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was pleased at this contradiction, which could only turn to his profit;' and so he answered both parties with fair speeches.
The messengers of Muteczuma insisted that Cortes should leave the town of the Tascaltecans, and betake himself to another city hardly five leagues distant which was a dcpcndcny of Muteczuma. This place was called Chiurutccal,' and they pretended that it would be simpler to conclude a treaty there with their sovereign. The Tascaltecans informed Cortes, on the contrary, that ambuscades had been prepared along the roads leading to that town, and also inside the walls. They declared that the road had been cut in various places, rendering it impracticable for the horses, and that other roads had been opened; inside the town some streets had been blocked and others had been fortified. Moreover the inhabitants had collected quantities of stones upon the terraces and small towers and windows overlooking the squares and streets, in order to crush the Spaniards with them as they marched below. As a proof of the hostile intention of the inhabitants towards Cortes and his men, the Tascaltecans called attention to the fact that none of them had come to visit Cortes, as the people of Guazuzingo had done, although the latter lived at a greater distance. This fact was true, and Cortes sent to Chiurutecal to complain of this insolent negligence. Upon receipt of his message an embassy was sent, but it was composed of common people of no consequence, who told him that they had not appeared before because the Spaniards were in a hostile country, but that otherwise their intentions towards him were of the very best.
1 Meaning Cholula, a sacred city under theocratic government, where stood the great pyramid dedicated to Quetzalcoatl. This remarkable construction of unknown antiquity and uncertain origin still stands, though so covered over with earth and shrubbery that its outlines are disfigured and its artificial character hardly distinguishable. Consult Sahagun, Historia de Nueva Espafla, lib. i., cap. Hi.; also Bandelier's Archeological Tour.
When Cortes was informed of the outrage they had put upon him in failing to send their principal citizens, he sent these vulgar messengers back with threats that if within three days the chiefs of Chiurutecal did not present themselves in person before him, he would go and find them; and that he would teach them what it would cost them to provoke his wrath by thus delaying to pay homage to the King of Spain, who was sovereign master of the whole country. They came and presented their excuses. Cortes received them, but on condition that they should keep their promises, and they bound themselves to execute any orders they might receive; they added: "If you will come to visit us, you will be convinced of the sincerity of our promises; at the same time you will see that the Tascaltecans have lied and that we are ready to pay whatever tribute you may fix." Cortes hesitated a long time, but finally decided to take the risk and accede to the wishes of Muteczuma's messengers by going to Chiurutecal.
Upon learning this decision, and seeing their counsels were useless, the Tascaltecans declared they would by no means permit Cortes to trust himself to the loyalty of Muteczuma's people, to the extent of giving them a free hand to injure him. They showed themselves grateful to one who had been so gracious to them, and who, after such hostilities, had made friends of them when he might have wreaked well-merited vengeance and destroyed them. They insisted on furnishing him with a Praetorian guard of one hundred thousand warriors, and it was in vain that Cortes forbade them. During the first day he camped, surrounded by this phalanx of about one hundred thousand men, on the bank of a river to which he came. At this place he selected a body-guard of two thousand from amongst the number, dismissing the others with the thanks they merited. The priests of Chiurutecal came some distance outside the city to meet the approaching Spaniards, preceded, according to their custom, by young men and girls singing and by musicians playing on drums and trumpets. Upon entering the city the Spaniards were comfortably lodged and food was provided, though scantily, and ill-served. It was suspected that some streets were barricaded and that stones had been collected on the terraces of the houses as the Tascaltecans had foretold.
Meanwhile new messengers had arrived from Muteczuma, who held secret conversations with the people of Chiurutecal but none with Cortes. When asked what communications these envoys had made to them, the inhabitants were unable to reply. The suspicions of Cortes were aroused, for he remembered the warnings of the Tascaltecans, and through the interpreter, Geronimo de Aguilar, who knew the languages of the countries where he had been a prisoner for a long time, he called a young man and questioned him. The result of this interrogatory was as follows: the young man said, that the inhabitants of Chiurutecal had sent all the old men, women, and children out of the city when the Spaniards approached, but he did not know what their intentions were. The treachery was finally discovered in the following manner: a woman of Chiurutecal had taken into her house a young girl of Cempoal,1 who had followed her husband or lover. This woman spoke in the following terms to her guest: "My friend, come away with me." The other asked, " whither?" To which the first replied: "Out of the city and far from here." The Cempoalan asked for what motive? to which her hostess replied: "This night a large number of Muteczuma's soldiers will enter the town, and everybody found inside its walls will be massacred. I am sorry for you, and therefore reveal this plot. Lose no time, unless you wish to perish with the others, and cut short your tender years by a cruel death."
'The "young girl" was Marina, vol.. n-6
The young girl exposed this plot to Aguilar, and as soon as Cortes was informed, he felt convinced that it was true. He summoned the chiefs of the town to him, and armed all his people; after which he explained the situation to his officers, and ordered that, at a signal given by firing a musket, they should fall upon the authors of this treachery, whom he would have gathered in the court of his residence for a parley. The chiefs of Chiurutecal came, and as had been agreed were at once put into irons, after which Cortes mounted his horse and rode out. The gates of his palace were already surrounded by armed men. These were the citizens who were waiting for the soldiers, ready to attack them as they came out. Cortes fell upon them before their reinforcements could join them. The battle was long and fierce: according to Cortes it lasted five hours. These treacherous barbarians were finally overcome and Cortes returned to his residence, where he called before him the manacled chiefs and asked them the reason of their conduct. They replied that the envoys of Muteczuma had deceived them; and that what had occurred was contrary to their wishes. They asked him to pardon them promising to obey him and to be no longer subjects of Muteczuma. In this day's fight the allies from Cempoal and Tascalteca gave proof of their courage, for they loathed the tyranny of Muteczuma. Cortes pardoned the chiefs of Chiurutecal, merely ordering them to summon back the women and children and all the fugitives they had sent away. This was done and all the inhabitants returned to their homes, after which Cortes sought to reconcile the people of Tascalteca with those of Chiurutecal. He desired to unite in a solid friendship these peoples who, until that time, had been enemies devoured by a mutual and mortal hatred, instigated by Muteczuma.
This town of Chiurutecal stands in a fertile plain, and inside its walls are twenty thousand houses built of stone and lime, and as many more in the suburbs. It was formerly a republic, but Muteczuma had conquered it and reduced it to a state of vassalage. Chiurutecal and Tascaltcca readily obeyed the Spaniards. The inhabitants of the first of these towns are richer and better dressed than their Tascaltecan neighbours. They irrigate a large part of the country by a system of trenches. The walls of the town are solidly built and furnished with towers. Cortes writes that from the summit of a lofty temple he counted four hundred of these towers and an even greater number in the highways of the city; the latter being attached to temples. There are tracts of land in that country admirably adapted for cattle raising, and it is the only place where such have been found; for everywhere else the population is so dense that there is hardly room in the country for the crops.
After these events Cortes summoned the messengers of Muteczuma before him and reproached them with their master's treachery. He observed that it was hardly worthy of a great prince, such as he imagined Muteczuma to be, to resort to trickery, and to set traps through the intermediary of others. Henceforth, he would no longer feel himself bound by the promises he had given, since Muteczuma had so perfidiously broken his word. The envoys, half dead from fear, declared that their master had no such thought and that he was ignorant of all that had happened. Time would prove the truth of their statements. Muteczuma had never broken his word, and it was the inhabitants of Chiurutecal who had themselves invented this imaginary treason, to save themselves from the anger of Cortes. The envoys asked permission at the same time to send one of their number to Muteczuma, to acquaint him with what had happened. Cortes accorded this permission, and the envoy returned after