MoboReader> Literature > The Fair God; or, The Last of the 'Tzins: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico

   Chapter 70 LA NOCHE TRISTE

The Fair God; or, The Last of the 'Tzins: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico By Lew Wallace Characters: 49658

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

The movement of the fugitive army was necessarily slow. Stretched out in the street, it formed a column of irregular front and great depth. A considerable portion was of non-combatants, such as the sick and wounded, the servants, women, and prisoners; to whom might be added the Indians carrying the baggage and ammunition, and laboriously dragging the guns. The darkness, and the rain beaten into the faces of the sufferers by the wind, made the keeping order impossible; at each step the intervals between individuals and between the divisions grew wider and wider. After crossing two or three of the bridges, a general confusion began to prevail; the officers, in dread of the enemy, failed to call out, and the soldiers, bending low to protect their faces, and hugging their arms or their treasure, marched in dogged silence, indifferent to all but themselves. Soon what was at first a fair column in close order became an irregular procession; here a crowd of all the arms mixed, there a thin line of stragglers.

It is a simple thing, I know, yet nothing has so much to do with what we habitually call our spirits as the condition in which we are at the time. Under an open sky, with the breath of a glowing morning in our nostrils, we sing, laugh, and are brave; but let the cloud hide the blue expanse and cover our walk with shadow, and we shrink within ourselves; or worse, let the walk be in the night, through a strange place, with rain and cold added, and straightway the fine thing we call courage merges itself into a sense of duty or sinks into humbler concern for comfort and safety. So, not a man in all the column,-not a cavalier, not a slave,-but felt himself oppressed by the circumstances of the situation; those who, only that afternoon, had charged like lions along that very street now yielded to the indefinable effect, and were weak of heart even to timidity. The imagination took hold of most of them, especially of the humbler class, and, lining the way with terrors all its own, reduced them to the state when panic rushes in to complete what fear begins. They started at the soughing of the wind; drew to strike each other; cursed the rattle of their arms, the hoof-beats of the horses, the rumble of the carriage-wheels; on the houses, vaguely defined against the sky, they saw sentinels ready to give the alarm, and down the intersecting streets heard the infidel legions rushing upon them; very frequently they stumbled over corpses yet cumbering the way after the day's fight, and then they whispered the names of saints, and crossed themselves: the dead, always suggestive of death, were never so much so to them.

And so, for many squares, across canals, past palaces and temples, they marched, and nothing to indicate an enemy; the city seemed deserted.

"Hist, Se?or!" said Duero, speaking with bated breath. "Hast thou not heard of the army of unbelievers that, in the night, while resting in their camp, were by a breath put to final sleep? Verily, the same good angel of the Lord hath been here also."

"Nay, compadre mio," replied Cortes, bending in his saddle, "I cannot so persuade myself. If the infidels meant to let us go, the going would not be so peaceful. From some house-top we should have had their barbarous farewell,-a stone, a lance, an arrow, at least a curse. By many signs,-for that matter, by the rain which, driven through the visor bars, is finding its way down the doublet under my breastplate,-by many signs, I know we are in the midst of a storm. Good Mother forfend, lest, bad as it is, it presage something worse!"

At that moment a watcher on the azoteas of a temple near by chanted the hour of midnight.

"Didst hear?" asked Cortes. "They are not asleep! Olmedo! father! Where art thou?"

"What wouldst thou, my son?"

"That thou shouldst not get lost in this Tophet; more especially, that thou shouldst keep to thy prayers."

And about that time Sandoval, at the head of his advanced guard, rode from the street out on the open causeway. Farther on, but at no great distance, he came to the first canal. While there, waiting for the bridge to be brought forward, he heard from the lake to his right the peal long and loud of a conch-shell. His heart, in battle steadfast as a rock, throbbed faster; and with raised shield and close-griped sword, he listened, as did all with him, while other shells took up and carried the blast back to the city, and far out over the lake.

In the long array none failed to interpret the sound aright; all recognized a signal of attack, and halted, the slave by his prolong, the knight on his horse, each one as the moment found him. They said not a word, but listened; and as they heard the peal multiply countlessly in every direction,-now close by, now far off,-surprise, the first emotion, turned to dismay. Flight,-darkness,-storm,-and now the infidels! "May God have mercy on us!" murmured the brave, making ready to fight. "May God have mercy on us!" echoed the timid, ready to fly.

The play of the wind upon the lake seemed somewhat neutralized by the density of the rain; still the waves splashed lustily against the grass-grown sides of the causeway; and while Sandoval was wondering if there were many, who, in frail canoes, would venture upon the waste at such a time, another sound, heard, as it were, under that of the conchs, yet too strong to be confounded with wind or surging water, challenged his attention; then he was assured.

"Now, gentlemen," he said, "get ye ready; they are coming. Pass the word, and ride one to Magarino,-speed to him, speed him here! His bridge laid now were worth a hundred lives!"

As the yells of the infidels-or, rather, their yell, for the many voices rolled over the water in one great volume-grew clearer their design became manifest.

Cortes touched Olmedo:-

"Dost thou remember the brigantines?"

"What of them?"

"Only, father, that what will happen to-night would not if they were afloat. Now shall we pay the penalty of their loss. Ay de mi!" Then he said aloud to the cavaliers, Morla, Olid, Avila, and others. "By my conscience, a dark day for us was that in which the lake went back to the heathen,-brewer, it, of this darker night! An end of loitering! Bid the trumpeters blow the advance! One ride forward to hasten Magarino; another to the rear that the division may be closed up. No space for the dogs to land from their canoes. Hearken!"

The report of a gun, apparently back in the city, reached them.

"They are attacking the rear-guard! Mesa spoke then. On the right hear them, and on the left! Mother of God, if our people stand not firm now, better prayers for our souls than fighting for our lives!"

A stone then struck Avila, startling the group with its clang upon his armor.

"A slinger!" cried Cortes. "On the right here,-can ye see him?"

They looked that way, but saw nothing. Then the sense of helplessness in exposure smote them, and, knightly as they were, they also felt the common fear.

"Make way! Room, room!" shouted Magarino, rushing to the front, through the advance-guard. His Tlascalans were many and stout; to swim the canal,-with ropes to draw the bridge after them,-to plant it across the chasm, were things achieved in a moment.

"Well done, Magarino! Forward, gentlemen,-forward all!" so saying, Sandoval spurred across; after him, in reckless haste, his whole division rushed. The platform, quivering throughout, was stancher than the stone revetments upon which its ends were planted; calcined by fire, they crumbled like chalk. The crowd then crossing, sensible that the floor was giving way under them, yelled with terror, and in their frantic struggle to escape toppled some of them into the canal. None paused to look after the unfortunates; for the shouting of the infidels, which had been coming nearer and nearer, now rose close at hand, muffling the thunder of the horses plunging on the sinking bridge. Moreover, stones and arrows began to fall in that quarter with effect, quickening the hurry to get away.

Cortes reached the bridge at the same time the infidels reached the causeway. He called to Magarino; before the good captain could answer, the waves to the right hand became luminous with the plashing of countless paddles, and a fleet of canoes burst out of the darkness. Up rose the crews, ghost-like in their white armor, and showered the Christians with missiles. A cry of terror,-a rush,-and the cavaliers were pushed on the bridge, which they jammed deeper in the rocks. Some horses, wild with fright, leaped into the lake, and, iron-clad, like their riders, were seen no more.

On the further side, Cortes wheeled about, and shouted to his friends. Olmedo answered, so did Morla; then they were swept onward.

Alone, and in peril of being forced down the side of the dike, Cortes held his horse to the place. The occasional boom of guns, a straggling fire of small arms, and the unintermitted cries of the infidels, in tone exultant and merciless, assured him that the attack was the same everywhere down the column. One look he gave the scene near by,-on the bridge, a mass of men struggling, cursing, praying; wretches falling, their shrieks shrill with despair; the lake whitening with assailants! He shuddered, and called on the saints; then the instinct of the soldier prevailed:-

"Ola, comrades!" he cried. "It is nothing. Stand, if ye love life. Stand, and fight, as ye so well know how! Holy Cross! Christo y Santiago!"

He spurred into the thick of the throng. In vain: the current was too strong; the good steed seconded him with hoof and frontlet; now he prayed, now cursed; at last he yielded, seeing that on the other side of the bridge was Fear, on his side Panic.

When the signal I have described, borne from the lake to the city, began to resound from temple to temple, the rear-guard were yet many squares from the causeway, and had, for the most part, become merely a procession of drenched and cowering stragglers. The sound alarmed them; and divining its meaning, they assembled in accidental groups, and so hurried forward.

Nenetzin and Marina, yet in company, were also startled by the noisy shells. The latter stayed not to question or argue; at her word, sharply spoken, her slaves followed fast after the central division, and rested not until they had gained a place well in advance of the non-combatants, whose slow and toilsome progress she had shrewdly dreaded. Not so Nenetzin: the alarm proceeded from her countrymen; feared she, therefore, for her lover; and when, vigilant as he was gallant, he rode to her, and kissed her hand, and spoke to her in lover's phrase, she laughed, though not understanding a word, and bade her slaves stay with him.

Last man in the column was Leon, brave gentleman, good captain. With his horsemen, he closed upon the artillery.

"Friend," he said to Mesa, "the devil is in the night. As thou art familiar with wars as Father Olmedo with mass, how readest thou the noise we hear?"

The veteran, walking at the moment between two of his guns, replied,-

"Interpret we each for himself, Se?or. I am ready to fight. See!"

And drawing his cloak aside, he showed the ruddy spark of a lighted match.

"As thou seest, I am ready; yet"-and he lowered his voice-"I shame not to confess that I wish we were well out of this."

"Good soldier art thou!" said Leon. "I will stay with thee. A la Madre todos!"

The exclamation had scarcely passed his lips when to their left and front the darkness became peopled with men in white, rushing upon them, and shouting, "Up, up, Tlateloco! O, O luilones, luilones!"[53]

"Turn thy guns quickly, Mesa, or we are lost!" cried Leon; and to his comrades, "Swords and axes! Upon them, gentlemen! Santiago, Santiago!"

The veteran as promptly resolved himself into action. A word to his men,-then he caught a wheel with one hand, and swung the carriage round, and applied the match. The gun failed fire, but up sprang a hissing flame, and in its lurid light out came all the scene about: the infidels pouring into the street, the Tlascalans and many Spaniards in flight, Leon charging almost alone, and right amongst the guns a fighting man,-by his armor, half pagan, half Christian,-all this Mesa saw, and more,-that the slaves had abandoned the ropes, and that of the gunners the few who stood their ground were struggling for life hand to hand; still more, that the gun he was standing by looked point-blank into the densest ranks of the foe. Never word spoke he; repriming the piece, he applied the match again. The report shook the earth, and was heard and recognized by Cortes out on the causeway; but it was the veteran's last shot. To his side sprang the 'tzin: in his ear a war-cry, on his morion a blow, and under the gun he died. When Duty loses a good servant Honor gains a hero.

The fight-or, rather, the struggle of the few against the many-went on. The 'tzin led his people boldly, and they failed him not. Leon drew together all he could of Christians and Tlascalans; then, as game to be taken at leisure, his enemy left him. Soon the fugitives following Alvarado heard a strange cry coming swiftly after them, "O, O luilones! O luilones!"

And through the rain and the night, doubly dark in the canals, Hualpa sped to the open lake, followed by nine canoes, fashioned for speed, each driven by six oarsmen, and carrying four warriors; so there were with him nine and thirty chosen men, with linked mail under their white tunics, and swords of steel on their long lances,-arms and armor of the Christians.

Off the causeway, beyond the first canal, he waited, until the great flotillas, answering his signal, closed in on the right hand and left; then he started for the canal, chafing at the delay of his vessels.

"Faster, faster, my men!" he said aloud; then to himself, "Now will I wrest her from the robber, and after that she will give me her love again. O happy, happy hour!"

He sought the canal, thinking, doubtless, that the Christians would find it impassable, and that in their front, as the place of safety, they would most certainly place Nenetzin. There, into the press he drove.

"Not here! Back, my men!" he shouted.

The chasm was bridged.

And marvelling at the skill of the strangers, which overcame difficulties as by magic, and trembling lest they should escape and his love be lost to him after all, he turned his canoe,-if possible, to be the first at the next canal. Others of his people were going in the same direction, but he out-stript them.

"Faster, faster!" he cried; and the paddles threshed the water,-wings of the lake-birds not more light and free. Into the causeway he bent, so close as to hear the tramp of horses; sometimes shading his eyes against the rain, and looking up, he saw the fugitives, black against the clouds,-strangers and Tlascalans,-plumes of men, but never scarf of woman.

Very soon the people on the causeway heard his call to the boatmen, and the plash of the paddles, and they quickened their pace.

"Adelante! adelante!" cried Sandoval, and forward dashed the cavaliers.

"O my men, land us at the canal before the strangers come up, and in my palace at ease you shall eat and drink all your lives! Faster, faster!"

So Hualpa urged his rowers, and in their sinewy hands the oaken blades bent like bows.

Behind dropped the footmen,-even the Tlascalans; and weak from hunger and wounds, behind dropped some of the horses. Shook the causeway, foamed the water. A hundred yards,-and the coursers of the lake were swift as the coursers of the land; half a mile,-and the appeal of the infidel and the cheering cry of the Christian went down the wind on the same gale. At last, as Hualpa leaped from his boat, Sandoval checked his horse,-both at the canal.

Up the dike the infidels clambered to the attack. And there was clang of swords and axes, and rearing and plunging of steeds; then the voice of the good captain,-

"God's curse upon them! They have our shields!"

A horse, pierced to the heart, leaped blindly down the bank, and from the water rose the rider's imploration: "Help, help, comrades! For the love of Christ, help! I am drowning!"

Again Sandoval,-

"Cuidado,-beware! They have our swords on their lances!" Then, observing his horsemen giving ground, "Stand fast! Unless we hold the canal for Magarino, all is lost! Upon them! Santiago, Santiago!"

A rally and a charge! The sword-blades did their work well; horses, wounded to death or dead, began to cumber the causeway, and the groans and prayers of their masters caught under them were horrible to hear. Once, with laughter and taunting jests, the infidels retreated down the slope; and once, some of them, close pressed, leaped into the canal. The lake received them kindly; with all their harness on they swam ashore. Never was Sandoval so distressed.

Meantime, the footmen began to come up; and as they were intolerably galled by the enemy, who sometimes landed and engaged them hand to hand, they clamored for those in front to move on. "Magarino! The bridge, the bridge! Forward!" With such cries, they pressed upon the horsemen, and reduced the space left them for action.

At length Sandoval shouted,-

"Ola, all who can swim! Follow me!"

And riding down the bank, he spurred into the water. Many were bold enough to follow; and though some were drowned, the greater part made the passage safely. Then the cowering, shivering mass left behind without a leader, became an easy prey; and steadily, pitilessly, silently, Hualpa and his people fought,-silently, for all the time he was listening for a woman's voice, the voice of his beloved.

And now, fast riding, Cortes came to the second canal, with some cavaliers whom he rallied on the way; behind him, as if in pursuit, so madly did they run, followed all of the central division who succeeded in passing the bridge. The sick and wounded, the prisoners, even king Cacama and the women, abandoned by their escort, were slain and captured,-all save Marina, rescued by some Tlascalans, and a Spanish Amazon, who defended herself with sword and shield.

At points along the line of flight the infidels intercepted the fugitives. Many terrible combats ensued. When the Christians kept in groups, as did most of the veterans, they generally beat off the assailants. The loss fell chiefly upon the Tlascalans, the cross-bowmen, and arquebusiers, whose arms the rain had ruined, and the recruits of Narvaez, who, weighted down by their treasure and overcome by fear, ran blindly along, and fell almost without resistance.

One great effort Cortes made at the canal to restore order before the mob could come up.

"God help us!" he cried at last to the gentlemen with him. "Here are bowmen and gunners without arms, and horsemen without room to charge. Nothing now but to save ourselves! And that we may not do, if we wait. Let us follow Sandoval. Hearken to the howling! How fast they come! And by my conscience, with them they bring the lake alive with fiends! Olmedo, thou with me! Come, Morla, Avila, Olid! Come, all who care for life!"

And through the mêlée they pushed, through the murderous lancers, down the bank,-Cortes first, and good knights on the right and left of the father. There was plunging and floundering of horses, and yells of infidels, and the sound of deadly blows, and from the swimmers shrieks for help, now to comrades, now to saints, now to Christ.

"Ho, Sandoval, right glad am I to find thee!" said Cortes, on the further side of the canal. "Why waitest thou?"

"For the coming of the bridge, Se?or."

"Bastante! Take what thou hast, and gallop to the next canal. I will do thy part here."

And dripping from the plunge in the lake, chilled by the calamity more than by the chill wind, and careless of the stones and arrows that hurtled about him, he faced the fight, and waited, saying simply,-"O good Mother, hasten Magarino!"

Never prayer more hearty, never prayer more needed! For the central division had passed, and Alvarado had come and gone, and down the causeway to the city no voice of Christian was to be heard; at hand, only the infidels with their melancholy cry, of unknown import, "O, O luilones! O, O luilones!" Then Magarino summoned his Tlascalans and Christians to raise the bridge. How many of them had died the death of the faithful, how many had basely fled, he knew not; the darkness covered the glory as well as the shame. To work he went. And what sickness of the spirit, what agony ineffable seized him! The platform was too fast fixed in the rocks to be moved! Awhile he fought, awhile toiled, awhile prayed; all without avail. In his ears lingered the parting words of Cortes, and he stayed though his hope was gone. Every moment added to the dead and wounded around him, yet he stayed. He was the dependence of the army: how could he leave the bridge? His men deserted him; at last he was almost alone; before him was a warrior whose shield when struck gave back the ring of iron, and whose blows came with the weight of iron; while around closer and closer circled the white uniforms of the infidels; then he cried,-

"God's curse upon the bridge! What mortals can, my men, we have done to save it; enough now, if we save ourselves!"

And drawn by the great law, supreme in times of such peril, they came together, and retired across the bridge.

Then rose the cry, "Todo es perdido! All is lost! The bridge cannot be raised!" And along the causeway from mouth to mouth the warning flew, of such dolorous effect as not merely to unman all who heard it, but to take from them the instincts to which life so painfully intrusts itself when there is no judgment left. Those defending themselves quitted fighting, and turned to fly; except the gold, which they clutched all the closer, many flung away everything that impeded them, even the arquebuses, so precious in Cortes' eyes; guns dragged safely so far were rolled into the lake or left on the road; the horses caught the contagion, and, becoming unmanageable, ran madly upon the footmen.

When the cry, outflying the fugitives with whom it began, reached the thousands at the second canal, it had somewhere borrowed a phrase yet more demoralizing. "The bridge cannot be raised! All is lost! Save yourselves, save yourselves!" Such was its form there. And about that time, as ill-fortune ordered, the infidels had gathered around the fatal place until, by their yells and missiles there seemed to be myriads of them. Along the causeway their canoes lay wedged in, like a great raft; and bolder grown, they flung themselves bodily on the unfortunates, and strove to carry them off alive. Enough if they dragged them down the slope,-innumerable hands were ready at the water's edge to take them speedily beyond rescue. Momentarily, also, the yell of the fighting men of Tenochtitlan, surging from the city under the 'tzin, drew nearer and nearer, driving the rear upon the front, already on the verge of the canal with barely room for defense against Hualpa and his people. All that held the sufferers passive, all that gave them endurance, the virtue rarer and greater than patience, was the hope of the coming of Magarino; and the announcement, at last, that the bridge could not be raised, was as the voice of doom over their heads. Instantly, they saw death behind them, and life nowhere but forward,-so always with panic. An impulse moved them,-they rushed on, they pushed each with the might of despair. "Save yourselves, save yourselves!" they screamed, at the same time no one thought of any but himself.

To make the scene clear to the reader, he should remember that the causeway was but eight yards across its superior slope; while the canal, about as wide, and crossing at right angles, was on both sides walled with dressed masonry to the height, probably, of twelve feet, with, water at least deep enough to drown a horse. Ordinarily, the peril of the passage would have been scorned by a stout swimmer; but, alas! such were not all who must make the attempt now.

The first victims of the movement I have described were those in the front fighting Hualpa. No time for preparation: with shields on their arms, if footmen, on their horses, if riders,-a struggle on the verge, a cry for pity, a despairing shriek, and into the yawning chasm they were plunged; nor had the water time to close above their heads before as many others were dashed in upon them.

Cortes, on the further side, could only hear what took place in the canal, for the darkness hid it from view; yet he knew that at his feet was a struggle for life impossible to be imagined except as something that might happen in the heart of the vortex left by a

ship foundering at sea. The screams, groans, prayers, and execrations of men; the neighing, snorting, and plunging of horses; the bubbling, hissing, and plashing of water; the writhing and fighting,-a wretch a moment risen, in a moment gone, his death-cry half uttered; the rolling of the mass, or rather its impulsion onward, which, horrible to think, might be the fast filling up of the passage; now and then a piteous appeal for help under the wall, reached at last (and by what mighty exertion!) only to mock the hopes of the swimmers,-all this Cortes heard, and more. No need of light to make the scene visible; no need to see the dying and the drowning, or the last look of eyes fixed upon him as they went down, a look as likely to be a curse as a prayer! If never before or never again, his courage failed him then; and turning his horse he fled the place, shouting as he went,-

"Todo es perdido! all is lost! Save yourselves, save yourselves!"

And in his absence the horror continued,-continued until the canal from side to side was filled with the bodies of men and horses, blent with arms and ensigns, baggage, and guns, and gun-carriages, and munitions in boxes and carts,-the rich plunder of the empire, royal fifth as well as humbler dividend,-and all the paraphernalia of armies, infidel and Christian; filled, until most of those who escaped clambered over the warm and writhing heap of what had so lately been friends and comrades. And the gods of the heathen were not forgotten by their children; for sufferers there were who, snatching at hands offered in help, were dragged into canoes, and never heard of more. Tears and prayers and the saving grace of the Holy Mother and Son for them! Better death in the canal, however dreadful, than death in the temples,-for the soul's rest, better!

Slowly along the causeway, meantime, Alvarado toiled with the rear-guard. Very early he had given up Leon and Mesa, and all with them, as lost. And to say truth, little time had he to think of them; for now, indeed, he found the duties of lover and soldier difficult as they had been pleasant. Gay of spirit, boastful but not less generous and brave, skilful and reckless, he was of the kind to attract and dazzle the adventurers with whom he had cast his lot; and now they were ready to do his bidding, and equally ready to share his fate, life or death. Of them he constituted a body-guard for Nenetzin. Rough riders were they, yet around her they formed, more careful of her than themselves; against them rattled and rang the stones and arrows; against them dashed the infidels landed from their canoes; sometimes a cry announced a hurt, sometimes a fall announced a death; but never hand of foe or flying missile reached the curtained carriage in which rode the little princess.

Nor can it be said that Alvarado, so careful as lover, failed his duty as captain. Sometimes at the rear, facing the 'tzin; sometimes, with a laugh or a kiss of the hand, by the palanquin; and always his cry, blasphemous yet cheerful. "Viva á Christo! Viva Santa Cruz! Santiago, Santiago!" So from mistress and men he kept off the evil bird Fear. The stout mare Bradamante gave him most concern; she obeyed willingly,-indeed, seemed better when in action; yet was restless and uneasy, and tossed her head, and-unpardonable as a habit in the horse of a soldier-cried for company.

"So-a, girl!" he would say, as never doubting that she understood him. "What seest thou that I do not? or is it what thou hearest? Fear! If one did but say to me that thou wert cowardly, better for him that he spoke ill of my mother! But here they come again! Upon them now! Upon them, sweetheart! Viva á Christo! Viva la Santa Cruz!"

And so, fighting, he crossed the bridge; and still all went well with him. Out of the way he chased the foe; on the flanks they were beaten off; only at the rear were they troublesome, for there the 'tzin led the pursuit.

Finally, the rear-guard closed upon the central division, which, having reached the second canal, stood, in what condition we have seen, waiting for Magarino. Then Alvarado hurried to the palanquin; and while there, now checking Bradamante, whose uneasiness seemed to increase as they advanced, now cheering Nenetzin, he heard the fatal cry proclaiming the loss of the bridge. On his lips the jest faded, in his heart the blood stood still. A hundred voices took up the cry, and there was hurry and alarm around him, and he felt the first pressure of the impulsive movement forward. The warning was not lost:-

"Ola, my friends!" he said, at once aroused, "Hell's door of brass hath been opened, and the devils are loose! Keep we together-"

As he spoke the pressure strengthened, and the crowd yelled "Todo es perdido! Save yourselves!"

Up went his visor, out rang his voice in fierce appeal,-

"Together let us bide, gentlemen. We are Spaniards, and in our saddles, with swords and shields. The foe are the dogs who have bayed us so to their cost for days and weeks. On the right and left, as ye are! Remember, the woman we have here is a Christian; she hath broken the bread and drunken the wine; her God is our God; and if we abandon her, may he abandon us!"

Not a rider left his place. The division went to pieces, and rushed forward, sweeping all before it except the palanquin; as a boat in a current, that floated on,-fierce the current, yet placid the motion of the boat. And nestled warm within, Nenetzin heard the tumult as something terrible afar off.

And all the time Hualpa kept the fight by the canal. Hours passed. The dead covered the slopes of the causeway; on the top they lay in heaps; the canal choked with them; still the stream of enemies poured on roaring and fighting. Over the horrible bridge he saw some Tlascalans carry two women,-neither of them Nenetzin. Another woman came up and crossed, but she had sword and shield, and used them, shrilly shouting the war-cries of the strangers. Out towards the land the battle followed the fugitives,-beyond the third canal even,-and everywhere victory! Surely, the Aztecan gods had vindicated themselves; and for the 'tzin there was glory immeasurable. But where was Nenetzin? where the hated Tonatiah? Why came they not? In the intervals of the slaughter he began to be shaken by visions of the laughing lips and dimpled cheeks of the loved face out in the rain crushed by a hoof or a wheel. At other times, when the awful chorus of the struggle swelled loudest, he fancied he heard her voice in agony of fear and pain. Almost he regretted not having sought her, instead of waiting as he had.

Near morning from the causeway toward the city he heard two cries,-"Al-a-lala!" one, "Viva á Christo!" the other. Friend most loved, foe most hated, woman most adored! How good the gods were to send them! His spirit rose, all its strength returned.

Of his warriors, six were with the slain; the others he called together, and said,-

"The 'tzin comes, and the Tonatiah. Now, O my friends, I claim your service. But forget not, I charge you, forget not her of whom I spoke. Harm her not. Be ready to follow me."

He waited until the guardians of the palanquin were close by,-until he heard their horses' tread; then he shouted, "Now, O my countrymen! Be the 'tzin's cry our cry! Follow me. Al-a-lala, al-a-lala!"

The rough riders faced the attack, thinking it a repetition of others they had lightly turned aside on the way; but when their weapons glanced from iron-faced shields, and they recognized the thrust of steel; when their horses shrunk from the contact or staggered with mortal hurts, and some of them fell down dying, then they gave way to a torrent of exclamations so seasoned with holy names that they could be as well taken for prayers as curses. Surprised, dismayed, retreating,-with scarce room for defence and none for attack, still they struggled to maintain themselves. Sharp the clangor of axes on shields, merciless the thrust of the blades,-cry answered cry. Death to the horse, if he but reared; to the rider death, if his horse but stumbled. Nevertheless, step by step the patient Indian lover approached the palanquin. Then that which had been as a living wall around the girl was broken. One of her slaves fell down, struck by a stone. Her scream, though shrill with sudden fear, was faint amid the discordances of storm and fight; yet two of the combatants heard it, and rushed to the rescue. And now Hualpa's hand was on the fallen carriage-happy moment! "Viva á Christo! Santiago, Santiago!" thundered Alvarado. The exultant infidel looked up: right over him, hiding the leaden sky,-a dark impending danger,-reared Bradamante. He thrust quickly, and the blade on the lance was true; with a cry, in its excess of agony almost human, the mare reared, fell back, and died. As she fell, one foot, heavy with its silver shoe, struck him to the ground; and would that were all!

"Ola, comrades!" cried Alvarado, upon his feet again, to some horsemen dismounted like himself. "Look! the girl is dying! Help me! as ye hope for life, stay and help me!"

They laid hold of the mare, and rolled her away. The morning light rested upon the place feebly, as if afraid of its own revelations. On the causeway, in the lake, in the canal, were many horrors to melt a heart of stone; one fixed Alvarado's gaze,-

"Dead! she is dead!" he said, falling upon his knees, and covering his eyes with his hands, "O mother of Christ! What have I done that this should befall me?"

Under the palanquin,-its roof of aromatic cedar, thin as tortoise shell, and its frame of bamboo, light as the cane of the maize, all a heap of fragments now,-under the wreck lay Nenetzin. About her head the blue curtains of the carriage were wrapped in accidental folds, making the pallor of the face more pallid; the lips so given to laughter were dark with flowing blood; and the eyes had looked their love the last time; one little hand rested palm upward upon the head of a dead warrior, and in it shone the iron cross of Christ. Bradamante had crushed her to death! And this, the crowning horror of the melancholy night, was what the good mare saw on the way that her master did not,-so the master ever after believed.

The pain of grief was new to the good captain; while yet it so overcame him, a man laid a hand roughly on his shoulder, and said,-

"Look thou, Se?or! She is in Paradise, while of those who, at thy call, stayed to help thee save her but seven are left. If not thyself, up and help us!"

The justice of the rude appeal aroused him, and he retook his sword and shield, and joined in the fight,-eight against the many. About them closed the lancers; facing whom one by one the brave men died, until only Alvarado remained. Over the clashing of arms then rang the 'tzin's voice,-

"It is the Tonatiah! Take him, O my children, but harm him not; his life belongs to the gods!"

Fortunately for Alvarado a swell of Christian war-cries and the beat of galloping horses came, about the same time, from the further side of the canal to distract the attention of his foemen. Immediately Cortes appeared, with Sandoval, Morla, Avila, and others,-brave gentlemen come back from the land, which they had safely gained, to save whom they might of the rear-guard. At the dread passage all of them drew rein except Morla; down the slope of the dyke he rode, and spurring into the lake, through the canoes and floating débris, he headed to save his friend. Useless the gallantry! The assault upon Alvarado had ceased,-with what purpose he knew. Never should they take him alive! Hualpa's lance, of great length, was lying at his feet. Suddenly, casting away his sword and shield, he snatched up his enemy's weapon, broke the ring that girdled him, ran to the edge of the canal, and vaulted in air. Loud the cry of the Christians, louder that of the infidels! An instant he seemed to halt in his flight; an instant more, and his famous feat was performed,-the chasm was cleared, and he stood amongst his people saved.

Alas for Morla! An infidel sprang down the dike, and by running and leaping from canoe to canoe overtook him while in the lake.

"Sword and shield, Se?or Francisco! Sword and shield! Look! The foe is upon thee!"

So he was warned; but quick the action. First, a blow with a Christian axe: down sank the horse; then a blow upon the helmet, and the wave that swallowed the steed received the rider also.

"Al-a-lala!" shouted the victor.

"The 'tzin, the 'tzin!" answered his people; and forward they sprang, over the canoes, over the bridge of the dead,-forward to get at their hated enemies again.

"Welcome art thou!" said Cortes to Alvarado. "Welcome as from the grave, whither Morla-God rest his soul!-hath gone. Where is Leon?"

"With Morla," answered the captain.

"And Mesa?"

"Nay, Se?or Hernan, if thou stayest here for any of the rear-guard, know that I am the last of them."

"Bastante! Hear ye, gentlemen?" said Cortes. "Our duty is done. Let us to the land again. Here is my foot, here my hand: mount, captain, and quickly!"

Alvarado took the seat offered behind Cortes, and the party set out in retreat again. Closely, across the third canal, along the causeway to the village of Popotla, the 'tzin kept the pursuit. From the village, and from Tlacopan the city, he drove the bleeding and bewildered fugitives. At last they took possession of a temple, from which, as from a fortress, they successfully defended themselves. Then the 'tzin gave over, and returned to the capital.

And his return was as the savior of his country,-the victorious companies behind him, the great flotillas on his right and left, and the clouds overhead rent by the sounding of conchs and tambours and the singing and shouting of the proud and happy people.

Fast throbbed his heart, for now he knew, if the crown were not indeed his, its prestige and power were; and amidst fast-coming schemes for the restoration of the empire, he thought of the noble Tula, and then,-he halted suddenly:-

"Where is the lord Hualpa?" he asked.

"At the second canal," answered a cacique.

"And he is-"


The proud head drooped, and the hero forgot his greatness and his dreams; he was the loving friend again, and as such, sorrowing and silent, repassed the second canal, and stood upon the causeway beyond. And the people, with quick understanding of what he sought, made way for him. Over the wrecks of the battle,-sword and shield, helm and breastplate, men and horses,-he walked to where the lover and his beloved lay.

At sight of her face, more childlike and beautiful than ever, memory brought to him the sad look, the low voice, and the last words of Hualpa,-"If I come not with the rising sun to-morrow, Nenetzin can tell you my story,"-such were the words. The iron cross was yet in her hand, and the hand yet rested on the head of a warrior lying near. The 'tzin stooped, and turned the dead man over, and lo! the lord Hualpa. From one to the other the princely mourner looked; a mist, not of the lake or the cloud, rose and hid them from his view; he turned away,-she had told him all the story.

In a canoe, side by side, the two victims were borne to the city, never to be separated. At Chapultepec they were laid in the same tomb; so that one day the dust of the hunter, with that of kings, may feed the grass and color the flowers of the royal hill.

He had found his fortune!

* * *

Here the chronicles of the learned Don Fernando abruptly terminate. For the satisfaction of the reader, a professional story-teller would no doubt have devoted several pages to the careers of some of the characters whom he leaves surviving the catastrophe. The translator is not disposed to think his author less courteous than literators generally; on the contrary, the books abound with evidences of the tender regard he had for those who might chance to occupy themselves with his pages; consequently, there must have been a reason for the apparent neglect in question.

If the worthy gentleman were alive, and the objection made to him in person, he would most likely have replied: "Gentle critic, what you take for neglect was but a compliment to your intelligence. The characters with which I dealt were for the most part furnished me by history. The few of my own creation were exclusively heathen, and of them, except the lord Maxtla and Xoli, the Chalcan, disposition is made in one part or another of the story. The two survivors named, it is to be supposed, were submerged in the ruin that fell upon the country after the conquest was finally completed. The other personages being real, for perfect satisfaction as to them, permit me, with the profoundest respect, to refer you to your histories again."

The translator has nothing to add to the explanation except brief mention that the king Cuitlahua's reign lasted but two months in all. The small-pox, which desolated the city and valley, and contributed, more than any other cause, to the ultimate overthrow of the empire, sent him to the tombs of Chapultepec. Guatamozin then took the vacant throne, and as king exemplified still further the qualities which had made him already the idol of his people and the hero of his race. Some time also, but whether before or after his coronation we are not told, he married the noble Tula,-an event which will leave the readers of the excellent Don Fernando in doubt whether Mualox, the paba, was not more prophet than monomaniac.

* * *


[1] Fernando De Alva Iztlilzochitl.

[2] The goddess Cioacoatl, called "Our Lady and Mother." Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva Esp.

[3] Carrier slaves, or porters.

[4] In Aztec mythology, God of the Air.

[5] Equivalent to Pontiff or Pope.

[6] Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva Esp.

[7] Ixtlilxochitl, son of Nezahualpilli, king of Tezcuco.

[8] King of Tezcuco.

[9] See Prescott's Conq. of Mexico.

[10] Guatamozin, nephew to Montezuma. Of him Bernal Diaz says: "This monarch was between twenty-three and twenty-four years of age, and could in all truth be called a handsome man, both as regards his countenance and figure. His face was rather of an elongated form, with a cheerful look; his eye had great expression, both when he assumed a majestic expression, or when he looked pleasantly around; the color of his face inclined to white more than to the copper-brown tint of the Indians in general."-Diaz, Conquest of Mexico, Lockhart's Trans., Vol. IV., p. 110.

[11] Prescott's Conq. of Mexico, Vol. I., p. 417.

[12] The God of War,-aptly called the "Mexican Mars."

[13] There was a fire for each altar in the temples which was inextinguishable; and so numerous were the altars, and so brilliant their fires, that they kept the city illuminated throughout the darkest nights. Prescott, Conq. of Mexico, Vol. I., p 72.

[14] The Aztec currency consisted of bits of tin, in shape like a capital T, of quills of gold-dust, and of bags of cocoa, containing a stated number of grains. Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva Esp.

[15] Temple. The term appears to have applied particularly to the temples of the god Huitzil'.-Tr.

[16] Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva Esp.

[17] The Mexican Hell. The owl was the symbol of the Devil, whose name signifies "the rational owl."

[18] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista.

[19] The Divine Book, or Bible. Ixtlil's Relaciones M.S.

[20] A kind of emerald, used altogether by the nobility. Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva Esp.

[21] Or capilli,-the king's crown. A panache was the head-dress of a warrior.

[22] A garment of coarse white material, made from the fibre of the aloe, and by court etiquette required to be worn by courtiers and suitors in the king's presence. The rule appears to have been of universal application.

[23] 'Tzin was a title equivalent to lord in English. Guatamotzin, as compounded, signifies Lord Guatamo.

[24] The great market-place or square of Tlateloco. The Spaniards called it tianguez. For description, see Prescott, Conq. of Mexico, Vol. II., Book IV. Bernal Diaz's Work, Hist. de la Conq.

[25] Iztacoihuatl.

[26] Popocatepetl.

[27] Cortes' squadron reached the mouth of the river Tabasco on the 12th of March, 1519.

[28] Prescott, Conq. of Mexico.

[29] God of the sea.

[30] The allusion was doubtless to the expeditions of Hernandez de Cordova, in 1517, and Juan de Grijalva, in 1518.

[31] These are the proper names of the queens. MSS of Mu?oz. Also, note to Prescott, Conq. of Mexico, Vol. II., p. 351.

[32] A species of fig.

[33] Prescott, Conq. of Mexico.

[34] A household god.

[35] The fifth and sixth verses of the famous Spanish ballad, "The Lamentation of Don Roderic." The translation I have borrowed from Lockhart's Spanish Ballads.-Tr.

[36] Gods.

[37] Prescott, Conq. of Mexico, Vol. I. p. 33.

[38] A thief might be punished with slavery: death was the penalty for prodigalism and drunkenness.

[39] The authorities touching the military orders of the Aztecs are full and complete. Prescott, Conq. of Mexico, Vol. I. p. 45; Acosta, Book VI. ch. 26; Mendoza's Collec. Antiq. of Mexico, Vol. I, p. 65.

[40] Tezcatlipoca, a god next in rank to the Supreme Being. Supposed creator of the world.

[41] Bernal Diaz, Hist. of the Conq. of Mexico.

[42] Ib.

[43] Bernal Diaz, Hist. of the Conq. of Mexico.

[44] Ib.

[45] The University.

[46] Household god of the lowest grade.

[47] Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva Esp. Gomara, Cronica. Prescott, Conq. of Mexico.

[48] The monarchy was elective.-Prescott, Conq. of Mexico, Vol. I., p. 24

[49] Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

[50] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conq.

[51] The crown.

[52] A reputed soothsayer.

[53] Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conq.

Transcriber's Note

There were a number of issues in the original text, including obvious printer's errors, or those due to the condition of the text itself, especially on the margins.

Where the issue is very clear, they have been corrected here. Many hyphenation characters on the right margin are illegible, and those words have been joined here-unless the hyphen itself appears in the same word elsewhere in the text.

In general, punctuation errors, especially those involving single or double quotation marks, were quite frequent, and in the interest of keeping the narrative flowing, they have been corrected. The use of the single quotation as a abbreviating mark in proper names (e.g. "Huitzil'")seems to have confused the printer more than once when other punctuation directly follows, on pp. 135, 509, and 525.

There were several questionable spelling issues (e.g., "beseiged", "rodoubted", "massage") which were retained. The name "Cortez" (vs. "Cortes") appears only in the table of contents. "'Hualpilli" appears once as "'Huapill".

Some compound words appear both with and without hyphens. Where the hyphenation occurs at a line break, the hyphen is retained (or removed) if there are other mid-line examples.

The following list contains the details of corrections made to the text or spelling variants to be noted.

p. 13 the moment of reply wa[s] allowed to pass Added.

p. 28 his canoe wil[l] be full of blessings Added.

p. 35 Look well to this, O king[.] Added. May have been '!'.

p. 40 and the time is very quiet[.] Added.

p. 54 [F]ail me not, my children. Added.

p. 91 I promised I[tz/zt]lil' Reversed.

p. 109 I am told you wish to enter my service[.] Added.

p. 143 [t]he glinting of the jewels Added.

p. 157 Temple over many chambers.["] Removed.

p. 178 he is not a trai[tor.]" Added.

p. 202 nor on what grounds[.] Added.

p. 236 ["/']Come, the victim is ready!["/'] Should have been single quotes.

p. 241 "That is Diaz's [massage]." Sic.

p. 290 Alvarado continued[./,] "which I could Added.

p. 302 in trust for the god.['] Added.

p. 311 and all things else yet undiscovered.["] Added.

p. 334 Go with them, I pray you.['/"] Corrected.

p. 341 The hours were long[.] Added.

p. 342 What wonder that I fled?["] Added.

p. 402 To the Mother the praise!['\"] Corrected.

p. 406 has been toilsome and dreadful[.] Ah me, I shudder at the thought!["] Added.

"Have you never been elsewhere[?]" Added.

have they been denied you, poor girl?["] Added.

p. 488 Yonder is the temple we seek[.] Added.

p. 499 "Al templo! Adelante, adelante! -forward!["] Added.

p. 500 to the palace, the palace!["] Added.

p. 504 Then the [']tzin, recalled to himself Added.

p. 512 The footnote reference for #49 was missing. Added.

p. 513 and all the saints!["] Added.

p. 537 If he fail-if he fail-["] Added.

p. 543 and gave himself to sombre thought[.] Added.

p. 552 What didst thou?["] Added.

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