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parallel to it and were it not so well authenticated by the most unquestionable evidence, the whole narration would appear so wild and extravagant, as to go beyond the bounds of that verisimilitude which must be preserved even in fictitious publications.
Montezuma was received at the Spanish quarters with great ceremonious respect. He was attended by his own domestics. His principal officers had free access to him, and carried on all the functions of government, as if he had been at perfect liberty. He was, nevertheless, watched with all the scrupulous vigilance requisite in guarding such an important prize: from captive princes, the hour of humiliation and suffering is not far distant. Qualpopoca and his son, with five of the principal officers who had served under him, were brought prisoners to the capital, by order of Montezuma, and given up to Cortes ; who after undergoing the form of trial by a Spanish court martial, and though they acted as brave and loyal subjects in obeying the orders of their sovereign, in opposing the invaders of their country, they were condemned to be burned alive.
The unhappy victims were instantly led forth. The pile on which they were laid was composed of the weapons collected in the royal magazine for the public defence. An innumerable multitude of Mexicans, beheld in silent astonishment, this fresh insult offered to the majesty of their empire: an officer of distinction committed to the flames, by the authority of strangers, for having done what he owed in duty to his sovereign: and the arms provided by their ancestors for avenging such wrongs, consumed before their eyes.
Cortes convinced that Qualpopoca would not have ventured to attack Escalante without orders from his master, was not satisfied with the punishment of the instrument, while the author escaped with impunity. Just before Qualpopoca was led out to suffer, Cortes entered the apartment of Montezuma, followed by some of his officers, and a soldier carrying a pair of fetters; and approaching the monarch with a stern countenance, told him, that the persons who were now going to suffer, had charged him as the cause of the outrage that was committed; and that it was necessary that he likewise should make atonement for that guilt; without waiting for a reply, he commanded his soldiers to clap the fetters on his legs. The orders were instantly obeyed.
The monarch who had been accustomed to have his person acknowledged as sacred and inviolable, considered this profanation of it as a prelude to his death; broke out into loud lamentanions and complaints. His attendants fell at his feet, and bathed them with their tears, bearing up the fetters in their hands with officious tenderdess, to lighten their pressure.
When Cortes returned from the execution, he appeared with a cheerful countenance; and ordered the fetters to be taken off. As Montezuma's spirits had sunk with unmanly dejection, they now rose to indecent exultation, and he passed at once from the an guish of despair, to transports of joy and fondness, towards his de
liverers. The spirits of Montezuma were now subdued. Cortes availed himself to the utmost of the power he had acquired over him.
Several Spaniards were sent in company with some Mexicans of distinction, as guides and protectors, to explore the different parts of the empire. While they were thus employed, Cortes, in the name of Montezuma degraded some of the principal officers, whose abilities and independent spirit excited his jealousy; and substituted in their places, others more obsequious to his will.
There was yet wanting one thing to complete his security: he wished to have command of the lake, that he might ensure a re treat, should the Mexicans take arms against him. This Monte zuma enabled him to accomplish. Cortes had given him a pompous description of those floating palaces that moved on the water, without the aid of oars. Having thus excited Montezuma's curiosity, and under pretence of gratifying him, he persuaded the monarch to appoint some of his subjects to convey his naval stores from Vera Cruz to Mexico, and employed others in cutting tim ber: with this assistance, the Spanish carpenters soon completed two brigantines which were considered by Cortes as a certain resource, if a retreat should be necessary.
This tame submission to his will, encouraged Cortes to put it to a proof still more trying. He urged Montezuma to acknowledge himself a vassal of the king of Castile, and to subject his dominions to the payment of an annual tribute. With this requisition Montezuma was so obsequious as to comply. The chief men of the empire were called together; he, with great solemnity, reminded them of the traditions and prophecies which led them to expect the arrival of a people, sprung from the same stock as themselves, in order to take the supreme power into their own hands; he declared his belief, that the Spaniards were this promised race; and therefore he acknowledged their monarch as possessing the right to govern the Mexican empire; that he would lay his crown at his feet and obey him as a tributary. While Montezuma uttered these words, tears and groans interrupted his utterance; he still retained such a sense of dignity, as to feel that pang which touches the heart of princes, when constrained to resign independent power. The assembly were struck with astonishment, and a sullen murmur indicated their surprize and indignation; and threatened some violent eruption of rage to be near at hand. Cortes foreseeing this, seasonably interposed to prevent it, by declaring that his master had no intention to deprive Montezuma of his authority or royal dignity; or to make any alteration in the laws or constitution of the Mexican empire; this assurance, and the monarch's example, together with their dread of the Spanish power, extorted a reluctant consent from the assembly.
This act of submission and homage, was executed with all the formalities which the Spaniards were pleased to prescribe. Montezuma the instigation of Cortes, accompanied this submission
with a magnificent present to his new sovereign; and his subjects stimulated by his example, brought in very liberal contributions.
But however pliant Montezuma might be in other matters, with respect to his religion, he was inflexible. Though Cortes often urged him with the zeal of a missionary to renounce his false gods, and embrace the catholic faith, he always rejected the proposition with horror. Cortes was so enraged at his obstinacy, that in a transport of zeal he led out his soldiers to throw down the idols in the great temple by force. But the priests and people taking arms in defence of their altars, the zeal of Cortes was overruled by prudence, and induced him to desist from his rash attempt, after dislodging the idols from one of the shrines, and placing the image of the Virgin Mary in its place."
From that moment the Mexicans began to meditate how they might expel or destroy the Spaniards, and believed themselves called upon to avenge the insult offered to their gods. The priests and leading men held frequent consultations with Montezuma for this purpose. But as it might prove fatal to the captive monarch to attempt either the one or the other by violence, he was willing to try more gentle means. Having called Cortes into his presence, he observed that now, as all the purposes of his embassy were fully accomplished, the gods had declared their will, and the people were unanimous in their desire, that he and his followers should instantly depart out of the empire. With this he required them to comply, or unavoidable destruction would fall suddenly on their heads.
The tenor of this unexpected requisition, as well as the determined tone in which it was uttered, left Cortes no room to doubt, that it was the result of some deep laid scheme concerted between Montezuma and his subjects. He coolly replied, he had already begun to prepare for returning to his own country; but as the vessels in which he came were destroyed, some time was requisite for building other ships.
This appearing reasonable, a number of Mexicans were sent to Vera Cruz, to cut down timber; and some Spanish carpenters were appointed to superintend the work. Cortes flattered himself that during this interval, he should receive such reinforce ments, as would enable him to despise every danger.
Nine months had now elapsed since Porto-carrero and Montigo had sailed with his despatches to Spain; he daily expected their return with a confirmation of his authority from the king: without this, his condition was insecure, and precarious.
While he remained in this suspense, uncertain with respect to the future, and by the late declaration of Montezuma, oppressed` with a new addition of cares, a Mexican courier arriving informed him of some ships having appeared on the coast. Cortes elated with this intelligence imagined they were reinforcements arrived to strengthen and forward his conquests; and that the completion of all his wishes and hopes was at hand: he imparted
the glad tidings to his companions, who received them with transports of mutual congratulation. Their joy was short; a message from Sandoval, whom Cortes had made governor of Vera Cruz in the room of Escalante brought certain intelligence that the armament was fitted out by Velasquez governor of Cuba, and threatened them with immediate destruction.
The armament consisted of eighteen ships, which had on board fourscore horsemen, eight hundred foot soldiers, of which eighty were musqueteers, and a hundred and twenty cross-bow men, together with a train of twelve pieces of cannon. This force was commanded by Pamphilo de Narvaez, with instructions to seize Cortes, and his principal officers, and send them prisoners to Cuba, and then to complete the conquest of the country in his
Narvaez had landed his men without opposition, near St. Juan de Ullua. Three soldiers whom Cortes had sent to search for mines, deserted and joined Narvaez; by them he was informed of the progress and situation of Cortes; and as they had learned the Mexican language, were the more acceptable, as they would serve as interpreters. Narvaez having sent a summons to the governor of Vera Cruz to surrender, Guavara a priest, whom he employed in that service, made the demand with such insolence, that Sandoval an officer of high spirit, and zealously attached to Cortes, instead of complying with his terms, seized him, and his officers, and sent them prisoners in chains to Mexico. Cortes received them not as enemies, but as friends, condemning the severity of Sandoval, set them immediately at liberty.
By this well-timed clemency, seconded by caresses and presents, he gained their confidence, and drew from them such particulars concerning the force and intentions of Narvaez, as gave a view of the impending danger, in its full extent.
He had now to take the field against an army in courage and martial discipline equal to his own; in number far superior, commanded by an officer of known bravery.
Narvaez more solicitous to gratify the resentment of Velasquez, than attentive to the honour and interest of his country, had represented Cortes and his followers to the natives, as fugitives and rebels, who had unjustly invaded the Mexican empire; and that his sole object was to punish the Spaniards, and rescue them from their oppression. The same unfavourable representations had been conveyed to Montezuma.
Animated with the prospect of being set free from subjection to strangers, the provinces began openly to revolt from Cortes; and regarded Narvaez as their deliverer. Montezuma kept up a secret intercourse with the new commander, and courted his favour.
Such were the dangers and difficulties which presented themselves to the view of Cortes. No situation could be more trying. If he should abandon the capital, and set the captive monarch at liberty, and march out to meet the enemy, he must at once give
up all the fruits of his toils and victory, and relinquish advantages which could not be recovered without infinite danger. The natural haughtiness of Narvaez precluded all hopes of succeeding by conciliatory measures.
After revolving every scheme with deep attention, Cortes fixed on that which was the most hazardous, but if successful, would be most honourable aud beneficial to himself and his country. With decisive intrepidity, he, in this desperate situation, determined to make one bold effort for victory under every disadvantage, rather than sacrifice his own conquests, and the Spanish interest in Mexico. But as it would have been indecent and impolitic to advance in arms against his countrymen, without first attempting to adjust matters by an amicable negociation: he em. ployed Olmedo, his chaplain, to whose character the function was well suited, and who was possessed with such prudence and address as qualified him for secret intrigues, in which Cortes placed his chief confidence.
All terms of accommodation were rejected with scorn by Narvaez, who, by a public proclamation, denounced Cortes and his companions rebels and enemies to their country. The intrigues of Olmedo were more successful, he had letters to deliver from Cortes and his officers, their ancient friends and companions; these were accompanied with presents of rings and chains of gold, which inspired those needy adventurers with high ideas of the wealth that he had acquired, and envy of the good fortune of those who were engaged in his service. They declared for an immediate accommodation with Cortes; but Narvaez upon discovering the inclination of the army towards an accommodation, irritated his violent temper almost to madness. In a transport of rage, he set a price upon the head of Cortes, and his principal officers, and having learned that he was now advanced within a league of Zempoalla with his small body of men, he considered this such an insult, as merited immediate chastisement, and marched out with all his troops to offer him battle.
Cortes was a leader of greater abilities and experience than to fight an enemy so far superior in number on equal ground. Hav ing stationed his army on the opposite bank of the river de Cano. as, where he was safe from any attack, he beheld the approach of the enemy without concern, and disregarded this vain bravado. The wet season had set in, and the rain had poured down during a great part of the day, with a violence peculiar to the Torrid Zone.
The followers of Narvaez, unaccustomed to the severity of a military life, murmured at being thus fruitlessly exposed this, together with the contempt he had of his enemy, induced him to permit them to retire to Zempoalla, The very circumstance that made them quit the field, encouraged Cortes to form a scheme by which he hoped at once to terminate the war. His hardy veterans, though standing under the torrents, without a single tent, or any shelter to cover them, were so far from repinVOL. I.