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the noise of the cannon frightened the barbarians, who fled through the harvest fields, scattering and seeking to conceal themselves. The harvests were of maize, as we have often said. Cortes was thus left entirely free in his movements. Nevertheless, for several days he did not venture to leave his camp, for he had learned that a league distant from the camp there was a hostile city where an immense crowd assembled in response to a trumpet-call. He has written, and those who have returned from that country agree in stating, that this town of Tascalteca numbers twenty thousand houses. As soon as he was assured by his scouts that the inhabitants of that great city were off their guard and feared no attack, he entered it during the second watch of the night and surprised the inhabitants asleep. He first occupied the strongest part of the city. At daybreak the principal citizens appeared before him, begging him to spare them. They declared themselves willing to obey him, and promised to supply him with an abundance of provisions out of their stores.
After this victory Cortes returned to his camp, where he found his companions discontented with him. They complained that they had been led into a situation from whence they could not possibly escape, and they were unwilling to go any farther.1 They feared they would be killed to the last man, since they were surrounded by so many ferocious warriors, or would perish of hunger and cold, in case they escajied the arrows of the barbarians. Moreover the result of wars was uncertain and victory did not always depend on the men. They therefore prayed and begged Cortes to return to the coast. If he were unwilling to do so, they declared they were ready to abandon him.
1 Cortes reported in his letter to the Emperor that he overheard some of his rebellious followers quoting a proverb in which the sobriquet of Pedro Carbonero was applied to him. Pierre le charbonnier savail bien oil il Hail, mats il ignorait les tnoyens d'en sortir. He suppressed the sedition with one of his characteristic appeals to their Catholic zeal, their Spanish pride, and their cupidity, mingling blandishments with threats and scorn.
Now Cortes had resolved to push on to Temistitan, the most important town of all that region. Thinking it better to use prudence and flattery rather than violence to his men, he spoke to them as follows: "What is the matter, my comrades? Why do you have these fears? Is it not evident that God protects us, since we have been successful in every engagement? Do you think that the men whom you will encounter are better or more courageous than yourselves? Do you not understand that it depends upon you to extend indefinitely the Christian religion? Do you not realise that you are about acquiring for yourselves and your sovereign entire kingdoms? What remains to be done is very little, and if by chance (which I do not fear) you fall, what happier end could you have? Would it be possible to end more gloriously one's life? Remember, moreover, that you are Spaniards, and that Spaniards know no fear, and hold their life as nothing in the service of God or the achievement of glory. On the other hand, where shall we go? What shall we do on the coast, where we would languish in idleness? Take courage, my friends, and help me to conquer these nations and bring them under the law of Christ and the obedience of our sovereign. What fame will you bequeath to your posterity in consequence of these great deeds such as no living person has ever accomplished! Upon our return home we shall be honoured by our neighbours as Hercules never was in Greece when he returned from Spain, although the remembrance of those honours lives to our own day. Our achievements will have been greater, and their recompense in proportion. Rouse yourselves, therefore, and finish courageously what you have begun, never again doubting victory."
Cortes showed himself astute in this harangue. His captains stood by him, and he was likewise applauded by the crowd which, more changeable than the waves, always moves before the wind and lends ears and tongue to the last man who speaks.
As soon as this sedition was suppressed, Cortes received messengers from the chief commander of that region called Zentegal.1 They came to seek pardon for the recent events and their hostility, saying: "Be not astonished that we have never desired a king and have never obeyed anybody, and that we so dearly love liberty, for we and our ancestors have endured great evils rather than accept the yoke of Muteczuma. For example, we have gone without cotton clothes and without salt to season our food, since we could not obtain them in face of Muteczuma's prohibition. Nevertheless, if you will admit us to your alliance, we promise to obey your commands." Cortes pardoned them and made an alliance with them. The messengers begged him to honour the town of Tascalteca, which lay six leagues distant from the camp, with his visit. For a long time he refused, but finally allowed himself to be moved by the entreaties of the lords, and consented. Before continuing the account of what happened in that town, we must interpose another occurrence.
Six messengers of Muteczuma, bearing magnificent presents, had visited Cortes. These gifts consisted of different necklaces and garments embroidered in gold, worth one thousand castellanos. In addition there were cotton dresses dyed in various colours. When they learned that Cortes intended to visit Muteczuma in his capital, they asked him in the emperor's name to abandon this project, because the city of Temistitan was built in the middle of a lake and, owing to its position, was destitute of everything. Unless it was provisioned from outside, there would not be enough for such a large number of people. The messengers averred that Muteczuma was willing to send Cortes gold, silver, precious stones, or whatever else he wanted, at whatever place he might fix. Cortes answered: "I am quite unable to respond to your wishes; for my sovereign's instructions order me to visit your capital and your king, and to carefully examine everything in order that I may report exactly what I have observed." When this determination was communicated to them, the messengers asked permission from Cortes to send one of their number to deliver his response to Muteczuma. The authorisation being granted, one of them left the camp, returning on the sixth day, and bringing from Muteczuma ten wrought vases of equal weight and of admirable workmanship, fifteen hundred costumes, a thousand times more valuable than the first ones, carried on the backs of slaves, for they have no beasts of burden. Upon hearing this, people of weak imagination will doubtless be much astonished and think my report is fabulous; for they have never heard anything equal to it and will find that it passes their understanding; but I shall give them satisfaction, when I come to speak of the revenues of Muteczuma.
1 Another and incorrect spelling for Xicotencal.
We have now long enough abandoned the Tascaltecans. Let us describe their town and explain its characteristics. We have already touched upon the fact that Tascalteca is a republic, somewhat democratic, somewhat aristocratic, as was the Roman government before it degenerated into a despotic monarchy.' Great chieftains have their place in it, but nobility is not tolerated. Cortes writes, and those who have returned from those parts confirm this opinion, that Tascalteca is much larger and more populous than Granada, and that it is amply provided with all the necessaries of life. The people eat maize-bread, chickens, game, and fresh-water fish, but not sea-fish, because it is too great a distance from the sea, being fifty leagues inland. There are also various vegetables. Inside the town walls, which are built of stone, are lofty fortified houses, also of stone, for the Tascaltecans are always on their guard, living as they do in a state of perpetual hostility towards their neighbours. They hold fairs and markets; they wear clothes and shoes. Golden necklaces set with jewels greatly please them, and they attach great importance to aigrettes and head-dresses of various coloured feathers which serve them as ornaments in time of war. Gold is everywhere used. Firewood, carried on men's backs, as well as beams for carpenter's work, planks, bricks, stones, and lime are for sale in their markets. Their architects and their potters are very clever, and none of our earthenware vases are modelled with more art than theirs. Herbalists sell medicinal plants. They make use of baths. It is known that they have a system of government and laws which they obey.
1 Cortes compared the form of government with that of Venice, Genoa, and Pisa.
The entire province has a circumference of ninety leagues. The capital is Tascalteca, but there are other fortified places, fortresses, and towns, not to mention very fertile valleys and mountains. The population is numerous and very warlike, on account of the perpetual state of warfare with Muteczuma. One of the neighbouring provinces, Guazuzingo, has the same form of government as Tascalteca; that is to say, republican. In both these countries thieves are detested, and when they are captured they are carried bound to the public squares where they are beaten to death. They love justice.
Cortes remained twenty days at Tascalteca during which time the envoys of Muteczuma never left him. They made efforts to dissuade him from the Tascaltecan alliance, and counselled him not to confide in such faithless and perfidious people. The Tascaltecans on the other hand affirmed that Muteczuma's people were tyrants, and that if Cortes put his trust in them, they would lead him to his ruin. Although he did not reveal the fact, Cortes