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by Juan Ponce, it would correspond to the string of the bow. Garay thinks these regions not worth exploring, for there is little gold there, and what there is, is of poor quality. He wished to establish a colony not far from the one founded by Cortes, under the name of Vera Cruz, but the latter opposed this. He even founded one on the site chosen by Garay, and called it Almeria, after the port of that name in the kingdom of Granada, captured from the Moors a few years ago after a brilliant engagement.
When affairs were in order, Cortes, after taking counsel, resumed his course. Four days' march from Cempoal he entered a province called Sincuchinalara. 1 There is only one fortified town in this country, and it is built upon the slope of a small mountain, both art and nature contributing to its defence. There is but one path by which it is reached, and this consists of two removable ladders, very difficult to climb. It is the residence of the cacique of that province, who is a vassal of Muteczuma. There are numerous villages and a number of farms in the valley, each group being composed of three or four hundred houses, all resembling country houses. Upon the approach of danger the nobles would take refuge with the cacique. The latter received the Spaniards kindly in his fortress, and extended generous hospitality, saying that he was authorised by Muteczuma to accord them this reception. Cortes informed him that he would report this to Muteczuma and would thank him, for in conformity with orders he had received, he proposed to visit the sovereign.
After leaving this cacique, Cortes approached a very lofty mountain, which marked the limits of the province. He says that he never saw a higher mountain in Spain, and those who returned from that country confirmed this report.1 When his men crossed it, although it was the month of August, they suffered extreme cold, in consequence of the frozen snows and the perpetual ice. On the other slope of the mountain lies a plain of which the capital is Texunaco. The country is very fertile, and there are villages and cultivated fields. All the inhabitants are subject to Muteczuma. After leaving this valley, the Spaniards marched two days through a country which the absence of water rendered arid and unhabited. The men suffered from cold and hunger. These privations and a sudden thunderstorm, accompanied by lightning, killed several of them. They next ascended a less rugged mountain, upon whose summit stood a temple consecrated to the idols. Before the doors of this temple an enormous quantity of wood was piled up; for at certain times of the year the inhabitants offer these piles of wood, together with victims, to the gods thinking thereby to appease their wrath.
1 The name of the town and province was Xicochimilco, the former being identified with probability as the present town of Naulinco.
The Spaniards commonly call mountain passes puertas, so they gave to this pass the name of Puerta de la Lena. Descending this mountain they found another fertile and inhabited valley, whose cacique was called Cacatamino.' His residence is built of stones, and is large, divided as are our houses into courts and sleeping chambers. It stands on the shady banks of a stream which flows through the valley. Cacatamino received the Spaniards cordially. When asked if he was a vassal of Muteczuma he replied, "And who is not, since Muteczuma is master of the universe?" Nevertheless when asked what he thought of our sovereign, he admitted that he must be still more powerful since Muteczuma himself obeyed him. They asked if he had gold, and he said he had, but would give it to no one without Muteczuma's authorisation. The Spaniards did not venture to use force, for they feared to awaken Muteczuma's apprehensions.
'The march was through the pass now called Paso del Obispo.
* The cacique's name was Olintetl; he was an enormously fat man who shook like a jelly when he walked; the Spaniards promptly nicknamed him the "trembler." The name of the valley was Caltanmic and that of its principal town, Xocotla.
The neighbouring caciques, who heard of his arrival, came to visit Cortes, each bringing him a golden necklace of light weight and impure metal. One of these caciques lived four leagues up, and the other two leagues down the river. Both banks of this stream are bordered with houses, separated from one another by gardens and cultivated lands. The palace of the cacique who lived up the river, is less remarkable for its beauty and grandeur than for its strength. In front of the building stands a citadel which protects the forward bastions and the embattled walls, rendering them impregnable. The town (of which the name is not given') contains between five and six thousand houses. This cacique, who is also a vassal of Muteczuma, received the Spaniards with great honour.
While enjoying the hospitality of this cacique, Cortes had sent envoys to the town of Tascalteca. * These envoys were commissioned to sound the feeling of the inhabitants, and learn if they wished him to visit them, for he had learned that the Tascaltecans were a warlike people, and the declared enemies of Muteczuma. He remained two days with this cacique, awaiting the return of his messengers. Muteczuma had never been able to conquer the Tascaltecans, for they would never recognise his jurisdiction or obey him. Their young men were taught to nourish a perpetual hatred of Muteczuma, and to such a point that for several years they went without salt or cotton for clothing, because they were surrounded by Muteczuma's vassals and could not elsewhere procure these articles of prime necessity. They prefer to live free and poor rather than submit to the jurisdiction of Muteczuma. Their city is inhabited by many nobles who have country properties and are the chiefs of the military republic of Tascalteca. These men want no master. If any one were seized with the desire to raise himself above the others, his fellow citizens would inflict upon him a more wretched punishment than that which the Helvetians imposed upon Orgetorix when he dreamed of becoming dictator, and counselled the chief of the Eduins and Sequanis to associate themselves with him. The Tascaltecans are just, and love justice, as the Spaniards afterwards learned. I shall later tell about this.
1 Evidently Yxtacamaxtitlan, where Cortes awaited the reply from the Tlaxcalan council.
'Meaning Tlascala or TIaxcala, both spellings being admissible.
Cortes awaited the return of his messengers, but as none of them appeared, he left the residence of the cacique and marched during a week through the valley visiting its towns. It was then that the Cempoalans urged him to win the friendship of the republic of the Tascaltecans, for their friendship might afford valuable help against Muteczuma in case he should undertake any enterprise against him. Cortes therefore marched towards the Republic, and on the way he passed through another valley, across which stood a wall extending from one mountain range to the other. This wall was twenty feet broad and half again as high as a man. Throughout his entire length there was only one opening, ten paces wide, but built with numerous bends, in such wise that an enemy arriving suddenly, could not surprise the scattered defenders. This wall marked the frontier of Tascalteca, and it had been constructed to block the passage of Muteczuma's soldiers through this valley.
The natives of the last valleys who escorted and guided Cortes urged him not to cross the territory of the Tascaltecans, assuring them that the latter were traitors, who never kept their word. They detest all strangers and devour their guests, whenever they have any, as well as their enemies. They offered to lead him through countries 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