “E iban espantados de que veian tātas ciudades y pueblos grandes,
que les traian de comer, y vnos los dexavan, y otros los tomavan, y
andar por su camino. Dizē que iban pensando si era en cantamiento,
ó sueño.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 111.--Demanda de
Zavallos, MS.

[48] “Ya auia tres dias que lo sabia el Monteçuma, y Cortés no sabia
cosa ninguna.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 110.

[49] Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.--Rel. Seg. de
Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 117-120.

[50] “Our commander said so many kind things to them,” says Diaz, “and
_anointed their fingers_ so plentifully with gold, that, though they
came like roaring lions, they went home perfectly tame!” Hist. de la
Conquista, cap. 111.

[51] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 112.

[52] Ibid., cap. 111.--Oviedo says that Montezuma called a council
of his nobles, in which it was decided to let the troops of Narvaez
into the capital, and then to crush them at one blow, with those
of Cortés! (Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33. cap. 47.) Considering
the awe in which the latter alone were held by the Mexicans, a more
improbable tale could not be devised. But nothing is too improbable for
history,--though, according to Boileau’s Maxim, it may be for fiction.

[53] In the Mexican edition of the letters of Cortés, it is called
five hundred men. (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 122.) But this was
more than his whole Spanish force. In Ramusio’s version of the same
letter, printed as early as 1565, the number is stated as in the text.
(Navigationi et Viaggi, fol. 244.) In an instrument without date,
containing the affidavits of certain witnesses as to the management of
the royal fifth by Cortés, it is said there were one hundred and fifty
soldiers left in the capital under Alvarado. (Probanza fecha en la
nueva España del mar océano á pedimento de Juan Ochoa de Lexalde, en
nombre de Hernando Cortés, MS.) The account in the Mexican edition is
unquestionably an error.

[54] Carta de la Villa de Vera Cruz á el Emperador, MS. This
letter without date was probably written in 1520.--See, also, for
the preceding pages, Probanza fecha á pedimento de Juan Ochoa,
MS.,--Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 9, cap. 1, 21; lib. 10, cap.
1,--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 119, 120,--Bernal Diaz,
Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 112-115,--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS.,
lib. 33, cap. 47.

[55] So says Oviedo,--and with truth: “Si aquel capitan Juan Velasquez
de Leon no estubiera mal con su pariente Diego Velasquez, é se pasara
con los 150 Hombres, que havia llevado á Guaçacalco, á la parte de
Pánfilo de Narvaez su cuñado, acabado oviera Cortés su oficio.” Hist.
de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 12.

[56] Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 123, 124.--Bernal Diaz,
Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 115-117.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS.,
lib. 33, cap. 12.

[57] But, although irresistible against cavalry, the long pike of the
German proved no match for the short sword and buckler of the Spaniard,
in the great battle of Ravenna, fought a few years before this, 1512.
Machiavelli makes some excellent reflections on the comparative merit
of these arms. Arte della Guerra, lib. 2, ap. Opere, tom. iv. p. 67.

[58] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 118.--“Tambien quiero
dezir la gran necessidad que teniamos de armas, que por vn peto, ó
capacete, ó casco, ó babera de hierro, dieramos aquella noche quāto nos
pidiera por ello, y todo quāto auiamos ganado.” Cap. 122.

[59] “Yo les respondí, que no via provision de Vuestra Alteza, por
donde le debiesse entregar la Tierra; é que si alguna trahia, que
la presentasse ante mí, y ante el Cabildo de la Vera Cruz, segun
órden, y costumbre de España, y que yo estaba presto de la obedecer,
y cumplir; y que hasta tanto, por ningun interese, ni partido haria
lo que él decia; ántes yo, y los que conmigo estaban, moririamos en
defensa de la Tierra, pues la habiamos ganado, y tenido por Vuestra
Magestad pacífica, y segura, y por no ser Traydores y desleales á
nuestro Rey.... Considerando, que morir en servicio de mi Rey, y por
defender, y amparar sus Tierras, y no las dejar usurpar, á mí, y á los
de mi Compañía se nos seguia farta gloria.” Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap.
Lorenzana, pp. 125-127.

[60] Such are the natural reflections of Oviedo, speculating on the
matter some years later. “E tambien que me parece donaire, ó no
bastante la escusa que Cortés da para fundar é justificar su negocio,
ques es decir, que el Narvaez presentase las provisiones que llevaba de
S. M. Como si el dicho Cortés oviera ido á aquella tierra por mandado
de S. M. ó con mas, ni tanta autoridad como llebaba Narvaez; pues que
es claro é notorio, que el Adelantado Diego Velasquez, que embió á
Cortés, era parte, segun derecho, para le embiar á remover, y el Cortés
obligado á le obedecer. No quiero decir mas en esto por no ser odioso á
ninguna de las partes.” Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 12.

[61] More than one example of this _ruse_ is mentioned by Mariana in
Spanish history, though the precise passages have escaped my memory.

[62] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 119.

[63] “E assimismo mandaba, y mandé por el dicho Mandamiento á todas
las Personas, que con el dicho Narvaez estaban, que no tubiessen,
ni obedeciessen al dicho Narvaez por tal Capitan, ni Justicia;
ántes, dentro de cierto término, que en el dicho Mandamiento señalé,
pareciessen ante mí, para que yo les dijesse, lo que debian hacer
en servicio de Vuestra Alteza: con protestacion, que lo contrario
haciendo, procederia contra ellos, como contra Traydores, y aleves, y
malos Vasallos, que se rebelaban contra su Rey, y quieren usurpar sus
Tierras, y Señoríos.” Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 127.

[64] “Y aun llouia de rato en rato, y entonces salia la Luna, que
quādo allí llegámos hazia muy escuro, y llouia, y tambien la escuridad
ayudó.” Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 122.

[65] The attorney of Narvaez, in his complaint before the crown,
expatiates on the diabolical enormity of these instructions. “El dho
Fernando Corttés como traidor aleboso, sin apercibir al dho mi partte,
con un diabólico pensamᵗᵒ é infernal osadía, en contemtto é menosprecio
de V. M. ó de sus provisiones R.ˢ, no mirando ni asattando la lealtad
qᵉ debia á V. M., el dho Corttés dió un Mandamientto al dho Gonzalo
de Sandobal para que prendiese al dho Pánfilo de Narvaez, é si se
defendiese qᵉ lo mattase.” Demanda de Zavallos en nombre de Narvaez, MS.

[66] Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib 33, cap. 12, 47.--Bernal Diaz,
Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 122.--Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib.
10, cap. 1.

[67] “Que hazeis, que estais mui descuidado? pensais que Malinche, y
los Teules que trae cōsigo, que son assí como vosotros? Pues yo os
digo, que quādo no os cataredes, será aquí, y os matará.” Bernal Diaz,
Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 121.

[68] Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 128.--Oviedo, Hist. de las
Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.--Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10,
cap. 2, 3.

[69] “Ya que se acercaban al Aposento de Narvaez, Cortés, que andaba
reconociendo, i ordenando á todas partes, dixo á la Tropa de Sandoval:
Señores, arrímaos á las dos aceras de la Calle, para que las balas del
Artillería pasen por medio, sin hacer daño.” Herrera, Hist. general,
dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 3.

[70] Demanda de Zavallos en nombre de Narvaez, MS.--Oviedo, Hist. de
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.

[71] “Como hazia tan escuro auia muchos cocayos (ansí los llaman en
Cuba) que relumbrauan de noche, é los de Narvaez creyéron que era
muchas de las escopetas.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 122.

[72] Narvaez, or rather his attorney, swells the amount of slain on
his own side much higher. But it was his cue to magnify the mischief
sustained by his employer. The collation of this account with those of
Cortés and his followers affords the best means of approximation to the
truth. “E allí le mattáron quince hombres qᵉ muriéron de las feridas
qᵉ les diéron é les quemáron seis hombres del dho Incendio qᵉ despues
pareciéron las cabezas de ellos quemadas, é pusiéron á sacomano todo
quantto ttenian los que benian con el dho mi partte como si fueran
Moros y al dho mi partte robáron é saqueáron todos sus vienes, oro, é
Platta é Joyas.” Demanda de Zavallos en nombre de Narvaez, MS.

[73] “Entre ellos venia Andres de Duero, y Agustin Bermudez, y muchos
amigos de nuestro Capitā, y assí como veniā, ivan á besar las manos á
Cortés, [~q] estaua sentado en vna silla de caderas, con vna ropa larga
de color como narājada, cō sus armas debaxo, acōpañado de nosotros.
Pues ver la gracia con que les hablaua, y abraçaua, y las palabras de
tātos cumplimiētos que les dezia, era cosa de ver que alegre estaua: y
tenia mucha razon de verse en aquel pūto tan señor, y pujāte: y assí
como le besauā la mano, se fuérō cada vno á su posada.” Bernal Diaz,
Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 122.

[74] Ibid., loc. cit.--“Dixose que como Narvaez vido á Cortés estando
así preso le dixo: Señor Cortés, tened en mucho la ventura que habeis
tenido, é lo mucho que habeis hecho en tener mi persona, ó en tomar mi
persona. E que Cortés le respondió, é dixo: Lo menos que yo he hecho en
esta tierra donde estais, es haberos prendido: é luego le hizo poner á
buen recaudo é le tubo mucho tiempo preso.” Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind.,
MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.

[75] Oviedo says that military men discussed whether Velasquez de Leon
should have obeyed the commands of Cortés rather than those of his
kinsman, the governor of Cuba. They decided in favor of the former,
on the ground of his holding his commission immediately from him.
“Visto he platicar sobre esto á caballeros é personas militares sobre
si este Juan Velasquez de Leon hizo lo que debia, en acudir ó no á
Diego Velasquez, ó al Pánfilo en su nombre; E combienen los veteranos
mílites, é á mi parecer determinan bien la question, en que si Juan
Velasquez tubo conducta de capitan para que con aquella Gente que él le
dió ó toviese en aquella tierra como capitan particular le acudiese á
él ó á quien le mandase. Juan Velasquez faltó á lo que era obligado en
no pasar á Pánfilo de Narvaez siendo requerido de Diego Velasquez, mas
si le hizo capitan Hernando Cortés, é le dió él la Gente, á él havia de
acudir, como acudió, excepto si viera carta, á mandamiento expreso del
Rey en contrario.” Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 12.

[76] This ascendency the thoughtful Oviedo refers to his dazzling and
liberal manners, so strongly contrasted with those of the governor of
Cuba. “En lo demas valerosa persona ha seido, é para mucho; y este
deseo de mandar juntamente con que fué mui bien partido é gratificador
de los que le viniéron, fué mucha causa juntamente con ser mal quisto
Diego Velasquez, para que Cortés se saliese con lo que emprendió, é se
quedase en el oficio, é governacion.” Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33,
cap. 12.

[77] It was in a conversation with Oviedo himself, at Toledo, in 1525,
in which Narvaez descanted with much bitterness, as was natural, on
his rival’s conduct. The gossip, which has never appeared in print,
may have some interest for the Spanish reader. “Que el año de 1525,
estando Cesar en la cibdad de Toledo, ví allí al dicho Narvaez, é
publicamente decia, que Cortés era vn traidor: E que dándole S. M.
licencia se lo haria conocer de su persona á la suya, é que era hombre
sin verdad, é otras muchas é feas palabras llamándole alevoso é tirano,
é ingrato á su Señor, é á quien le havia embiado á la Nueva España,
que era el Adelantado Diego Velasquez á su propia costa, é se le havia
alzado con la tierra, é con la Gente é Hacienda, é otras muchas cosas
que mal sonaban. Y en la manera de su prision la contaba mui al reves
de lo que está dicho. Lo que yo noto de esto es, que con todo lo que
oí á Narvaez, (como yo se lo dixe) no puedo hallarle desculpa para
su descuido, porque ninguna necesidad tenia de andar con Cortés en
pláticas, sino estar en vela mejor que la que hizo. E á esto decia él
que le havian vendido aquellos de quien se fiaba, que Cortés le havia
sobornado.” Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 12.

[78] Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 6.--Oviedo, Hist. de
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista,
cap. 123.

[79] Diaz, who had often listened to it, thus notices his eloquence:
“Comenzó vn parlamento por tan lindo estilo, y plática, tābiē dichas
cierto otras palabras mas sabrosas, y llenas de ofertas, [~q] yo aquí
no sabré escriuir.” Ibid., cap. 122.

[80] Captain Diaz had secured for his share of the spoil of the
Philistines, as he tells us, a very good horse with all his
accoutrements, a brace of swords, three daggers, and a buckler,--a very
beautiful outfit for the campaign. The general’s orders were, naturally
enough, not at all to his taste. Ibid., cap. 124.

[81] Narvaez alleges that Cortés plundered him of property to the value
of 100,000 castellanos of gold! (Demanda de Zavallos en nombre de
Narvaez, MS.) If so, the pillage of the leader may have supplied the
means of liberality to the privates.

[82] Demanda de Zavallos en nombre de Narvaez, MS.--Bernal Diaz, Hist.
de la Conquista, cap. 124.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33,
cap. 47.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 130.--Camargo, Hist.
de Tlascala, MS.--The visit of Narvaez left melancholy traces among the
natives, that made it long remembered. A negro in his suite brought
with him the smallpox. The disease spread rapidly in that quarter of
the country, and great numbers of the Indian population soon fell
victims to it. Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 6.

[83] “Se perdia la mejor, y mas Noble Ciudad de todo lo nuevamente
descubierto del Mundo; y ella perdida, se perdia todo lo que estaba
ganado, por ser la Cabeza de todo, y á quien todos obedecian.” Rel.
Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 131.

[84] Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 131.--Oviedo, Hist. de las
Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13, 14.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista,
cap. 124, 125.--Peter Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 5.--Camargo,
Hist. de Tlascala, MS.

[85] Gomara, Crónica, cap. 103.--Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib.
10, cap. 7.--Bernal Diaz raises the amount to 1300 foot and 96 horse.
(Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 125.) Cortes diminishes it to less than
half that number. (Rel. Seg., ubi supra.) The estimate cited in the
text from the two preceding authorities corresponds nearly enough with
that already given from official documents of the forces of Cortés and
Narvaez before the junction.

[86] “Las sierras altas de Tetzcuco á que le mostrasen desde la mas
alta cumbre de aquellas montañas y sierras de Tetzcuco, que son las
sierras de Tlallocan altísimas y humbrosas, en las cuales he estado y
visto, y puedo decir que son bastante para descubrir el un emisferio
y otro, porque son los mayores puertos y mas altos de esta Nueva
España, de árboles y montes de grandísima altura, de cedras, cipreses y
pinares.” Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala, MS.

[87] The historian partly explains the reason: “En la misma Ciudad de
Tezcuco habia algunos apasionados de los deudos y amigos de los que
matáron Pedro de Alvarado y sus compañeros en México.” Ixtlilxochitl,
Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 88.

[88] “En todo el camino nunca me salió á recibir ninguna Persona de el
dicho Muteczuma, como ántes lo solian facer; y toda la Tierra estaba
alborotada, y casi despoblada: de que concebí mala sospecha, creyendo
que los Españoles que en la dicha Ciudad habian quedado, eran muertos.”
Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 132.

[89] “Y como asomó á la vista de la Ciudad de México, parecióle que
estaba toda yerma, y que no parecia persona por todos los caminos, ni
casas, ni plazas, ni nadie le salió á recibir, ni de los suyos, ni de
los enemigos; y fué esto señal de indignación y enemistad por lo que
habia pasado.” Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 19.

[90] “Pontes ligneos qui tractim lapideos intersecant, sublatos, ac
vias aggeribus munitas reperit.” P. Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap.

[91] Probanza á pedimento de Juan de Lexalde, MS.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés,
ap. Lorenzana, p. 133.--“Esto causó gran admiracion en todos los que
venian, pero no dejáron de marchar, hasta entrar donde estaban los
Españoles acorralados. Venian todos muy cansados y muy fatigados y
con mucho deseo de llegar á donde estaban sus hermanos; los de dentro
cuando los viéron, recibiéron singular consolacion y esfuerzo y
recibiéronlos con la artillería que tenian, saludándolos, y dándolos el
parabien de su venida.” Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12,
cap. 22.

[92] “E así los Indios, todos Señores, mas de 600 desnudos é con muchas
joyas de oro é hermosos penachos, é muchas piedras preciosas, é como
mas aderezados é gentiles hombres se pudiéron é supiéron aderezar, é
sin arma alguna defensiva ni ofensiva bailaban é cantaban é hacian
su areito é fiesta segun su costumbre.” (Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind.,
MS., lib. 33, cap. 54.) Some writers carry the number as high as
eight hundred or even one thousand. Las Casas, with a more modest
exaggeration than usual, swells it only to two thousand. Brevíssima
Relatione, p. 48.

[93] “Sin duelo ni piedad Christiana los acuchilló, i mató.” Gomara,
Crónica, cap. 104.

[94] “Fué tan grande el derramamiento de Sangre, que corrian arroyos de
ella por el Patio, como agua cuando mucho llueve.” Sahagun, Hist. de
Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 20.

[95] [In the process instituted against Alvarado this massacre forms
one of the most important charges. He is there accused of having killed
four hundred of the principal nobles and a great number of the common
people, of whom more than three thousand, it is stated, were assembled
to celebrate the festival in honor of their war-god. “Ynbio al patyo
donde todos baylaban y syn cabsa ni razon alguna dieron sobrellos y
mataron todos los mas de los señores que estavan presos con el dicho
Motenzuma y mataron cuatro cientos señores e prencipales que con el
estavan e mataron mucho numero de yndios que estavan baylando en mas
cantydad de tres mill personas.” (Procesos de Residencia, instruidos
contra Pedro de Alvarado y Nuño de Guzman, p. 53.) The public are under
great obligations to the licentiate Don Ignacio Rayon for bringing into
light this important document, which for more than three centuries had
lain hid in the General Archives of Mexico. We have hardly less reason
to thank him for placing the manuscript in the hands of so competent
a scholar as Don José Fernando Ramirez, to enrich it with the stores
of his critical erudition. The publication of the process did not take
place till some years after that of my own history of the Conquest
of Mexico. But, as it contains a minute specification of the various
charges against Alvarado, and his own defence, it furnishes me with the
means of correcting any errors into which I have fallen in reference to
that commander, while it corroborates, I may add, the general tenor of
the statements I have derived from contemporary chroniclers.]

[96] “Y de aquí á que se acabe el mundo, ó ellos del todo se acaben,
no dexarán de lamentar, y cantar en sus areytos, y bayles, como en
romances, que acá dezimos, aquella calamidad, y perdida de la sucession
de toda su nobleza, de que se preciauan de tantos años atras.” Las
Casas, Brevíssima Relatione, p. 49.

[97] See Alvarado’s reply to queries of Cortés, as reported by Diaz
(Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 125), with some additional particulars in
Torquemada (Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 66), Solís (Conquista, lib. 4,
cap. 12), and Herrera (Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 8) who all
seem content to endorse Alvarado’s version of the matter. I find no
other authority, of any weight, in the same charitable vein.

[98] Oviedo mentions a conversation which he had some years after
this tragedy with a noble Spaniard, Don Thoan Cano, who came over in
the train of Narvaez and was present at all the subsequent operations
of the army. He married a daughter of Montezuma, and settled in
Mexico after the Conquest. Oviedo describes him as a man of sense and
integrity. In answer to the historian’s queries respecting the cause
of the rising, he said that Alvarado had wantonly perpetrated the
massacre from pure avarice; and the Aztecs, enraged at such unprovoked
and unmerited cruelty, rose, as they well might, to avenge it. (Hist.
de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 54.) See the original dialogue in
Appendix, Part 2, No. 11.

[99] “Verdaderamente dió en ellos por metelles temor.” Hist. de la
Conquista, cap. 125.

[100] Such, indeed, is the statement of Ixtlilxochitl, derived, as
he says, from the native Tezcucan annalists. According to them, the
Tlascalans, urged by their hatred of the Aztecs and their thirst for
plunder, persuaded Alvarado, nothing loth, that the nobles meditated
a rising on the occasion of these festivities. The testimony is
important, and I give it in the author’s words: “Fué que ciertos
Tlascaltecas (segun las Historias de Tescuco que son las que Io sigo y
la carta que otras veces he referido) por embidia lo uno acordándose
que en semejante fiesta los Mexicanos solian sacrificar gran suma de
cautivos de los de la Nacion Tlascalteca, y lo otro que era la mejor
ocasion que ellos podian tener para poder hinchir las manos de despojos
y hartar su codicia, y vengarse de sus Enemigos (porque hasta entonces
no habian tenido lugar, ni Cortés se les diera, ni admitiera sus
dichos, porque siempre hacia las cosas con mucho acuerdo) fuéron con
esta invencion al capitan Pedro de Albarado, que estaba en lugar de
Cortés, el qual no fué menester mucho para darles crédito porque tan
buenos filos, y pensamientos tenia como ellos, y mas viendo que allí en
aquella fiesta habian acudido todos los Señores y Cabezas del Imperio y
que muertos no tenian mucho trabajo en sojuzgarles.” Hist. Chich., MS.,
cap. 88.

[101] Alvarado intimates, in the defence of his conduct which forms
part of the process, one source of the rumors respecting the rising of
the Aztecs, by saying that the existence of such a scheme was matter
of public notoriety among the Tlascalans. He adds that he obtained
more precise intelligence from two or three Indians, one a Tezcucan,
another a slave whom he had rescued from the sacrifice to which he
had been doomed by the Aztecs; that these latter, under cover of the
festivities, had planned an insurrection against the Spaniards, in
which he and his countrymen were all to be exterminated. At the same
time they determined to tear down the image of the Virgin which had
been raised in the temple, and in its place to substitute that of
their war-god, Huitzilopochtli. Montezuma was accused of being privy
to this conspiracy. Thus instructed, Alvarado, as he asserts, got his
men in readiness to resist the enemy, who, after a short encounter,
was repulsed with slaughter, while one Spaniard was slain, and he
himself, with several others, severely wounded (Proceso, pp. 66, 67).
But although a long array of witnesses, most of them probably his
ancient friends and comrades, are introduced to endorse his statement,
one who reflects on the submissive spirit hitherto shown, not only by
Montezuma, but his subjects, in their dealings with the Spaniards,
and contrasts it with the fierce and unscrupulous temper displayed
by Alvarado, will have little doubt on whose head the guilt of the
massacre must rest; and as little seems to have been felt by most of
the writers of the time who have spoken of the affair.

[102] Martyr well recapitulates these grievances, showing that they
seemed such in the eyes of the Spaniards themselves,--of those, at
least, whose judgment was not warped by a share in the transactions.
“Emori statuerunt malle, quam diutius ferre tales hospites qui
regem suum sub tutoris vitæ specie detineant, civitatem occupent,
antiquos hostes Tascaltecanos et alios præterea in contumeliam ante
illorum oculos ipsorum impensa conseruent; ... qui demum simulachra
deorum confregerint, et ritus veteres ac ceremonias antiquas illis
abstulerint.” De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 5.

[103] Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala, MS.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS.,
lib. 33, cap. 13, 47.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 105.

[104] He left in garrison, on his departure from Mexico, 140 Spaniards
and about 6500 Tlascalans, including a few Cempoallan warriors.
Supposing five hundred of these--a liberal allowance--to have perished
in battle and otherwise, it would still leave a number which, with the
reinforcement now brought, would raise the amount to that stated in the

[105] “Seeing how all went contrary to his expectations and that we
still received no supplies, he grew extremely sad, and showed himself
in his bearing towards the Spaniards fretful and haughty.” Bernal Diaz,
Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 126.

[106] The scene is reported by Diaz, who was present. (Hist. de la
Conquista, cap. 126.) See, also, the Chronicle of Gomara, the chaplain
of Cortés. (Cap. 106.) It is further confirmed by Don Thoan Cano, an
eye-witness, in his conversation with Oviedo. See Appendix, Part 2, No.

[107] Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 8.

[108] “El qual Mensajero bolvió dende á media hora todo descalabrado,
y herido, dando voces, que todos los Indios de la Ciudad venian de
Guerra y que tenian todas las Puentes alzadas; é junto tras él da sobre
nosotros tanta multitud de Gente por todas partes que ni las calles ni
Azoteas se parecian con Gente; la qual venia con los mayores alaridos,
y grita mas espantable, que en el Mundo se puede pensar.” Rel. Seg. de
Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 134.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib.
33, cap. 13.

[109] “Eran tantas las Piedras, que nos echaban con Hondas dentro
en la Fortaleza, que no parecia sino que el Cielo las llovia; é las
Flechas, y Tiraderas eran tantas, que todas las paredes y Patios
estaban llenos, que casi no podiamos andar con ellas.” (Rel. Seg. de
Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 134.) No wonder that they should have found
some difficulty in wading through the arrows, if Herrera’s account be
correct, that _forty cart-loads_ of them were gathered up and burnt by
the besieged every day! Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 9.

[110] “Luego sin tardanza se juntáron los Mexicanos, en gran copia,
puestos á punto de Guerra, que no parecia, sino que habian salido
debajo de tierra todos juntos, y comenzáron luego á dar grita y pelear,
y los Españoles les comenzáron á responder de dentro con toda la
artillería que de nuebo habian traido, y con toda la gente que de nuevo
habia venido, y los Españoles hiciéron gran destrozo en los Indios,
con la artillería, arcabuzes, y ballestas y todo el otro artificio de
pelear.” (Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 22.) The
good father waxes eloquent in his description of the battle-scene.

[111] The enemy presented so easy a mark, says Gomara, that the gunners
loaded and fired with hardly the trouble of pointing their pieces. “Tan
recio, que los artilleros sin asestar jugaban con los tiros.” Crónica,
cap. 106.

[112] “Hondas, que eran la mas fuerte arma de pelea que los Mejicanos
tenian.” Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala, MS.

[113] “En la Fortaleza daban tan recio combate, que por muchas partes
nos pusiéron fuego, y por la una se quemó mucha parte de ella, sin
la poder remediar, hasta que la atajámos, cortando las paredes, y
derrocando un pedazo que mató el fuego. E si no fuera por la mucha
Guarda, que allí puse de Escopeteros, y Ballesteros, y otros tiros de
pólvora, nos entraran á escala vista, sin los poder resistir.” Rel.
Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 134.

[114] Ibid., ubi supra.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 106.--Oviedo, Hist. de
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13.--Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España, MS.,
lib. 12, cap. 22.--Gonzalo de las Casas, Defensa, MS., Parte 1, cap.
26.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 126.

[115] Carta del Exército, MS.

[116] “Están todas en el agua, y de casa á casa vna puente leuadiza,
passalla á nado, era cosa muy peligrosa; porque desde las açuteas
tirauan tanta piedra, y cantos, que era cosa perdida ponernos en ello.
Y demas desto, en algunas casas que les poniamos fuego, tardaua vna
casa en se quemar vn dia entero, y no se podia pegar fuego de vna casa
á otra; lo vno, por estar apartadas la vna de otra el agua en medio; y
lo otro, por ser de açuteas.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap.

[117] “The Mexicans fought with such ferocity,” says Diaz, “that, if
we had had the assistance on that day of ten thousand Hectors, and
as many Orlandos, we should have made no impression on them. There
were several of our troops,” he adds, “who had served in the Italian
wars, but neither there nor in the battles with the Turk had they
ever seen anything like the desperation shown by these Indians.”
Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 126. See, also, for the last pages, Rel.
Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 135,--Ixtlilxochitl, Relaciones,
MS.,--Probanza á pedimento de Juan de Lexalde, MS.,--Oviedo, Hist. de
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13,--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 196.

[118] Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 9.--Torquemada,
Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 69.

[119] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 126.--Oviedo, Hist. de
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 107.

[120] Cortés sent Marina to ascertain from Montezuma the name of the
gallant chief, who could be easily seen from the walls animating and
directing his countrymen. The emperor informed him that it was his
brother Cuitlahua, the presumptive heir to his crown, and the same
chief whom the Spanish commander had released a few days previous.
Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 10.

[121] “¿Que quiere de mí ya Malinche, que yo no deseo viuir ni oille?
pues en tal estado por su causa mi ventura me ha traido.” Bernal Diaz,
Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 126.

[122] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, ubi supra.--Ixtlilxochitl,
Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 88.

[123] Acosta reports a tradition that Guatemozin, Montezuma’s nephew,
who himself afterwards succeeded to the throne, was the man that shot
the first arrow. Lib. 7, cap. 26.

[124] I have reported this tragical event, and the circumstances
attending it, as they are given, in more or less detail, but
substantially in the same way, by the most accredited writers of
that and the following age,--several of them eye-witnesses. (See
Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 126.--Oviedo, Hist. de las
Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana,
p. 136.--Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala, MS.--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist.
Chich., MS., cap. 88.--Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10,
cap. 10.--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 70.--Acosta, ubi
supra.--Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 5.) It is also confirmed
by Cortés in the instrument granting to Montezuma’s favorite daughter
certain estates by way of dowry. (See Appendix, No. 12.) Don Thoan
Cano, indeed, who married this princess, assured Oviedo that the
Mexicans respected the person of the monarch so long as they saw him,
and were not aware, when they discharged their missiles, that he
was present, being hid from sight by the shields of the Spaniards.
(See Appendix, No. 11.) This improbable statement is repeated by
the Chaplain Gomara. (Crónica, cap. 107.) It is rejected by Oviedo,
however, who says that Alvarado, himself present at the scene, in a
conversation with him afterwards, explicitly confirmed the narrative
given in the text. (Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.) The
Mexicans gave a very different account of the transaction. According
to them, Montezuma, together with the lords of Tezcuco and Tlatelolco,
then detained as prisoners in the fortress by the Spaniards, were all
strangled by means of the _garrote_, and their dead bodies thrown over
the walls to their countrymen. I quote the original of Father Sahagun,
who gathered the story from the Aztecs themselves:

“De esta manera se determináron los Españoles á morir ó vencer
varonilmente; y así habláron á todos los amigos Indios, y todos ellos
estuviéron firmes en esta determinacion: y lo primero que hiciéron fué
que diéron garrote á todos los Señores que tenian presos, y los echáron
muertos fuera del fuerte: y antes que esto hiciesen les dijéron muchas
cosas, y les hiciéron saber su determinación, y que de ellos habia
de comenzar esta obra, y luego todos los demas habian de ser muertos
á sus manos, dijéronles, no es posible que vuestros Idolos os libren
de nuestras manos. Y desque les hubiéron dado garrote, y viéron que
estaban muertos, mandáronlos echar por las azoteas, fuera de la casa,
en un lugar que se llama Tortuga de Piedra, porque allí estaba una
piedra labrada á manera de Tortuga. Y desque supiéron y viéron los de á
fuera, que aquellos Señores tan principales habian sido muertos por las
manos de los Españoles, luego tomáron los cuerpos, y les hiciéron sus
exequias, al modo de su Idolatría, y quemáron sus cuerpos, y tomáron
sus cenizas, y las pusiéron en lugares apropiadas á sus dignidades y
valor.” Hist. de Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 23.

It is hardly necessary to comment on the absurdity of this monstrous
imputation, which, however, has found favor with some later writers.
Independently of all other considerations, the Spaniards would have
been slow to compass the Indian monarch’s death, since, as the Tezcucan
Ixtlilxochitl truly observes, it was the most fatal blow which could
befall them, by dissolving the last tie which held them to the
Mexicans. Hist. Chich., MS., ubi supra.

[125] “Salí fuera de la Fortaleza, aunque manco de la mano izquierda de
una herida que el primer dia me habian dado: y liada la rodela en el
brazo fu ẏ á la Torre con algunos Españoles, que me siguiéron.” Rel.
Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 138.

[126] See vol. ii. pp. 320-323.--I have ventured to repeat the
description of the temple here, as it is important that the reader, who
may perhaps not turn to the preceding pages, should have a distinct
image of it in his own mind before beginning the account of the combat.

[127] Many of the Aztecs, according to Sahagun, seeing the fate of such
of their comrades as fell into the hands of the Spaniards on the narrow
terraces below, voluntarily threw themselves headlong from the lofty
summit and were dashed in pieces on the pavement. “Y los de arriba
viendo á los de abajo muertos, y á los de arriba que los iban matando
los que habian subido, comenzáron á arrojarse del cu abajo, desde lo
alto, los cuales todos morian despeñados, quebrados brazos y piernas, y
hechos pedazos, porque el cu era muy alto; y otros los mesmos Españoles
los arrojaban de lo alto del cu, y así todos cuantos allá habian
subido de los Mexicanos, muriéron mala muerte.” Sahagun, Hist. de
Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 22.

[128] Among others, see Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap.
9,--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 69,--and Solís, very
circumstantially, as usual, Conquista, lib. 4, cap. 16.--The first of
these authors had access to some contemporary sources, the chronicle
of the old soldier, Ojeda, for example, not now to be met with. It is
strange that so valiant an exploit should not have been communicated by
Cortés himself, who cannot be accused of diffidence in such matters.

[129] Captain Diaz, a little loth sometimes, is emphatic in his
encomiums on the valor shown by his commander on this occasion. “Here
Cortés showed himself a very man, such as he always was. Oh, what a
fighting, what a strenuous battle, did we have! It was a memorable
thing to see us flowing with blood and full of wounds, and more than
forty soldiers slain.” (Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 126.) The pens of
the old chroniclers keep pace with their swords in the display of this
brilliant exploit:--“colla penna e colla spada,” equally fortunate.
See Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 138.--Gomara, Crónica, cap.
106.--Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 22.--Herrera,
Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 9.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind.,
MS., lib. 33, cap. 13.--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 69.

[130] Archbishop Lorenzana is of opinion that this image of the Virgin
is the same now seen in the church of _Nuestra Señora de los Remedios_!
(Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 138, nota.) In what way the
Virgin survived the sack of the city and was brought to light again,
he does not inform us. But the more difficult to explain, the more
undoubted the miracle.

[131] No achievement in the war struck more awe into the Mexicans than
this storming of the great temple, in which the white men seemed to bid
defiance equally to the powers of God and man. Hieroglyphical paintings
minutely commemorating it were to be frequently found among the natives
after the Conquest. The sensitive Captain Diaz intimates that those
which he saw made full as much account of the wounds and losses of the
Christians as the facts would warrant. (Hist. de la Conquista, ubi
supra.) It was the only way in which the conquered could take their

[132] “Sequenti nocte, nostri erumpentes in vna viarum arci vicina,
domos combussêre tercentum: in altera plerasque e quibus arci molestia
fiebat. Ita nunc trucidando, nunc diruendo, et interdum vulnera
recipiendo, in pontibus et in viis, diebus noctibusque multis laboratum
est utrinque.” (Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 6.) In the number
of actions and their general result, namely, the victories, barren
victories, of the Christians, all writers are agreed. But as to time,
place, circumstance, or order, no two hold together. How shall the
historian of the present day make a harmonious tissue out of these
motley and many-colored threads?

[133] It is the name by which she is still celebrated in the popular
minstrelsy of Mexico. Was the famous Tlascalan mountain, _sierra de_
_Malinche_,--anciently “Mattalcueye,”--named in compliment to the
Indian damsel? At all events, it was an honor well merited from her
adopted countrymen.

[134] According to Cortés, they boasted, in somewhat loftier strain,
they could spare twenty-five thousand for one: “á morir veinte y
cinco mil de ellos, y uno de los nuestros.” Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap.
Lorenzana, p. 139.

[135] “Que todas las calzadas de las entradas de la ciudad eran
deshechas, como de hecho passaba.” Ibid., loc. cit.--Oviedo, Hist. de
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13.

[136] “Pues tambien quiero dezir las maldiciones que los de Narvaez
echauan á Cortés, y las palabras que dezian, que renegauan dél, y de la
tierra, y aun de Diego Velasquez, que acá les embió, que bien pacíficos
estauan en sus casas en la Isla de Cuba, y estavan embelesados, y sin
sentido.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, ubi supra.

[137] Notwithstanding this, in the petition or letter from Vera Cruz,
addressed by the army to the Emperor Charles V., after the Conquest,
the importunity of the soldiers is expressly stated as the principal
motive that finally induced their general to abandon the city. Carta
del Exército, MS.

[138] “The scarcity was such that the ration of the Indians was a small
cake, and that of the Spaniards fifty grains of maize.” Herrera, Hist.
general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 9.

[139] Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 135.--Gomara, Crónica,
cap. 106.--Dr. Bird, in his picturesque romance of “Calavar,” has made
good use of these _mantas_, better, indeed, than can be permitted to
the historian. He claims the privilege of the romancer; though it must
be owned he does not abuse this privilege, for he has studied with
great care the costume, manners, and military usages of the natives.
He has done for them what Cooper has done for the wild tribes of the
North,--touched their rude features with the bright coloring of a
poetic fancy. He has been equally fortunate in his delineation of the
picturesque scenery of the land. If he has been less so in attempting
to revive the antique dialogue of the Spanish cavalier, we must not
be surprised. Nothing is more difficult than the skilful execution of
a modern antique. It requires all the genius and learning of Scott to
execute it so that the connoisseur shall not detect the counterfeit.

[140] Carta del Exército, MS.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p.
140.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 109.

[141] Clavigero is mistaken in calling this the street of Iztapalapan.
(Stor. del Messico, tom. iii. p. 120.) It was not the street by which
the Spaniards entered, but by which they finally left the city, and
is correctly indicated by Lorenzana as that of Tlacopan,--or, rather,
Tacuba, into which the Spaniards corrupted the name. See vol. ii. p.
322, note.

[142] It is Oviedo who finds a parallel for his hero in the Roman
warrior; the same, to quote the spirit-stirring legend of Macaulay,

      “who kept the bridge so well
    In the brave days of old.”

“Mui digno es Cortés que se compare este fecho suyo desta jornada al de
Oracio Cocles, que se tocó de suso, porque con su esfuerzo é lanza sola
dió tanto lugar, que los caballos pudieran pasar, é hizo desembarazar
la puente é pasó, á pesar de los Enemigos, aunque con harto trabajo.”
Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13.

[143] It was a fair leap, for a knight and horse in armor. But the
general’s own assertion to the emperor (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana,
p. 142) is fully confirmed by Oviedo, who tells us he had it from
several who were present: “Y segun lo que yo he entendido de algunos
que presentes se halláron, demas de la resistencia de aquellos havia
de la vna parte á la otra casi vn estado de saltar con el caballo sin
le faltar muchas pedradas de diversas partes, é manos, é por ir el,
é su caballo bien armados no los hiriéron; pero no dexó de quedar
atormentado de los golpes que le diéron.” Hist. de las Ind., MS., ubi

[144] Truly, “dignus vindice nodus”! The intervention of the celestial
chivalry on these occasions is testified in the most unqualified
manner by many respectable authorities. It is edifying to observe the
combat going on in Oviedo’s mind between the dictates of strong sense
and superior learning, and those of the superstition of the age. It
was an unequal combat, with odds sorely against the former, in the
sixteenth century. I quote the passage as characteristic of the times.
“Afirman que se vido el Apóstol Santiago á caballo peleando sobre vn
caballo blanco en favor de los Christianos; é decian los Indios que el
caballo con los pies y manos é con la boca mataba muchos dellos, de
forma, que en poco discurso de tiempo no pareció Indio, é reposáron los
Christianos lo restante de aquel dia. Ya sé que los incrédulos ó poco
devotos dirán, que mi ocupacion en esto destos miraglos, pues no los
ví, es superflua, ó perder tiempo novelando, y yo hablo, que esto é mas
se puede creer, pues que los gentiles é sin fé, Idólatras escriben, que
ovo grandes misterios é miraglos en sus tiempos, é aquellos sabemos que
eran causados é fechos por el Diablo, pues mas fácil cosa es á Dios é á
la inmaculata Virgen Nuestra Señora é al glorioso Apóstol Santiago, é
á los santos é amigos de Jesu Christo hacer esos miraglos, que de suso
estan dichos, é otros maiores.” Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap.

[145] “Multi restiterunt lapidibus et iaculis confossi, fuit et
Cortesius grauiter percussus, pauci evaserunt incolumes, et hi adeò
languidi, vt neque lacertos erigere quirent. Postquam vero se in arcem
receperunt, non commode satis conditas dapes, quibus reficerentur,
inuenerunt, nec forte asperi maiicii panis bucellas, aut aquam
potabilem, de vino aut carníbus sublata erat cura.” (Martyr, De Orbe
Novo, dec. 5, cap. 6.) See also, for the hard fighting described in the
last pages, Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13,--Rel.
Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 140-142,--Carta del Exército,
MS.,--Gonzalo de las Casas, Defensa, MS., Parte 1, cap. 26,--Herrera,
Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 9, 10,--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 107.

[146] The sentiment is expressed with singular energy in the verses of

    “Mais renoncer aux dieux que l’on croit dans son cœur,
     C’est le crime d’un lâche, et non pas une erreur;
     C’est trahir à la fois, sous un masque hypocrite,
     Et le dieu qu’on préfère, et le dieu que l’on quitte;
     C’est mentir au Ciel même, à l’univers, à soi.”
              ALZIRE, acte 5, sc. 5.

[147] Camargo, the Tlascalan convert, says he was told by several
of the Conquerors that Montezuma was baptized at his own desire in
his last moments, and that Cortés and Alvarado stood sponsors on the
occasion. “Muchos afirman de los conquistadores que yo conocí, que
estando en el artículo de la muerte, pidió agua de batismo é que
fué batizado y murió Cristiano, aunque en esto hay grandes dudas
y diferentes paresceres; mas como digo que de personas fidedignas
conquistadores de los primeros desta tierra de quien fuímos informados,
supímos que murió batizado y Cristiano, é que fuéron sus padrinos del
batismo Fernando Cortés y Don Pedro de Alvarado.” (Hist. de Tlascala,
MS.) According to Gomara, the Mexican monarch desired to be baptized
before the arrival of Narvaez. The ceremony was deferred till Easter,
that it might be performed with greater effect. But in the hurry and
bustle of the subsequent scenes it was forgotten, and he died without
the stain of infidelity having been washed away from him. (Crónica,
cap. 107.) Torquemada, not often a Pyrrhonist where the honor of the
faith is concerned, rejects these tales as irreconcilable with the
subsequent silence of Cortés himself, as well as of Alvarado, who
would have been loud to proclaim an event so long in vain desired by
them. (Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 70.) The criticism of the father is
strongly supported by the fact that neither of the preceding accounts
is corroborated by writers of any weight, while they are contradicted
by several, by popular tradition, and, it may be added, by one another.

[148] “Respondió, Que por la media hora que le quedaba de vida, no se
queria apartar de la religion de sus Padres.” (Herrera, Hist. general,
dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 10.) “Ya he dicho,” says Diaz, “la tristeza
que todos nosotros huvímos por ello, y aun al Frayle de la Merced,
que siempre estaua con él, y no le pudo atraer á que se bolviesse
Christiano.” Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 127.

[149] _Aunque no le pesaba dello_; literally, “although he did not
repent of it.” But this would be rather too much for human nature to
assert; and it is probable the language of the Indian prince underwent
some little change as it was sifted through the interpretation of
Marina. The Spanish reader will find the original conversation, as
reported by Cortés himself, in the remarkable document in the Appendix,
No. 12. The general adds that he faithfully complied with Montezuma’s
request, receiving his daughters, after the Conquest, into his own
family, where, _agreeably to their royal father’s desire, they were
baptized_, and instructed in the doctrines and usages of the Christian
faith. They were afterwards married to Castilian hidalgos, and handsome
dowries were assigned them by the government. See note 36 of this

[150] I adopt Clavigero’s chronology, which cannot be far from truth.
(Stor. del Messico, tom. iii. p. 131.) And yet there are reasons for
supposing he must have died at least a day sooner.

[151] “De suerte que le tiráron una pedrada con una honda y le diéron
en la cabeza, de que vino á morir el desdichado Rey, habiendo gobernado
este nuevo Mundo con la mayor prudencia y gobierno que se puede
imaginar, siendo el mas tenido y reverenciado y adorado Señor que en el
mundo ha habido, y en su linaje, como es cosa pública y notoria en toda
la maquina deste Nuevo Mundo, donde con la muerte de tan gran Señor
se acabáron los Reyes Culhuaques Mejicanos, y todo su poder y mando,
estando en la mayor felicidad de su monarquía; y ansí no hay de que
fiar en las cosas desta vida sino en solo Dios.” Hist. de Tlascala, MS.

[152] “Y Cortés lloró por él, y todos nuestros Capitanes, y soldados:
é hombres huvo entre nosotros de los que le conociamos, y tratauamos,
que tan llorado fué, como si fuera nuestro padre, y no nos hemos de
maravillar dello, viendo que tan bueno era.” Hist. de la Conquista,
cap. 126.

[153] “He loved the Christians,” says Herrera, “as well as could be
judged from appearances.” (Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 10.)
“They say,” remarks the general’s chaplain, “that Montezuma, though
often urged to it, never consented to the death of a Spaniard, nor to
the injury of Cortés, whom he loved exceedingly. But there are those
who dispute this.” (Gomara, Crónica, cap. 107.) Don Thoan Cano assured
Oviedo that during all the troubles of the Spaniards with the Mexicans,
both in the absence of Cortés and after his return, the emperor did his
best to supply the camp with provisions. (See Appendix, No. 11.) And,
finally, Cortés himself, in an instrument already referred to, dated
six years after Montezuma’s death, bears emphatic testimony to the good
will he had shown the Spaniards, and particularly acquits him of any
share in the late rising, which, says the Conqueror, “I had trusted to
suppress through his assistance.” (See Appendix, No. 12.)--The Spanish
historians, in general,--notwithstanding an occasional intimation of a
doubt as to his good faith towards their countrymen,--make honorable
mention of the many excellent qualities of the Indian prince. Solís,
however, the most eminent of all, dismisses the account of his death
with the remark that “his last hours were spent in breathing vengeance
and maledictions against his people; until he surrendered up to
Satan--with whom he had frequent communication in his lifetime--the
eternal possession of his soul!” (Conquista de México, lib. 4, cap.
15.) Fortunately, the historiographer of the Indians could know as
little of Montezuma’s fate in the next world as he appears to have
known of it in this. Was it bigotry, or a desire to set his own hero’s
character in a brighter light, which led him thus unworthily to darken
that of his Indian rival?

[154] “Dicen que venció nueve Batallas, i otros nueve Campos, en
desafío vno á vno.” Gomara, Crónica, cap. 107.

[155] One other only of his predecessors, Tizoc, is shown by the
Aztec paintings to have belonged to this knightly order, according to
Clavigero. Stor. del Messico, tom. ii. p. 140.

[156] “Era mas cauteloso, y ardidoso, que valeroso. En las Armas, y
modo de su govierno, fué muy justiciero; en las cosas tocantes á ser
estimado y tenido en su Dignidad y Majestad Real de condicion muy
severo, aunque cuerdo y gracioso.” Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS.,
cap. 88.

[157] The whole address is given by Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4,
cap. 68.


    “Τέχνη δ’ ἀνάγκης ἀσθενεστέρα μακρῷ.
     Τίς οὖν ἀνάγκης ἐστὶν οἰακοστρόφος;
     Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ’ Ἐρινύες.
     Τούτων ἄρα Ζεύς ἐστιν ἀσθενέστερος;
     Οὔκουν ἂν ἐκφύγοι γε τὴν πεπρωμένην.”
             ÆSCHYL., Prometh., v. 522-526.

[159] Señor de Calderon, the late Spanish minister at Mexico, informs
me that he has more than once passed by an Indian dwelling where the
Indians in his suite made a reverence, saying it was occupied by a
descendant of Montezuma.

[160] This son, baptized by the name of Pedro, was descended from one
of the royal concubines. Montezuma had two lawful wives. By the first
of these, named Teçalco, he had a son, who perished in the flight from
Mexico; and a daughter named Tecuichpo, who embraced Christianity and
received the name of Isabella. She was married, when very young, to her
cousin Guatemozin, and lived long enough after his death to give her
hand to four Castilians, all of honorable family. From two of these,
Don Thoan Cano and Don Juan Andrada, descended the illustrious families
of the Cano and Andrada Montezuma. From the last came the counts of
Miravalle noticed by Humboldt (Essai politique, tom. ii. p. 73, note).
See Alaman, Disertaciones históricas, tom. ii. p. 325.--Montezuma, by
his second wife, the princess Acatlan, left two daughters, named, after
their conversion, Maria and Leonor. The former died without issue. Doña
Leonor married a Spanish cavalier, Cristóval de Valderrama, from whom
descended the family of the Sotelos de Montezuma.--The royal genealogy
is minutely exhibited in a Memorial setting forth the claims of
Montezuma’s grandsons to certain property in right of their respective
mothers. The document, which is without date, is among the MSS. of

[161] It is interesting to know that a descendant of the Aztec emperor,
Don José Sarmiento Valladares, count of Montezuma, ruled as viceroy,
from 1697 to 1701, over the dominions of his barbaric ancestors.
(Humboldt, Essai politique, tom. ii. p. 93, note.){*} Solís speaks
of this noble house, grandees of Spain, who intermingled their blood
with that of the Guzmans and the Mendozas. Clavigero has traced their
descent from the emperor’s son Iohualicahua, or Dom Pedro Montezuma (as
he was called after his baptism), down to the close of the eighteenth
century. (See Solís, Conquista, lib. 4, 15.--Clavigero, Stor. del
Messico, tom. i. p. 302, tom. iii. p. 132.) The title of count was
bestowed on the head of the family by Philip the Second, in 1556.
In 1765, under Charles the Third, the count of Montezuma was made a
grandee of Spain, and he was in receipt of a yearly pension of 40,000
_pesos_. (Alaman, Disertaciones históricas, tom. i. p. 159.) The last
of the line, of whom I have been able to obtain any intelligence, died
not long since in this country. He was very wealthy, having large
estates in Spain,--but was not, as it appears, very wise. When seventy
years old or more, he passed over to Mexico, in the vain hope that the
nation, in deference to his descent, might place him on the throne
of his Indian ancestors, so recently occupied by the presumptuous
Iturbide. But the modern Mexicans, with all their detestation of the
old Spaniards, showed no respect for the royal blood of the Aztecs. The
unfortunate nobleman retired to New Orleans, where he soon after put
an end to his existence by blowing out his brains,--not for ambition,
however, if report be true, but disappointed love!

{*} [Señor Alaman, in a note on this passage, says it was not the
viceroy, but his wife, Doña María Gerónima Montezuma, who was a
descendant of the Aztec emperor. She was third countess of Montezuma in
her own right, her husband’s title being duke of Atlixco.--K.]

[162] Gomara, Crónica, cap. 107.--Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib.
10, cap. 10.

[163] Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 7.

[164] Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.--The astrologer
predicted that Cortés would be reduced to the greatest extremity of
distress, and afterwards come to great honor and fortune. (Bernal
Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 128.) He showed himself as cunning
in his art as the West Indian sibyl who foretold the destiny of the
unfortunate Josephine.

[165] “Pues al astrólogo Botello, no le aprouechó su astrología, que
tambien allí murió.” Bernal Diaz, ubi supra.

[166] The disposition of the treasure has been stated with some
discrepancy, though all agree as to its ultimate fate. The general
himself did not escape the imputation of negligence, and even
peculation, most unfounded, from his enemies. The account in the text
is substantiated by the evidence, under oath, of the most respectable
names in the expedition, as given in the instrument already more than
once referred to. “Hizo sacar el oro é joyas de sus Altezas é le dió
é entregó á los otros oficiales Alcaldes é Regidores, é les dixo á la
rason que así se lo entregó, que todos viesen el mejor modo é manera
que habia para lo poder salvar, que él allí estaba para por su parte
hacer lo que fuese posible é poner su persona á qualquier trance é
riesgo que sobre lo salvar le viniese.... El qual les dió para ello una
muy buena yegua, é quatro ó cinco Españoles de mucha confianza, á quien
se encargó la dha yegua cargado con el otro oro.” Probanza á pedimento
de Juan de Lexalde.

[167] “Desde aquí se lo doi, como se ha de quedar aquí perdido entre
estos perros.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 128.--Oviedo,
Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.

[168] Captain Diaz tells us that he contented himself with four
_chalchivitl_,--the green stone so much prized by the natives,--which
he cunningly picked out of the royal coffers before Cortés’ majordomo
had time to secure them. The prize proved of great service, by
supplying him the means of obtaining food and medicine when in great
extremity, afterwards, from the people of the country. Ibid., loc. cit.

[169] Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., ubi supra.

[170] Gomara, Crónica, cap. 109.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana,
p. 143.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13, 47.

[171] There is some difficulty in adjusting the precise date of their
departure, as, indeed, of most events in the Conquest; attention to
chronology being deemed somewhat superfluous by the old chroniclers.
Ixtlilxochitl, Gomara, and others fix the date at July 10th. But this
is wholly contrary to the letter of Cortés, which states that the army
reached Tlascala on the eighth of July, not the tenth, as Clavigero
misquotes him (Stor. del Messico, tom. iii. pp. 135, 136, nota); and
from the general’s accurate account of their progress each day, it
appears that they left the capital on the last night of June, or rather
the morning of July 1st. It was the night, he also adds, following the
affair of the bridges in the city. Comp. Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, pp.

[172] [This second breach, says Ramirez, “the scene of the rout and
slaughter of the Spaniards, was in front of _San Hipolito_, where
a chapel was built, to commemorate the event, and dedicated to the
_Martyrs_,--though assuredly none of those who had fallen there had any
claim to the crown of martyrdom.” Notas y Esclarecimientos, p. 104.]

[173] Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 143.--Camargo, Hist. de
Tlascala, MS.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 128.--Oviedo,
Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13, 47.--Sahagun, Hist. de
Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 24.--Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5,
cap. 6.--Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 4.--Probanza en
la Villa Segura, MS.

[174] “Pues la grita, y lloros, y lástimas [~q] deziā demādando
socorro: Ayudadme, [~q] me ahogo, otros: Socorredme, [~q] me matā,
otros demādando ayuda á N. Señora Santa María, y á Señor Santiago.”
Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 128.

[175] “In this combat Maria de Estrada, oblivious of her sex, showed
herself most valorous, and armed with sword and shield did marvellous
deeds, rushing into the midst of the enemy with a courage and spirit
equal to that of the bravest of men.... This lady became the wife of
Pedro Sanchez Farfan, and the village of Tetela was granted to them _en
encomienda_.” Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 72.

[176] Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala, MS.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la
Conquista, cap. 128.--“Por la gran priesa que daban de ambas partes de
el camino, comenzáron á caer en aquel foso, y cayéron juntos, que de
Españoles, que de Indios y de caballos, y de cargas, el foso se hinchó
hasta arriba, cayendo los unos sobre los otros, y los otros sobre los
otros, de manera que todos los del bagage quedáron allí ahogados, y
los de la retaguardia pasáron sobre los muertos.” Sahagun, Hist. de
Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 24.

[177] “E los que habian ido con Narvaez arrojáronse en la sala, é
cargáronse de aquel oro é plata quanto pudiéron; pero los menos lo
gozáron, porque la carga no los dexaba pelear, é los Indios los tomaban
vivos cargados; é á otros llevaban arrastrando, é á otros mataban allí;
E así no se salvaron sino los desocupados é que iban en la delantera.”
Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.

[178] Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 11.--Oviedo,
Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la
Conquista, cap. 128.

[179] “Luego encontráron con Pedro de Alvarado bien herido con vna
lança en la mano á pie, que la yegua alaçana ya se la auian muerto.”
Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 128.

[180] “Y los amigos vista tan gran hazaña quedáron maravillados, y
al instante que esto viéron se arrojáron por el suelo postrados por
tierra en señal de hecho tan heroico, espantable y raro, que ellos no
habian visto hacer á ningun hombre, y ansi adoráron al Sol, comiendo
puñados de tierra, arrancando yervas del campo, diciendo á grandes
voces, verdaderamente que este hombre es _hijo del Sol_.” (Camargo,
Hist. de Tlascala, MS.) This writer consulted the process instituted by
Alvarado’s heirs, in which they set forth the merits of their ancestor,
as attested by the most valorous captains of the Tlascalan nation,
present at the Conquest. It _may be_ that the famous leap was among
these “merits” of which the historian speaks. M. de Humboldt, citing
Camargo, so considers it. (Essai politique, tom. ii. p. 75.) This
would do more than anything else to establish the fact. But Camargo’s
language does not seem to me necessarily to warrant the inference.

[181] “Se llama aora la puente del salto de Alvarado: y platicauamos
muchos soldados sobre ello, y no hallavamos razon, ni soltura de vn
hombre que tal saltasse.” Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 128.

[182] Gomara, Crónica, cap. 109.--Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala, ubi
supra.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.--Which last
author, however, frankly says that many who had seen the place declared
that it seemed to them impossible. “Fué tan estremado de grande el
salto, que á muchos hombres que han visto aquello, he oido decir que
parece cosa imposible haberlo podido saltar ninguno hombre humano. En
fin él lo saltó é ganó por ello la vida, é perdiéronla muchos que atras

[183] The spot is pointed out to every traveller. It is where a ditch,
of no great width, is traversed by a small bridge not far from the
western extremity of the Alameda. A house, lately erected there, may
somewhat interfere with the meditations of the antiquary. (Alaman,
Disertaciones históricas, tom. i. p. 202.) As the place received
its name in Alvarado’s time, the story could scarcely have been
discountenanced by him. But, since the length of the leap, strange to
say, is nowhere given, the reader can have no means of passing his
own judgment on its probability. [Unfortunately for the lovers of the
marvellous, another version is now given of the account of Alvarado’s
escape, which deprives him of the glory claimed for him by this
astounding feat. In the process against him, which was not brought to
light till several years after the present work was published, one of
the charges was that he fled from the field, leaving his soldiers to
their fate, and escaping by means of a beam which had survived the
demolition of the bridge and still stretched across the chasm from
one side to the other. The chief, in his reply, said that, far from
deserting his men, they deserted him, and that he did not fly till he
was wounded and his horse killed under him, when he escaped across the
breach, was taken up behind a mounted cavalier on the other side, and
carried out of the fray. That he should not have alluded to the account
given of the manner of his escape, so much less glorious than that
usually claimed for him, may lead us to infer that it was too true to
be disputed. Such is the judgment of Señor Ramirez, who, in his account
of the affair, tells us that, far from being an object of admiration,
Alvarado’s escape was, in his own time, deemed rather worthy of
punishment, as an act of desertion which cost the lives of many brave
followers whom he left behind him. (See the Proceso de Alvarado, pp.
53, 68, with the caustic remarks of Ramirez, pp. xiv., 288, et seq.)
It is natural that a descendant of the conquered race should hold in
peculiar detestation the most cruel persecutor of the Aztecs.]

[184] “Fué Dios servido de que los Mejicanos se ocupasen en recojer los
despojos de los muertos, y las riquezas de oro y piedras que llevaba
el bagage, y de sacar los muertos de aquel acequia, y á los caballos
y otros bestias. Y por esto no siguiéron el alcanze, y los Españoles
pudiéron ir poco á poco por su camino sin tener mucha molestia de
enemigos.” Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 25.

[185] Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.--Ixtlilxochitl,
Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 89.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 109.

[186] Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 12.

[187] “Tacuba,” says that interesting traveller, Latrobe, “lies near
the foot of the hills, and is at the present day chiefly noted for the
large and noble church which was erected there by Cortés. And hard
by you trace the lines of a Spanish encampment. I do not hazard the
opinion, but it might appear by the coincidence, that this was the
very position chosen by Cortés for his intrenchment, after the retreat
just mentioned, and before he commenced his painful route towards
Otumba.” (Rambler in Mexico, Letter 5.) It is evident, from our text,
that Cortés could have thrown up no intrenchment here, at least on his
retreat from the capital.

[188] Lorenzana, Viage, p. xiii.

[189] Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 24.--Bernal
Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 128.--Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala,
MS.--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 89.

[190] The table below may give the reader some idea of the
discrepancies in numerical estimates, even among eye-witnesses, and
writers who, having access to the actors, are nearly of equal authority:

                                                      Killed and Missing.
Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 145,                    150 Spaniards, 2000 Indians
Cano, ap. Oviedo, lib. 33, cap. 54,              1170    “       8000    “
Probanza, etc.,                                   200    “       2000    “
Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., lib. 33, cap. 13,      150    “       2000    “
Camargo,                                          450    “       4000    “
Gomara, cap. 109,                                 450    “       4000    “
Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., cap. 88,             450    “       4000    “
Sahagun, lib. 12, cap. 24,                        300    “       2000    “
Herrera, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 12,                150    “       4000    “

Bernal Diaz does not take the trouble to agree with himself. After
stating that the rear, on which the loss fell heaviest, consisted
of 120 men, he adds, in the same paragraph, that 150 of these were
slain, which number swells to 200 in a few lines further! Falstaff’s
men in buckram! See Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 128.--Cano’s estimate
embraces, it is true, those--but their number was comparatively
small--who perished subsequently on the march. The same authority
states that 270 of the garrison, ignorant of the proposed departure
of their countrymen, were perfidiously left in the palace of
Axayacatl, where they surrendered on terms, but were subsequently all
sacrificed by the Aztecs! (See Appendix, No. 11.) The improbability
of this monstrous story, by which the army with all its equipage
could leave the citadel without the knowledge of so many of their
comrades,--and this be permitted, too, at a juncture which made
every man’s co-operation so important,--is too obvious to require
refutation. Herrera records, what is much more probable, that Cortés
gave particular orders to the captain, Ojeda, to see that none of the
sleeping or wounded should, in the hurry of the moment, be overlooked
in their quarters. Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 11.

[191] “Pues de los de Narvaez, todos los mas en las puentes quedáron,
cargados de oro.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 128.

[192] According to Diaz, part of the gold intrusted to the _Tlascalan_
convoy was preserved. (Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 136.) From the
document already cited,--Probanza de Villa Segura, MS.,--it appears
that it was a Castilian guard who had charge of it.

[193] Gomara, Crónica, cap. 109.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib.
33, cap. 13.--Probanza en la Villa Segura, MS.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de
la Conquista, cap. 128.

[194] Lorenzana, Viage, p. xiii.

[195] The last instance, I believe, of the direct interposition of the
Virgin in behalf of the metropolis was in 1833, when she was brought
into the city to avert the cholera. She refused to pass the night in
town, however, but was found the next morning in her own sanctuary
at Los Remedios, showing, by the mud with which she was plentifully
bespattered, that she must have performed the distance--several
leagues--through the miry ways on foot! See Latrobe, Rambler in Mexico,
Letter 5.

[196] The epithet by which, according to Diaz, the Castilians were
constantly addressed by the natives, and which--whether correctly
or not--he interprets into _gods_, or _divine beings_. (See Hist.
de la Conquista, cap. 48, et alibi.) One of the stanzas of Ercilla
intimates the existence of a similar delusion among the South American
Indians,--and a similar cure of it:

    “Por dioses, como dixe, eran tenidos
     de los Indios los nuestros; pero oliéron
     que de muger y hombre eran nacidos,
     y todas sus flaquezas entendiéron:
     viéndolos á miserias sometidos,
     el error ignorante conociéron,
     ardiendo en viva rabia avergonzados
     por verse de mortales conquistados.”
          LA ARAUCANA, Parte 1, Canto 2.

[197] Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 147.--Hunger furnished
them a sauce, says Oviedo, which made their horse-flesh as relishing
as the far-famed sausages of Naples, the delicate kid of Avila, or
the savory veal of Saragossa! “Con la carne del caballo tubiéron
buen pasto, é se consoláron ó mitigáron en parte su hambre, é se lo
comiéron sin dexar cuero, ni otra cosa dél sino los huesos, é las vñas,
y el pelo; é aun las tripas no les pareció de menos buen gusto que
las sobreasados de Nápoles, ó los gentiles cabritos de Abila, ó las
sabrosas Terneras de Zaragosa, segun la estrema necesidad que llevaban;
por que despues que de la gran cibdad de Temixtitan havian salido,
ninguna otra cosa comiéron sino mahiz tostado, é cocido, é yervas del
campo, y desto no tanto quanto quisieran ó ovieran menester.” Hist. de
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13.

[198] Herrera mentions one soldier who had succeeded in carrying off
his gold to the value of 3000 _castellanos_ across the causeway, and
afterwards flung it away by the advice of Cortés. “The devil take your
gold,” said the commander bluntly to him, “if it is to cost you your
life.” Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 11.

[199] Gomara, Crónica, cap. 110.

[200] The meaning of the word _Tlascala_, and so called from the
abundance of maize raised in the country. Boturini, Idea, p. 78.

[201] “Empero la Nacion nuestra Española sufre mas hambre que otra
ninguna, i estos de Cortés mas que todos.” Gomara, Crónica, cap. 110.

[202] For the foregoing pages, see Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala,
MS.,--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 128,--Oviedo,
Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13,--Gomara, Crónica, ubi
supra,--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 89,--Martyr, De Orbe
Novo, dec. 5, cap. 6,--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 147,
148,--Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 25, 26.

[203] “Su nombre, que quiere decir _habitacion de los Dioses_, y que
ya por estos tiempos era ciudad tan famosa, que no solo competia,
pero excedia con muchas ventajas á la corte de Tollan.” Veytia, Hist.
antig., tom. i. cap. 27.

[204] The pyramid of Mycerinos is 280 feet only at the base, and 162
feet in height. The great pyramid of Cheops is 728 feet at the base,
and 448 feet high. See Denon, Egypt Illustrated (London, 1825), p. 9.

[205] “It requires a particular position,” says Mr. Tudor, “united
with some little faith, to discover the pyramidal form at all.” (Tour
in North America, vol. ii. p. 277.) Yet Mr. Bullock says, “The general
figure of the square is as perfect as the great pyramid of Egypt.” (Six
Months in Mexico, vol. ii. chap. 26.) Eye-witnesses both! The historian
must often content himself with repeating, in the words of the old
French lay,--

    “_Si com je l’ai trové escrite_,
      Vos conterai la vérité.”

[206] This is M. de Humboldt’s opinion. (See his Essai politique, tom.
ii. pp. 66-70.) He has also discussed these interesting monuments in
his Vues des Cordillères, p. 25, et seq.

[207] Latrobe gives the description of this cavity, into which he and
his fellow travellers penetrated. Rambler in Mexico, Letter 7.


    “Et tot templa deûm Romæ, quot in urbe sepulcra
     Heroum numerare licet: quos fabula manes
     Nobilitat, noster populus veneratus adorat.”
                PRUDENTIUS, Contra Sym., lib. 1.

[209] The dimensions are given by Bullock (Six Months in Mexico, vol.
ii. chap. 26), who has sometimes seen what has eluded the optics of
other travellers.

[210] Such is the account given by the cavalier Boturini. Idea, pp. 42,

[211] “Both Ixtlilxochitl and Boturini, who visited these monuments,
one early in the seventeenth, the other in the first part of the
eighteenth century, testify to their having seen the remains of this
statue. They had entirely disappeared by 1757, when Veytia examined the
pyramid. Hist. antig., tom. i. cap. 26.


    “Agricola, incurvo terram molitus aratro,
     Exesa inveniet scabra rubigine pila,” etc.
              GEORG., lib. i.

[213] “Y como iban vestidos de blanco, parecia el campo nevado.”
Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 13.

[214] “Vistosa confusion,” says Solís, “de armas y penachos, en que
tenian su hermosura los horrores.” (Conquista, lib. 4, cap. 20.) His
painting shows the hand of a great artist,--which he certainly was. But
he should not have put fire-arms into the hands of his countrymen on
this occasion.

[215] “Y cierto creímos ser aquel el último de nuestros dias.” Rel.
Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 148.

[216] Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala, MS.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind.,
MS., lib. 33, cap. 14.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap.
128.--Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 27.--Cortés
might have addressed his troops, as Napoleon did his in the famous
battle with the Mamelukes: “From yonder pyramids forty centuries look
down upon you.” But the situation of the Spaniards was altogether too
serious for theatrical display.

[217] It is Sahagun’s simile: “Estaban los Españoles como una Isleta
en el mar, combatida de las olas por todas partes.” (Hist. de
Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 27.) The venerable missionary gathered
the particulars of the action, as he informs us, from several who were
present in it.

[218] The epic bard Ercilla’s spirited portrait of the young warrior
Tucapél may be applied without violence to Sandoval, as described by
the Castilian chroniclers:

    “Cubierto Tucapél de fina malla
     saltó como un ligero y suelto pardo
     en medio de la tímida canalla,
     haciendo plaza el bárbaro gallardo:
     con silvos grita en desigual batalla:
     con piedra, palo, flecha, lanza y dardo
     le persigue la gente de manera
     como si fuera toro, ó brava fiera.”
                LA ARAUCANA, Parte 1, canto 8.

[219] Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 13.--“Este caballo
harriero,” says Camargo, “le sirvió en la conquista de Méjico, y en la
última guerra que se dió se le matáron.” Hist. de Tlascala, MS.

[220] The brave cavalier was afterwards permitted by the emperor
Charles V. to assume this trophy on his own escutcheon, in
commemoration of his exploit. Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap.

[221] The historians all concur in celebrating this glorious
achievement of Cortés; who, concludes Gomara, “by his single arm saved
the whole army from destruction.” See Crónica, cap. 110.--Also Sahagun,
Hist. de Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 27.--Camargo, Hist. de
Tlascala, MS.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 128.--Oviedo,
Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.--Herrera, Hist. general, dec.
2, lib. 10, cap. 13.--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 89.--The
brief and extremely modest notice of the affair in the general’s own
letter forms a beautiful contrast to the style of panegyric by others:
“In this arduous contest we consumed a great part of the day, until it
pleased God that a person was slain in their ranks of such consequence
that his death put an end to the battle.” Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p.

[222] “Pues á nosotros,” says the doughty Captain Diaz, “no nos
dolian las heridas, ni teniamos hambre, ni sed, sino que parecia que
no auiamos auido, ni passado ningun mal trabajo. Seguímos la vitoria
matando, é hiriendo. Pues nuestros amigos los de Tlascala estavan
hechos vnos leones, y con sus espadas, y montantes, y otras armas
que allí apañáron, hazíanlo muy biē y esforçadamente.” Hist. de la
Conquista, loc. cit.

[223] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, ubi supra.

[224] The belligerent apostle St. James, riding, as usual, his
milk-white courser, came to the rescue on this occasion; an event
commemorated by the dedication of a hermitage to him, in the
neighborhood. (Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala.) Diaz, a skeptic on former
occasions, admits his indubitable appearance on this. (Hist. de la
Conquista, ubi supra.) According to the Tezcucan chronicler, he was
supported by the Virgin and St. Peter. (Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 89.)
Voltaire sensibly remarks, “Ceux qui ont fait les relations de ces
étranges événemens les ont voulu relever par des miracles, qui ne
servent en effet qu’à les rabaisser. Le vrai miracle fut la conduite de
Cortés.” Voltaire, Essai sur les Mœurs, chap. 147.

[225] See Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.--Herrera,
Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 13.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 110.

[226] Is it not the same fountain of which Toribio makes honorable
mention in his topographical account of the country? “Nace en Tlaxcala
una fuente grande á la parte del Norte, cinco leguas de la principal
ciudad; nace en un pueblo que se llama Azumba, que en su lengua quiere
decir _cabeza_, y así es, porque esta fuente es cabeza y principio del
mayor rio de los que entran en la mar del Sur, el cual entra en la mar
por Zacatula.” Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 16.

[227] “El qual pensamiento, y sospecha nos puso en tanta afliccion,
quanta trahiamos viniendo peleando con los de Culúa.” Rel. Seg. de
Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 149.

[228] “Y mas dixo, que tenia esperança en Dios que los hallariamos
buenos, y leales: é que si otra cosa fuesse, lo que Dios no permita,
que nos han de tornar á andar los puños con coraçones fuertes, y braços
vigorosos, y que para esso fuessemos muy apercibidos.” Bernal Diaz,
Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 128.

[229] Called Gualipan by Cortés. (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 149.)
An Aztec would have found it hard to trace the route of his enemies by
their itineraries.

[230] Ibid., ubi supra.--Thoan Cano, however, one of the army, denies
this, and asserts that the natives received them like their children,
and would take no recompense. (See Appendix, No. 11.)

[231] “Y que tubiesse por cierto, que me serian muy ciertos, y
verdaderos Amigos, hasta la muerte.” Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 150.

[232] Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala, MS.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la
Conquista, ubi supra.--“Sobreviniéron las mugeres Tlascaltecas, y todas
puestas de luto y llorando á donde estaban los Españoles, las unas
preguntaban por sus maridos, las otras por sus hijos y hermanos, las
otras por sus parientes que habian ido con los Españoles, y quedaban
todos allá muertos: no es menos, sino que de esto llanto causó gran
sentimiento en el corazon del Capitan, y de todos los Españoles, y él
procuró lo mejor que pudo consolarles por medio de sus Intérpretes.”
Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 28.

[233] “Yo assimismo quedé manco de dos dedos de la mano izquierda”--is
Cortés’ own expression in his letter to the emperor. (Rel. Seg., ap.
Lorenzana, p. 152.) Don Thoan Cano, however, whose sympathies--from
his Indian alliance, perhaps--seem to have been quite as much with the
Aztecs as with his own countrymen, assured Oviedo, who was lamenting
the general’s loss, that he might spare his regrets, since Cortés had
as many fingers on his hand at that hour as when he came from Castile.
(See Appendix, No. 11.) May not the word _manco_, in his letter, be
rendered by “maimed”?

[234] “Hiriéron á Cortés con Honda tan mal, que se le pasmó la Cabeça,
ó porque no le curáron bien, sacándole Cascos, ó por el demasiado
trabajo que pasó.” Gomara, Crónica cap. 110.

[235] Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 13.--Bernal Diaz
Hist. de la Conquista, ubi supra.

[236] Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 150.--Oviedo, Hist. de las
Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 15.--Herrera gives the following inscription,
cut on the bark of a tree by some of these unfortunate Spaniards: “By
this road passed Juan Juste and his wretched companions, who were so
much pinched by hunger that they were obliged to give a solid bar of
gold, weighing eight hundred ducats, for a few cakes of maize bread.”
Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 13.

[237] One is reminded of the similar remonstrance made by Alexander’s
soldiers to him on reaching the Hystaspis,--but attended with more
success; as, indeed, was reasonable. For Alexander continued to advance
from the ambition of indefinite conquest; while Cortés was only bent on
carrying out his original enterprise. What was madness in the one was
heroism in the other.

[238] “Acordándome, que siempre á los osados ayuda la fortuna, y que
eramos Christianos y confiando en la grandíssima Bondad, y Misericordia
de Dios, que no permitiria, que del todo pereciessemos, y se perdiesse
tanta, y tan noble Tierra.” Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 152.

[239] This reply, exclaims Oviedo, showed a man of unconquerable
spirit and high destinies: “Paréceme que la respuesta que á esto les
dió Hernando Cortés, é lo que hizo en ello, fué vna cosa de ánimo
invencible, é de varon de mucha suerte é valor.” Hist. de las Ind.,
MS., lib. 33, cap. 15.

[240] “E no me hable ninguno en otra cosa; y él que desta opinion
no estubiere váyase en buen hora, que mas holgaré de quedar con los
pocos y osados, que en compañía de muchos, ni de ninguno cobarde, ni
desacordado de su propia honra.” Hist. de las Ind., MS., loc. cit.

[241] Oviedo has expanded the harangue of Cortés into several pages,
in the course of which the orator quotes Xenophon, and borrows largely
from the old Jewish history, a style of eloquence savoring much more of
the closet than the camp. Cortés was no pedant, and his soldiers were
no scholars.

[242] For the account of this turbulent transaction, see Bernal Diaz,
Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 129,--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana,
p. 152,--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 15,--Gomara,
Crónica, cap. 112, 113,--Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10,
cap. 14.--Diaz is exceedingly wroth with the chaplain Gomara for not
discriminating between the old soldiers and the levies of Narvaez, whom
he involves equally in the sin of rebellion. The captain’s own version
seems a fair one, and I have followed it, therefore, in the text.

[243] Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 15.--Herrera, Hist.
general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 14.--Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España,
MS., lib. 12, cap. 29.

[244] Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.--Rel. Seg. de
Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 166.--Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España, MS.,
lib. 12, cap. 27, 29.--Or, rather, it was “at the instigation of the
great Devil, the captain of all the devils, called Satan, who regulated
every thing in New Spain by his free will and pleasure, before the
coming of the Spaniards,” according to Father Sahagun, who begins his
chapter with this eloquent exordium.

[245] Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 88.--Sahagun, Hist. de
Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 29.--Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2,
lib. 10, cap. 19.

[246] The proceedings in the Tlascalan senate are reported in more or
less detail, but substantially alike, by Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala,
MS.,--Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 29,--Herrera,
Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 12, cap. 14.--See, also, Bernal Diaz, Hist.
de la Conquista, cap. 129,--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 111.

[247] The Indian name of the capital,--the same as that of the
province,--_Tepejacac_, was corrupted by the Spaniards into _Tepeaca_.
It must be admitted to have gained by the corruption.

[248] “Y como aquello vió Cortés, comunicólo con todos nuestros
Capitanes, y soldados: y fué acordado, que se hiziesse vn auto por
ante Escriuano, que diesse fe de todo lo passado, y que se diessen por
esclauos.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 130.

[249] The chroniclers estimate his army at 50,000 warriors; one-half,
according to Toribio, of the disposable military force of the republic.
“De la cual (Tlascala), como ya tengo dicho, solian salir cien mil
hombres de pelea.” Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 16.

[250] “That night,” says the credulous Herrera, speaking of the carouse
that followed one of their victories, “the Indian allies had a grand
supper of legs and arms; for, besides an incredible number of roasts
on wooden spits, they had fifty thousand pots of stewed human flesh”!
(Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 15.) Such a banquet would not
have smelt savory in the nostrils of Cortés.

[251] “Y allí hiziéron hazer el hierro con que se auian de herrar
los que se tomauan por esclauos, que era una G., que quiere decir
_guerra_.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 130.

[252] Solís, Conquista, lib. 5, cap. 3.

[253] Called by the Spaniards _Huacachula_, and spelt with every
conceivable diversity by the old writers, who may be excused for
stumbling over such a confusion of consonants.

[254] “Y toda la Ciudad está cercada de muy fuerte Muro de cal y
canto, tan alto, como quatro estados por de fuera de la Ciudad: é
por de dentro está casi igual con el suelo. Y por toda la Muralla va
su petril, tan alto, como medio estado, para pelear, tiene quatro
entradas, tan anchas, como uno puede entrar á Caballo.” Rel. Seg., p.

[255] This cavalier’s name is usually spelt Olid by the chroniclers. In
a copy of his own signature I find it written Oli.

[256] “I should have been very glad to have taken some alive,” says
Cortés, “who could have informed me of what was going on in the great
city, and who had been lord there since the death of Montezuma. But I
succeeded in saving only one; and he was more dead than alive.” Rel.
Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 159.

[257] “Y á ver que cosa era aquella, los quales eran mas de treinta mil
Hombres, y la mas lúcida Gente, que hemos visto, porque trahian muchas
Joyas de Oro, y Plata, y Plumajes.” Ibid., p. 160.

[258] “Alcanzando muchos por una Cuesta arriba muy agra; y tal, que
quando acabámos de encumbrar la Sierra, ni los Enemigos, ni nosotros
podiamos ir atras, ni adelante: é assí caiéron muchos de ellos muertos,
y ahogados de la calor, sin herida ninguna.” Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap.
Lorenzana, p. 160.

[259] “Porque demas de la Gente de Guerra, tenian mucho aparato de
Servidores, y fornecimiento para su Real.” Ibid., p. 160.

[260] The story of the capture of this strong post is told very
differently by Captain Diaz. According to him, Olid, when he had
fallen back on Cholula, in consequence of the refusal of his men to
advance under the strong suspicion which they entertained of some
foul practice from their allies, received such a stinging rebuke
from Cortés that he compelled his troops to resume their march, and,
attacking the enemy “with the fury of a tiger,” totally routed them.
(Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 132.) But this version of the affair is
not endorsed, so far as I am aware, by any contemporary. Cortés is
so compendious in his report that it is often necessary to supply
the omissions with the details of other writers. But, where he is
positive in his statements,--unless there be some reason to suspect a
bias,--his practice of writing on the spot, and the peculiar facilities
for information afforded by his position, make him decidedly the best

[261] Cortés, with an eye less sensible to the picturesque than his
great predecessor in the track of discovery, Columbus, was full as
quick in detecting the capabilities of the soil. “Tiene un Valle
redondo muy fertil de Frutas, y Algodon, que en ninguna parte de los
Puertos arriba se hace por la gran frialdad; y allí es Tierra caliente,
y caúsalo, que está muy abrigada de Sierras; todo este Valle se riega
por muy buenas Azequias, que tienen muy bien sacadas, y concertadas.”
Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 164, 165.

[262] So numerous, according to Cortés, that they covered hill and
dale, as far as the eye could reach, mustering more than a hundred and
twenty thousand strong! (Ibid., p. 162.) When the Conquerors attempt
anything like a precise numeration, it will be as safe to substitute “a
multitude,” “a great force,” etc., trusting the amount to the reader’s
own imagination.

[263] For the hostilities with the Indian tribes, noticed in the
preceding pages, see, in addition to the Letter of Cortés, so often
cited, Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 15,--Herrera,
Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 15, 16,--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist.
Chich., MS., cap. 90,--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 130,
132, 134,--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 114-117,--P. Martyr, De Orbe Novo,
dec. 5, cap. 6,--Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala, MS.

[264] “La primera fué de viruela, y comenzó de esta manera. Siendo
Capitan y Governador Hernando Cortés al tiempo que el Capitan Pánfilo
de Narvaez desembarcó en esta tierra, en uno de sus navíos vino un
negro herido de viruelas, la cual enfermedad nunca en esta tierra se
habia visto, y esta sazon estaba esta nueva España en estremo muy llena
de gente.” Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 1, cap. 1.

[265] “Morian como chinches á montones.” (Toribio, Hist. de los Indios,
ubi supra.) “So great was the number of those who died of this disease
that there was no possibility of burying them, and in Mexico the dead
were thrown into the canals, then filled with water, until the air
was poisoned with the stench of putrid bodies.” Sahagun, Hist. de
Nueva-España, lib. 8, cap. 1.

[266] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 136.

[267] Hist. de la Conquista, ubi supra.--Herrera, Hist. general, dec.
2, lib. 10, cap. 19.--Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12,
cap. 39.

[268] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 131.

[269] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 131, 133, 136.--Herrera,
Hist. general, ubi supra.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 154,
167.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 16.

[270] Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 156.

[271] Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. iii. p. 153.

[272] “E creo, como ya á Vuestra Magestad he dicho, que en muy breve
tomará al estado, en que antes yo la tenia, é se restaurarán las
pérdidas pasadas.” Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 167.

[273] “Me pareció, que el mas conveniente nombre para esta dicha
Tierra, era llamarse _la Nueva España del Mar Océano_: y assí en nombre
de Vuestra Magestad se le puso aqueste nombre; humildemente suplico á
Vuestra Alteza lo tenga por bien, y mande, que se nombre assí.” (Ibid.,
p. 169.) The name of “New Spain,” without other addition, had been
before given by Grijalva to Yucatan. _Ante_, Book 2, Chapter 1.

[274] It was dated, “De la Villa Segura de la Frontera de esta
Nueva-España, á treinta de Octubre de mil quinientos veinte años.” But,
in consequence of the loss of the ship intended to bear it, the letter
was not sent till the spring of the following year; leaving the nation
still in ignorance of the fate of the gallant adventurers in Mexico,
and the magnitude of their discoveries.

[275] The state of feeling occasioned by these discoveries may be seen
in the correspondence of Peter Martyr, then residing at the court of
Castile. See, in particular, his epistle, dated March, 1521, to his
noble pupil, the Marquis de Mondejar, in which he dwells with unbounded
satisfaction on all the rich stores of science which the expedition of
Cortés had thrown open to the world. Opus Epistolarum, ep. 771.

[276] This memorial is in that part of my collection made by the
former President of the Spanish Academy, Vargas Ponçe. It is signed
by four hundred and forty-four names; and it is remarkable that this
roll, which includes every other familiar name in the army, should not
contain that of Bernal Diaz del Castillo. It can only be accounted for
by his illness; as he tells us he was confined to his bed by a fever
about this time. Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 134.

[277] Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 179.--Herrera, Hist.
general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 18.--Alonso de Avila went as the bearer
of despatches to St. Domingo. Bernal Diaz, who is not averse, now and
then, to a fling at his commander, says that Cortés was willing to
get rid of this gallant cavalier, because he was too independent and
plain-spoken. Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 136.

[278] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 136.--Herrera, Hist.
general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 19.

[279] Ibid., ubi supra.--“Híçolo,” says Herrera, “i armóle caballero,
al vso de Castilla; i porque lo fuese de Jesu-Christo, le hiço,
bautiçar, i se llamó D. Lorenço Maxiscatzin.”

[280] For an account of the manner in which this article was procured
by Montaño and his doughty companions, see vol. ii., p. 227.

[281] “Ansí se hiciéron trece bergantines en el barrio de Atempa, junto
á una hermita que se llama San Buenaventura, los quales hizo y otro
Martin Lopez uno de los primeros conquistadores, y le ayudó Neguez
Gomez.” Hist. de Tlascala, MS.

[282] Solís dismisses this prince with the remark “that he reigned
but a few days; long enough, however, for his indolence and apathy
to efface the memory of his name among the people.” (Conquista, lib.
4, cap. 16.) Whence the historiographer of the Indies borrowed the
coloring for this portrait I cannot conjecture; certainly not from
the ancient authorities, which uniformly delineate the character
and conduct of the Aztec sovereign in the light represented in the
text. Cortés, who ought to know, describes him “as held to be very
wise and valiant.” Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 166.--See, also,
Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 29,--Herrera, Hist.
general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 19,--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS.,
cap. 88,--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 16,--Gomara,
Crónica, cap. 118.

[283] The reader of Spanish will see that in the version in the text
I have condensed the original, which abounds in the tautology and
repetitions characteristic of the compositions of a rude people. “Señor
nuestro, ya V. M. sabe como es muerto nuestro N.: ya lo habeis puesto
debajo de vuestros pies: ya está en su recogimiento, y es ido por el
camino que todos hemos de ir y á la casa donde hemos de morar, casa
de perpetuas tinieblas, donde ni hay ventana, ni luz alguna: ya está
en el reposo donde nadie le desasosegará.... Todos estos señores y
reyes rigiéron, gobernáron, y gozáron del señorío y dignidad real, y
del trono y sitial del imperio, los cuales ordenáron y concertáron
las cosas de vuestro reino, que sois el universal señor y emperador,
por cuyo albedrio y motivo se rige todo el universo, y que no teneis
necesidad de consejo de ningun otro. Ya estos dichos dejáron la carga
intolerable del gobierno que tragéron sobre sus hombros, y lo dejáron á
su succesor N., el cual por algunos pocos dias tuvo en pie su señorío
y reino, y ahora ya se ha ido en pos de ellos al otro mundo, porque
vos le mandásteis que fuese y le llamásteis, y por haberle descargado
de tan gran carga, y quitado tan gran trabajo, y haberle puesto en paz
y en reposo, está muy obligado á daros gracias. Algunos pocos dias le
lográmos, y ahora para siempre se ausentó de nosotros para nunca mas
volver al mundo.... ¿Quien ordenará y dispondrá las cosas necesarias
al bien del pueblo, señorío y reino? ¿Quien elegirá á los jueces
particulares, que tengan carga de la gente baja por los barrios? ¿Quien
mandará tocar el atambor y pífano para juntar gente para la guerra? ¿Y
quien reunirá y acaudillará á los soldados viejos, y hombres diestros
en la pelea? Señor nuestro y amparador nuestro! tenga por bien V. M.
de elegir, y señalar alguna persona suficiente para que tenga vuestro
trono, y lleve á cuestas la carga pesada del régimen de la república,
regocige y regale á los populares, bien así como la madre regala á
su hijo, poniéndole en su regazo.... O señor nuestro humanísimo! dad
lumbre y resplandor de vuestra mano á esto reino!... Hágase como V. M.
fuere servido en todo, y por todo.” Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España,
lib. 6, cap. 5.

[284] The Spaniards appear to have changed the _Qua_, beginning Aztec
names, into _Gua_, in the same manner as, in the mother country, they
changed the _Wad_ at the beginning of Arabic names into _Guad_. (See
Condé, El Nubiense, Descripcion de España, notas, passim.) The Aztec
_tzin_ was added to the names of sovereigns and great lords, as a
mark of reverence. Thus, Cuitlahua was called Cuitlahuatzin. This
termination, usually dropped by the Spaniards, has been retained from
accident, or perhaps for the sake of euphony, in Guatemozin’s name.

[285] “Mancebo de hasta veynte y cinco años, bien gentil hombre para
ser Indio, y muy esforçado, y se hizo temer de tal manera, que todos
los suyos temblauan dél; y estaua casado con vna hija de Monteçuma,
bien hermosa muger para ser India.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista,
cap. 130.

[286] Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 19.

[287] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 134.

[288] One may call to mind the beautiful invocation which Racine has
put into the mouth of Joad:

    “Venez, cher rejeton d’une vaillante race,
     Remplir vos défenseurs d’une nouvelle audace;
     Venez du diadéme à leurs yeux vous couvrir,
     Et périssez du moins en roí, s’il faut périr.”
              ATHALIE, acte 4, scene 5.

[289] Rel. Tercera de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 183.--Most, if not all,
of the authorities--a thing worthy of note--concur in this estimate of
the Spanish forces.

[290] “Y como sin causa ninguna todos los Naturales de Colúa, que
son los de la gran Ciudad de Temixtitan, y los de todas las otras
Provincias á ellas sujetas, no solamente se habian _rebelado_ contra
Vuestra Magestad.” Ibid., ubi supra.

[291] Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 184.--“Porque demas del
premio, que les davia en el cielo, se les seguirian en esto mundo
grandíssima honra, riquezas inestimables.” Ixtlilxochitl, Hist.
Chichimeca, MS., cap. 91.

[292] “Cosa muy de ver,” says Father Sahagun, without hazarding any
precise number, “en la cantidad y en los aparejos que llevaban.” Hist.
de Nueva-España, lib. 12, cap. 30, MS.

[293] Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 20.

[294] Ibid., ubi supra.

[295] Herrera, Hist. general, loc. cit.

[296] “Que su principal motivo é intencion sea apartar y desarraigar de
las dichas idolatrías á todos los naturales destas partes y reducillos
ó á lo menos desear su salvacion y que sean reducidos al conocimiento
de Dios y de su Santa Fe católica: porque si con otra intencion se
hiciese la dicha guerra seria injusta y todo lo que en ella se oviese
Onoloxio é obligado á restitucion.” Ordenanzas militares, MS.

[297] “E desde ahora protesto en nombre de S. M. que mi principal
intencion é motivo es facer esta guerra é las otras que ficiese por
traer y reducir á los dichos naturales al dicho conocimiento de nuestra
Santa Fe é creencia; y despues por los sozjugar é supeditar debajo
del yugo é dominio imperial é real de su Sacra Magestad, á quien
juridicamente el Señorío de todas estas partes.” Ordenanzas militares,

[298] “Ce n’est qu’en Espagne et en Italie,” says the penetrating
historian of the Italian Republics, “qu’on rencontre cette habitude
vicieuse, absolument inconnue aux peuples protestants, et qu’il ne faut
point confondre avec les grossiers juremens que le peuple en tout pays
mêle à ses discours. Dans tous les accès de colère des peuples du Midi,
ils s’attaquent aux objets de leur culte, ils les menacent, et ils
accablent de paroles outrageantes la Divinité elle-même, le Rédempteur
ou ses saints.” Sismondi, Républiques Italiennes, cap. 126.

[299] Lucio Marineo, who witnessed all the dire effects of this
national propensity at the Castilian court, where he was residing at
this time, breaks out into the following animated apostrophe against
it: “The gambler is he who wishes and conspires the death of his
parents, he who swears falsely by God and by the life of his king and
lord, he who kills his own soul and casts it into hell. What will not
the gambler do, when he is not ashamed to lose his money, his time,
his sleep, his reputation, his honor, and even life itself? So that,
considering how great a number of men are incessantly engaged in play,
the opinion seems to me well founded of those who say that _hell is
filled with gamblers_.” Cosas memorables de Espagña (ed. Sevilla,
1539), fol. 165.

[300] These regulations are reported with much uniformity by Herrera,
Solís, Clavigero, and others, but with such palpable inaccuracy that it
is clear they never could have seen the original instrument. The copy
in my possession was taken from the Muñoz collection. As the document,
though curious and highly interesting, has never been published, I have
given it entire in the Appendix, No. 13.

[301] Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 20.--Bernal Diaz,
Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 127. The former historian states the number
of Indian allies who followed Cortés, at eighty thousand; the latter at
ten thousand! _¿Quien sabe?_

[302] This mountain, which, with its neighbor Popocatepetl, forms the
great barrier--the _Herculis columnæ_--of the Mexican Valley, has
been fancifully likened, from its long dorsal swell, to the back of a
dromedary. (Tudor’s Tour in North America, Let. 22.) It rises far above
the limits of perpetual snow in the tropics, and its huge crest and
sides, enveloped in its silver drapery, form one of the most striking
objects in the magnificent _coup-d’œil_ presented to the inhabitants of
the capital.

[303] “Y prometímos todos de nunca de ella salir, sin Victoria, ó dejar
allí las vidas. Y con esta determinacion ibamos todos tan alegres, como
si fueramos á cosa de mucho placer.” Rel. Terc., ap. Lorenzana, p. 188.

[304] “Y yo torné á rogar, y encomendar mucho á los Españoles, que
hiciessen, como siempre habian hecho, y como se esperaba de sus
Personas; y que nadie no se desmandasse, y que fuessen con mucho
concierto, y órden por su Camino.” Ibid., ubi supra.

[305] “E como la Gente de pie venia algo cansada, y se hacia tarde,
dormímos en una Poblacion, que se dice Coatepeque.... E yo con diez de
Caballo comenzé la Vela, y Ronda de la prima, y hice, que toda la Gente
estubiesse muy apercibida.” Rel. Terc., ap. Lorenzana, pp. 188, 189.

[306] For the preceding pages, giving the account of the march,
besides the letter of Cortés, so often quoted, see Gomara, Crónica,
cap. 121,--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 18,--Bernal
Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 137,--Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala,
MS.,--Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 20,--Ixtlilxochitl,
Relacion de la venida de los Españoles y Principio de la Ley Evangélica
(México, 1829), p. 9.

[307] See _ante_, p. 210.--The skins of those immolated on the
sacrificial stone were a common offering in the Indian temples, and
the mad priests celebrated many of their festivals by publicly dancing
with their own persons enveloped in these disgusting spoils of their
victims. See Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva-España, passim.

[308] Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 187.--Oviedo, Hist. de
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 19.

[309] Tezcuco, a Chichimec name, according to Ixtlilxochitl, signifying
“place of detention or rest,” because the various tribes from the North
halted there on their entrance into Anahuac. Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 10.

[310] “La qual es tan grande, que aunque fueramos doblados los
Españoles, nos pudieramos aposentar bien á placer en ella.” Rel. Terc.,
ap. Lorenzana, p. 191.

[311] “De tal manera que se quemáron todos los Archivos Reales de toda
la Nueva-España, que fué una de las mayores pérdidas que tuvo esta
tierra, porque con esto toda la memoria de sus antiguayas y otras cosas
que eran como Escrituras y recuerdos pereciéron desde este tiempo. La
obra de las Casas era la mejor y la mas artificiosa que hubo en esta
tierra.” Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 91.

[312] The historian Ixtlilxochitl pays the following high tribute to
the character of his royal kinsman, whose name was Tecocol. Strange
that this name is not to be found--with the exception of Sahagun’s
work--in any contemporary record! “Fué el primero que lo fué en
Tezcoco, con harta pena de los Españoles, porque fué nobilísimo y los
quiso mucho. Fué D. Fernando Tecocoltzin muy gentil hombre, alto de
cuerpo y muy blanco, tanto cuanto podia ser cualquier Español por muy
blanco que fuese, y que mostraba su persona y término descender, y
ser del linage que era. Supo la lengua Castellana, y así casi las mas
noches despues de haber cenado, trataban él y Cortés de todo lo que
se debia hacer acerca de las guerras.” Ixtlilxochitl, Venida de los
Españoles, pp. 12, 13.

[313] The accession of Tecocol, as, indeed, his existence, passes
unnoticed by some historians, and by others is mentioned in so
equivocal a manner--his Indian name being omitted--that it is
very doubtful if any other is intended than his younger brother
Ixtlilxochitl. The Tezcucan chronicler bearing this last melodious
name{*} has alone given the particulars of his history. I have followed
him, as, from his personal connections, having had access to the best
sources of information; though, it must be confessed, he is far too
ready to take things on trust, to be always the best authority.

{*} [This name--“which,” says Mr. Tylor, “sticks in the throats of
readers of Prescott”--signifies “vanilla-face,” being compounded of
_ixtli_, face, and _tlilxochitl_, vanilla, the latter being itself a
compound of _tlilli_, black, and _xochitl_, flower.--Buschmann, Uber
die Aztekischen Ortsnamen, S. 681.--K.]

[314] “Él respondió, que era por demas ir contra lo determinado por el
Dios Criador de todas las cosas, pues no sin misterio y secreto juicio
suyo le daba tal Hijo al tiempo y quando se acercaban las profecías de
sus Antepasados, que havíase venir nuevas Gentes á poseer la Tierra,
como eran los Hijos de Quetzalcoatl que aguardaban su venida de la
parte oriental.” Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 69.

[315] “Con que el Rey no supo con que ocacion poderle castigar, porque
lo pareciéron sus razones tan vivas y fundadas que su parte no habia
hecho cosa indebida ni vileza para poder ser castigado, mas tan solo
una ferocidad de ánimo; pronóstico de lo mucho que habia de venir
á saber por las Armas, y así el Rey dijo, que se fuese á la mano.”
Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 69.

[316] Ibid., ubi supra.--Among other anecdotes recorded of the young
prince’s early development is one of his having, when only three years
old, pitched his nurse into a well, as she was drawing water, to punish
her for certain improprieties of conduct of which he had been witness.
But I spare the reader the recital of these astonishing proofs of
precocity, as it is very probable his appetite for the marvellous may
not keep pace with that of the chronicler of Tezcuco.

[317] _Ante_, vol. ii., p. 8.

[318] “Así mismo hizo juntar todos los bastimentos que fuéron
necesarios para sustentar el Exército y Guarniciones de Gente que
andaban en favor de Cortés, y así hizo traer á la Ciudad de Tezcuco el
Maiz que habia en las Troxes y Graneros de las Provincias sugetas al
Reyno de Tezcuco.” Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 91.

[319] “No era de espantar que tuviese este recelo, porque sus Enemigos,
y los de esta Ciudad eran todos Deudos y Parientes mas cercanos,
mas despues el tiempo lo desengañó, y vido la gran lealtad de
Ixtlilxochitl, y de todos.” Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 92.

[320] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 137.

[321] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, ubi supra.--Ixtlilxochitl,
Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 91.

[322] “Los principales, que habian sido en hacerme la Guerra pasada,
eran ya muertos; y que lo pasado fuesse pasado, y que no quisiessen dar
causa á que destruyesse sus Tierras, y Ciudades, porque me pesaba mucho
de ello.” Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 193.

[323] “Muriéron de ellos mas de seis mil ánimas, entre Hombres, y
Mugeres, y Niños; porque los Indios nuestros Amigos, vista la Victoria,
que Dios nos daba, no entendian en otra cosa, sino en matar á diestro y
á siniestro.” Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 195.

[324] “Estándolas quemando, pareció que Nuestro Señor me inspiró, y
trujo á la memoria la Calzada, ó Presa, que habia visto rota en el
Camino, y representóseme el gran daño, que era.” Rel. Terc. de Cortés,
loc. cit.

[325] “Y certifico á Vuestra Magestad, que si aquella noche no
pasaramos el Agua, ó aguardaramos tres horas mas, que ninguno de
nosotros escapara, porque quedabamos cercados de Agua, sin tener paso
por parte ninguna.” Ibid., ubi supra.

[326] The general’s own Letter to the emperor is so full and precise
that it is the very best authority for this event. The story is told
also by Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 138.--Oviedo, Hist.
de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 18,--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS.,
cap. 92,--Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 2, et auct.

[327] Lorenzana, p. 199, nota.

[328] “Porque ciertamente sus antepassados les auian dicho, que auian
de señorear aquellas tierras hombres que vernian con barbas de hazia
donde sale el Sol, y que por las cosas que han visto, eramos nosotros.”
Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 139.

[329] Ibid., ubi supra.--Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p.
200.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 122.--Venida de los Españoles, p. 15.

[330] “Y certifico á Vuestra Magestad, allende de nuestro trabajo y
necesidad, la mayor fatiga, que tenia, era no poder ayudar, y socorrer
á los Indios nuestros Amigos, que por ser Vasallos de Vuestra Magestad,
eran molestados y trabajados de los de Culúa.” Rel. Terc., ap.
Lorenzana, p. 204.

[331] Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 204, 205.--Oviedo, Hist.
de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 19.

[332] Oviedo, in his admiration of his hero, breaks out into the
following panegyric on his policy, prudence, and military science,
which, as he truly predicts, must make his name immortal. It is
a fair specimen of the manner of the sagacious old chronicler.
“Sin dubda alguna la habilidad y esfuerzo, é prudencia de Hernando
Cortés mui dignas son que entre los cavalleros, é gente militar en
nuestros tiempos se tengan en mucha estimacion, y en los venideros
nunca se desacuerden. Por causa suya me acuerdo muchas veces de
aquellas cosas que se escriven del capitan Viriato nuestro Español
y Estremeño; y por Hernando Cortés me ocurren al sentido las muchas
fatigas de aquel espejo de caballería Julio César dictador, como
parece por sus comentarios, é por Suetonio é Plutarco é otros autores
que en conformidad escriviéron los grandes hechos suyos. Pero los
de Hernando Cortés en un Mundo nuevo, é tan apartadas provincias de
Europa, é con tantos trabajos é necesidades é pocas fuerzas, é con
gente tan innumerable, é tan bárbara é bellicosa, é apacentada en
carne humana, é aun habida por excelente é sabroso manjar entre sus
adversarios; é faltándole á él ó á sus mílites el pan é vino é los
otros mantenimientos todos de España, y en tan diferenciadas regiones é
aires é tan desviado é léjos de socorro é de su príncipe, cosas son de
admiracion.” Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 20.

[333] Among other chiefs, to whom Guatemozin applied for assistance in
the perilous state of his affairs, was Tangapan, lord of Michoacán,
an independent and powerful state in the West, which had never been
subdued by the Mexican army. The accounts which the Aztec emperor gave
him, through his ambassadors, of the white men, were so alarming,
according to Ixtlilxochitl, who tells the story, that the king’s sister
voluntarily starved herself to death, from her apprehensions of the
coming of the terrible strangers. Her body was deposited, as usual,
in the vaults reserved for the royal household, until preparations
could be made for its being burnt. On the fourth day, the attendants
who had charge of it were astounded by seeing the corpse exhibit signs
of returning life. The restored princess, recovering her speech,
requested her brother’s presence. On his coming, she implored him not
to think of hurting a hair of the heads of the mysterious visitors.
She had been permitted, she said, to see the fate of the departed in
the next world. The souls of all her ancestors she had beheld tossing
about in unquenchable fire; while those who embraced the faith of the
strangers were in glory. As a proof of the truth of her assertion, she
added that her brother would see, on a great festival near at hand, a
young warrior, armed with a torch brighter than the sun, in one hand,
and a flaming sword, like that worn by the white men, in the other,
passing from east to west over the city. Whether the monarch waited
for the vision, or ever beheld it, is not told us by the historian.
But, relying perhaps on the miracle of her resurrection as quite a
sufficient voucher, he disbanded a very powerful force which he had
assembled on the plains of Avalos for the support of his brother of
Mexico. This narrative, with abundance of supernumerary incidents, not
necessary to repeat, was commemorated in the Michoacán picture-records,
and reported to the historian of Tezcuco himself by the grandson of
Tangapan. (See Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 91.) Whoever
reported it to him, it is not difficult to trace the same pious fingers
in it which made so many wholesome legends for the good of the Church
on the Old Continent, and which now found, in the credulity of the New,
a rich harvest for the same godly work.

[334] “Aquí estuvo preso el sin ventura de Juā luste cō otros muchos
que traia en mi compañía.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 140.

[335] Ibid., ubi supra.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap.
19.--Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 206.

[336] “Y despues de hechos por orden de Cortés, y probados en el rio
que llaman de Tlaxcalla Zahuapan, que se atajó para probarlos los
bergantines, y los tornáron á desbaratar por llevarlos á cuestas sobre
hombros de los de Tlaxcalla á la ciudad de Tetzcuco, donde se echáron
en la laguna, y se armáron de artillería y municion.” Camargo, Hist. de
Tlascala, MS.

[337] Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 207.--Bernal Diaz says
sixteen thousand. (Hist. de la Conquista, ubi supra.) There is a
wonderful agreement between the several Castilian writers as to the
number of forces, the order of march, and the events that occurred on

[338] “Estendíase tanto la Gente, que dende que los primeros comenzáron
á entrar, hasta que los postreros hobiéron acabado, se pasáron mas de
seis horas; sin quebrar el hilo de la Gente.” Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap.
Lorenzana, p. 208.

[339] “Dando vozes y silvos y diziendo: Viua, viua el Emperador,
nuestro Señor, y Castilla, Castilla, y Tlascala, Tlascala.” (Bernal
Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 140.) For the particulars of
Sandoval’s expedition, see, also, Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib.
33, cap. 19.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 124,--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind.,
lib. 4, cap. 84,--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 92,--Herrera,
Hist. general, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 2.

[340] “Que era cosa maravillosa de ver, y assí me parece que es de
oir, llevar trece Fustas diez y ocho leguas por Tierra.” (Rel. Terc.
de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 207.) “En rem Romano populo,” exclaims
Martyr, “quando illustrius res illorum vigebant, non facilem!” De Orbe
Novo, dec. 5, cap. 8.

[341] Two memorable examples of a similar transportation of vessels
across the land are recorded, the one in ancient, the other in modern
history; and both, singularly enough, at the same place, Tarentum,
in Italy. The first occurred at the siege of that city by Hannibal
(see Polybius, lib. 8); the latter some seventeen centuries later, by
the Great Captain, Gonsalvo de Cordova. But the distance they were
transported was inconsiderable. A more analogous example is that of
Balboa, the bold discoverer of the Pacific. He made arrangements to
have four brigantines transported a distance of twenty-two leagues
across the Isthmus of Darien, a stupendous labor, and not entirely
successful, as only two reached their point of destination. (See
Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 2, lib. 2, cap. 11.) This took place
in 1516, in the neighborhood, as it were, of Cortés, and may have
suggested to his enterprising spirit the first idea of his own more
successful, as well as more extensive, undertaking.

[342] “Y ellos me dijéron, que trahian deseo de se ver con los de
Culúa, y que viesse lo que mandaba, que ellos, y aquella Gente venian
con deseos, y voluntad de se vengar, ó morir con nosotros: y yo les di
las gracias, y les dije, que reposassen, y que presto les daria las
manos llenas.” Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 208.

[343] “De lejos comenzáron á gritar, como lo suelen hacer en la Guerra,
que cierto es cosa espantosa oillos.” Rel. Terc., ap. Lorenzana, p. 209.

[344] Ibid., loc. cit.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap.
141.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 20.--Ixtlilxochitl,
Venida de los Españoles, pp. 13, 14.--Idem, Hist. Chich., MS., cap.
92.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 125.

[345] These towns rejoiced in the melodious names of Tenajocoan,
Quauhtitlan, and Azcapozalco. I have constantly endeavored to spare the
reader, in the text, any unnecessary accumulation of Mexican names,
which, as he is aware by this time, have not even brevity to recommend
them. [Alaman, with some justice, remarks that these names appear
unmelodious to an English writer who does not know how to pronounce
them, for the same reason as English names would appear unmelodious to
a Mexican. Conquista de Méjico (trad. de Vega), tom. ii. p. 115.]

[346] [The Hill of Los Remedios. Conquista de Méjico (trad. de Vega),
tom. ii. p. 116.]

[347] They burned this place, according to Cortés, in retaliation of
the injuries inflicted by the inhabitants on their countrymen in the
retreat: “Y en amaneciendo los Indios nuestros Amigos comenzáron á
saquear, y quemar toda la Ciudad, salvo el Aposento donde estabamos,
y pusiéron tanta diligencia, que aun de él se quemó un Quarto; y esto
se hizo, porque quando salímos la otra vez desbaratados de Temixtitan,
pasando por esta Ciudad, los Naturales de ella juntamente con los
de Temixtitan nos hiciéron muy cruel Guerra, y nos matáron muchos
Españoles.” Rel. Terc., ap. Lorenzana, p. 210.

[348] “Luego mandó, que todos se retraxessen; y con el mejor concierto
que pudo, y no bueltas las espaldas, sino los rostros á los contrarios,
pie contra pie, como quien haze represas.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la
Conquista, cap. 141.

[349] “Desta manera se escapó Cortés aquella vez del poder de México, y
quando se vió en tierra firme, dió muchas gracias á Dios.” Ibid., ubi

[350] “Pensais, que hay agora otro Muteczuma, para que haga todo, lo
que quisieredes?” Rel. Terc, de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 211.

[351] “Y peleaban los unos con los otros muy hermosamente.” Rel. Terc.
de Cortés, ubi supra.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 20.

[352] “Y comenzamos á lanzear en ellos, y duró el alcanze cerca de dos
leguas todas llanas, como la palma, que fué muy hermosa cosa.” Rel.
Terc., ap. Lorenzana, p. 212.

[353] For the particulars of this expedition of Cortés, see, besides
his own Commentaries so often quoted, Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS.,
lib. 33, cap. 20,--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 85,--Gomara,
Crónica, cap. 125,--Ixtlilxochitl, Venida de los Españoles, pp. 13,
14,--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 141.

[354] Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 214, 215.--Gomara,
Crónica, cap. 146.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap.
142.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 21.

[355] “Which gardens,” says Cortés, who afterwards passed a day there,
“are the largest, freshest, and most beautiful that were ever seen.
They have a circuit of two leagues, and through the middle flows a very
pleasant stream of water. At distances of two bow-shots are buildings
surrounded by grounds planted with fruit-trees of various kinds, with
many shrubs and odorous flowers. Truly the whole place is wonderful for
its pleasantness and its extent.” (Rel. Terc., ap. Lorenzana, pp. 221,
222.) Bernal Diaz is not less emphatic in his admiration. Hist. de la
Conquista, cap. 142.

[356] The distinguished naturalist Hernandez has frequent occasion to
notice this garden, which furnished him with many specimens for his
great work. It had the good fortune to be preserved after the Conquest,
when particular attention was given to its medicinal plants, for the
use of a great hospital established in the neighborhood. See Clavigero,
Stor. del Messico, tom. ii. p. 153.

[357] “E como esto vió el dicho Alguacil Mayor, y los Españoles,
determináron de morir, ó subilles por fuerza á lo alto del Pueblo, y
con el apellido de _Señor Santiago_, comenzáron á subir.” Rel. Terc.,
ap. Lorenzana, p. 214.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap.

[358] So says the _Conquistador_. (Rel. Terc., ap. Lorenzana, p. 215.)
Diaz, who will allow no one to hyperbolize but himself, says, “For as
long as one might take to say an Ave Maria!” (Hist. de la Conquista,
cap. 142.) Neither was present.

[359] The gallant Captain Diaz, who affects a sobriety in his own
estimates, which often leads him to disparage those of the chaplain
Gomara, says that the force consisted of 20,000 warriors in 2000
canoes. Hist. de la Conquista, loc. cit.

[360] “El Cortés no le quiso escuchar á Sandoual de enojo, creyendo
que por su culpa, ó descuido, recibía mala obra nuestros amigos los de
Chalco; y luego sin mas dilacion, ni le oyr, le mandó bolver.” Ibid.,
ubi supra.

[361] Besides the authorities already quoted for Sandoval’s expedition,
see Gomara, Crónica, cap. 126,--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap.
92,--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 86.

[362] “Ixtlilxochitl procuraba siempre traer á la devocion y amistad de
los Cristianos no tan solamente á los de el Reyno de Tezcuco sino aun
los de las Provincias remotas, rogándoles que todos se procurasen dar
de paz al Capitan Cortés, y que aunque de las guerras pasadas algunos
tuviesen culpa, era tan afable y deseaba tanto la paz que luego al
punto los reciviria en su amistad.” Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS.,
cap. 92.

[363] Cortés speaks of these vessels as coming at the same time, but
does not intimate from what quarter. (Rel. Terc., ap. Lorenzana, p.
216.) Bernal Diaz, who notices only one, says it came from Castile.
(Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 143.) But the old soldier wrote long after
the events he commemorates, and may have confused the true order of
things. It seems hardly probable that so important a reinforcement
should have arrived from Castile, considering that Cortés had yet
received none of the royal patronage, or even sanction, which would
stimulate adventurers in the mother country to enlist under his

[364] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 143.--Oviedo, Hist. de
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 21.--Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 3, lib.
1, cap. 6.

[365] “Viniéron tantos, que en todas las entradas que yo auia ido,
despues que en la Nueua España entré, nunca ví tanta gente de guerra de
nuestros amigos, como aora fuéron en nuestra compañía.” Bernal Diaz,
Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 144.

[366] “Todos descalabrados, y corriendo sangre, y las vanderas rotas, y
ocho muertos.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, ubi supra.

[367] For the assault on the rocks,--the topography of which it is
impossible to verify from the narratives of the Conquerors,--see Bernal
Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 144,--Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap.
Lorenzana, pp. 218-221,--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 127,--Ixtlilxochitl,
Venida de los Españolés, pp. 16, 17,--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS.,
lib. 33, cap. 21.

[368] Cortés, according to Bernal Diaz, ordered the troops who took
possession of the second fortress “not to meddle with a grain of
maize belonging to the besieged.” Diaz, giving this a very liberal
interpretation, proceeded forthwith to load his Indian _tamanes_ with
everything but maize, as fair booty. He was interrupted in his labors,
however, by the captain of the detachment, who gave a more narrow
construction to his general’s orders, much to the dissatisfaction of
the latter, if we may trust the doughty chronicler. Ibid., ubi supra.

[369] “Adonde estaua la huerta que he dicho, que es la mejor que auia
visto en toda mi vida, y ansí lo torno á dezir, que Cortés, y el
Tesorero Alderete, desque entonces la viéron, y passeáron algo de ella,
se admiráron, y dixéron, que mejor cosa de huerta no auian visto en
Castilla.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 144.

[370] This barbarous Indian name is tortured into all possible
variations by the old chroniclers. The town soon received from the
Spaniards the name which it now bears, of Cuernavaca, and by which it
is indicated on modern maps. “Prevalse poi quello di _Cuernabaca_, col
quale è presentemente conosciuta dagli Spagnuoli.” Clavigero, Stor. del
Messico, tom. iii. p. 185, nota.

[371] The stout-hearted Diaz was one of those who performed this
dangerous feat, though his head swam so, as he tells us, that he
scarcely knew how he got on. “Porque de mí digo, que verdaderamete
quando passaua, q lo ví mui peligroso, é malo de passar, y se me
desvanecia la cabeça, y todavía passé yo, y otros veinte, ó treinta
soldados, y muchos Tlascaltecas.” Hist. de la Conquista, ubi supra.

[372] For the preceding account of the capture of Cuernavaca, see
Bernal Diaz, ubi supra,--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33,
cap. 21,--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 93,--Herrera, Hist.
general, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 8,--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4,
cap. 87,--Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 223, 224.

[373] “Una Tierra de Pinales, despoblada, y sin ninguna agua, la qual
y un Puerto pasámos con grandíssimo trabajo, y sin beber: tanto, que
muchos de los Indios que iban con nosotros pereciéron de sed.” Rel.
Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 224.

[374] The city of Cuernavaca was comprehended in the patrimony of the
dukes of Monteleone, descendants and heirs of the _Conquistador_.--The
Spaniards, in their line of march towards the north, did not deviate
far, probably, from the great road which now leads from Mexico to
Acapulco, still exhibiting in this upper portion of it the same
characteristic features as at the period of the Conquest.

[375] Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. iii. p. 187, nota.

[376] “Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 226.--Herrera, Hist.
general, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 8.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib.
33, cap. 21.--This is the general’s own account of the matter. Diaz,
however, says that he was indebted for his rescue to a Castilian, named
Olea, supported by some Tlascalans, and that his preserver received
three severe wounds himself on the occasion. (Hist. de la Conquista,
cap. 145.) This was an affair, however, in which Cortés ought to be
better informed than any one else, and one, moreover, not likely to
slip his memory. The old soldier has probably confounded it with
another and similar adventure of his commander.

[377] “Otro Dia buscó Cortés al Indio, que le socorrió, i muerto, ni
vivo no pareció; i Cortés, por la devocion de San Pedro, juzgo que él
le avia aiudado.” Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 8.

[378] “Por el Agua á una muy grande flota de Canoas, que creo, que
pasaban de dos mil; y en ellas venian mas de doce mil Hombres de
Guerra; é por la Tierra llegó tanta multitud de Gente, que todos los
Campos cubrian.” Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 227.

[379] “Y acordóse que huviesse mui buena vela en todo nuestro Real,
repartida á los puertos, é azequias por donde auian de venir á
desembarcar, y los de acauallo mui á punto toda la noche ensillados
y enfrenados, aguardando en la calçada, y tierra firme, y todos los
Capitanes, y Cortés con ellos, haziendo vela y ronda toda la noche.”
Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 145.

[380] Diaz, who had an easy faith, states, as a fact, that the limbs
of the unfortunate men were cut off _before_ their sacrifice: “Manda
cortar pies y braços á los tristes nuestros compañeros, y las embia
por muchos pueblos nuestros amigos de los [~q] nos auian venido de
paz, y les embia á dezir, que antes que bolvamos á Tezcuco, piensa no
quedará ninguno de nosotros á vida, y con los coraçones y sangre hizo
sacrificio á sus ídolos.” (Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 145.)--This is
not very probable. The Aztecs did not, like our North American Indians,
torture their enemies from mere cruelty, but in conformity to the
prescribed regulations of their ritual. The captive was a religious

[381] “Y al cabo dejándola toda quemada y asolada nos partímos; y
cierto era mucho para ver, porque tenia muchas Casas, y Torres de sus
Ídolos de cal y canto.” Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 228.

[382] For other particulars of the actions at Xochimilco, see Oviedo,
Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 23, cap. 21,--Herrera, Hist. general,
dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 8, 11,--Ixtlilxochitl, Venida de los Españoles,
p. 18,--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 87, 88,--Bernal Diaz,
Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 145.--The Conqueror’s own account of these
engagements has not his usual perspicuity, perhaps from its brevity.
A more than ordinary confusion, indeed, prevails in the different
reports of them, even those proceeding from contemporaries, making it
extremely difficult to collect a probable narrative from authorities
not only contradicting one another, but themselves. It is rare, at
any time, that two accounts of a battle coincide in all respects; the
range of observation for each individual is necessarily so limited and
different, and it is so difficult to make a cool observation at all,
in the hurry and heat of conflict. Any one who has conversed with the
survivors will readily comprehend this, and be apt to conclude that,
wherever he may look for truth, it will hardly be on the battle-ground.

[383] This place, recommended by the exceeding beauty of its situation,
became, after the Conquest, a favorite residence of Cortés, who founded
a nunnery in it, and commanded in his will that his bones should be
removed thither from any part of the world in which he might die: “Que
mis huesos--los lleven á la mi Villa de Coyoacan, y allí les den tierra
en el Monesterio de Monjas, que mando hacer y edificar en la dicha mi
Villa.” Testamento de Hernan Cortés, MS.

[384] This, says Archbishop Lorenzana, was the modern _calzada de la
Piedad_. (Rel. Terc. de Cortés, p. 229, nota.) But it is not easy to
reconcile this with the elaborate chart which M. de Humboldt has given
of the Valley. A short arm, which reached from this city in the days of
the Aztecs, touched obliquely the great southern avenue by which the
Spaniards first entered the capital. As the waters which once entirely
surrounded Mexico have shrunk into their narrow basin, the face of the
country has undergone a great change, and, though the foundations of
the principal causeways are still maintained, it is not always easy to
discern vestiges of the ancient avenues.{*}

{*} La calzada de Iztapalapan,” says Alaman, who has made a minute
study of the topography, “es la de San Antonio Abad, que conduce á San
Augustin de las Cuevas ó Tlalpam.”--K.]

[385] “We came to a wall which they had built across the causeway, and
the foot-soldiers began to attack it; and though it was very thick and
stoutly defended, and ten Spaniards were wounded, at length they gained
it, killing many of the enemy, although the musketeers were without
powder and the bowmen without arrows.” Rel. Terc., ubi supra.

[386] “Y estando en esto viene Cortés, con el qual nos alegrámos,
puesto que él venia muy triste y como lloroso.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de
la Conquista, cap. 145.

[387] “Pues quando viéron la gran ciudad de México, y la laguna, y
tanta multitud de canoas que vnas ivan cargadas con bastimentos, y
otras ivan á pescar, y otras valdías, mucho mas se espantáron, porque
no las auian visto, hasta en aquella saçon: y dixéron, que nuestra
venida en esta Nueua España, que no eran cosas de hombres humanos, sino
que la gran misericordia de Dios era quiē nos sostenia.” Bernal Diaz,
Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 145.

[388] “En este instante suspiró Cortés cō vna muy grā tristeza, mui
mayor [~q] la [~q] de antes traia.” Ibid., loc. cit.

[389] “Y Cortés le dixo, que ya veia quantas vezes auia embiado á
México á rogalles con la paz, y que la tristeza no la tenia por sola
vna cosa, sino en pensar en los grandes trabajos en que nos auiamos
de ver, hasta tornar á señorear; y que con la ayuda de Dios presto lo
porniamos por la obra.” Ibid., ubi supra.

[390] Diaz gives the opening _redondillas_ of the _romance_, which I
have not been able to find in any of the printed collections:

    “En Tacuba está Cortés,
     cō su esquadron esforçado,
     triste estaua, y muy penoso,
     triste, y con gran cuidado,
     la vna mano en la mexilla,
     y la otra en el costado,” etc.

It may be thus done into pretty literal doggerel:

        In Tacuba stood Cortés,
        With many a care opprest,
      Thoughts of the past came o’er him,
        And he bowed his haughty crest.
      One hand upon his cheek he laid,
        The other on his breast,
    While his valiant squadrons round him, etc.

[391] Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 15.--Relacion de
Alonso de Verzara, Escrivano Público de Vera Cruz, MS., dec. 21.

[392] “Haziā Alguazil mayor é Alférez, y Alcaldes, y Regidores, y
Contador, y Tesorero, y Ueedor, y otras cosas deste arte, y aun
repartido entre ellos nuestros bienes, y cauallos.” Bernal Diaz, Hist.
de la Conquista, cap. 146.

[393] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 146.--Oviedo, Hist. de
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 48.--Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 3, lib.
1, cap. 1.

[394] Herrera, Hist. general, ubi supra.

[395] So says M. de Barante in his picturesque _rifacimento_ of the
ancient chronicles: “Les procès du connétable et de monsieur de
Némours, bien d’autres révélations, avaient fait éclater leur mauvais
vouloir, ou du moins leur peu de fidélité pour le roi; ils ne pouvaient
donc douter qu’il désirât ou complotât leur ruine.” Histoire des Ducs
de Bourgogne (Paris, 1838), tom. xi. p. 169.

[396] “Y desde allí adelante, aunque mostraua gran voluntad á las
personas que eran en la cōjuraciō, siempre se rezelaua dellos.” Bernal
Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 146.

[397] Ixtlilxochitl, Venida de los Españoles, p. 19.--Rel. Terc.
de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 234.--“Obra grandíssima,” exclaims
the Conqueror, “y mucho para ver.”--“Fuéron en guarde de estos
bergantines,” adds Camargo, “mas de diez mil hombres de guerra con los
maestros dellas, hasta que los armáron y echáron en el agua y laguna
de Méjico, que fué obra de mucho efecto para tomarse Méjico.” Hist. de
Tlascala, MS.

[398] The brigantines were still to be seen, preserved, as precious
memorials, long after the conquest, in the dock-yards of Mexico.
Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 1, cap. 1.

[399] “Dada la señal, soltó la Presa, fuéron saliendo los Vergantines,
sin tocar vno á otro, i apartándose por la Laguna, desplegáron las
Vanderas, tocó la Música, disparáron su Artillería, respondió la del
Exército, así de Castellanos, como de Indios.” Herrera, Hist. general,
dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 6.

[400] Ibid., ubi supra.--Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p.
234.--Ixtlilxochitl, Venida de los Españoles, p. 19.--Oviedo, Hist.
de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 48.--The last-mentioned chronicler
indulges in no slight swell of exultation at this achievement of his
hero, which in his opinion throws into shade the boasted exploits of
the great Sesostris. “Otras muchas é notables cosas, cuenta este actor
que he dicho de aqueste Rey Sesori, en que no me quiero detener, ni
las tengo en tanto como esta tranchea, ó canja que es dicho, y los
Vergantines de que tratamos, los quales diéron ocasion á que se oviesen
mayores Thesoros é Provincias, é Reynos, que no tuvo Sesori, para la
corona Real de Castilla por la industria de Hernando Cortés.” Ibid.,
lib. 33, cap. 22.

[401] Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 234.

[402] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 147.

[403] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, ubi supra.--_Hidalguía_,
besides its legal privileges, brought with it some fanciful ones to its
possessor; if, indeed, it be considered a privilege to have excluded
him from many a humble, but honest, calling, by which the poor man
might have gained his bread. (For an amusing account of these, see
Doblado’s Letters from Spain, let. 2.) In no country has the _poor
gentleman_ afforded so rich a theme for the satirist, as the writings
of Le Sage, Cervantes, and Lope de Vega abundantly show.

[404] “Y los Capitanes de Tascaltecal con toda su gente, muy lúcida,
y bien armada, ... y segun la cuenta, que los Capitanes nos diéron,
pasaban de cinquenta mil Hombres de Guerra.” (Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap.
Lorenzana, p. 236.) “I toda la Gente,” adds Herrera, “tardó tres Dias
en entrar, segun en sus Memoriales dice Alonso de Ojeda, ni con ser
Tezcuco tan gran Ciudad, cabian en ella.” Hist. general, dec. 3, lib.
1, cap. 13.

[405] “Y sus vaderas tēdidas, y el aue blāca [~q] tienen por armas,
[~q] parece águila, con sus alas tendidas.” (Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la
Conquista, cap. 149.) A spread eagle of gold, Clavigero considers as
the arms of the republic. (Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. ii. p.
145.) But, as Bernal Diaz speaks of it as “white,” it may have been the
white heron, which belonged to the house of Xicotencatl.

[406] The precise amount of each division, as given by Cortés, was,--in
that of Alvarado, 30 horse, 168 Castilian infantry, and 25,000
Tlascalans; in that of Olid, 33 horse, 178 infantry, 20,000 Tlascalans;
and in Sandoval’s, 24 horse, 167 infantry, 30,000 Indians. (Rel. Terc.,
ap. Lorenzana, p. 236.) Diaz reduces the number of native troops to
one-third. Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 150.

[407] “Que se alegrassen, y esforzassen mucho, pues que veian, que
nuestro Señor nos encaminaba para haber victoria de nuestros Enemigos:
porque bien sabian, que quando habiamos entrado en Tesaico, no habiamos
trahido mas de quarenta de Caballo, y que Dios nos habia socorrido
mejor, que lo habiamos pensado.” Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana,
p. 235.

[408] Oviedo expands what he nevertheless calls the “brebe é
substancial oracion” of Cortés into treble the length of it as found in
the general’s own pages; in which he is imitated by most of the other
chroniclers. Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 22.

[409] “Y con estas últimas palabras cesó; y todos respondiéron sin
discrepancia, é á una voce dicentes: Sirvanse Dios y el Emperador
nuestro Señor de tan buen capitan, y de nosotros, que así lo harémos
todos como quien somos, y como se debe esperar de buenos Españoles, y
con tanta voluntad, y deseo, dicho que parecia que cada hora les era
perder vn año de tiempo por estar ya á las manos con los Enemigos.”
Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., ubi supra.

[410] According to Diaz, the desire to possess himself of the lands
of his comrade Chichemecatl, who remained with the army (Hist. de
la Conquista, cap. 150); according to Herrera, it was an amour that
carried him home. (Hist. general, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 17.) Both and
all agree on the chief’s aversion to the Spaniards and to the war.

[411] “Y la respuesta que le embió á dezir fué, que si el viejo de su
padre, y Masse Escaci le huvieran creido, que no se huvieran señoreado
tanto dellos, que les haze hazer todo lo que quiere: _y por no gastar
mas palabras, dixo, que no queria venir_.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la
Conquista, cap. 150.

[412] So says Herrera, who had in his possession the memorial of Ojeda,
one of the Spaniards employed to apprehend the chieftain. (Hist.
general, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 17, and Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib.
4, cap. 90.) Bernal Diaz, on the other hand, says that the Tlascalan
chief was taken and executed on the road. (Hist. de la Conquista,
cap. 150.) But the latter chronicler was probably absent at the time
with Alvarado’s division, in which he served. Solís, however, prefers
his testimony, on the ground that Cortés would not have hazarded the
execution of Xicotencatl before the eyes of his own troops. (Conquista,
lib. 5, cap. 19.) But the Tlascalans were already well on their way
towards Tacuba. A very few only could have remained in Tezcuco, which
was occupied by the citizens and the Castilian army,--neither of them
very likely to interfere in the prisoner’s behalf. His execution there
would be an easier matter than in the territory of Tlascala, which he
had probably reached before his apprehension.

[413] Herrera, Hist. general, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 17.--Torquemada,
Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 90.

[414] “Y sobre ello ya auiamos echado mano á las armas los de nuestra
Capitanía contra los de Christóual de Oli, y aun los Capitanes
desafiados.” Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 150.{*}

{*} [As they were approaching the town, Olid sent a squad of soldiers
ahead to secure quarters. When Alvarado entered he found every house in
the place already decorated with the green branch upon its roof, which
indicated that it was already occupied. According to Bancroft, Alvarado
and Olid began their march on the 22d of May. He insists that Prescott
was misled by an error in Cortés, Cartas, 208.--M.]

[415] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 150.--Rel. Terc. de
Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 237.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 130.--Oviedo,
Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 22.

[416] The Tepanec capital, shorn of its ancient splendors, is now only
interesting from its historic associations. “These plains of Tacuba,”
says the spirited author of “Life in Mexico,” “once the theatre of
fierce and bloody conflicts, and where, during the siege of Mexico,
Alvarado ‘of the leap’ fixed his camp, now present a very tranquil
scene. Tacuba itself is now a small village of mud huts, with some fine
old trees, a very few old ruined houses, a ruined church, and some
traces of a building, which ---- assured us had been the palace of
their last monarch; whilst others declare it to have been the site of
the Spanish encampment.” Vol. i. let. 13.

[417] Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 237-239.--Ixtlilxochitl,
Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 94.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib.
33, cap. 22.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 50.--Gomara,
Crónica, cap. 130.--Clavigero settles this date at the day of Corpus
Christi, May 30th. (Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. iii. p. 196.)
But the Spaniards left Tezcuco May 10th, according to Cortés; and three
weeks could not have intervened between their departure and their
occupation of Cojohuacan. Clavigero disposes of this difficulty, it is
true, by dating the beginning of their march on the 20th instead of the
10th of May; following the chronology of Herrera, instead of that of
Cortés. Surely the general is the better authority of the two.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "History of the Conquest of Mexico; vol. 3/4" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.