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belonging uninterruptedly to Muteczuma, and where, by that sovereign's orders, the Spaniards would find everything they desired. The Cempoalan chiefs Teuchios, Manexios, Tamaios, and the chiefs of Zacatamina who commanded a thousand warriors, agreed in advising Cortes in the contrary sense, warning him to place no faith in the subjects of Muteczuma; if he allowed himself to be guided by them, they would lead him into traps and through passes already converted into ambuscades. They advised him to be on his guard against the perfidy of Muteczuma's subjects, and proposed to lead him through the territory of the Tascaltecans, which he would find open.
Cortes accepted the counsel of the chiefs of Cempoal and Zacatamina and took the road through the territory of Tascalteca.
Surrounded by his horsemen, he rode at the head of the column. To avoid the possibility of the main body being surprised, he sent two scouts ahead to reconnoitre the country and to report anything that attracted their attention. The two horsemen, riding about two leagues in advance, perceived from the summit of a lofty hill some armed men concealed in the plain below. This plain belonged to the state of Tascalteca. As soon as they saw the horses, the Tascaltecans, frightened by their unexpected and novel aspect, and convinced that the men and the horses were one sole animal, took to flight or at least feigned so to do. The Spaniards made amicable signs, calling back the fugitives by gestures, and movements of their arms. About fifteen of them stopped, but the others were placed in ambush. The two scouts then urged their comrades to hurry. A short time afterwards about four thousand Tascaltecans emerged from their hiding-places. They were armed, and attacked the Spaniards, killing the two horses with arrows in the twinkling of an eye. The foot-soldiers advanced to attack the enemy who, surprised by the arrows and the musketballs, beat a retreat. Many of them were killed while the Spaniards, on the contrary, lost nobody neither killed or wounded. The following day Cortes received envoys, deputed to negotiate for peace. They brought with them two of the messengers for whom he had so long waited. The Tascaltecans asked pardon for the attack, giving as an excuse that that day they had had with them foreign soldiers whom they could not control, and that the attack had taken place in defiance of orders and of their rulers. They were also ready to pay the value of the horses and all other damages. Cortes accepted the excuses, and later moved forward a distance of three miles, establishing his camp on the river bank; he set a night-watch, for he distrusted the barbarians. At daybreak he went to a neighbouring farm, where he found the last two of the messengers he had sent to sound the opinions of the natives. These messengers had been captured and bound, but they had managed during the night to break their bonds. It had been decided to sacrifice them, so they said.
During this halt, a thousand warriors suddenly appeared, yelling fiercely and throwing javelins and all sorts of projectiles at the Spaniards from a distance. Cortes tried to attract them by amicable means, but it was useless. He told them through his interpretess to cease their attack, but the more mildness he displayed, the more their insolence increased. Finally they retreated, and the Spaniards pursued, only to find themselves gradually drawn into an ambuscade where, according to the account of Cortes, more than a hundred thousand warriors were concealed. Executing a turning movement, the barbarians surrounded them, and the fight which followed lasted from morning till evening, and was undecisive. The people of Cempoal, Zacatamina, Ixtacmastitan, and the other allies of Cortes, displayed great bravery. In the first place they were forced to do so, for they were
surrounded by Tascaltecans, with their retreat cut off; their only safety lay in despair, for had they been defeated their bodies would have furnished the banqueting tables of the Tascaltecans; the vanquished being devoured by the victors. The Tascaltecans' mouths had watered when they learned that strangers had invaded their territory, for they had confidence in their own superior numbers, and counted upon banquets. Their expectations were not realised.
Cortes possessed six field-pieces, as many fusiliers, about fifty arqueousiers, and thirteen horsemen; all these engines of war being unknown to the barbarians. He ended by putting a crowd of his enemies to flight. Nevertheless he was disturbed, and passed the whole night without sleep in a rustic chapel consecrated to idols. The next morning at daybreak, he crossed the plain with all his horsemen, a hundred foot-soldiers, and all the allies from Ixtacmastitan. That fortified place had opened its gates to him and had furnished him a contingent of three hundred soldiers against Muteczuma. He had in addition five hundred allies from Cempoal and neighbouring cities. Leaving the remainder of his force to guard the camp and the baggage, he proceeded with the cavalry to scour the plain, burnt five villages, and pillaged every place he entered; upon his return to camp he brought in five hundred prisoners.
At the first glimmer of dawn, the following morning an immense multitude, which seemed to cover the entire country, fell upon the Spanish camp; their number has been estimated at fifty thousand men. A furious battle was fought in the entrenchments, which, it is said, lasted for four hours, and during which our men were exposed to immense dangers. The barbarians drew off, having failed in their undertaking but covering their retreat. They were by no means timid sheep, for every one was as brave as a lion. As soon as the enemy retreated, Cortes marched against the traitors, who were already scattered in their villages. Like a tigress with young he ravaged, destroyed, captured, exterminated everything he encountered, and finally approached the town, estimated to consist of three thousand and more houses. It was put to fire and sword; after which the natives were seized with fright, and their chiefs sent messengers to Cortes, asking pardon for what had happened and promising for the future to obey his orders and to recognise the authority of the king of whom he was the representative.
As a gauge of their intentions they offered him presents which have an honorary value amongst them, such as aigrettes, plumes, and admirably made war harness. They likewise sent him provisions, bread and, as is their custom, a quantity of chickens. We have already repeatedly stated and Your Beatitude is aware, that in this country they fatten birds, which are larger than our peacocks, and as delicate in flavour, just as we do chickens.
AFTER listening to what the messengers said, Cortes was not chary of his condemnation of their masters, but nevertheless he declared himself ready to pardon their crimes and admit them to his friendship, on condition that they should for the future conduct themselves as faithful subjects of the King of all the Spains.
The following day fifty nobles appeared before him unarmed, and under pretext of settling the conditions of their alliance, studied the approaches to the camp. Cortes noticed their spying manner and the want of frankness that characterised them. He suspected that they had come to study the situation of the camp. Taking one of these messengers aside, he had him questioned by a confidential interpreter, urging him to confess the truth. Flatteries and bribes prevailed, and the messenger revealed the plot. He declared that Quesitangal,' the chief of the province, was hidden with numerous soldiers, in an ambuscade, intending to surprise the camp on the following night. Under pretext of treating for peace, he had sent the messengers to spy out the best place to attack, or the easiest approach to the huts of boughs the Spaniards had built as a protection against the night
1 Xicotencal the younger, son of one of the Regents of Tlaxcala bearing the same name, was commander-in-chief of the forces of the Republic. Cortes spelled his name, Sintegal, while Bernal de Diaz came nearer to a correct spelling, writing the name XicoUnga.