PREPARATIONS FOR THE INVASION OF MEXICO.
Before departing from Tlascala, Cortez had carried his crusade against idol worship and the cruel practices of the natives so far that he prevailed upon his new allies to discharge the prisoners whom they had in the temples fattening for the next sacrifice; and he also obtained from them a promise to discontinue such heathen practices thereafter, a promise, however, which was no longer kept than the stay of Cortez in their capital continued, for almost immediately upon his departure the old orgies and bloody rites were re-instituted, and their altars flowed with the blood of the offerings of hundreds of victims almost before the sound of the tramp of the vanishing Spaniards had died away.
OBSEQUIOUS MESSAGES FROM MONTEZUMA.
But Cortez nevertheless left some of the seeds of the church, by receiving into baptism five beautiful maidens who had been offered to him by the chief of the province, as wives for his soldiers. These, having been first formally baptized and received by the church, were left with one priest to propagate the faith in Tlascala, while Cortez at the head of an immense army continued his journey towards the Mexican capital. About this time also Cortez received a second embassy, with even richer presents than those which the first had carried, and these, making the most abject obeisance to the white conqueror, presented their gifts, together with a message assuring Cortez of the emperor's high consideration and regard, and in the hope of winning his friendship as well as averting the fate which he believed was impending, he renewed his invitation to Cortez to visit his capital and promised him an enthusiastic and friendly welcome. But he besought him to form no alliance with the Tlascalans, whom he designated as the most fierce and unrelenting foes of his empire, and whose natures were so treacherous that they might not be depended upon even in the face of the strongest protestations of fidelity. But Cortez no longer regarded the messages from Montezuma, having now a sufficient force to easily make his way against any resistance that the Emperor was able to offer.
Indeed, the Tlascalans flocked to his standard in such numbers that Cortez declares he might easily have enlisted 100,000 volunteers. But instead of taking soldiers from among these indiscriminately, he accepted but 6000 select troops, with which large re-enforcement he now set out, with banners streaming, trumpets sounding, and his enthusiastic soldiers shouting, for the great Mexican capital.
The great city of Cholula, having a population of 100,000 souls was only eighteen miles from Tlascala. But it was situated in the Mexican empire, and the bitterest animosities then prevailed between its inhabitants and the Tlascalans. Cortez was, therefore, warned against treachery in case he made an entrance into this city. But, regarding these alarms merely as the fears of an excited people, he continued on to this great metropolis, and when in sight of its gates a delegation came out to receive him and to pay their respectful homage. But though they welcomed him with smoking censers, waving banners, and bands of music, the people of Cholula declined to admit their enemies within the city walls, and to avoid giving offence before he had been able to ascertain what were the defensive forces of the city, Cortez ordered his Tlascalan allies to camp outside the walls. It was a city not only of extraordinary proportions, but distinguished for its handsome streets and magnificent dwellings, while here and there the most splendid temples rose in grandeur from the city's squares, and there was every indication of extraordinary wealth and the rewards of successful industry.
MASSACRE OF THE CHOLULANS.
While viewing the grandeur of the place, Cortez had not failed to note several suspicious movements, which his quick, comprehension taught him to believe denoted that some treachery was in contemplation. To re-enforce this belief, two Tlascalans, who had been acting as spies, having entered the city in disguise, reported to him that six children had just been sacrificed in the chief temple, as an offering to the god of war and as an imploration for the destruction of the Spanish invaders. This information did not serve to considerably increase the fears of Cortez, half-believing that it might be prompted by the sincere desire of the
Some idea of the extraordinary size of the temples which were built in Cholula may be formed by a statement made by the Hon. Widdy Thompson, who visited the place where once the city of Cholula stood, in 1843. He says that not a single vestige of that great city remains except the ruins of the principal pyramid or temple, which still stands in solitary and gloomy grandeur in the vast plain which surrounds it. Its dimensions at the base are 1440 feet, its present height 177 feet, while the area on the summit is something more than 45,310 square feet, or a little more than 313 feet square. A Catholic chapel now crowns the summit of this enormous mound, the sides of which are covered with grass and trees.
The terrible massacre of the inhabitants of Cholula was a great advantage to Cortez, for the news spread rapidly to all the other cities of Mexico, and so appalled the people that from every point came messages of humble submission, accompanied by rich presents and offerings, as a propitiation to secure the favor of the Spaniards. Montezuma, when he heard of the thunder and lightning of Cortez' artillery, aided by cavalry horses, destroying thousands in the streets of Cholula, and that they had even put to flight the vast armies of Tlascalans, trembled with fright, and, retiring to his secret chamber, spent a week in consultation with his priests, and in petitionings to his gods for protection against the ruthless invaders. But the gods of Montezuma had deserted him, as they had the Totonacs, the Tlascalans, and the Cholulans, and Montezuma read his fate as plainly as Belshazzar perceived the handwriting on the falling walls of Babylon.
The success of Cortez had also drawn to him many disaffected parties from other provinces who had real of imagined grievances against Montezuma, and who, while seeking to avenge their wrongs, sought to protect themselves by joining the standard of the invader. Thus Cortez found his force continually increasing, until it became so unwieldy that further accessions to his ranks were refused. From less than 500 in the beginning his force had augmented until it now numbered nearly 20,000, and it might have easily been recruited to ten times as many without effort on his part. The most of these, however, were hardly available in battle, except as they might be used to draw the fire of the enemy and act as a barrier for his own men. With this vast army Cortez left the ruined city of Cholula and marched towards Mexico, which lay less than seventy miles towards the east.
The country through which he advanced was luxuriant and immensely populous; provisions were everywhere abundant; the water was clear and wholesome, and the journey being without annoyances was pleasant in the extreme. There were on every side rivers, orchards, lakes, beautiful villages, highly cultivated fields, splendid villas, and a tropical growth of flowers and vegetation positively amazing. Through this Edenic country Cortez continued his journey with short advances, being in no anxiety to reach the end of what was proving only a delightful excursion.
THE FIRST SIGHT OF THE MEXICAN CAPITAL.
It was not until seven days after leaving Cholula that the Spaniards gained the heights of Ithualco, from which a majestic and splendid view of Mexico was obtained. Under the spell of the landscape that spread out in picturesque panorama below him, Cortez stood in pious contemplation of how God had protected and aided him in carrying the banners of Spain and of the cross
Though Cortez was in sight of Mexico, he was yet some considerable distance from the city, and it was necessary to pass through several large towns which lay in the Mexican valley. He accordingly marched through the cities of Amaquemecan and Ayotzingo, which, Venetian-like, was built in Lake Chalco, and Cuitlahuac, which was also in the lake, where many floating gardens were constructed that moved about like beds of roses driven by the wind; and thence on to Iztapalapan, which latter place was near the city of Mexico, and was remarkable for a gigantic stone reservoir which had been built of such ample dimensions that it held sufficient water to irrigate the grounds over a district many miles in extent. It also possessed an aviary filled with birds of the most gorgeous plumage and of sweetest song. Here Cortez halted for a day, and was most hospitably entertained by the people, who were in constant dread lest he should violate their beautiful homes and put them to the sword.
A SCENE OF BEWILDERING SPLENDOR.
On the following day, which was the 8th of November, 1519, Cortez proceeded on his journey to Mexico, and when within two miles of the outskirts of the city, he was met by a procession of a thousand of the principal inhabitants, each of whom was provided with a waving plume and clad in the most exquisitely embroidered mantle. They came to announce the approach of their beloved Emperor, who desired to personally welcome the strangers to his chief city. This procession met Cortez as he approached the principal causeway leading from the mainland to the island city. It was nearly two miles in length, substantially built, and wide enough to admit of a dozen horsemen riding abreast. On either side the lake was covered with gondolas and boats of various shapes, all laden with interested spectators, while further down the long avenue was seen approaching the glittering train of the Emperor, that reflected the sunlight back in dazzling splendor from the tinsel decorations of his retinue. Montezuma was himself seated in a gorgeous palanquin trimmed with gold, and borne on the shoulders of four noblemen, while from the top spread out six gigantic plumes of various colors. Immediately before the palanquin three officers walked, each holding a golden mace, while over his head four attendants carried a canopy of skilful workmanship, gorgeously embellished with green feathers, gold, and precious gems, that sheltered him from the sun. The Emperor wore upon his head a crown of gold, which, being open at the top, permitted a beautiful headdress of plumes to project. Over his shoulders he carried a mantle that was embroidered with costly ornaments, and was brought together in front with a rosette composed entirely of jewels. Buskins fastened with gold lace work were worn upon his feet and legs, while the soles of his sandals were of pure gold. His features were peculiarly handsome, but he was of an effeminate appearance, evidently unused to public appearance and seldom exposed to the sun.
AN INTERVIEW BETWEEN CORTEZ AND MONTEZUMA.
As the Emperor drew near, Cortez dismounted from his horse, as Montezuma alighted from his palanquin, and they proceeded towards each other. Montezuma was supported by two of the highest dignitaries of his court, and other attendants spread before him rich carpets, that his sacred feet might not be profaned by contact with the ground. He showed in his face the deep anxiety and melancholy which had depressed him constantly since news of the arrival of the Spaniards had reached his capital. Cortez
On the following evening after his arrival, Montezuma paid a visit to Cortez, taking with him presents of great value, which he distributed among the officers and the privates also, after which he retired to the royal audience chamber and there held a lengthy interview with Cortez, in which each professed a friendship for the other, not omitting to expatiate upon the grandeur of their