HUETZIN RECEIVES THE BLESSING OF TIE BLIND CHIEFTAIN.
THE WHITE CONQUERORS
A TALE OF TOLTEC AND AZTEC.
Author of "Wakulla;" "The Flamingo weatherr; "Derrick Sterling;"
"The Golden Days of '49;" The Mate" Series, &c.
EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS BY IV S. STAGEY
BLACKIE & SON, LIMITED, 49 OLD BAILEY, E.C.
GLASGOW EDINBURGH AND DUBLIN.
COPYRIGHT 1893 BY BLACKIE AND SON, LIMITED.
ENTERED AT STATIONERS' HALL.
I. A CAPTIVE WARRIOR,. . . 9
II. REMEMBER THAT THOU ART A TOLTEC," .18
III. IN THE MARKET-PLACE OF TENOCHTITLAN, . 27
IV. TLAHUICOL'S LAST BATTLE, . .36
V. HUETZIN'S MIRACULOUS ESCAPE, . 44
VI. Two SLAVES OF IZTAPALAPAN, ... 53
VII. LOYALTY OUTWEIGHS GOLD AND FREEDOM, '. 61
VIII. TRAPPING A KING'S COURIER, ... .. .70
IX. WHO ARE THE WHITE CONQUERORS? . .. .79
X. THE SIGN OF THE GOD OF THE FOUR WINDS, .89
XI. HOW THE TLASCALANS FOUGHT, ... .98
XII. A SON OF THE HOUSE OF TITCALA, .. 106
XIII. How PEACE WAS BROUGHT ABOUT, . 115
XIV. A CHALLENGE, AND ITS RESULT, . .. 124
XV. MARCHING ON CIoLULA, . . 132
XVI. A SACRIFICE OF CHILDREN, AND WHAT IT PORTENDED, 141
XVII. PUNISHMENT OF THE CONSPIRATORS, ... 149
XVIII. FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE MEXICAN VALLEY, . 157
XIX. MONTEZUMA WELCOMES THE CONQUERORS TO TENOCH-
TITLAN, ... . 166
XX. HUETZIN IN THE POWER OF THE CHIEF PRIEST, 176
XXI. A SUPERSTITIOUS KING, . .. .. 184
XXII. SANDOVAL PLIGHTS HIS TROTH, .... 193
XXIII. IN THE PASSAGES BENEATH THE TEMPLE, 202
XXIV. MONTEZUMA IS MADE PRISONER, .. 211
XXV. CORTES CAPTURES AND ENLISTS THE ARMY OF HIS
RIVAL, ........ ..... .219
XXVI. TIATA'S BRAVE DEATH AND SANDOVAL'S GRIEF, 228
XXVII. THE CONQUERORS ARE BESIEGED IN THEIR QUARTERS, 236
XXVIII. A BATTLE IN MID-AIR, . . 245
XXIX. THE GLORIOUS TRIUMPH OF TLALCO, .. 253
XXX. CUITLAHUA DEFIES THE CONQUERORS, .. 261
XXXI. THE RETREAT FROM TENOCHTITLAN, .. 270
XXXII. A NIGHT OF FIGHTING, DESPAIR, AND DEATH, 279
XXXIII. MARINA Is LOST AND SAVED, . .. .287
XXXIV. SORROW TURNED INTO JOY, AND DARKNESS INTO
LIGHT, .. .. . . . .296
XXXV. THE DESPERATE BATTLE OF OTAMPAN, ... .304
XXXVI. VICTORY SNATCHED FROM DEFEAT, .. 312
XXXVII. ONCE MORE IN THE MEXICAN VALLEY, .. .319
XXXVIII. LAUNCHING THE FIRST AMERICAN WARSHIPS, 328
XXXIX. ALDERETE'S FATAL ERROR, .... . 336
XL. FINAL OVERTHROW OF THE AZTEC GODS, 345
HUETZIN RECEIVES TIE BLESSING OF THE BLIND CHIEF-
TAIN, ......... .Frontis. 139
"I WILL NEVER FORGET," SAID HUETZIN, AS HE WAS DRAGGED
AWAY, ....... .. . 25
HUETZIN OVERPOWERS THE KING'S COURIER, . 75
TOPIL, THE CHIEF PRIEST, CONFRONTS MONTEZUMA, .. 187
SANDOVAL MEETS TIATA IN THE GARDEN, . .. 196
"LIFT THY HEAD, VERMIN, THAT A MAN MAY GAZE ON THY
DEVIL'S FACE," . . . 261
THE RESCUE OF MARINA,.. . .. .... 295
HUETZIN AND HIS FOLLOWERS DRAG THE IMAGE FROM ITS
PEDESTAL, . . 335
THE WHITE CONQUERORS
A TALE OF TOLTEC AND AZTEC.
A CAPTIVE WARRIOR.
GHT had fallen on the island-city of Ten-
ochtitlan, the capital of Anahuac, and the
splendid metropolis of the Western world.
The evening air was heavy with the scent of myriads
of flowers which the Aztec people loved so well, and
which their religion bade them cultivate in lavish pro-
fusion. From every quarter came the sounds of feast-
ing, of laughter, and of music. The numerous canals
of salt-water from the broad lake that washed the
foundations of the city on all sides, were alive with
darting canoes filled with gay parties of light-hearted
revellers. In each canoe burned a torch of sweet-
scented wood, that danced and flickered with the
motions of the frail craft, its reflection broken by
THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
the ripples from hundreds of dipping paddles. Even
far out on the placid bosom of the lake, amid the fairy-
like chinampas, or tiny floating islands, the twinkling
canoe-lights flitted like gorgeous fire-flies, paling the
silver reflection of the stars with their more ruddy
In the streets of the city the dancing feet of flower-
wreathed youths and maidens tripped noiselessly over
the smooth cemented pavements; while their elders
watched them, with approving smiles, from their
curtained doorways, or the flat flower-gardened roofs
of their houses. Above all these scenes of peaceful
merriment rose the gloomy pyramids of many temples,
ever-present reminders of the cruel and bloody religion
with which the whole fair land was cursed.
Before the hideous idols, to which each of these was
consecrated, lay offerings of human hearts, torn from
the living bodies of that day's victims, and from the
summit of each streamed the lurid flames of never-
dying altar fires. By night and day they burned
supplied with fuel by an army of slaves who brought
it on their backs over the long causeways that con-
nected the island-city with the mainland and its distant
forests. These pillars of smoke by day, and ill-omened
banners of flame by night, were regarded with fear
and hatred by many a dweller in the mountains i.
surrounding the Mexican valley. They were the
A CAPTIVE WARRIOR.
symbols of a power against which these had struggled
in vain, of a tyranny so oppressive that it not only
devoted them to lives of toil, hopeless of reward, but
to deaths of ignominy and torture whenever fresh
victims were demanded for its reeking altars. But
while hatred thus burned, fierce and deep-seated, none
dared openly to express it, for the power of the all-
conquering Aztec was supreme. Far across the lofty
mountains, to the great Mexican Gulf on the east, and
westward to the broad Pacific; from the parched
deserts of the cliff-dwelling tribes on the north, to the
impenetrable Mayan forests on the south, the Aztec
sway extended, and none might withstand the Aztec
arms. If the imperial city demanded tribute it must
be promptly given, though nakedness and hunger
should result. If its priests demanded victims for their
blood-stained altars, these must be yielded without a
murmur, that the lives of whole tribes might not be
sacrificed. Only one little mountain republic still held
out, and defied the armies of the Aztec king, but of it
we shall learn more hereafter.
So the mighty city of the lake drew to itself the
best of all things from all quarters of the Western
world, and was filled to overflowing with the wealth
of conquered peoples. Hither came all the gold and
silver and precious stones, the richest fabrics, and
the first-fruits of the soil. To its markets were
THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
driven long caravans of slaves, captured from distant
provinces, and condemned to perform such menial
tasks as the haughty Aztec disdained to undertake.
During the brilliant reign of the last Montezuma,
the royal city attained the summit of its greatness,
and defied the world. Blinded by the glitter of its
conquests, and secure in the protection of its invincible
gods, it feared naught in the future, for what enemy
could harm it?
The evening with which this story opens was one
of unusual rejoicing in Tenochtitlan, for the morrow
was to mark one of the most notable events of Mon-
tezuma's reign. The great Aztec calendar stone, the
result of years of ceaseless labour, had at length
reached the inner court of the principal temple. On
the following day it was to be bathed in the blood of
victims, and dedicated by the priests. This huge
mass of shining porphyry, weighing more than fifty
tons, and quarried from the distant mountains beyond
the lake of Chalco, had been subjected to the unremit-
ting labours of the most famous astronomers and
skilled artisans for so long, that the king had almost
despaired of living to witness its completion. Finally,
polished like a mirror, and cunningly engraved with
a countless but orderly array of hieroglyphics, it
started on its journey to the city, drawn by the united
efforts of ten thousand slaves. Inch by inch, slowly
A CAPTIVE WARRIOR.
and painfully, costing a thousand lives for every mile
of progress, it traversed leagues of rugged country.
Even on the great causeway, when it had nearly
reached its destination, where the ironwood rollers
ran smoothly and all difficulties seemed at an end, it
had broken through a bridge and plunged into the
lake, crushing a score of human beings beneath it. With
infinite toil and human suffering it had been recovered
from the waters, and, as the straining slaves cringed
under the biting lashes of their drivers, its triumphal
progress was resumed.
At length the huge stone had reached the end of its
weary journey, and the morrow was to witness the
closing scenes of this great national undertaking. The
feasting had already been kept up for a week, or ever
since the mighty monolith entered the city. Scores of
victims had been sacrificed on the temple altars to
insure the favour of the gods during those last days
of its progress. But all this was as nothing compared
with what would be witnessed on the morrow. For
that day the bravest warriors taken in battle had
been reserved, and the most beautiful captives. The
former would be made to fight against each other
under false promises that the lives of the victors
should be spared. The latter -handsome youths,
delicate maidens, and even little children would
dance a dance of death with wild beasts and deadly
14 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
serpents, many cages of which had been brought from
distant parts for the purpose. Oh! it was truly to be
a rare and enjoyable festival, and the hearts of the
dwellers in Tenochtitlan thrilled high in anticipation
of its pleasures.
And yet, despite the universal joy that reigned in
every quarter of the crowded city, it contained at least
two hearts that were heavy with the forebodings of
sorrow. One was that of its mighty ruler, the priest-
warrior, Montezuma, and the other beat in the breast
of one even more redoubtable as a warrior than the
king himself, who, as a captive, was destined to fight
for his life against overwhelming odds on the morrow.
In all that land of warriors there was none so famed
as Tlahuicol. To all men he was known as the
Tlascalan; but ever to himself and to Huetzin, his
son, he whispered that he was Tlahuicol the Toltec.
For years he had been the dreaded war-chief of the
dauntless little mountain republic of Tlascala, which,
alone of all those now occupying the land of Anahuac,
had resisted the all-conquering Aztec arms, and re-
tained its freedom. In spite of this he was not a
Tlascalan, but had joined them in one of their times
of sorest need, when it seemed as though their sur-
render to the swarming legions of Montezuma was
inevitable. Their army had been defeated, its leaders
killed or taken captive, and another day must have
A CAPTIVE WARRIOR.
witnessed the overthrow of the republic. That night
Tlahuicol appeared among them, a young warrior in
the first flush of manhood, and addressed them with
such fervid eloquence that their sinking spirits were
again inflamed, and they gathered courage for one
more desperate effort.
In the morning the young stranger led them to an
attack against the Aztecs, whose vigilance was relaxed
in anticipation of an easy triumph over their enemies.
So marvellous was his strength, so admirable his skill,
and so reckless his bravery, that the signal victory
gained by the Tlascalans that day was afterward
said to have been won by Tlahuicol alone. In their
excess of gratitude and admiration, his brave but
superstitious followers hailed him as a god, declaring
that never in mortal were combined the qualities
shown by him that day. From that time forth the
fortunes of this stranger were linked with those of the
Tlascalans, and all the honours at the disposal of the
simple republic were showered upon him. The position
of war-chief was accorded to him without question,
and for more than a score of years he led his hardy
mountaineers to victory in every battle that they
fought against the cruel Aztecs. Very early in his
new career he was wedded to a beautiful Tlascalan
maiden, an only daughter of the noble house of Titcala,
the chief of which was the acknowledged head of the
THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
republic. The fruits of this marriage were two
children: Huetzin, who inherited his father's indomi-
table bravery, and Tiata, who, even as a child, gave
promise that all of her mother's great beauty was to
As the years rolled on Tlahuicol lost none of his
popularity with his troops nor with the people at
large; only with the priests was he ever at enmity.
He abhorred their bloody human sacrifices, and strove
by every means in his power to have them abated.
In return, the priests continually strove for his over-
throw and to wean the affections of his soldiers from
him. For many years their efforts were in vain, but
finally their subtle craft gained them a few malcon-
tent adherents. In the very heat of a fierce battle
with an Aztec army, commanded by Montezuma in
person, a cowardly blow, struck from behind, stretched
the Tlascalan war-chief senseless on the ground. When
he recovered consciousness he was a prisoner, and
being hurried towards the Aztec capital. Thither his
devoted wife and her children followed him, resigning
themselves to a willing captivity, that might even
result in death, for the sake of sharing his fortunes.
For more than a year, though every avenue of
escape was closely guarded, the noble prisoner was
treated with the utmost consideration, and every effort
was made to induce him to renounce his allegiance to
A CAPTIVE WARRIOR.
Tlascala. Honours and riches were promised him if
he would devote his sword to the service of the Aztec
monarch; but every offer was disdainfully refused,
and at length Montezuma reluctantly yielded to the
cruel clamour of the priests, and condemned him to
"REMEMBER THAT THOU ART A TOLTEO."
KNOWING the unsparing cruelty of his Aztec
captors, Tlahuicol had hoped for no mercy
from the first. He even attempted to hasten the fate
that he foresaw was inevitable, by bitter denunciations
of the Aztec priesthood and their horrid rites. Even
Topil, the chief priest, whom Montezuma sent to the
prisoner with the hope that his awful threats might
terrify the bold warrior into an acceptance of his
terms, was treated with such scornful contempt, that
when he returned to his royal master the priest's dark
face was livid with rage. Under penalty of the wrath
of the gods, which should be called down upon the
whole nation in case his request was not granted,
Topil then and there demanded that not only the
impious warrior, but his family as well, should be
delivered to him for sacrifice.
To this the monarch granted a reluctant consent,
only stipulating that they should be reserved for the
"REMEMBER THAT THOU ART A TOLTEC."
greatest and most important feasts of the year, and
that their fate should not be announced to them until
the very hour of sacrifice. Although Topil agreed
to these terms, he had no intention of keeping his
word. The opportunity of prolonging his enemies'
sufferings by anticipation was too precious to be
neglected. So he caused the information to be con-
veyed to Tlahuicol's wife that her husband was
doomed to death by torture. At the same time it
was intimated, with equal secrecy, to the brave war-
rior himself, that unless he held himself in readiness
to put to death with his own hands a number of
Tlascalan captives then awaiting their doom in the
dungeons of the great temple, and to lead an Aztec
army against the mountain republic, his wife and
children should die on the altars of Huitzil. With
these cruel threats hanging over them the several
members of this unfortunate family were kept apart,
and no communication was allowed to pass between
Although the stern warrior continued in his de-
fiant attitude, and refused to be moved by either
threats or promises, he fell into a state of settled
melancholy. This was soon afterward deepened by
the sad news that the loving wife, who had shared
his captivity as cheerfully as she had his former
triumphs, was dead. Of his children he could learn
20 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
nothing. It was of them that he was thinking, with
a heart well-nigh breaking from its weight of sorrow,
on the night of rejoicing that preceded the festival
of the great calendar stone.
In pursuance of his policy of kindness, by which
he hoped to win this redoubtable warrior to his own
service, Montezuma had caused Tlahuicol to be lodged
in one of the numerous dwellings that formed part
of the royal establishment. These buildings, which
were occupied by Aztec nobles in attendance upon
the king, and by royal hostages from conquered
nations, stood with the palace in an immense walled
inclosure, hard by the great temple. They were
surrounded by gardens planted with a wealth of
tropical trees, shrubs, and flowers, traversed by a
labyrinth of shaded paths and cool grottoes, watered
by canals, lakes, and fountains, and containing im-
mense aviaries of every bird known to the kingdom,
as well as cages of serpents and wild animals. Ten
large tanks, some filled with salt water and others
with fresh, were stocked with every procurable va-
riety of fish and marine animal; while for the care
of these creatures, whose habits the king was never
tired of studying, an army of attendant slaves was
maintained. Besides these features of the royal
museum, there was a building containing every form
of warlike weapon and defensive armour known to
"REMEMBER THAT THOU ART A TOLTEC."
the Aztecs, another for rare fabrics, and one for ex-
quisitely-wrought vessels of gold, silver, and the
prized pottery of Cholula. There was also an esta-
blishment for dwarfs and other human monstrosities,
which the monarch took pleasure in collecting from
all parts of his kingdom.
In this place of beauty, and surrounded by all that
royalty could command of things best calculated to
interest and amuse, Tlahuicol chafed at his captivity,
and dreamed of his home in the distant mountains.
If he could but once more lead his trusty troops to
battle against the hated Aztec, how gladly would he
pay for the privilege with his life! He was allowed
the freedom of the gardens, though always under
guard, and sometimes he would stroll to the train-
ing-field where the king's sons and other noble youth
vied with each other in feats of arms. As he watched
them his lip would curl with scorn at their puny
efforts, and a fierce desire to show them what a
mountain warrior could do with those same weapons
would seize upon him. But no weapon was allowed
within his reach, and with an air of disgust he would
turn and walk back to his own quarters, always
closely followed by his watchful guards.
On the evening preceding the day of the great
feast, Tlahuicol sat moodily just outside the door of
the house in which he was lodged, and which, beau-
22 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
tiful as it was, still seemed to him the most hateful
of prisons. Two motionless guards, armed with keen-
edged maquahuitls, or Aztec swords, stood close at
hand at either side, with their eyes fixed upon him.
Should he escape, or should he even do himself
bodily harm their lives would be forfeit, and with
this knowledge their vigilance was never relaxed.
Tlahuicol sat with downcast eyes and listened to
the sounds of revelry that came faintly to him from
the city. Clearly he understood their meaning, and
wondered if on the morrow he was to meet the doom
that he believed to be in store for him. He thought
of the wife who was gone from him, and of the son
and daughter concerning whose fate he had long been
kept in ignorance. From these thoughts he was
roused by the sound of approaching footsteps, and
at once rose to his feet. In a moment the king,
followed at a short distance by armed torch-bearers,
stood before him.
Abruptly, and in a tone that proved him to be
greatly agitated, Montezuma said:
"Tlahuicol, I am come to thee once again as a
friend. As such I would serve thee, and as such I
claim thy service."
"Thy friendship I reject, 0 king, and my service
thou shalt never have," returned the other, proudly.
"Hear me to the end," replied the king, calmly;
"REMEMBER THAT THOU ART A TOLTEC."
"for many days I have known what thou hast had
no means of learning, but which will interest thee.
An army of strange beings, white skinned and
bearded, but whether gods or men cannot be deter-
mined, have come out of the eastern sea, and landed
on our coast. Since their earliest appearance my
spies have noted their every movement, and brought
me hourly word concerning them. I had hoped
they would depart in peace, but was disappointed in
the hope. Even now is word brought me that they
have attacked and captured my city of Cempoalla,
destroyed its gods, and are preparing to advance into
the interior. If they be gods my power may not pre-
vail against them. If they be men, as I hope, then
will I fight them until they are swept from the face
of the earth, and their hearts smoke upon the altars
of Huitzil. In such a fight all other feuds should be
forgotten, and all the nations of Anahuac united. It
is in this service that I would have thy aid. With
thy word that thou wilt enlist thy Tlascalans against
this common foe, and lead them to battle as of old,
both thou and thy children are free. Refuse it, and
thy heart shall lie on Huitzil's altar ere" the setting
of the morrow's sun."
In spite of this startling intelligence, in spite of
the tempting offer thus made, and in spite of the
terrible threat by which it was accompanied, Tlahuicol's
24 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
voice, as he answered the king, was as calm as though
he was discussing some topic of ordinary interest.
0 king," he said, "know what I have told no
man ere now, that I am no Tlascalan, but am a Tol-
tec of the Toltecs. For many generations have my
ancestors dwelt in the country of the Mayas. From
there I came to this land to battle against thy
accursed gods. Since the day that I left the Mayan
people have I ever been in communication with
them. Thus did I learn long since of strange and
terrible beings, white-skinned and bearded as thou
dost describe, who had landed on the Mayan coast.
I was told much concerning them, and one thing I
learned that thou wouldst give half thy kingdom to
know for a certainty."
"Tell it me then, I command thee!" cried the
"I will tell it," answered Tlahuicol, "upon condi-
tion that thou first grant me a few minutes' private
converse with my children."
"Thy daughter is removed from here, but thy son
is at hand. In return for thy secret, I will grant
thee a single minute with him, but no more."
"It is all I ask," replied the prisoner.
The kifig gave an order to one of the guards and
handed him his signet. The soldier departed. In a
few minutes he returned accompanied by a tall,
- -, -.- --. -. -t-,rrr eZ .ia- _
I WILL NEVER FORGET," SAID IlUITZIN AS lIE WAS DRAGGED AWAY.
"REMEMBER THAT THOU ART A TOLTEC."-
finely-proportioned youth, of noble bearing, just
entering upon manhood. It was Huetzin, who, at
sight of his father, whom he had feared was dead,
sprang into Tlahuicol's arms, and was infolded in a
close embrace. Quickly releasing himself, the elder
man said hurriedly, but in too low a tone for the
by-standers to hear:
"Huetzin, my son, by to-morrow's set of sun I
may be with thy mother, therefore do thou take
these as my latest words. Remember always that
thou art a Toltec, that the Aztecs and the Aztec gods
are mortal enemies of thy gods and thy people. If
thou art spared, as I feel thou wilt be, devote thy
life to their overthrow. The white conquerors, of
whom I have so often spoken to thee, are even now
in the land. If thou canst escape from this den of
murderers, make thy way to them, join thyself to
them, and lead them to this place. As for little
Tiata, I trust thee-"
"Thy time is ended!" interrupted the stern voice
of the king; "and now for thy secret!"
There was one more straining embrace between
father and son, then the latter, exclaiming, "I will
never forget!" was roughly dragged away, and disap-
peared in the darkness.
Folding his arms, and turning grandly to the king,
Tlahuicol said: "The secret that thou wouldst hear,
26 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
O Montezuma, is that the strange beings who trouble
thee are not gods, but men. At the same time they
be men possessed of powers so terrible that they
will sweep thee and thy false gods from the face
of the earth, as the breath of the north wind scat-
tereth chaff. Know, too, that sooner than lift hand
to stay their coming, I will pray for their success
with my latest breath."
"Thy prayers will be few and short, then," an-
swered the king, in a tone of suppressed rage, as he
turned away; "for on the morrow thy false heart
shall be torn from thy body, and the wild fowls of
the air shall feast upon thy carcass."
IN THE MARKET-PLACE OF TENOCHTITLAN.
SN the morning of the last and greatest day of the
festival by which the mighty calendar stone was
dedicated, the rising sun shone from an unclouded sky
upon the fair city of Tenochtitlan. All night long a
thousand slaves had been busy sweeping and watering
its streets, until now their smooth pavements of cement
fairly shone with cleanliness. As there were no horses
nor other beasts of burden in all the land, as all heavy
traffic of the city was carried on in boats by means of
the numerous intersecting canals, and as water was
everywhere abundant, the cleansing of the ancient city
of Tenochtitlan was a much easier task than is that of
Mexico, its modern successor.
From earliest dawn troops of country people had
thronged the three great causeways leading from the
mainland, and poured over them into the city. Fleets
of canoes from Tezcuco, on the opposite side of the
lake, and from various smaller cities and villages on
THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
its border, were constantly arriving laden with parties
of expectant sight-seers. Thus the avenues, streets,
and squares, as well as the inclosures of the six
hundred teocallis or temples of the city, were filled,
soon after sunrise, by an eager and joyous multitude.
Especially animated was the scene in the tinguez, or
great market-place, of Tlateloco. Here, displaying
their wares in its shaded porticos, under booths of
green leaves, or beneath awnings of gaily-striped
cloth, were gathered traders from all parts of the king-
dom, each in the quarter allotted to his particular class
of goods. Among them were the goldsmiths of Aza-
pozalco, the potters of Cholula, the weavers of Tezcuco,
the stone-carvers of Tenojocan, the hunters of Xilo-
tepec, the fishermen of Cuitlahuac, the mat and chair
makers of Quauhtitlan, the florists of Iztapalapan, the
fruit-dealers of the tierra templada, and the skilled
artisans in feather-work of Xochimilco. Here were
armourers displaying arrows, darts, and javelins, headed
with an alloy of copper and tin as hard as steel, and
tougher, heavy maquahuitls, resembling somewhat both
a battle-axe and a sword, with keen blades of glisten-
ing itztli or obsidian. Escaupils, or doublets of quilted
cotton which no arrow might penetrate, fierce-looking
casques, fashioned like the grinning heads of wild
animals, and shirts of golden mail, which only nobles
might wear. In other places were quantities of meat,
IN THE MARKET-PLACE OF TENOCHTITLAN.
poultry, bread of maize, cakes, pastry, confectionery,
smoking bowls of chocolate, flavoured with vanilla,
which, with the intoxicating pulque, shared the name
of national beverage. Barber-shops, and booths for
the sale of drugs and herbs abounded. Nor were book-
stalls wanting, though the books displayed in them
bore slight resemblance to those of modern times.
They were formed of broad sheets of cotton cloth,
parchment, or a paper made from the leaves of the
agave, folded in the shape of fans, and covered with
minute coloured pictures, by means of which the Aztecs,
ignorant of letters, reproduced their ideas on paper.
Thus all Aztec writers were artists, and in the educa-
tion of youth drawing was taught instead of reading
and writing. To name all the commodities offered for
sale in this vast market-place would be a tedious task,
for in all Tenochtitlan were no stores, nor shops, nor
places for trade, save this. The money used was in
the shape of quills of gold-dust, small bags of cacao
beans, and rudely stamped bits of tin.
Besides being a market-place, the tinguez was the
centre where all news was exchanged, and to it came
all those who wished to hear or tell some new thing.
On this particular day two subjects of intense interest
agitated the multitude who thronged it, to the exclu-
sion of all other topics. One was the appearance on
the coast of the white strangers, who were invariably
30 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
spoken of as gods, and the other was the spectacle with
which the great festival was to conclude that afternoon.
"They do say," exclaimed one portly individual, clad
in a flowing tilmatli, or robe of purple cotton cloth,
belted at his waist with a broad yellow sash, to the
armourer whose store of obsidian daggers he was in-
specting, "that the white gods are coming this way,
and have even now set forth from Cempoalla."
"So I have heard," replied the other, "but I care
not. If the king so wills, they may come. If he for-
bids, they may not."
"But," continued he of the purple robe, "they do
say that the king has already forbidden their advance,
and that the strangers pay no heed to his words."
"Then will Huitzil, the all-powerful, awake, and
destroy them with a breath."
"But they do say that some of them are gods mighty
and terrible in themselves, having the forms both of
men and beasts greater and more frightful than ever
were seen. And they do say," he almost whispered in
his earnestness, "that they breathe fire and smoke like
Popocatepetl himself, and that their weapons are
"Aye, and they do say truly," interrupted a book-
seller who had overheard these remarks, "for here it
is pictured out in detail, a copy made from one of the
reports sent to the king himself."
IN THE MARKET-PLACE OF TENOCHTITLAN.
With this the new-comer unfolded a fan-like sheet
of parchment, on which were drawn likenesses of
white men in armour, some on horseback and others on
foot, of cannon belching forth fire and smoke, and of
many other things so strange and wonderful to Aztec
eyes, that in a few moments the trio were surrounded
by a gaping crowd, eagerly pushing and struggling for
a glimpse of the marvellous pictures.
Amid the excitement caused by these evidences that
the rumours of the white gods, busily circulated for
many months, were only too true, the armourer re-
mained calm and self-possessed. He even expressed
a contempt for the strange beings who, he declared,
were but sea-monsters, after all.
"Can such creatures harm the children of the sun so
long as Huitzil, the god of gods, watches over them
from his seat above the clouds?" he cried. "Not that he
will be called upon to so much as lift a finger; for is not
Montezuma, our lord and the lord of lords, able of his
own might to drive them into the sea, whence they
came? Shall he who overcame Tlahuicol, the greatest
warrior of the age, forbid the advance of men, mon-
sters, fire-breathing beasts, or even of gods, in vain?
Shame on you for thus belittling your own gods and
your king! Alas! that I, in my poverty, am compelled
to forge weapons for such as you!"
"They do say," here interposed he of the purple
THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
robe, anxious to change the subject, "that Tlahuicol
the Tlascalan, who is doomed to sacrifice this day, has
demanded the privilege of a warrior who has never
turned back to foe, and that the king has granted it."
"Not the Battle of Despair?"exclaimed the armourer.
"Even so," nodded the other.
"Then will I at once put away my wares, and
hasten to secure a place within the serpent wall, for
if he meet with worthy foemen the sight of this battle
will be worth all the other sights of earth, and I would
not miss it, though with my right hand I was forced
to pay for admission within the sacred wall."
It was even so. Tlahuicol was to lend a crowning
glory to the great festival of his enemies by fighting,
for their entertainment, the Battle of Despair. This
was the poor privilege granted to any captive warrior
who had never turned back to foe, of fighting for his
life and liberty, with a single weapon, and with one foot
tethered, against any six who might challenge him,
and who might attack him singly or in couples, as they
chose. In all Aztec history no captive had ever gained
his freedom in this manner, and even so famous a
warrior as Tlahuicol was not supposed to have the
slightest chance of victory in so unequal a contest. It
was well known that he had been out of practice, and
had taken almost no exercise for a year. Thus it was
held by many that he was now no more than equal to
IN THE MARKET-PLACE OF TENOCHTITLAN.
a warrior of ordinary attainments. As to his over-
coming six, selected from the throng of young Aztec
nobles who eagerly sought this opportunity for acquir-
ing fame and the order of knighthood, which would
be conferred upon him who should deal a fatal blow
to the redoubtable Tlascalan, the idea was unworthy
of consideration. Nevertheless all agreed that Tlahui-
col would make a pretty fight, and even to witness the
death-struggle of the warrior whose name had so long
been a terror to Aztec ears, was deemed so great a
privilege that, hours before the time set for the battle,
every inch of available space in the amphitheatre
adjoining the great temple was occupied by the eager
This amphitheatre was but a small portion of the
vast area reserved in the heart of the city, and inclosed
by a stone wall eight feet high, called the Coatapantli,
or wall of serpents, for the temple of Huitzil, the war-
god. Here were the dwellings of thousands of priests,
and quarters for ten thousand troops, granaries, ar-
senals, seminaries for the priestly education of youth
of both sexes, and numerous monuments, the most
notable of which was that constructed of one hundred
thousand human skulls of victims sacrificed on Huit-
zil's altars. In the exact centre of the whole towered
the great temple, a lofty pyramid of masonry rising in
five terraces, which were gained by as many flights of
34 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
stairs. Each of these gave access to a single terrace,
and they were so arranged that from the top of one
the entire circuit of the pyramid must be made ere the
next flight could be reached.
The top of this mighty pyramid presented a flat
surface of nearly an acre in extent. On it, rising to
a height of sixty feet, was a shrine sheltering a hideous
image of the god and its bloody altar, on which was
laid daily offerings of human hearts torn from living
bodies. Outside of the shrine stood another altar, on
which burned the never-dying fire. It was commonly
believed that if by any chance this should be extin-
guished some dire calamity would overtake the nation.
Near by stood the great war-drum of serpents' skins,
which was only struck in times of emergency, when
the awe-inspiring sound of its hollow booming could
be heard for leagues.
The only other object on the broad level space was
a large block of jasper, slightly convex on its upper side.
It was the stone of sacrifice, across which victims were
laid for the greater convenience of the priests in cut-
ting open their breasts and tearing out the still palpi-
tating hearts in which the blood-loving god delighted.
The whole place bore the aspect of a shambles, and
was pervaded by a sickening stench. The priests who
officiated here, and of whom Topil was the chief, were
blood-besmeared from head to foot, and allowed their
IN THE 3ARKET-PLACE OF TENOCHTITLAN. 35
long hair, also clotted with blood, to hang in elf-locks
over their shoulders. Thus their appearance was more
savage and terrible than can well be imagined.
TLAHUICOL'S LAST BATTLE.
THE amphitheatre in which Tiahuicol was to make
so desperate a fight for his life was inclosed on
three sides by low buildings, having terraced roofs on
which a vast number of spectators could be accommo-
dated. In its centre was an immense circular stone,
like a gigantic mill-stone, on the flat surface of which
were fought all gladiatorial combats. Late in the
afternoon of the day of feasting, when the thousands
of spectators were weary of the brutal games by which
until that time they had been entertained, an expectant
murmur suddenly swept over the vast assemblage, and
then broke into a roar of applause. Six warriors of
noble birth, wearing on their heads golden casques in
the likenesses of a dog, a fox, a wolf, a bear, an ocelot,
and a mountain-lion, with a carriage that bespoke their
martial training, had entered the amphitheatre, and
were marching slowly around the outer edge of the
great stone. When they reached the point nearest the
TLAHUICOL'S LAST BATTLE.
pavilion in which, beneath a canopy of royal green,
reclined the king, surrounded by his attendant nobles,
the six warriors prostrated themselves until their fore-
heads touched the pavement. Then they continued
their measured march until they reached the side of the
amphitheatre opposite that by which they had entered.
Now, to the barbaric music of drums, attabals, and
shells, there entered a single figure between a double
file of soldiers, and the hurricane of applause by which
he was greeted would have proclaimed his identity
even had not his name been heard on all sides.
"Tlahuicol the ocelot! Tlahuicol the wolf!"
" Tlahuicol the mountain-lion!" "Tlahuicol the ter-
rible!" shouted the spectators, and the eyes of the
great warrior lighted with a momentary gleam of
triumph at these tributes from his enemies. He was
conducted directly to the centre of the great stone,
where one of his ankles was tethered by a short chain
to a ring-bolt let into the unyielding rock. Then one
of his guards stripped the tihlatli from his shoulders,
disclosing the fact that he was naked, save for a cloth
about his loins, and unprotected by armour of any
kind. At the same moment another soldier handed
the prisoner the maquahuitl with which he was to
defend his life.
Tlahuicol balanced it for a moment in his hand, then
suddenly snapped its tough staff in two without appa-
38 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
rent effort, and disdainfully flung the pieces from him.
Turning toward the king he cried, in a loud voice:
"It was but a toy-a child's plaything! and yet it
was given me for the defence of my life! Let me, I
pray thee, O king, have my own good sword. Then
will I show thee a fight that may prove of interest."
The king nodded his assent. A soldier was despatched
for the weapon, and shortly returned, bearing in both
hands a maquahuitl so huge that a murmur of amaze-
ment arose from the spectators, who deemed it impos-
sible that any man could wield it. But Tlahuicol
received it with a smile of satisfaction, swung it
lightly twice or thrice above his head, and then leaned
upon it with an expectant air as though inviting his
enemies to approach. No further invitation was
needed, for no Aztec warrior worthy of the name was
ever lacking in bravery. The young noble who wore
the head of a fox sprang forward, and with guarded
movements approached the chained but still terrible
Cautiously the Fox circled about his adversary, seek-
ing an unguarded point at which to strike. On account
of his fettered leg Tlahuicol could only turn half-way
round, but he would then whirl about so quickly that,
in spite of his disadvantage, he presented no opening
for attack for some minutes. At length, wearying of
such fruitless play, he purposely made his movements
TLAHUICOL'S LAST BATTLE.
slower, until the Fox, thinking his opportunity had
come, sprang forward to deliver a deadly blow. In an
instant his sword was struck from his hand. Broken
and useless, it was sent spinning to the further side of
the arena, and the Fox reeled backward with the
force of the blow. Recovering himself he sprang to a
soldier who stood near, snatched a javelin from his
hand, and hurled it with deadly aim at Tlahuicol's
head. Without moving his body the Toltec bent his
head to one side, caught the hurtling weapon in his
left hand, and, almost with the same motion, flung it
back with such terrible force that it passed completely
through the body of the Aztec and fell to the ground
behind him. He staggered, fell, and was borne, dying,
from the scene.
Instantly two of his companions took his vacant
place. Filled with rage they advanced impetuously
and somewhat incautiously. As their weapons were
raised to strike, the terrible maquahuitl of Tlahuicol
crushed the skull of one like an egg-shell, and then,
with a fierce backward blow, sent the other reeling a
dozen paces away, so severely wounded that it was
doubtful if he might ever recover. Marvellous as this
feat was, it did not wholly save the Toltec from the
descending sword of his third enemy. The keen obsidian
blade cut a frightful gash in his side, and he was
instantly bathed in his own blood.
THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
But the wounded warrior had no time to consider
his own condition, for almost before he realized that
he had been struck two fresh assailants were upon
him. One of these was cleft from casque to shoul-
ders by Tlahuicol's awful weapon, which seemed to
the breathless spectators like a thunderbolt in the
hands of a god. Ere the Toltec could recover him-
self, the other rushed in and bore him to the ground,
where, falling uppermost, the Aztec hoped to deal a
fatal blow with his dagger. Before he could accom-
plish his purpose, the champion's arms had infolded
him in an embrace so deadly that the breath was
driven from his body with a sound that might be
heard in all parts of the amphitheatre, and his ribs
were crushed like pipe-stems. Leaping to his feet,
amid thunders of applause from the frenzied specta-
tors, the Toltec flung the lifeless body from him, and
regained his ponderous sword just in time to meet
the onset of his sixth, and most powerful assailant,
he whose casque was fashioned in the likeness of an
Now the breath of the champion came in sobbing
gasps, and he was so weakened by loss of blood that
it seemed impossible for him to withstand the furious
onslaught of this fresh adversary. For the space of
two minutes the exchange of blows was so rapid that
there was but one continuous crash of sound. Then
TLAHUICOL'S LAST BATTLE.
the ocelet leaped back beyond reach of. his tethered
opponent. The Toltec staggered and seemed about to
fall. Suddenly, rallying his failing strength, he hurled
his heavy weapon so truly, and with such mighty
force, that the last of his assailants was swept over
the edge of the platform on which they had fought,
and rolled, to all appearance lifeless, to the base of the
For an instant there was a silence as of death in the
vast amphitheatre. Then it was broken by a thrilling
cry in the Mayan tongue of "Father! oh, Father!
you have conquered! you are free!"
Tlahuicol, who had fallen to his knees with the
force of his last effort, lifted his drooping head and
looked to where Huetzin struggled in the grasp of two
brawny priests. Then, very feebly, with his right
hand, he made a sign such as but two persons in that
vast concourse recognized. He touched his forehead,
his breast, and both shoulders. It was the sign of the
God of the Four Winds, the almost forgotten symbol
of the Toltec faith. Huetzin knew it, and so did one
of the priests who held him.
With the making of this sacred symbol of his
race, the mighty warrior fell forward and lay prone
on the bloody stone, unmindful of the wild storm of
plaudits by which his unprecedented victory was
42 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
Suddenly, while all was confusion, the fierce figure
of Topil, the chief priest, sprang to the platform, and,
snatching the dread knife of sacrifice from his girdle,
bent over the prostrate man. The next moment he
rose, and with a savage cry of triumph held aloft the
heart of the bravest son of Anahuac. The cheering of
the multitude sank into a shuddering cry of horror at
this dastardly act. Had another committed it he
would have been rent in pieces, but the person of the
chief priest was sacred.
Even the elements seemed aghast at the dreadful
deed; for, though the sun had not yet set, the sky was
darkened by a veil of inky blackness, and an ominous
moaning filled the air.
Paying no heed to these portents, nor to the black
looks of those about him, Topil screamed to his fellows
that the son should share the fate of the father, and
that the god was weary of waiting for the offering of
their hearts. Then, bidding them follow him with the
prisoner, he sprang up the steps of the great temple.
With shrill cries the obedient priests forced a passage
through the surging multitude, and hurried Huetzin
in the same direction. Even the king had no power
to stop them, for in Tenochtitlan the chief priest was
mightier than he.
So the compact body of white-robed priests mounted
flight after flight of steps, and swept around the four
TLAHUICOL'S LAST BATTLE.
sides of the teocal along terrace above terrace.
Finally they gained the summit of the lofty pyramid,
and disappeared from the view of the silent throngs
who gazed, as though fascinated, after them.
Inevitable and awful as was the fate before him,
Huetzin had but one thought as he was dragged up
those weary flights, and along those interminable
terraces. It was not for himself, but for his sister
Tiata, the dear one who, with his last words, the dead
father had intrusted to his care. Without father,
mother, or brother, what would be her fate ? What
would become of her ? As they stripped him and
stretched his naked body on the dread stone of sacri-
fice, he cried aloud in his agony:
"Tiata! sister! To the god of the Toltecs, our
father's god and our god, I commend thee!"
HUETZIN'S MIRACULOUS ESCAPE.
T this supreme moment in the life of Huetzin, the
young Toltec, the scene, of which he formed the
central figure, was of such a character as to inspire a
nameless fear in the hearts of all beholders. To the
silent multitude who, with upturned faces, were
gathered about the temple of their most dreaded
god, awaiting the wild chant of priests that should
proclaim the sacrifice accomplished, the summit of
the lofty pyramid was lost in the pall-like blackness
of the heavens. Only a fitful gleam of altar-fire
formed a point of light on which the eye could rest.
The broad space surmounting the temple was the
dramatic focus of the weird scene. About it moaned
the spirits of upper air, as though with the voices of
the innumerable dead who had breathed their last on
that accursed spot. There was an absolute calm, and
no breath of wind disturbed the straight column of
altar-flame that cast a lurid light across the blood-
HUETZIN'S MIRACULOUS ESCAPE.
stained platform. In front of the altar, and clustered
in a dark mass about the stone of sacrifice, were the
priests of Huitzil. Their white robes had been thrown
aside, and all the hideous features of their blood-
smeared bodies and streaming locks of matted hair
were revealed. In their midst, cruelly outstretched
on the mass of polished jasper, lay the naked body of
the beautiful youth whose death was to close the
pagan rites with which the great calendar stone was
Suddenly the dread silence was broken by a single
stroke upon the huge drum of serpent skins. Out
through the blackness rolled its booming echoes, pro-
claiming to the utmost limits of the city, and far be-
yond, that the final act of the drama was about to be
consummated. As the significant sound smote upon
the ears of those gathered at the base of the teocal, a
shuddering cry broke from the vast concourse. It
was heard by Topil, the chief priest, who had just
sounded the signal, and now strode, knife in hand,
toward his waiting victim; but it only caused him to
smile scornfully. It was but another tribute to his
power, and he exulted in the natural accessories that
rendered this final scene so impressive.
As Topil stood beside his victim, Huetzin gave
utterance to the prayer recorded in the preceding
chapter. Then the dread knife, that had drunk the
46 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
blood of thousands, was uplifted. Ere it could de-
scend there came, from out the enveloping blackness,
a flash of light so vivid, and a crash of thunder so
awful, that the very earth trembled with the shock
and the mighty pyramid rocked on its foundations.
A huge globe of fire, a veritable thunderbolt of the
gods launched with unerring aim and irresistible
force, had fallen on Huitzil's temple. It burst as it
struck the rock-paved summit of the teocal, and for
a moment the whole space was bathed in leaping
flames of such dazzling intensity that no mortal eye
might gaze upon them. Many of the stone blocks
were shattered into fragments, the altar on which
burned the eternal fire was overthrown and its sacred
flame extinguished. The priests, gathered about the
stone of sacrifice, were flung, stunned and breathless,
in every direction. Some of them, in the madness of
their terror, even leaped from the edge of the tremb-
ling platform, and were dashed to pieces on the pave-
ment of the courtyard far below.
An instant of darkness followed this first exhibition
of the storm god's power. While it lasted, cries of
terror and lamentation arose from all parts of the
wide-spread city. From every quarter it was seen
that the sacred fire no longer burned, and into every
mind flashed the foreboding of calamity thus por-
tended. Only for a moment was the wrath of the
HUETZIN'S MIRACULOUS ESCAPE.
storm god stayed, and then bolt upon bolt crashed
above the devoted city, their awful din mingled with
the wild shriekings of unfettered winds, and a down-
pour of rain that seemed like to deluge the world.
With the first outbreak of the tempest, Huetzin,
released by the terrified priests who had held him,
rolled unconscious to the pavement beside the stone
of sacrifice. When he recovered his senses and stag-
gered to his feet, a furious storm of wind and rain
was buffeting his naked body, while lightning glared
and thunder crashed incessantly about him. But he
still lived, and of those who so recently condemned
him to death, not one was to be seen. A sudden hope
sprang into his breast, and he glanced about for a way
of escape. There was none. If he descended the
long flights of steps he would certainly be appre-
hended in the walled court below. He might seek a
temporary refuge in the shrine at one end of the
platform; but at the best, that would only prolong
his existence for a few wretched hours. Last of all,
he might end his misery at once by a leap from the
giddy verge of the platform on which he stood. Yes,
that was best. There was no other way. As he was
about to carry out this intention, a human figure rose
from beyond the sacrificial stone, and stepped to where
he stood. It was that of a priest, and, as a flash of
lightning betrayed his presence, Huetzin's impulse to
48 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
seize him and force him also to take the death-leap
was checked by a sight that filled him with amazement.
A second gleam of lightning revealed the startling
fact that this priest of Huitzil was making the sa-
cred symbol of the Toltec faith, the sign made by
his own father as his dying act, and which he
deemed unknown to any in all Tenochtitlan save
himself. As he stood motionless with amazement,
the strange priest cried, in a voice to be heard above
the tumult of the storm:
"Follow me and I will save you, for I, too, know
the holy sign of the Four Winds! I, too, am a Tol-
With this he seized the youth's hand, and the lat-
ter allowed himself to be led away. Instead of turn-
ing toward the outer stairway, as Huetzin fancied
they would, they entered the foul and evil-smelling
shrine of the Aztec war-god. The monstrous image,
with its hideous features, was dimly revealed by the
intermittent flashes of lightning, and Huetzin shud-
dered as he stood before it. To him it was the em-
bodiment of that cruel and cowardly religion with
which the fair land of his ancestors was cursed, and
could lie have destroyed it at the expense of his own
life, he would gladly have done so.
Passing swiftly to the back of the image, the priest,
who had just proclaimed himself to be of the Toltec
HUETZIN'S MIRACULOUS ESCAPE.
race, caused a panel of stone to slide noiselessly back
in polished grooves, and disclosed a place of utter
blackness. Entering this, he drew Huetzin after him.
Then he closed the opening, and, bidding the other
stand motionless, passed his hands carefully over the
stone floor at their feet. There was a slight grating
sound, and Huetzin knew, by a sudden upflow of
damp air, that some concealed passage-way had been
"Now," whispered his guide, "we are about to
descend a secret stairway known only to the chief
priest and myself. Moreover, should he even suspect
that I was possessed of its knowledge, my heart
would smoke on Huitzil's altar. For this reason I
claim thy oath, by the immortal God of the Four
Winds, never to reveal this secret, so long as Huitzil
sits upon his throne."
"By the sacred name of the Four Winds I swear
never to reveal it," answered the youth.
Then they began to descend, carefully closing the
opening above them, and feeling their way with the
utmost caution. The air was damp and chill, the nar-
row stone steps were slippery with moisture. They
formed a stairway of zigzags, and to Huetzin it
seemed as though they must penetrate below the
foundations of the temple, so long was it before the
bottom of the last flight was reached.
50 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
At the terminus of the stairway was a closed door,
which only those initiated into its secret might open.
It admitted them to a long narrow passage, from
which branched other passages, as Huetzin learned
by coming upon them with his groping hands. His
guide took careful note of the number of these pas-
sages, and finally turned into one that led at right
angles to that they had been following. After a while
it sloped upward, and at its end they found them-
selves in a small room, which at the same time
seemed large and airy as compared with the suffo-
cating narrowness of the various passages they had
Bidding Huetzin remain here for a moment, the
priest left him standing in darkness and silence that
were absolute. So long a time elapsed before his
companion returned, that the young Toltec wondered
if he had escaped the altar of sacrifice only to be
buried alive in this mysterious place. While he
dwelt with a sinking heart on the awful possibilities
thus presented, a door was noiselessly opened, and
a flood of light poured into the apartment. The
priest, bearing a torch in one hand and a packet
in the other, entered. He was followed by a slave,
carrying a basket, at sight of whom Huetzin shrank
back in alarm
"Be not afraid," whispered the priest, noting the
HUETZIN'S MIRACULOUS ESCAPE.
movement; "he is blind and knows naught of thy
As the slave set down his burden, he was dis-
missed and retired, closing the door behind him.
From the packet that he bore the priest produced
a robe of the coarse cotton (nequen) worn by the
lower classes, with which Huetzin gladly covered his
naked body, a pair of grass sandals, and a dagger of
itztli. The basket yielded materials for a bounti-
ful meal, to which the young man, who had tasted
no food since the night before, sat down with the
appetite of one who is famished. His companion
also ate heartily, and as he did so conversed with
Huetzin, principally of his own affairs. Of himself
he only said:
"My name is Halco, and like thyself I am of the
Toltec race. Why I am here in this accursed guise,
and how I came to know the secrets of Topil, I can-
not now explain. Suffice it that I am one of the
bitterest enemies of Aztec priesthood and Aztec gods.
Until the moment of his death I knew not that thy
father, the brave Tlahuicol, was a Toltec, or I might
have saved him; when he made the sign it was too
late. Now I can provide thee with means of escape.
Make thy way to the camp of the white conquerors,
of whom thou must have heard, and lead them to this
city. In them lies our only hope for the overthrow
THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
of Huitzil and his bloody priesthood; when thou
comest again thou shalt hear from me."
"But Tiata, my sister! I cannot leave her unpro-
tected," interrupted Huetzin.
"Fear not for her. For the present she is safe,
and if she were not thou couldst do nothing to help
her. I will keep watch, and if dangers beset her
while thou art with the white conquerors, thou shalt
be informed. Now that thou hast eaten and regained
thy strength, thy flight must be continued. Already
Topil is aware of thy escape, and he has sworn by all
the gods that thy heart shall yet smoke on Huitzil's
TWO SLAVES OF IZTAPALAPAN.
F OLLOWING the mysterious priest, who bore the
torch that illuminated their way, Huetzin was
conducted through bewildering ranges of galleries,
passages, and halls, until finally Halco paused, saying:
"Farther than this I may not go. It is high time
that I showed myself among the priests, that my ab-
sence may not cause suspicion. Follow this passage
to its end, where thy way of escape will be made
plain. Now fare thee well, son of Tlahuicol, and may
the god of the Four Winds guide and protect thee."
With these words, and without waiting for a reply,
the priest turned abruptly away, and in another mo-
ment both he and the light of his torch had dis-
appeared. For a minute or so Huetzin stood motion-
less where he had been left, but as his eyes grew
accustomed to the darkness, he imagined that a faint
light came from the direction he had been told to
take. Walking cautiously toward it his ear caught
THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
the sound of lapping waters, and in a moment later
he stood in the opening of a low water-gate that
looked out on the broad lake of Tezcuco. The storm
had passed and the stars shone brightly. The cool
night air was delightfully refreshing, and Huetzin
inhaled it with long breaths. As he looked out be-
yond the wall of the gateway, he saw a shadowy form
of a canoe containing a single occupant, who appeared
to be waiting. Believing this to be the means of
escape indicated by the priest, he uttered a slight
Instantly there came a whisper of: "Art thou he
who would be set across?"
To which Huetzin replied, without hesitation: "I
As the canoe moved to where he stood, he stepped
in, and it instantly shot away toward the farther side
of the star-flecked waters. Many boats, with twink-
ling lights, were seen, but all of them were skilfully
avoided, until the canoe was among a cluster of little
floating islands of artificial construction. Some of
these were used as resorts by pleasure-loving Aztecs,
and others as small gardens on which were raised
vegetables and flowers for the near-by city market.
As the canoe which bore Huetzin and his silent
companion passed swiftly by one of these, a stern
voice hailed them, demanding to know their business
TWO SLAVES OF IZTAPALAPAN.
and whither they were bound. Receiving no reply,
the voice commanded them to halt, in the king's
"What shall I do?" asked Huetzin's companion,
"Do as he commands, and when his curiosity is
satisfied so that thou art allowed to depart, come for
me to yonder chinampa," replied Huetzin, in a whis-
per. As he spoke he pointed to one of the floating
islands dimly outlined not far from them, and at
the same time quietly slipped into the water. He
swam noiselessly, but with such powerful strokes
that a dozen of them placed him beside the tiny
islet he had indicated to his companion. He made
as though he would land on it, and then, with a sud-
den change of plan, the motive of which he could
not have explained even to himself, he slipped back
into the water and swam toward another chinampa
that he could barely discern in the distance. It was
well for him that he obeyed the instinct forbidding
him to land on the first island; for, as he drew him-
self out on the second, and lay hidden in the tall
grasses that fringed its edge, he heard the quick dip
of paddles, and the sound of suppressed but excited
voices coming from the direction of the other. He
was startled by hearing his own name coupled with
that of his father. It was borne distinctly to him
THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
over the still waters, and gave him a certain intima-
tion that the bloodhounds of the chief priest were
already on his trail.
Without waiting a further confirmation of his fears,
Huetzin hastily crossed to the other side of the
island on which he had taken refuge, almost stumb-
ling against the tiny, grass-thatched hut of its pro-
prietor as he did so. The man heard him, and
shouted to know who was there. As Huetzin quietly
entered the water and swam away, the man emerged
from his hut, keeping up the angry shouting that the
young Toltec would so gladly have silenced. He
soon gained another island, fastened to which he dis-
covered a canoe. Even as he clambered into it and
shoved off, its owner, aroused by the distant shouts,
came hurriedly to the place where it had been. In
another moment his outcries were added to the
others, as he discovered his loss. Fortunately the
canoe had drifted so far under the impetus of Huet-
zin's vigorous shove, that it was hidden by the dark-
ness from the eyes of its owner, so that he could
form no notion of who had taken it, nor why it had
Huetzin lay motionless in the bottom of the frail
craft so long as it continued to move. Then he
raised himself cautiously and began to feel for a
paddle. To his dismay there was none. The careful
TWO SLAVES OF IZTAPALAPAN.
owner had carried it to his hut, and now the fugitive,
though possessed of a boat, had no means of propel-
ling it. Yes, he had his hands! and, kneeling in the
bottom of the canoe, he began to urge it forward by
paddling with them. It was slow and tedious work.
Moreover, it was accompanied by a certain unavoid-
able amount of splashing. This sounded so loud to
the strained senses of the poor lad, that he felt con-
vinced it must reach the ears of his pursuers.
He had made considerable progress and was well-
nigh exhausted by the unaccustomed nature of his
efforts, but still hopeful of escape. Suddenly he heard
voices behind him, evidently approaching rapidly, and
his heart failed him as he realized the utter helpless-
ness of his position. He listened fearfully to the ap-
proaching sounds, which were coming so directly to-
ward him that discovery was inevitable if he remained
in the canoe. All at once his ear detected something
which caused such a sudden revulsion of feeling that
he could have shouted for joy. The voices were those
of a man and a woman, who were talking in the fami-
liar Tlascalan dialect.
"Ho, slaves!" he called in an imperious tone, as the
other canoe approached close to his own.
The paddling ceased, and the man's voice, couched
in submissive accents, answered, "Yes, my lord."
"Have you an extra paddle? Mine is broken, and
58 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
I am a king's messenger on a service that admits of
'We have but two, both of which are in use. But
if your lordship desires one of them, and will make
good its loss to our master"-
"Hand it to me at once," interrupted Huetzin, in
as stern a tone as he could command. "Or better
still," he continued as the other craft drew alongside,
"I will come into your canoe, and you shall carry me
to the further side of the lake. In that way I shall
get on more quickly, and you will run no risk of losing
your precious paddle."
Thus saying, Huetzin stepped lightly into the other
boat, and peremptorily ordered its occupants to hasten
forward with all speed, as his mission could not longer
With an obedience born of long servitude, they re-
sumed their paddles and laboured to fulfil his wishes,
without question. For some time they proceeded in
silence. Then Huetzin's curiosity got the better of
his prudence, and he asked the slaves what they were
doing on the lake at so late an hour of the night.
"We carried a load of flowers from our master's
garden, near Iztapalapan, to the market of Tenoch-
titlan," answered the man, "and delayed to witness
the festivities until overtaken by the storm. When
it abated so that we might put forth, it was near the
TWO SLAVES OF IZTAPALAPAN.
middle watch. Since then we have been stopped and
examined three different times by boats of the lake
"What sought they?" demanded Huetzin.
"An escaped prisoner."
Heard you his name?"
"They said,-" began the woman, timidly.
No," interrupted her husband, sharply, "we heard
it not. Where will my lord that we should land him?"
"Anywhere," answered Huetzin, carelessly. Then,
correcting himself, he added: "That is, you may land
me at the place to which you are going. I would not
that you should incur your master's displeasure by
further delay. You have a hut of your own, I sup-
"Then take me to it, for my garments are wet, and
I would dry them before proceeding on my journey."
Although such a proposition from one who had
recently claimed to be in the greatest haste struck
both the Tlascalans as peculiar, they were too wise to
pass remarks on the actions of a king's messenger, and
so received it in silence.
Guiding their course by the stars, they soon brought
the canoe to land, and led the way to their humble
hut of rushes, plastered with lake mud, that stood not
far from the water's edge.
60 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
As the three entered it, the woman knelt to blow
life into some coals that smouldered in a bed of ashes
on a rude hearth, while the man brought a bundle of
twigs to throw on them. As a bright blaze sprung
up, both turned to look at the stranger who had so
unceremoniously thrust himself upon their hospitality.
The firelight fell full on his face, and as the man caught
sight of it, a startled cry burst from his lips. It was
echoed by the woman.
"It is Huetzin the Tlascalan!" gasped the former.
"The son of Tlahuicol, our war chief!" cried the
woman, with a great sob, and, seizing the young man's
hand, she kissed it passionately.
LOYALTY OUTWEIGHS GOLD AND FREEDOM.
T HE delight of these humble Tlascalan slaves at
discovering, and being permitted to serve, the
son of their country's hero, knew no bounds. They
wept with joy, and would have kissed his feet had he
allowed it. The man provided him with dry clothing
from his own scanty stock, while the woman hastened
to make some tortillas, the thin cakes of meal and
water, baked on the surface of a flat stone set at an
angle before the fire, that to this day form the staple
bread of all Mexico. They marvelled at the story of
his escape from beneath the very knife of sacrifice,
and listened to it with ejaculations of thankfulness
and amazement at every detail. They spoke with
bated breath of Tlahuicol's brave fight, while the man
declared proudly that the like had never been seen
even in that land of battles, and that none but a
Tlascalan could have performed such marvels. More
than all were they proud that Huetzin had intrusted
THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
them with his life, and they wondered that he should
have dared place himself at the mercy of strangers.
"No Tlascalan is a stranger to the son of Tlahui-
col," answered the young man, simply.
"But how knew you that we were Tlascalans?"
"By the tongues with which you spoke. The voice
of the mountaineer no more resembles that of a dweller
in the valleys than the cry of the eagle is like that of
a raven," replied Huetzin, with a smile.
Then they rejoiced that in all their years of slavery
they had not lost their native accent, and recalled
with simple pride how they had striven and helped
each other to preserve this token of their birth, and
sole reminder of their happy youth among the distant
mountains. They told him of their captivity, and
how they had been surprised, not far from their own
home, by a party of Aztec slave-hunters, against whom
the man's desperate resistance proved of no avail.
"Though there were but few abler warriors than he
in all the land," added the old woman proudly, with
a fond look at her old husband. They also told him
of their only child, the little girl, Cocotin, who had
been left behind, and of whose fate they had gained
no tidings in all these years. They told of their pre-
sent life with all its toil and hardship, and when the
tale was ended, they rejoiced that the gods had led
them over the thorny paths of slavery to the end that
LOYALTY OUTWEIGHS GOLD AND FREEDOM.
they might be of service to the son of Tlahuicol, their
With all this there was no intimation of the fact,
that should they be suspected of aiding the escape of
a victim doomed to sacrifice, or of having sheltered
him for an hour, they would be condemned to death
by torture. Huetzin, however, was well aware of
this, and so, when he had eaten of their frugal fare
and dried his wet garments, he would have taken his
departure; but to this his entertainers would not
"It is near morning, and with daylight your cap-
ture in this place would be certain," argued the man.
"Tarry with us until the coming of another night,
when I will guide you to a place from which you may
reach the road to Tlascala."
"Would my lord snatch from us the great joy of
our lives?" asked the woman, reproachfully, "and
needlessly shorten the only hours of happiness we
have known since last we looked on the face of Coco-
tin, our little one?"
But if I am found here your lives will be forfeit,"
"That is as the gods will," answered the man.
"Our poor lives are as nothing, while the gods have
shown that they are reserving yours for their own
good purpose. Nay, my lord, depart not, but honour
64 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
us with your presence yet a while longer, and all shall
Thus urged Huetzin yielded, and, more weary than
he was aware of, flung himself down on a mat of
sweet grasses in one corner of the room, where he
almost instantly fell asleep. The old people watched
him, sitting hand in hand and conversing in whispers
of the wonderful event by which the hard monotony
of their lives had been brightened. Every now and
then the man went outside and listened. At daylight
he was obliged to report for duty in the fields.
When he had gone the woman took a quantity of
the maguey fibre, which it was her daily task to pre-
pare for the cloth-weavers, and, with it, completely
concealed the sleeping youth. So well was he hidden
that even the prying eyes of a female neighbour, who
ran in for a few moments' gossip while her breakfast
was cooking, failed to detect his presence.
Have you heard," asked the woman, of the escape
of a victim dedicated to Huitzil yesterday? In some
manner-I have not yet learned the details-he suc-
ceeded in killing several of the holy priests, and escap..
ing from under the very knife of sacrifice. The gods
were so incensed that they extinguished the sacred
fire with a breath. Nor will they be appeased until
he is again brought before them, and his heart lies on
the altar; for so say the priests."
LOYALTY OUTWEIGHS GOLD AND FREEDOM.
"What is he like?" demanded the other calmly.
"They say," replied the visitor, "that he is young,
and as comely to look upon as Quetzal himself; but
that at heart he is a very monster, and that his only
meat is babes or very young children. I should be
frightened to death were I to catch sight of him,
though for the sake of the reward I should be willing
to venture it."
"Is there a reward offered for his capture?"
"Yes. Have you not heard? It is proclaimed
everywhere, that, to any free man who shall produce
him dead or alive, or tell where he may be found, shall
be given a hundred quills of gold and a royal grant
of land. If any slave shall be the fortunate one, he
and his shall be given their freedom, and twenty quills
of gold. Oh! I would my man might set eyes on him.
He is already searching, as are many of the neigh-
hours, for it is said that the escaped one crossed the
lake in this direction last night, after overturning
several boats that were in pursuit of him, and leaving
their occupants to perish in the water. Besides that,
he killed or wounded near a score of chinampa owners,
and set their canoes adrift. I know this to be so,
for my man picked up one of the canoes on the
lake shore, not an hour ago, and has informed the
"Never did I hear of anything so terrible!" cried
THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
the Tlascalan woman, professing an eager sympathy
with her neighbour's gossip. "We are all in danger
of our lives."
"Yes," continued the other, "but he must be taken
soon, for soldiers are scouring the country in all direc-
tions, and every house is to be searched. They will
not find him in a dwelling, though, for the penalty
is too terrible. The proclamation says that whoever
shall give him a crust of bread, or a sup of water, or
a moment's shelter, shall be burned to death, he and
every member of his family. So the monster will get
no aid, I warrant you. Well, I must go. I am glad
you know nothing of him," she added, casting a
searching glance around the interior of the hut, "for
I should hate to be compelled to inform against a
neighbour. What a fine lot of fibre you have pre-
"Yes," answered the Tlascalan woman calmly, "and
I am just about to take it out in the sun to bleach."
As the steps of the departing gossip died away,
Huetzin, who had been aroused by her shrill tones,
and had overheard all that she said, shook off his
covering of fibre and rose to his feet, looking very
pale and determined.
"I can no longer remain here," he said; "my pre-
sence would be discovered by the first who searched
this dwelling, and I should only have devoted you
LOYALTY OUTWEIGHS GOLD AND FREEDOM.
and your husband to an awful fate. It is better that
you should give me up and claim the reward."
At these words the woman gave him a look so re-
proachful and full of entreaty, that he hastened to
recall them. "No," he exclaimed, "you could not!
To a Tlascalan such baseness would be impossible!
But you can at least let me depart."
"Yes," said the woman, "you must go, for you can
no longer remain here in safety; but I am minded of
another hiding-place in which, for a time at least,
you can remain undiscovered. Come with me, and I
will show it you."
So they left the hut together, Huetzin almost creep-
ing on his hands and knees through the tall grasses
which formed the only shelter from observation, and
the woman bearing a great bundle of maguey fibre.
This answered a fourfold purpose. The pretence of
bleaching it gave her an excuse for going abroad. Its
weight would account for the slowness with which
she walked. She carried it so as partly to shield her
companion from sight, and, had anyone approached,
she would have dropped it over him while pretending
Thus the two proceeded slowly and fearfully until
they reached the ruins of an ancient, aqueduct, that
had once brought water for the garden fountains of
some long-forgotten Toltec noble. The aqueduct,
Sb THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
which was a sodded dike inclosing a great earthen
pipe, had been gullied by some short-lived but furi-
ous torrent, and its pipe was broken at the place
where Huetzin and the Tlascalan woman now halted.
There was an opening just large enough for a man to
squeeze through; but, once inside the pipe, he could
neither turn himself about nor assume any position
save that of lying at full length. The bottom of the
pipe was covered thickly with a slimy sediment sug-
gestive of all manner of creeping and venomous things.
It was indeed a dismal place, but it offered a chance
for life which Huetzin accepted. As he disappeared
within its dark recess the woman resumed her burden
of fibre and retraced her steps to her own dwelling.
Not long after her return to it, she was startled by
the approach of a squad of Aztec soldiers, guided by
her husband, with anguish-stricken face. Entering
the hut they searched it carefully, thrusting their
spears into every suspected place, including the heap
of maguey fibre on the floor, which they thoroughly
prodded. The Tlascalan was amazed at his wife's
calmness during these proceedings, as well as at the
absence of the fugitive. He had been certain that
the latter would be discovered there, even while he
stoutly denied any knowledge of him or his where-
abouts to the soldiers, who had forced him to accom-
pany them to the search of his own dwelling. When
LOYALTY OUTWEIGHS GOLD AND FREEDOM. 69
they left to hunt elsewhere he was compelled to go
with them. Thus it was not until nightfall, when he
returned from his day's labour, that he learned of the
safety of their beloved guest, and of the hiding-place
found for him by the quick-witted Tlascalan woman.
She had not dared go near him during the day, and it
was not until after their usual hour for retiring, when
all men were supposed to be asleep, that the brave
old couple ventured forth to release the prisoner from
his painful position in the ancient water-pipe.
TRAPPING A KING'S COURIER.
BUT for a promise he had given, to remain in his
uncomfortable hiding-place until summoned by
his friends, and but for the awful penalty they must
have paid had their connection with him been dis-
covered, Huetzin would long since have left the old
water-pipe. His position in it was so painfully
cramped that, as the long hours dragged slowly away,
it became well-nigh insupportable. When he finally
heard the welcome summons, and issued from the
narrow opening, he was so stiff he could hardly
stand. A brisk rubbing of his limbs soon restored
their circulation; and, after partaking of a hearty
meal in the cabin of his humble protectors, he was
once more ready to venture forth. A wallet well
filled with tortillas, provided by the woman to whom
he already owed his life, was given him, and, bid-
ding her a loving and grateful farewell, he followed
the lead of the old mountaineer out into the darkness.
TRAPPING A KING'S COURIER
Making many detours to avoid dwellings, and after
a narrow escape from a patrol of soldiers, suddenly
encountered, who passed so close to where they
crouched in a thicket by the wayside that they could
have touched them, the fugitives finally reached the
fresh-water lake of Chalco. Here Huetzin alone
would have wasted much precious time, but his guide
knew where to find a canoe. This he speedily drew
forth from its hiding-place, and a half-hour of silent
paddling set them across the lake. Although they
approached the shore with the utmost caution, they
were hailed from out its shadows, as they were about
to land, by a hoarse challenge that sounded like a
voice of doom. As they hesitated, irresolute, an arrow
flew by their heads with a venomous hiss, and the old
man cried out, in a tremulous voice:
"Hold thy hand, my lord! It is only I, a poor slave
of Iztapalapan, seeking to catcl a few fish for the
"Come hither, slave, at once, that I may examine
thee, ere I drive an arrow through thy miserable car-
cass!" cried the voice.
Making an awkward splashing with his paddle,
under cover of which Huetzin slid into the water
the old man obeyed. He found but a single soldier
awaiting him, though others, who came running up
from either side, demanding to know the cause for
72 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
shouting, showed that he formed but one of a cordon
guarding the whole lake shore. These carefully ex-
amined the old man and his canoe. At length, satis-
fied that he was alone, and bore no resemblance to
the one whom they sought, they let him go, bidding
him not to venture near the shore again as he valued
his life. As he humbly thanked them for their for-
bearance, and slowly paddled away, they moved up
the beach in search of other suspicious characters.
Huetzin, who had been standing in water up to
his neck, where he could hear every word that passed,
now attracted the Tlascalan's attention by a low hiss-
ing sound, grasped his hand in token of farewell, and
made his way to the spot just vacated by the sol-
diers, correctly assuming that, for a short time at
least, it would be safer than any other. Cautiously
and noiselessly he crept up the bank, nor did lie dare
to move at more than a snail's pace until a good
quarter of a mile had been put between him and his
enemies. Then he set forth at such speed that, be-
fore morning, he had left the valley of Mexico behind,
and was climbing the rugged slope of the mountains
bounding it on the east.
At the coming of daylight the fugitive sought a
cave, near which issued a spring of clear water; and
here he passed the day, having no food save the
water-soaked tortillas, already sour and mouldering
TRAPPING A KING'S COURIER.
in his wallet. When night came he again ventured
forth, and found a field, from which he procured a
few ears of half-ripened maize.
Thus for a week he hid by day and travelled by
night, rarely daring to set foot on the highway by
which the mountains were traversed, but scrambling
through the dense forests that bordered it, and hav-
ing narrow escapes from wild beasts and wilder men.
His clothing and skin were torn by thorns, his feet
were cut and bleeding from rude contact with jagged
rocks, his blood was chilled by the biting winds of
the lofty heights to which he climbed, and his body
was weakened and emaciated by starvation. Only an
indomitable will, the remembrance of his father's death,
and the thought of Tiata with no one in the world to
care for her save him, urged the young Toltec forward.
Often during the day, from some hiding-place over-
looking the public road, lie watched with envy the
king's couriers, hurrying east or west with the swift-
ness of the wind. Each of these, as he knew, ran at
full speed for two leagues, at the end of which he
delivered his despatches to another who was waiting
at a post-station, and was then allowed to refresh
himself with food, drink, and a bath, before being
again summoned to duty. Such was the swiftness
of these trained runners, and the perfection of the
system controlling them, that despatches were trans-
74 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
mitted with incredible rapidity, and on the king's
table in Tenochtitlan fresh fish were daily served
that were taken from the eastern ocean, two hundred
miles away, less than twenty hours before.
Not only did Huetzin, barely existing on the few
tunas or acrid wild figs that he occasionally found,
envy the king's couriers the comforts of the post-
stations, to which he dared not venture, and which
seemed so desirable as compared with his own sur-
rounding, but he longed to know the purport of the
despatches that so constantly passed and repassed.
That most of them contained information concerning
the white conquerors, whose movements and intentions
he was so anxious to discover, he felt certain. He
knew that the penalty for molesting or delaying a
king's courier was death; but that meant nothing to
him, for the same fate would be his in any case if
he should be captured. Thus, being already outlawed,
he would not have hesitated to attack a courier and
strive to capture his despatches, but for the fact that
they were strong, well-fed men, while he was weak
from starvation. Moreover, they were armed, while
he was not, even his dagger having been broken off
at the hilt in an attempt to cut for himself a club
early in his flight. At length, however, he contrived
a plan that promised success, and which he at once
proceeded to put into execution.
HUETZIN OVERPOWERS THE KING'S COURIER.
TRAPPING A KING'S COURIER. 75
He had saved the broken blade of his dagger, and
transformed it into a rude knife by binding one end
with bark. With this he cut a tough, trailing vine,
nearly one hundred feet in length, and coiling it as
he would a rope, made his way cautiously, just at
dusk, to the edge of the highway. He had chosen a
place from which he could see for some distance in
either direction; and, after making certain that no
person was in sight, he fastened one end of his rope-
like vine to the roots of a small tree. Then, carrying
the other across the road, he stretched it as tightly as
possible, and made it fast. The rope, so arranged, was
lifted some six inches above the surface of the road.
Having thus set his trap, Heutzin concealed himself
at one side and impatiently awaited the approach of a
Ere he had waited a half-hour there came a sound
of quick foot-falls, and the heart of the young Toltec
beat high with excitement. Now he could see the
dim form of a man speeding forward through the
darkness, and hear the panting breath. Now the fly-
ing messenger is abreast of the place where he
crouches. Now he trips over the unseen obstacle,
and plunges headlong with a startled cry and out-
stretched arms. Huetzin leaped forward and flung
himself bodily upon the prostrate form. He had
anticipated a struggle, and nerved himself for it, but
THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
none was made. The man's forehead had struck on
the rocky road-bed, and he lay as one dead. Huetzin
wasted no time in attempting to revive him; but, un-
fastening the green girdle that held the precious
packet of despatches, and at the same time distin-
guished its wearer as being in the royal service, and
securing the bow and arrows with which the courier
was armed, he plunged again into the forest and dis-
That night he was so fortunate as to discover a
corn-field, for he had now passed the range of the
great volcan, and descended to the fertile table-land
on its eastern side. At daylight he had the further
good fortune to shoot a wild turkey, and though, hav-
ing no fire nor means of procuring one, he was forced
to eat the meat raw, it greatly refreshed and strength-
ened him. By the time he had finished this welcome
meal, and selected a hiding-place for the day, the sun
had risen, and he eagerly opened the packet of
For an hour he pored over them, and when it was
ended the young Toltec was wiser, concerning some
matters of vital importance, than the king himself.
He had not only learned, as well as pictured like-
nesses could teach him, what manner of beings the
white conquerors were, but a secret concerning them
that might have altered the fate of the kingdom had
TRAPPING A KING'S COURIER.
Montezuma been aware of it at that moment. It was
that the terrible beings who accompanied the con-
querors, and were described as combining the forms
of men and fire-breathing monsters, were in reality
two distinct individuals, a man and an animal, also
that they were mortal and not god-like. These facts
were shown by pictures of a dead horse, and two of
the white strangers, also lying on the ground, dead
and transfixed by arrows. Near them stood a num-
ber of men, and several horses without riders, but
all pierced by arrows, showing them to be wounded.
It was evidently a representation of a battle-scene
between the white conquerors, and- Could it be?
Yes! There was the white heron, the emblem of
the Tlascalan house of Titcala, the token of his
mother's family! The white conquerors were at war
This was a startling revelation to the son of Tla-
huicol. He knew that his warrior fathr had deemed
a union of the forces of Tlascala with those of the
powerful strangers the only means by which the
Aztec nation and its terrible priesthood could be
overthrown. What could he do to stop the war now
so evidently in progress, and bring about the desir-
able alliance? He could at least bear his father's
last message, with all speed, to Tlascala, and he
would. It should be heard by the council of chiefs
78 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
ere the set of another sun. Thus deciding, and fast-
ening the green girdle of the courier, the badge of
royal authority, about his waist, Huetzin hastened
to the highway, and set out boldly upon it, with all
speed, in the direction of Tlascala.
WHO ARE THE WHITE CONQUERORS?
YES, the white strangers were at war with Tlas-
cala; there could be no doubt of it. The mean-
ing of the pictured despatches was too clear on that
point to be misunderstood. Which side would win
in such a struggle? The pictures seemed to indicate
that the strangers had suffered a defeat. Certainly
some of them had been killed, as had at least three of
the mysterious beings who had, until then, been be-
lieved to be gods. With such evidences of the superi-
ority of his countrymen to reassure him, could the son
of a Tlascalan warrior doubt which banner would be
crowned with victory? And yet, if these white
strangers should be destroyed, or driven back whence
they came, what would become of his father's cherished
plan for the overthrow of Montezuma and his bloody
priesthood by their aid? Why had Tlahuicol placed
such confidence in their powers? Who, and what,
were these white conquerors? Whence had they come?
THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
and what was their object in braving the dangers that
must beset every step of their advance into the land
With thoughts and queries such as these was the
mind of Huetzin filled as he sped forward on his self-
appointed mission. The question of food, that had
absorbed so large a share of his attention on the pre-
ceding days of his flight, no longer gave him any
anxiety. The sight of his green girdle and packet of
despatches caused his wants of this nature to be rapidly
supplied from the several post-stations, at which he
halted for a moment without entering. To be sure his
appearance created animated discussions after he had
departed, but only when it was too late to make
investigation. Thus Huetzin's mind was free to dwell
upon the subject of the white conquerors and their
war with his own people.
These "white conquerors," as Tlahuicol had termed
them, formed the little army with which Hernando
Cortes set forth from Cuba, in the spring of 1519, for
the exploration and possible subjugation of the great
western kingdom, concerning which fabulous accounts
had already reached Spain. During the twenty-seven
years that had elapsed since Columbus first set foot on
an island of the New World, exploration had been
active, and the extent of its eastern coast had been
nearly determined. Sebastian Cabot had skirted it
WHO ARE THE WHITE CONQUERORS?
from Labrador to the peninsula of Florida. Columbus
himself had reached the mainland, without realizing
that it was such, and had sailed from Honduras to the
mouth of the mighty Orinoco. Amerigo Vespucci and
others had coasted southward as far as the Rio de la
Plata. Balboa, with dauntless courage, had forced his
way through the trackless forests of Darien, and from
the summit of its lofty cordilleras sighted the mighty
Pacific. The West Indian Islands were all known,
and only the lands bordering the Mexican Gulf still
In 1517 a Spanish slave-hunter, bound from Cuba
to the Bahamas, was driven so far out of his course by
a succession of easterly gales that, at the end of three
weeks, he found himself on an unknown coast far to
the westward. It was the land of the Mayas, who,
having heard by runiour of the cruelties practised by
the Spaniards in the Caribbean Islands, greeted these
new-comers with an invincible hostility that resulted
in a series of bloody encounters. In most of these the
Spaniards were worsted; some of them were taken
prisoners by the Indians, and so many were killed that
all notions of their god-like nature were destroyed.
When the whites questioned those natives with whom
they gained intercourse as to the name of their land,
the answer always given was, Tec-ta-tan" (I do not
understand you), and this, corrupted into "Yucatan"
82 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
is the name borne by that portion of the country to
In spite of their reverses and failure to gain a foot-
hold in this new country, the Spanish slave-hunters
saw enough of its stone buildings, populous towns,
cultivated fields, rich fabrics, and golden ornaments to
convince them that they were on the borders of a
powerful and wealthy empire. Thus, when they
returned to Cuba, leaving half their number behind,
either dead or as prisoners, they brought such glow-
ing accounts of their discoveries that another expe-
dition to extend them, as well as to procure slaves
and gold, was immediately fitted out. Under the
command of Juan de Grijalva, and embarked in
four small vessels, it sailed from Santiago in May,
1518, and was gone six months, during which time
it explored the coast from Yucatan to a point some
distance beyond where the city of Vera Cruz now
On the Mayan coast Grijalva met with the same
fierce hostility that had greeted his predecessor, but
among the Aztecs he was received with a more friendly
spirit by a chieftain who had been ordered to make a
careful study of the strangers for the information of
the king of that land. This monarch, who was soon
to become the world-famed Montezuma, also sent
costly gifts to the Spaniards, hoping that, satisfied
WHO ARE THE WHITE CONQUERORS? 83
with them, they would depart and leave his country
in peace. They did so, but only to carry to Cuba such
wonderful tales of the wealth of the countries they had
visited that a third expedition was at once undertaken.
It was placed under command of Hernando Cortes, a
trained soldier, about thirty-three years of age. His
fleet consisted of eleven vessels, the largest of which
was but of one hundred tons burden. Three others
were from seventy to eighty tons, and the rest were
open caravels. In these were embarked eight hun-
dred and fifty souls, of whom one hundred and ten
were sailors. Five hundred and fifty were soldiers,
but of these only thirteen were armed with muskets
and thirty-two with crossbows, the rest being pro-
vided with swords and pikes. The remainder of the
force consisted of Indian servants.
If this small force of men had been his sole reliance,
Cortes would have accomplished little more than his
predecessors; but it was not. He was well provided
with artillery, in the shape of ten heavy guns and four
small brass pieces called falconets, besides a bountiful
supply of ammunition. Better than all, however, he
had sixteen horses, animals up to that time unknown
on the American continent, and well fitted to inspire
the simple-minded natives with terror. Cortes was
also fortunate in his selection of officers. Among them
were the fierce Alvarado, who had already been on the
84 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
coast with Grijalva, and who was afterward named by
the Aztecs "Tonatiah," or the Sunlit, on account of
his golden hair and beard, and Gonzalo de Sandoval,
barely twenty-two years of age and slow of speech,
but of such a sturdy frame, good judgment, and ab-
solute fearlessness that he became the most famous
and trustworthy of all the conqueror's captains. He
was also the owner of the glorious mare Motilla, the
pride and pet of the army.
With this force Cortes sailed for the Mexican coast,
filled with hopes of conquest and of abolishing for ever
the cruel religion of the Aztecs, with its human sacri-
fices and bloody rites, concerning which the reports of
his predecessors had said so much.
The policy of Cortes was to gain his ends by peace-
ful means, if possible, and only to fight when forced
to do so. In pursuance of this plan of action he
touched at several places on the Mayan coast, before
proceeding to Mexico, and so won the good-will of
those fierce fighters by his courtesy and a liberal be-
stowal of presents, that they not only desisted from
hostilities, but delivered to him a Spaniard whom they
had held as prisoner for several years. This man,
whose name was Aguilar, could converse fluently in
the Mayan tongue, and was thus invaluable as an
At the mouth of the Tabasco River, on the borders
WHO ARE THE WHITE CONQUERORS? 85
of Aztec territory, where Grijalva had been so courte-
ously received two years before, Cortes was greeted in
a very different manner. As the Tabascans had been
ordered by the Aztec monarch to treat Grijalva's expe-
dition kindly and gain from it all possible information
concerning the white strangers, they now received in-
structions from the same source to destroy this one.
Accordingly a great army had been collected, and in
spite of Cortes's efforts to maintain peaceful relations,
his little force was attacked with the utmost fury as
soon as it landed. The artillery created terrible havoc
in the dense ranks of the natives; but so desperate
was their onset, that the Spaniards would doubtless
have been defeated had it not been for the opportune
arrival of their cavalry, which was thus used for the
first time in a New-World battle. Before these death-
dealing monsters, whose weight bore down all oppo-
sition, and beneath whose iron hoofs they were tram-
pled like blades of grass, the panic-stricken Indians
fled in dismay.
The loss of the Tabascans in this first battle of the
conquest of Mexico was enormous, reaching well into
the thousands, while of the Spaniards a number were
killed and some two hundred were wounded. Among
the prisoners taken were several caciques, whom Cortes
set at liberty and sent back to their own people
with presents, and the message that for the sake of
86 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
peace he was willing to overlook the past, provided
they would now acknowledge the authority of his
king and abolish human sacrifices from their reli-
gious observances. If they refused these terms he
would put every man, woman, and child to the
This threat, together with the punishment already
received, was effective. On the following day a dele-
gation of head men came in, to tender their submission
to the White Conqueror. They brought many valuable
gifts, among which were twenty female slaves, whom
Cortes caused to be baptized and given Christian
names. The most beautiful of these, and the one
who quickly proved herself the most intelligent, had
already passed through a long experience of slavery,
though still but seventeen years of age. Sold, when a
child, by a step-mother, in a distant northern province,
she had been carried to the land of the Mayas, edu-
cated there in the household of a noble, and finally
captured by the fierce Tabascans. She was thus able
to speak both the Aztec and the Mayan tongues, and
so could interpret the Aztec, through the Mayan, to
Aguilar, who in turn translated her words into Spanish.
Thus, through this young Indian girl, the Spaniards
were for the first time placed in direct communication
with the dominant race of the country. The Christian
name given her was Marina," a name destined to be-
WHO ARE THE WHITE CONQUERORS? 87
come almost as well known as that of the White Con-
From Tabasco Cortes followed the coast to the island
of San Juan de Ulloa, inside which he anchored his
fleet. Here, for the first time, he received an embassy
direct from Montezuma, and saw the Aztec artists
busily making sketches of his men and their belongings
for the king's information. Here, too, he landed, and
founded the city of Vera Cruz, to be used as a base of
operations while in that country.
The Spaniards spent some months on the coast, and
in the Tierra Caliente, or hot lands, immediately
adjoining it. They formed an alliance with the To-
tonacs, a disaffected people recently conquered by
the Aztecs, regained for them their principal city of
Cempoalla, where they destroyed the Aztec idols, and
devoted themselves to a study of the resources of the
country they proposed to conquer and the character
of its people.
In the meantime they received many messages from
Montezuma forbidding their proposed visit to his
capital, and commanding them to depart whence they
came. As these messages were always accompanied by
magnificent presents of gold, jewels, and rich fabrics,
the Spaniards were even more tempted to stay and
search for the source of this unbounded wealth, than
to leave it undiscovered. So, in spite of Montezuma's
88 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
prohibition, Cortes, after first destroying his ships
that they might offer no excuse for a retreat, took up
his line of march for Tenochtitlan, two hundred miles
in the interior.
THE SIGN OF THE GOD OF THE FOUR WINDS.
T was in August, the height of the rainy season,
that the little Spanish army of four hundred men,
only fifteen of whom were mounted, took up their line
of march from Vera Cruz for the Aztec capital. They
carried with them but three heavy guns and the four
falconets. The remainder of the troops, one horse,
and seven pieces of heavy artillery, were left for the
defence of their infant city. To drag their guns and
transport their baggage over the mountains, they
obtained from Cempoalla the services of a thousand
tamanes, or porters. An army of thirteen hundred
Totonac warriors also accompanied them.
The first day's journey was through the perfumed
forest, filled with gorgeous blossoms and brightly-
plumaged tropic birds of the Tierra Caliente. Then
they began to ascend the eastern slopes of the Mexican
Cordilleras, above which towers the mighty snow-
robed peak of Orizaba. At the close of the second day
90 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
they reached the beautifully-located city of Jalapa,
standing midway up the long ascent. Two days later
they came to Naulinco, whose inhabitants, being allied
to the Totonacs, received them in the most friendly
manner. From here they passed into the rugged defile
now known as the "Bishop's Pass," where, instead of
the tropic heats and sunshine to which they had be-
come accustomed, they began to experience cold winds,
with driving storms of rain, sleet, and hail, which
chilled them to the marrow, and caused the death of
many of the Indian porters. The aspect of the sur-
rounding country was as dreary as that of its leaden
skies. On all sides were granite boulders rent into
a thousand fantastic shapes, huge masses of lava, beds
of volcanic cinders and scoria, bearing no traces of
vegetation, while above all towered snow -clad pin-
nacles and volcanic peaks. After three days of suffer-
ing and the most fatiguing labour amid these desolate
scenes they descended, and emerged through a second
pass into a region of exceeding fertility and a genial
climate. They were now on the great table-land of
Puebla, and seven thousand feet above the level of the
sea. Here they rested for several days in the Aztec
city of Cocotlan, the governor of which dared not
resist them, as he had received no orders from his
royal master to do so.
From Cocotlan they travelled down a noble, forest-
THE SIGN OF THE GOD OF THE FOUR WINDS. 91
clad valley, watered by a bold mountain-torrent, and
teeming with inhabitants, who collected in throngs
to witness the passing of the mysterious strangers,
but made no offer to molest them. At the fortress of
Xalacingo they came to two roads, one leading to the
sacred city of Cholula, famed for its great pyramid,
its temples, and its pottery, and the other leading to
Tlascala. By the advice of their native allies the con-
querors decided to take the latter way, and visit the
sturdy little mountain republic which had maintained
a successful warfare against the arrogant Aztec for
more than two centuries, and with which they hoped
to form an alliance. So an embassy of Totonac
caciques, bearing an exquisite Spanish sword as a
present, was despatched to explain to the Tlascalan
chiefs the peaceful intentions of the Spaniards, and
ask for permission to pass through their territory.
The Christian army waited several days in vain for
the return of those messengers, and at length, im-
patient of the delay, determined to push on at all
hazards. Leaving the beautiful plain in which they
had halted, they struck into a more rugged country,
and at length paused before a structure so strange that
they gazed at it in wonder. It was a battlemented
stone wall nine feet high, twenty in thickness, six
miles long, and terminating at either end in the pre-
cipitous sides of tall mountains too steep to be scaled.
92 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
Only in the centre of this well-nigh impregnable for-
tress was there a narrow opening, running for forty
paces between overlapping sections of the wall. This
remarkable structure stood on the boundary of Tlasca-
lan territory, and, had the mountain warriors to whom
it belonged chosen to defend it upon this occasion, the
white men might have dashed themselves against it
as fruitlessly as the waves of the sea against an iron-
bound coast, until their strength was spent, without
effecting a passage to the country beyond.
For days the great council of Tlascala had been the
scene of stormy debate as to how the strangers apply-
ing for admission to their territory should be received.
Some of its members were for making an immediate
alliance with them against the Aztecs. Others claimed
that these unknown adventurers had not yet declared
themselves as enemies of Montezuma, nor had their
vaunted powers been tested in battle against true
warriors. "Therefore," said these counsellors, "let us
first fight them, and if they prove able to withstand
us, then will it be time to accept their alliance." This
advice finally prevailed, war was decided upon, and a
force was despatched to guard the great fortress. But
it was too late. Cortes and his little army had already
passed through its unguarded opening and gained the
soil of the free republic.
After proceeding a few miles, the leader, riding at
THE SIGN OF THE GOD OF THE FOUR WINDS. 93
the head of his horsemen, perceived a small body of
warriors armed with maquahuitls and shields, and
clad in armour of quilted cotton, advancing rapidly.
These formed the van of those who should have
guarded the fortress. On seeing that the Spaniards
had already passed it, they halted; and, as the latter
continued to approach, they turned and fled. Cortes
called upon them to halt, but as they only fled the
faster he and his companions clapped spurs to their
steeds and speedily overtook them. Finding escape
impossible the Tlascalans faced about, but instead of
surrendering or showing themselves terror-stricken
at the appearance of their pursuers, they began a
furious attack upon them. Handful though they were,
they fought so bravely that they held their ground
until the appearance, a few minutes later, of the
main body to which they belonged. These number-
ing several thousand, and advancing on the run, at
once gave battle to the little body of Spanish cavaliers.
First discharging a blinding flight of arrows, they
rushed with wild cries upon the horsemen, striving
to tear their lances from their grasp and to drag the
riders from their saddles. They seemed fully aware
that rider and horse were distinct individuals, in which
respect they differed from any of the natives yet
encountered. Fortunately for the cavaliers the press
about them was so great that their assailants found it
THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
almost impossible to wield their weapons, while from
their superior elevation they were enabled to use their
swords with telling effect. Still the Tlascalans suc-
ceeded in dragging one rider to the ground, and in
wounding him so severely that he soon afterward died.
Two horses were also killed, and this formed by far
the most serious loss yet sustained by the Spaniards.
Scores of the Tlascalans received mortal wounds,
but the sight of their stricken comrades only served
to animate the survivors with fresh courage and an
increased fury. From their childhood the Tlascalans
were taught that there was no glory so great as that
to be gained by death on the field of battle, and that
the warrior thus dying was at once transported to the
blissful mansions of the sun. Nowhere in the New
World had the Spaniards encountered such warriors
as these, and it was with inexpressible thankfulness
that the hard-pressed cavaliers beheld the rapid
advance of their own infantry, and were able to
retreat for a breathing spell behind their sheltering
lines. A simultaneous fire of artillery, muskets, and
cross-bows so bewildered the Tlascalans, who now
for the first time heard the terrifying sound, and wit-
nessed the deadly effect of firearms, that they made
no further attempt to continue the battle. They did
not fly but withdrew in good order, carrying their
dead with them.
THE SIGN OF THE GOD OF THE FOUR WINDS. 95
The Spaniards were too exhausted to follow up
their victory, and were anxious only to find a safe
camping-place for the night. During the hours of
darkness they carefully buried the two horses killed
in that day's fight, hoping that when the Tiascalans
found no trace of them they might still believe them
to be supernatural beings. A strong guard was main-
tained all night, and those who slept did so in their
armour, with their weapons in their hands.
On the following day the Spaniards resumed their
march, presenting, with their Indian allies, quite an
imposing array. As on the previous day, the pursuit
of a small body of the enemy, who fell back as they
advanced, led them into the presence of another Tlas-
calan army, headed by Tlahuicol's nephew and suc-
cessor, a fiery young warrior named Xicoten. This
army met them in a narrow valley of such broken
ground that the artillery could not be operated within
its limits. Here thirty thousand warriors not only
filled the valley with their numbers, but spread out on
the plain beyond, presenting a confused assemblage
of gay banners, glittering weapons, and many-coloured
plumes, tossing above the white of cotton-quilted
armour. Over all floated proudly the heron device of
the great house of Titcala, to which Xicoten, the
The battle now fought was more stubborn and pro-
96 THE WHITE CONQUERORS.
longed than that of the day before. Another horse
was killed, and his mangled remains were borne off
in triumph to be distributed as trophies through
every Tlascalan village. A terrible hand-to-hand
struggle took place over the prostrate form of his
rider, who was finally recovered by the Spaniards,
only to die shortly after of his wounds.
While the Christians, protected by their armour,
received the showers of Tlascalan arrows and darts
with impunity, their Totonac allies suffered heavily.
All were nearly exhausted before the artillery was
dragged clear of the broken ground and brought into
play. Then, as on the previous day, the Tlascalans
sullenly retreated before a deadly fire which they had
no means of returning.
Again the Spaniards, weary with a day of fighting,
sought only a safe place of encampment. This they
found on the hill of Zompach, a rocky eminence
crowned by a small temple, which they converted
into a fortress. Here they rested and cared for their
wounded during the succeeding day; but on the next,
as provisions were running low, Cortes, taking with
him only his cavalry, made a foray through the sur-
rounding villages and farms. During this wild ride
Sandoval, with the recklessness of youth, trusting to
his good sword and the fleet Motilla for safety, allowed
himself to become separated from the rest,