Chapter VI 
GENERAL ASSAULT ON THE CITY-DEFEAT OF THE SPANIARDS-THEIR DISASTROUS CONDITION-SACRIFICE OF THE CAPTIVES-DEFECTION OF THE ALLIES-CONSTANCY OF THE TROOPS
FAMINE was now gradually working its way into the heart of the
beleaguered city. It seemed certain that, with this strict blockade,
the crowded population must in the end be driven to capitulate, though
no arm should be raised against them. But it required time; and the
Spaniards, though constant and enduring by nature, began to be
impatient of hardships scarcely inferior to those experienced by the
besieged. In some respects their condition was even worse, exposed, as
they were, to the cold, drenching rains, which fen with little
intermission, rendering their situation dreary and disastrous in the
In this state of things there were many who would willingly have
shortened their sufferings, and taken the chance of carrying the place
by a coup de main. Others thought it would be best to get possession
of the great market of Tlatelolco, which, from its situation in the
north-western part of the city, might afford the means of
communication with the camps of both Alvarado and Sandoval. This
place, encompassed by spacious porticos, would furnish
accommodations for a numerous host; and, once established in the
capital, the Spaniards would be in a position to follow up the blow
with far more effect than at a distance.
These arguments were pressed by several of the officers,
particularly by Alderete, the royal treasurer, a person of much
consideration, not only from his rank, but from the capacity and
zeal he had shown in the service. In deference to their wishes, Cortes
summoned a council of war, and laid the matter before it. The
treasurer's views were espoused by most of the high-mettled cavaliers,
who looked with eagerness to any change of their present forlorn and
wearisome life; and Cortes, thinking it probably more prudent to adopt
the less expedient course, than to enforce a cold and reluctant
obedience to his own opinion, suffered himself to be overruled.
A day was fixed for the assault, which was to be made
simultaneously by the two divisions under Alvarado and the
commander-in-chief. Sandoval was instructed to draw off the greater
part of his forces from the northern causeway, and to unite himself
with Alvarado, while seventy picked soldiers were to be detached to
the support of Cortes.
On the appointed morning, the two armies, after the usual
celebration of mass, advanced along their respective causeways against
the city. They were supported, in addition to the brigantines, by a
numerous fleet of Indian boats, which were to force a passage up the
canals, and by a countless multitude of allies, whose very numbers
served in the end to embarrass their operations. After clearing the
suburbs, three avenues presented themselves, which all terminated in
the square of Tlatelolco. The principal one, being of much greater
width than the other two, might rather be called a causeway than a
street, since it was flanked by deep canals on either side. Cortes
divided his force into three bodies. One of them he placed under
Alderete, with orders to occupy the principal street. A second he gave
in charge to Andres de Tapia and Jorge de Alvarado; the former a
cavalier of courage and capacity, the latter, a younger brother of Don
Pedro and possessed of the intrepid spirit which belonged to that
chivalrous family. These were to penetrate by one of the parallel
streets, while the general himself, at the head of the third division,
was to occupy the other. A small body of cavalry, with two or three
field-pieces, was stationed as a reserve in front of the great
street of Tacuba, which was designated as the rallying point for the
Cortes gave the most positive instructions to his captains not
to advance a step without securing the means of retreat, by
carefully filling up the ditches, and the openings in the causeway.
The neglect of this precaution by Alvarado, in an assault which he had
made on the city but a few days before, had been attended with such
serious consequences to his army, that Cortes rode over, himself, to
his officer's quarters, for the purpose of publicly reprimanding him
for his disobedience of orders. On his arrival at the camp, however,
he found that his offending captain had conducted the affair with so
much gallantry, that the intended reprimand- though well deserved-
subsided into a mild rebuke.
The arrangements being completed, the three divisions marched at
once up the several streets. Cortes, dismounting, took the van of
his own squadron, at the head of his infantry. The Mexicans fell
back as he advanced, making less resistance than usual. The
Spaniards pushed on, carrying one barricade after another, and
carefully filling up the gaps with rubbish, so as to secure themselves
a footing. The canoes supported the attack, by moving along the
canals, and grappling with those of the enemy; while numbers of the
nimble-footed Tlascalans, scaling the terraces, passed on from one
house to another, where they were connected, hurling the defenders
into the streets below. The enemy, taken apparently by surprise,
seemed incapable of withstanding for a moment the fury of the assault;
and the victorious Christians, cheered on by the shouts of triumph
which arose from their companions in the adjoining streets, were
only the more eager to be first at the destined goal.
Indeed, the facility of his success led the general to suspect
that he might be advancing too fast; that it might be a device of
the enemy to draw them into the heart of the city, and then surround
or attack them in the rear. He had some misgivings, moreover, lest his
too ardent officers, in the heat of the chase, should, notwithstanding
his commands, have overlooked the necessary precaution of filling up
the breaches. He accordingly brought his squadron to a halt,
prepared to baffle any insidious movement of his adversary.
Meanwhile he received more than one message from Alderete, informing
him that he had nearly gained the market. This only increased the
general's apprehension, that, in the rapidity of his advance, he might
have neglected to secure the ground. He determined to trust no eyes
but his own, and, taking a small body of troops, proceeded to
reconnoitre the route followed by the treasurer.
He had not proceeded far along the great street, or causeway, when
his progress was arrested by an opening ten or twelve paces wide,
and filled with water, at least two fathoms deep, by which a
communication was formed between the canals on the opposite sides. A
feeble attempt had been made to stop the gap with the rubbish of the
causeway, but in too careless a manner to be of the least service; and
a few straggling stones and pieces of timber only showed that the work
had been abandoned almost as soon as begun. To add to his
consternation, the general observed that the sides of the causeway
in this neighbourhood had been pared off, and, as was evident, very
recently. He saw in all this the artifice of the cunning enemy; and
had little doubt that his hot-headed officer had rushed into a snare
deliberately laid for him. Deeply alanned, he set about repairing
the mischief as fast as possible, by ordering his men to fill up the
But they had scarcely begun their labours, when the hoarse
echoes of conflict in the distance were succeeded by a hideous sound
of mingled yells and war-whoops, that seemed to rend the very heavens.
This was followed by a rushing noise, as of the tread of thronging
multitudes, showing that the tide of battle was turned back from its
former course, and was rolling on towards the spot where Cortes and
his little band of cavaliers were planted.
His conjecture proved too true. Alderete had followed the
retreating Aztecs with an eagerness which increased with every step of
his advance. He had carried the barricades, which had defended the
breach, without much difficulty, and, as he swept on, gave orders.
that the opening should be stopped. But the blood of the high-spirited
cavaliers was warmed by the chase, and no one cared to be detained
by the ignoble occupation of filling up the ditches, while he could
gather laurels so easily in the fight; and they all pressed on,
exhorting and cheering one another with the assurance of being the
first to reach the square of Tlatelolco. In this way they suffered
themselves to be decoyed into the heart of the city; when suddenly the
horn of Guatemozin sent forth a long and piercing note from the summit
of a neighbouring teocalli. In an instant, the flying Aztecs, as if
maddened by the blast, wheeled about, and turned on their pursuers. At
the same time, countless swarms of warriors from the adjoining streets
and lanes poured in upon the flanks of the assailants, filling the air
with the fierce, unearthly cries which bad reached the ears of Cortes,
and drowning, for a moment, the wild dissonance which reigned in the
other quarters of the capital.
The army, taken by surprise, and shaken by the fury of the
assault, were thrown into the utmost disorder. Friends and foes, white
men and Indians, were mingled together in one promiscuous mass;
spears, swords, and war-clubs were brandished together in the air.
Blows fell at random. In their eagerness to escape, they trod down one
another. Blinded by the missiles, which now rained on them from the
azoteas, they staggered on, scarcely knowing in what direction, or
fell, struck down by hands which they could not see. On they came like
a rushing torrent sweeping along some steep declivity, and rolling
in one confused tide towards the open breach, on the further side of
which stood Cortes and his companions, horror-struck at the sight of
the approaching ruin. The foremost files soon plunged into the gulf,
treading one another under the flood, some striving ineffectually to
swim, others, with more success, to clamber over the heaps of their
suffocated comrades. Many, as they attempted to scale the opposite
sides of the slippery dike, fell into the water, or were hurried off
by the warriors in the canoes, who added to the horrors of the rout by
the fresh storm of darts and javelins which they poured on the
Cortes, meanwhile, with his brave followers, kept his station
undaunted on the other side of the breach. "I had made up my mind," he
says, "to die rather than desert my poor followers in their
extremity!" With outstretched hands he endeavoured to rescue as many
as he could from the watery grave, and from the more appalling fate of
captivity. He as vainly tried to restore something like presence of
mind and order among the distracted fugitives. His person was too well
known to the Aztecs, and his position now made him a conspicuous
mark for their weapons. Darts, stones, and arrows fell around him as
thick as hail, but glanced harmless from his steel helmet and armour
of proof. At length a cry of "Malinche, Malinche!" arose among the
enemy; and six of their number, strong and athletic warriors,
rushing on him at once, made a violent effort to drag him on board
their boat. In the struggle he received a severe wound in the leg,
which, for the time, disabled it. There seemed to be no hope for
him; when a faithful follower, Christoval de Olea, perceiving his
general's extremity, threw himself on the Aztecs, and with a blow
cut off the arm of one savage, and then plunged his sword in the
body of another. He was quickly supported by a comrade named Lerma,
and by a Tlascalan chief, who, fighting over the prostrate body of
Cortes, despatched three more of the assailants, though the heroic
Olea paid dearly for his self-devotion, as he fell mortally wounded by
the side of his general.
The report soon spread among the soldiers that their commander was
taken; and Quinones, the captain of his guard, with several others
pouring in to the rescue, succeeded in disentangling Cortes from the
grasp of his enemies who were struggling with him in the water, and
raising him in their arms, placed him again on the causeway. One of
his pages, meanwhile, had advanced some way through the press, leading
a horse for his master to mount. But the youth received a wound in the
throat from a javelin, which prevented him from effecting his
object. Another of his attendants was more successful. It was
Guzman, his chamberlain; but as be held the bridle, while Cortes was
assisted into the saddle, he was snatched away by the Aztecs, and with
the swiftness of thought, hurried off by their canoes. The general
still lingered, unwilling to leave the spot, whilst his presence could
be of the least service. But the faithful Quinones, taking his horse
by the bridle, turned his head from the breach, exclaiming at the same
time, that "his master's life was too important to the army to be
thrown away there."
Cortes at length succeeded in regaining the firm ground, and
reaching the open place before the great street of Tacuba. Here, under
a sharp fire of the artillery, he rallied his broken squadrons, and
charging at the head of the little body of horse, which, not having
been brought into action, were still fresh, he beat off the enemy.
He then commanded the retreat of the two other divisions. The
scattered forces again united; and the general, sending forward his
Indian confederates, took the rear with a chosen body of cavalry to
cover the retreat of the army, which was effected with but little
Andres de Tapia was despatched to the western causeway to acquaint
Alvarado and Sandoval with the failure of the enterprise. Meanwhile
the two captains had penetrated far into the city. Cheered by the
triumphant shouts of their countrymen in the adjacent streets, they
had pushed on with extraordinary vigour, that they might not be
outstripped in the race of glory. They had almost reached the
market-place, which lay nearer to their quarters than to the
general's, when they heard the blast from the dread horn of
Guatemozin, followed by the overpowering yell of the barbarians, which
had so startled the ears of Cortes: till at length the sounds the
receding conflict died away in the distance. The two captains now
understood that the day must have gone hard with their countrymen.
They soon had further proof of it, when the victorious Aztecs,
returning from the pursuit of Cortes, joined their forces to those
engaged with Sandoval and Alvarado, and fell on them with redoubled
fury. At the same time they rolled on the ground two or three of the
bloody heads of the Spaniards, shouting the name of "Malinche." The
captains, struck with horror at the spectacle, though they gave little
credit to the words of the enemy,- instantly ordered a retreat. The
fierce barbarians followed up the Spaniards to their very
intrenchments. But here they were met, first by the cross fire of
the brigantines, which, dashing through the palisades planted to
obstruct their movements, completely enfiladed the causeway, and
next by that of the small battery erected in front of the camp, which,
under the management of a skilful engineer, named Medrano, swept the
whole length of the defile. Thus galled in front and on flank, the
shattered columns of the Aztecs were compelled to give way and take
shelter under the defences of the city.
The greatest anxiety now prevailed in the camp, regarding the fate
of Cortes, for Tapia had been detained on the road by scattered
parties of the enemy, whom Guatemozin had stationed there to interrupt
the communications between the camps. He arrived, at length,
however, though bleeding from several wounds. His intelligence,
while it re-assured the Spaniards as to the general's personal safety,
was not calculated to allay their uneasiness in other respects.
Sandoval, in particular, was desirous to acquaint himself with the
actual state of things, and the further intentions of Cortes.
Suffering as he was from three wounds, which he had received in that
day's fight, he resolved to visit in person the quarters of the
commander-in-chief. It was mid-day,- for the busy scenes of the
morning had occupied but a few hours, when Sandoval remounted the good
steed, on whose strength and speed he knew he could rely.
On arriving at the camp, he found the troops there much worn and
dispirited by the disaster of the morning. They had good reason to
be so. Besides the killed, and a long file of wounded, sixty-two
Spaniards, with a multitude of allies, had fallen alive into the hands
of the enemy. The loss of two field-pieces and seven horses crowned
their own disgrace and the triumphs of the Aztecs.
Cortes, it was observed, had borne himself throughout this
trying day with his usual intrepidity and coolness. It was with a
cheerful countenance, that he now received his lieutenant; but a shade
of sadness was visible through this outward composure, showing how the
catastrophe of the puente cuidada, "the sorrowful bridge," as he
mournfully called it, lay heavy at his heart.
To the cavalier's anxious inquiries, as to the cause of the
disaster, he replied: "It is for my sins that it has befallen me,
son Sandoval"; for such was the affectionate epithet with which Cortes
often addressed his best-beloved and trusty officer. He then explained
to him the immediate cause, in the negligence of the treasurer.
Further conversation followed, in which the general declared his
purpose to forego active hostilities for a few days. "You must take my
place," continued, "for I am too much crippled at present to discharge
my duties. You must watch over the safety of the camps. Give
especial heed to Alvarado's. He is a gallant soldier, I know it
well; but I doubt the Mexican hounds may, some hour, take him at
disadvantage." These few words showed the general's own estimate of
his two lieutenants; both equally brave and chivalrous; but the one
uniting with these qualities the circumspection so essential to
success in perilous enterprises, in which the other was signally
deficient. It was under the training of Cortes that he learned to be a
soldier. The general, having concluded his instructions,
affectionately embraced his lieutenant, and dismissed him to his
It was late in the afternoon when he reached them; but the sun was
still lingering above the western hills, and poured his beams wide
over the valley, lighting up the old towers and temples of
Tenochtitlan with a mellow radiance that little harmonised with the
dark scenes of strife in which the city had so lately been involved.
The tranquillity of the hour, however, was on a sudden broken by the
strange sounds of the great drum in the temple of the war-god,- sounds
which recalled the noche triste, with all its terrible images, to
the minds of the Spaniards, for that was the only occasion on which
they had ever heard them. They intimated some solemn act of religion
within the unhallowed precincts of the teocalli; and the soldiers,
startled by the mournful vibrations, which might be heard for
leagues across the valley, turned their eyes to the quarter whence
they proceeded. They there beheld a long procession winding up the
huge sides of the pyramid; for the camp of Alvarado was pitched
scarcely a mile from the city, and objects are distinctly visible,
at a great distance, in the transparent atmosphere of the tableland.
As the long file of priests and warriors reached the flat summit
of the teocalli, the Spaniards saw the figures of several men stripped
to their waists, some of whom, by the whiteness of their skins, they
recognised as their own countrymen. They were the victims for
sacrifice. Their heads were gaudily decorated with coronals of plumes,
and they carried fans in their hands. They were urged along by
blows, and compelled to take part in the dances in honour of the Aztec
war-god. The unfortunate captives, then stripped of their sad
finery, were stretched one after another on the great stone of
sacrifice. On its convex surface, their breasts were heaved up
conveniently for the diabolical purpose of the priestly executioner,
who cut asunder the ribs by a strong blow with his sharp razor of
itztli, and thrusting his hand into the wound, tore away the heart,
which, hot and reeking, was deposited on the golden censer before
the idol. The body of the slaughtered victim was then hurled down
the steep stairs of the pyramid, which, it may be remembered, were
placed at the same angle of the pile, one flight below another; and
the mutilated remains were gathered up by the savages beneath, who
soon prepared with them the cannibal repast which completed the work
We may imagine with what sensations the stupefied Spaniards must
have gazed on this horrid spectacle, so near that they could almost
recognise the persons of their unfortunate friends, see the
struggles and writhing of their bodies, hear- or fancy that they
heard- their screams of agony! yet so far removed that they could
render them no assistance. Their limbs trembled beneath them, as
they thought what might one day be their own fate; and the bravest
among them, who had hitherto gone to battle, as careless and
lighthearted, as to the banquet or the ball-room, were unable, from
this time forward, to encounter their ferocious enemy without a
sickening feeling, much akin to fear, coming over them.
The five following days passed away in a state of inaction, except
indeed, so far as was necessary to repel the sorties, made from time
to time, by the militia of the capital. The Mexicans, elated with
their success, meanwhile abandoned themselves to jubilee; singing,
dancing and feasting on the mangled relics of their wretched
victims. Guatemozin sent several heads of the Spaniards, as well as of
the horses, round the country, calling on his old vassals to forsake
the banners of the white men, unless they would share the doom of
the enemies of Mexico. The priests now cheered the young monarch and
the people with the declaration, that the dread Huitzilopochtli, their
offended deity, appeased by the sacrifices offered up on his altars,
would again take the Aztecs under his protection, and deliver their
enemies, before the expiration of eight days, into their hands.
This comfortable prediction, confidently believed by the Mexicans,
was thundered in the ears of the besieging army in tones of exultation
and defiance. However it may have been contemned by the Spaniards,
it had a very different effect on their allies. The latter had begun
to be disgusted with a service so full of peril and suffering, and
already protracted far beyond the usual term of Indian hostilities.
They had less confidence than before in the Spaniards. Experience
had shown that they were neither invincible nor immortal, and their
recent reverses made them even distrust the ability of the
Christians to reduce the Aztec metropolis. They recalled to mind the
ominous words of Xicotencatl, that "so sacrilegious a war could come
to no good for the people of Anahuac." They felt that their arm was
raised against the gods of their country. The prediction of the oracle
fell heavy on their hearts. They had little doubt of its fulfilment,
and were only eager to turn away the bolt from their own heads by a
timely secession from the cause.
They took advantage, therefore, of the friendly cover of night
to steal away from their quarters. Company after company deserted in
this manner, taking the direction of their respective homes. Those
belonging to the great towns of the valley, whose allegiance was the
most recent, were the first to cast it off. Their example was followed
by the older confederates, the militia of Cholula, Tepeaca, Tezcuco,
and even the faithful Tlascala. There were, it is true, some
exceptions to these, and among them, Ixtlilxochitl, the younger lord
of Tezcuco, and Chichemecatl, the valiant Tlascalan chieftain, who,
with a few of their immediate followers, still remained true to the
banner under which they had. enlisted. But their number was
insignificant. The Spaniards beheld with dismay the mighty array, on
which they relied for support, thus silently melting away before the
breath of superstition. Cortes alone maintained a cheerful
countenance. He treated the prediction with contempt, as an
invention of the priests, and sent his messengers after the retreating
squadrons, beseeching them to postpone their departure, or at least to
halt on the road, till the time, which would soon elapse, should
show the falsehood of the prophecy.
The affairs of the Spaniards, at this crisis, must be confessed to
have worn a gloomy aspect. Deserted by their allies, with their
ammunition nearly exhausted, cut off from the customary supplies
from the neighbourhood, harassed by unintermitting vigils and
fatigues, smarting under wounds, of which every man in the army had
his share, with an unfriendly country in their rear, and a mortal
foe in front, they might well be excused for faltering in their
enterprise. Night after night fresh victims were led up to the great
altar of sacrifice; and while the city blazed with the illuminations
of a thousand bonfires on the terraced roofs of the dwellings, and
in the areas of the temples, the dismal pageant was distinctly visible
from the camp below. One of the last of the sufferers was Guzman,
the unfortunate chamberlain of Cortes, who lingered in captivity
eighteen days before he met his doom.
Amidst all the distresses and multiplied embarrassments of their
situation, the Spaniards still remained true to their purpose. They
relaxed in no degree the severity of the blockade. Their camps still
occupied the only avenues to the city; and their batteries, sweeping
the long defiles at every fresh assault of the Aztecs, mowed down
hundreds of the assailants. Their brigantines still rode on the
waters, cutting off the communication with the shore. It is true,
indeed, the loss of the auxiliary canoes left a passage open for the
occasional introduction of supplies to the capital. But the whole
amount of these supplies was small; and its crowded population,
while exulting in their temporary advantage, and the delusive
assurances of their priests, were beginning to sink under the
withering grasp of an enemy within, more terrible than the one which
lay before their gates.
1. Such is the account explicitly given by Cortés to the Emperor. (Rel. Terc., ap Lorenzana, p. 264.) Bernal Diaz, on the contrary, speaks of the assault as first conceived by the general himself. (Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 151.) Yet Diaz had not the best means of knowing; and Cortés would hardly have sent home a palpable misstatement that could have been so easily exposed.
2. This punctual performance of mass by the army, in storm and in sunshine, by day and by night, among friends and enemies, draws forth a warm eulogium from the archiepiscopal editor of Cortés. "En el Campo, en una Calzada, entre Enemigos, trabajando dia, y noche nunca se omitia la Missa, páraque toda la obra se atribuyesse á Dios, y mas en unos Meses, en que incomodan las Agua las Habitaciones, ó malas Tiendas." Lorenzana, p 266, nota.
3. In the treasurer's division, according to the general's Letter, there were 70 Spanish foot, 7 or 8 horse, and 15,000 or 20,000 Indians; in Tapia's, 80 foot, and 10,000 allies; and in his own, 8 horse, 100 infantry, and "an infinite number of allies." (Ibid., ubi supra.) The looseness of the language shows that a few thousands, more or less, were of no great moment in the estimate of the Indian forces.
4. "Otro dia de mañana acordé de ir á su Real para le reprehender lo pasador......Y visto, no les imputé tanta culpa, como antes parecia tener, y platicado cerca de lo que habia de hacer, yo me bolví á nuestro Real aquel dia." Ibid., pp. 263, 264.
5. "Y hallé, que habian pasado una quebrada de la Calle, que era de diez, ó doce pasos de ancho; y el Agua, que por ella pasaba, era de hondura de mas de dos estados, y al tiempo que la pasáron habian echado en ella madera, y cañas de carrizo, y como pasaban pocos á pocos, y con tiento, no se habia hundido la madera y cañas." Ibid., p. 268.--See also Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 48.
6. Gomara, Crónica, cap. 138.--Ixtlilxochitl, Venida de los Esp., p. 37.--Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 26.
Guatemozin's horn rung in the ears of Bernal Diaz, for many a day after the battle. "Guatemuz y manda tocar su corneta, q era vna señal q quando aquella se tocasse, era q auian de pelear sus Capitanes de manera, q hiziessen presa, ó morir sobre ello; y retumbaua el sonido, q se metia en los oidos, y de q lo oyéro aquellos sus esquadrones, y Capitanes: saber yo aquí dezir aora, con q ra bia, y esfuerço se metian entre nosotros á nos echar mano, es cosa de espanto." Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 152.
7. "É como el negocio fué tan de súpito, y ví que mataban la Gente, determiné de me quedar allí, y morir peleando." Rel. Terc., ap. Lorenzana, p. 268.
8. Ixtlilxochitl, who would fain make his royal kinsman a sort of residuary legatee for all unappropriated, or even doubtful, acts of heroism, puts in a sturdy claim for him on this occasion. A painting, he says, on one of the gates of a monastery of Tlatelolco, long recorded the fact, that it was the Tezcucan chief who saved the life of Cortés (Venida de los Esp., p. 38.) But Camargo gives the full credit of it to Olea, on the testimony of "a famous Tlascalan warrior," present in the action, who reported it to him. (Hist. de Tlascala, MS.) The same is stoutly maintained by Bernal Diaz, the townsman of Olea, to whose memory he pays a hearty tribute, as one of the best men and bravest soldiers in the army. (Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 152, 204.) Saavedra, the poetic chronicler,--something more of chronicler than poet,--who came on the stage before all that had borne arms in the Conquest had left it, gives the laurel also to Olea, whose fate he commemorates in verses, that, at least, aspire to historic fidelity.
"Túvole con las manos abraçado,
Y Francisco de Olea el valeroso,
Vn valiente Español, y su criado,
Le tiró vn tajo brauo y riguroso:
Las dos manos á cercen le ha cortado
Y él le libró del trance trabajoso.
Huuo muy gran rumor, porque dezian,
Que ya en prision amarga le tenian.
"Llegáron otros Indios arriscados,
Y á Olea matáron en vn punto,
Cercáron á Cortés por todos lados,
Y al miserable cuerpo ya difunto:
Y viendo sus sentidos recobrados,
Puso mano á la espada y daga junto.
Antonio de Quiñones llegó luego,
Capitan de la guarda ardiendo en fuego."
EL PEREGRINO INDIANO, Canto 20.
9. "É aquel Capitan que estaba con el General, que se decia Antonio de Quiñones, díxole: Vamos, Señor, de aquí, y salvemos vuestra Persona, pues que ya esto está de manera, que es morir desperado atender; é sin vos, ninguno de nosotros puede escapar, que no es esfuerzo, sino poquedad, porfiar aquí otra cosa." Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 26.
10. It may have been the same banner which is noticed by Mr. Bullock, as treasured up in the Hospital of Jesus, "where," says he, "we beheld the identical embroidered standard, under which the great captain wrested this immense empire from the unfortunate Montezuma." Six Months in Mexico, vol. I, chap. 10.
11. For this disastrous affair, besides the Letter of Cortés, and the Chronicle of Diaz, so often quoted, see Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva Esp., MS., lib. 12, cap. 33,--Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala, MS.,--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 138,--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 94,--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 26, 48.
12. "El resonido de la corneta de Guatemuz."--Astolfo's magic horn was not more terrible.
"Dico che 'l corno é di sì orribil suono,
Ch' ovunque s' oda, fa fuggir la gente.
Non può trovarsi al mondo un cor sì buono,
Che possa non fuggir come lo sente.
Rumor di vento e di tremuoto, e 'l tuono,
A par del suon di questo, era niente."
ORLANDO FURIOSO, Canto 15, st. 15.
13. "Por q yo lo sé aqui escriuir q aora q me pongo á pensar en ello, es como si visiblemente lo viesse, mas bueluo á dezir, y ansí es verdad, q si Dios no nos diera esfuerço, segun estauamos todos heridos: él nos saluó q de otra manera no nos podiamos llegar á nuestros ranchos." Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 152.
14. This renowned steed, who might rival the Babieca of the Cid, was named Motilla, and, when one would pass unqualified praise on a horse, he would say, "He is as good as Motilla." So says that prince of chroniclers, Diaz, who takes care that neither beast nor man shall be defrauded of his fair guerdon in these campaigns against the infidel. He was of a chestnut color, it seems, with a star in his forehead, and, luckily for his credit, with only one foot white. See Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 152, 205.
15. The cavaliers might be excused for not wantonly venturing their horses, if, as Diaz asserts, they could only be replaced at an expense of eight hundred, or a thousand dollars apiece. "Porque costaua en aquella sazon vn cauallo ochocientos pesos, y aun algunos costauan á mas de mil." Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 151. See, also, Ante, Book II, chap. 3, note 14.
16. "Mira pues veis que yo no puedo ir á todas partes, á vos os encomiendo estos trabajos, pues veis q estoy herido y coxo; ruego os pongais cobro en estos tres reales; bien sé q Pedro de Aluarado, y sus Capitanes, y soldados aurán batallado, y hecho como caualleros, mas temo el gran poder destos perros no les ayan desbaratado." Ibid., cap. 152.
17. "Vn atambor de muy triste sonido, enfin como instrumento de demonios, y retumbaua tanto, que se oia dos, ó tres leguas." Ibid., loc. cit.
18. Ibid., ubi supra.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 48.
"Sacándoles los corazones, sobre una piedra que era como un pilar cortado, tan grueso como un hombre y algo mas, y tan alto como medio estadio; allí á cada uno echado de espaldas sobre aquella piedra, que se llama Techcatl, uno le tiraba por un brazo, y otro por el otro, y tambien por las piernas otros dos, y venia uno de aquellos Sátrapas, con un pedernal, como un hierro de lanza enhastado, en un palo de dos palmos de largo, le daba un golpe con ambas manos en el pecho; y sacando aquel pedernal, por la misma llaga metia la mano, y arrancábale el corazon, y luego fregaba con él la boca del Ídolo; y echaba á rodar el cuerpo por las gradas abajo, que serian como cinquenta ó sesenta gradas, por allí abajo iba quebrando las piernas y los brazos, y dando cabezasos con la cabeza, hasta que llegaba abajo aun vivo." Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva Esp., MS., lib. 12, cap. 35.
19. At least, such is the honest confession of Captain Diaz, as stout-hearted a soldier as any in the army. He consoles himself, however, with the reflection, that the tremor of his limbs intimated rather an excess of courage than a want of it, since it arose from a lively sense of the great dangers into which his daring spirit was about to hurry him! The passage in the original affords a good specimen of the inimitable naïveté of the old chronicler. "Digan agora todos aquellos caualleros, que desto del militar entienden, y se han hallado en trances peligrosos de muerte, á que fin echarán mi temor, si es á mucha flaqueza de ánimo, ó á mucho esfuerço, porque como he dicho, sentia yo en mi pensamiento, que auia de poner por mi persona, batallando en parte que por fuerga, auia de temer la muerte mas que otras vezes, y por esto me temblaua el coragon, y temia la muerte." Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 156.
20. Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 2, cap. 20.--Ixtlilxochitl, Venida de los Esp., pp. 41, 42.
"Y nos dezian, que de ai á ocho dias no auia de quedar ninguno de nosotros á vida, porque assí se lo auian prometido la noche antes sus Dioses." Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap 153.
21. Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva Esp., MS., lib. 12, cap. 36.--Ixtlilxochitl, Venida de los Esp., pp. 41,42.
The Castilian scholar will see that I have not drawn on my imagination for the picture of these horrors. "Digamos aora lo que los Mexicanos hazian de noche en sus grandes, y altos Cues; y es, q tañian su maldito atambor, que dixe otra vez que era el de mas maldito sonido, y mas triste q se podia inuétar, y sonaua muy lexos; y tañian otros peores instrumentos. En fin, cosas diabólicas, y tenia grandes lumbres, y daua gradíssimos gritos, y siluos, y en aquel instate estauan sacrificando de nuestros copañeros, de los q tomáro á Cortés, que supímos q sacrificáron diez dias arreo, hasta que los acabáron, y el postrero dexáro á Christonal de Guzman, q viuo lo tuuiéron diez y ocho dias, segun dixéro tres Capitanes Mexicanos q predímos." Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 153.
22. "Que no era bien, que Mugeres Castellanas dexasen á sus Maridos, iendo á la Guerra, i que adonde ellos muriesen, moririan ellas." (Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 22.) The historian has embalmed the names of several of these heroines in his pages, who are, doubtless, well entitled to share the honors of the Conquest; Beatriz de Palacios, María de Estrada, Juana Martin, Isabel Rodriguez, and Beatriz Bermudez.
23. Ibid, ubi supra.
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