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him a present in Muteczuma's name, consisting of superb necklaces, valued at three thousand castellanos; begging him, at the same time, to withdraw and stop wherever else he pleased. Muteczuma likewise pledged himself to pay Cortes whatever tribute the latter might fix, on condition that he would give up his visit to a town built in the water where such a multitude would necessarily be exposed to hunger, since the country produced nothing of itself. He would never at any time or for any motive cease to consider himself the subject of the king in whose name Cortes was sent. To these repeated requests of Muteczuma, Cortes replied as suavely as possible, that he himself would be quite disposed to satisfy a wish expressed by such a great monarch, but the instructions of his own sovereign forbade his doing so. It should by no means be imagined that his presence would incommode anybody; for, on the contrary, it would be useful and profitable for all of them. If he persisted in his intention, it was because he had no choice; if his visit should later prove disagreeable to Muteczuma, he would withdraw as soon as he had signed a treaty and regulated affairs, which could be more intelligently and easily done in person than by the intermediary of messengers sent from one party to the other.
During these negotiations, according to the report of Cortes, the natives never ceased to prepare ambuscades, and during the night the forests on the mountain overlooking his residence had been filled with armed men. But he had taken precautions in such wise as to forestall their perfidy and stratagem.
Continuing his march towards the lake city, Cortes came to another town in the plain, numbering twenty thousand houses. It is called Amaquemeca, * and is the capital of the province of Chalco. Its cacique, who is a vassal of Muteczuma, extended the largest and most abundant hospitality to our men during two days. He presented them with gold necklaces valued at three thousand castellanos, as one of his colleagues had already done, and with forty slaves. Four leagues farther on, Cortes reached the borders of another lake whose waters were fresh, or at least hardly brackish. A city built half on land and half in the water stands on its banks, and near by rises a lofty mountain. At this place Cortes encountered twelve lords, one of whom was carried on a litter on men's backs. He was only twenty-five years old, and when he descended from his litter the men of his escort hastened to clear the road of stones and to scatter straw before him, as he marched to salute Cortes. When he had saluted the general in Muteczuma's name, he begged the former not to suspect his sovereign of indifference or negligence in not having come personally to meet him; the reason being that he was ill. He himself had been sent to act as escort. The general answered with fair words and presented the lords with some small gifts. They returned delighted.»
Cortes followed close after them and came to another town composed of fifteen hundred houses and standing in a fresh-water lake. The only means of communication with the mainland was by boat.1 These boats are dug out of a single tree-trunk and resemble the canoes used by the islanders; these little boats are called ascales. Advancing amidst the waters of the lake, Cortes observed a causeway, built a lance's length above the level of the water leading to another town of about two thousand people. He was received there with many honours, and the inhabitants invited him to stop for the night, but the nobles of his escort opposed this plan, and conducted him the same evening to another and much larger town on the shores of the salt lake, called Iztapalapa. This town is governed by Muteczuma's brother, Tacatepla,' and lies four leagues distant from the former town. Three leagues distant from Iztapalapa, in another direction, stands the town of Coluacan, which gives its name to the province of Colua. Thus the Spaniards who had heard of that town gave the name to the entire country when they entered it. Iztapalapa numbers eight thousand houses, most of them important ones, and Coluacan has about as many. The cacique of Coluacan was at that time with Muteczuma's brother, and offered valuable presents to Cortes.
1 This noble was Cacamatzin nephew of Montezuma. Both Cortes and Eternal Diaz describe the particulars of this meeting.
* This town was Cuitlahuac, now called Tlahua, to which the Spaniards gave the name of Venezuela—little Venice.
It is reported that the palace of the cacique of Iztapalapa is a very remarkable building, constructed of stones cemented together with mortar. The wood work is also very artistic and some of the beams are of royal dimensions. The interior apartments and sleeping chambers are hung with tapestries, beautiful beyond all praise. This royal residence likewise contains gardens filled with various trees, vegetables, fruits, and sweet-scented flowers; not to mention vast ponds swarming with different species of fish and covered with families of every sort of aquatic bird. There is a marble flight of stairs leading down to the bottom of these ponds. Marvellous tales are told of the arbours bordered by hedges, which protect the fruit orchards. These hedges are so disposed as to please in a thousand different ways, just as about the houses of the more cultivated of our cardinals and in many other places are found myrtle, rosemary, and box; everything pleases the eye. Cortes goes into minute details on this point, which weary; let us therefore omit them, and take the hero, Cortes, into the town of Temistitan and to the arms of Muteczuma, who was not, however, so anxious to embrace him.
'The ruler's name was in reality Cuitlahuatzin.
FROM Iztapalapa to Temistitan, the capital of the great King Muteczuma, the way leads over an artificial causeway built at immense cost, and standing at two lances' length above the level of the water. This causeway serves the purpose of a bridge, for Iztapalapa is built half on the water and half on land. On one side of the causeway stand two towns, partly built in the water, and on the other side stands one; the first town is called Messicalcango, the second Coluacan, which I have before mentioned, and the third Uvichilabusco. * It is said that the first of these towns has more than three thousand houses, the second six, and the third four. They are adorned with magnificent temples ornamented with towers and dedicated to their idols.
All the towns on the causeway are engaged in the manufacture of salt for the use of all the tribes of the empire; water from the salt lake is brought by means of canals onto a field.where it is condensed, the salt baked and afterwards shaped into cakes or loaves to be carried to the fairs or markets, where it is exchanged for foreign products. Only the subjects of Muteczuma are allowed to sell this salt, all who do not recognise his authority being deprived of it. For that reason the Tascaltecans and the people of Guazuzingo and many others ate their food without salt for, as we have said, they were enemies of Muteczuma.
1 These three towns were Mexicalzingo, Coyohuacan, and Huichilobusco.
There are other causeways serving as bridges to unite the land cities to those built in the lakes. These causeways join like so many streets. On the causeway which starts from Iztapalapa there is a junction with another, and at this meeting-place of the two causeways there stands a fort, provided with two impregnable towers.1 Prom this point there is only one causeway, leading to Temistitan.
At intervals along these causeways there are laid movable wooden bridges, which are raised whenever there is a fear of war. I think these breaks in the causeways have been arranged to facilitate the collection of duties. For, is it not for precisely the same motive that we see the gates of towns closed during the night, even in time of peace? Once the bridges are raised the waters flow through the open passages. / According to what is reported, the phenomenon of the ebb and flow may be observed; a thing truly extraordinary, Holy Father, both in my own opinion and in that of others who hold it to be impossible, since they have never heard mention of similar novelties.
This lake city, or if you choose, the site of this salt lake, is more than seventy leagues distant from the sea. Two chains of lofty mountains and two great valleys separating them lie between the sea and the lake, and nevertheless, if the truth has been told, the lake is subject to the ebb and flow precisely like the sea; but nobody has been able to discover whether the sea enters or leaves this lake. When the tide rises, the salt water pours into the freshwater lake, through a narrow passage between the two hills, while at the ebb-tide the fresh water flows back into the salt lake; but this fresh water never becomes too salt to drink, nor does the salt water ever lose its savour. I have given enough particulars concerning the lakes, causeways, bridges, and fortresses.
* The fortress of Xoloc, where Cortes, afterwards fixed his headquarters during the siege of the city.