Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

but were prevented from setting fire to the buildings, lest it should discover us to the people in the vicinity, and at length about day. break came to a city consisting of more than twenty thousand houses. Being taken by surprise, the men ran out into the streets unarmed and naked, as well as the women and children. As I saw they could make no resistance, I began to ravage the place, when the chief men came to me, besought my pardon, and begged me not to injure them, requesting to be received as your majesty's subjects, and my friends, promising in future to be wholly obedient to my orders. They then accompanied me to a fountain, and supplied me with provisions in abundance. I consented to make peace with them and returned to my camp, where I found my men in great apprehension for my safety, in consequence of the five horses having returned; but when they learned the victory which God had been pleased to grant us, and the submission of a part of the province, they indulged themselves in the most extravagant demonstrations of joy.

I acknowledge to your majesty that our fears were great on finding ourselves in the midst of an unknown country, surrounded by innumerable enemies, and without hope of assistance. Several times have I overheard parties of my soldiers compare me to Peter the Collier, who knew well enough where he was, but could not find the way to get out. Others considered me as a fool or a madman, whose schemes ought not to be encouraged, but that on the contrary it was absolutely necessary to quit me if I would not consent to accompany them and return by the shortest road. They even went so far as several times to press me to return, and I had great difficulty in persuading them to remain, by representing to them that their services and their lives were due to your majesty; that the present object was to acquire for their sovereign the most important country in the world; that no Spaniard had ever yet incurred the disgrace of deserting his standard in so cowardly a manner; that farther, as good Christians it was their duty to fight the enemies of our holy faith, and by that means to merit a splendid recompense in the other world; and in this a degree of glory never before attained by any of the human race. I observed that God had manifestly fought for us, and that to him Lothing was impossible, which was apparent in our victories, in which so many of our enemies had been destroyed, without the loss of a single man on our part. I promised them your majesty's favour if they continued faithful, and threatened them with the whole weight of your displeasure, in case of their disobedience and defection. By such remonstrances, and the allowance of a small advance of pay, I at length succeeded in restoring their courage and confidence, and have now brought them to do all that I could wish.

At ten the next morning Sintegal, the captain general, accompanied by fitty of the nobles, came to request me, in behalf of Magicatzin, governor-general of the republic, to receive them

as subjects of your majesty, and to grant them my friendship and forgiveness, for having attacked us, through ignorance of who we were. They observed that never having had a master, but living from time immemorial in a state of independence, free from the domination of Montezuma and his ancestors, who had subdued the whole world besides, and preferring to a state of vassalage the privations of the most necessary articles, such as salt and cotton, which were not produced in their country, they had thought it their duty to defend their liberty by all possible means; but since they perceived that neither their numbers, stratagems, nor exertions could avail, they esteemed submission, preferable to death, and the destruction of their families and habitations.

I replied, that they had themselves been the cause of their own misfortunes; that I had come among them as a friend on the recommendation of the Zampoullans, and had sent them deputies to inform them of my intentions, and the pleasure it would give me to cultivate their friendship; that they had in the first place attacked me unexpectedly, whilst I was on my way in perfect security; that they had afterwards endeavoured to deceive me by pretended repentance and false protestations; whilst at the same time they were making preparations to attack me anew when I expected it the least. In short, I reproached them with all the plots and treacheries which they had endeavoured to execute. I however accepted their submission, and the offer which they made me of their persons and property, since which they have not deceived me in a single instance, and I trust that hereafter they will prove good and faithful subjects.

I remained six or seven days in my camp without quitting it, as I thought it not prudent to confide in people who had so frequently deceived me. They, however, requested me so earnestly to visit Tascalteca, where their caciques lived, that at length 1 yielded and proceeded to that capital which was about six leagues from my camp. I was surprised at its size and magnificence. It is longer and stronger than Grenada, contains as many and as handsome buildings, and is much more populous than that city at the time of its conquest. It is also much better supplied with corn, poultry, game, fresh-water fish, pulse, and other excellent vegetables. There are in the market each day thirty thousand persons, including buyers and sellers, without reckoning the merchants and petty dealers dispersed over the city. In this market may be bought every necessary of life, clothes, shoes, feathers of all kinds, ornaments of gold and silver, as well wrought as in any part of the world; various kinds of earthenware of a superior

*“Grenada contained sixty thousand houses; when it was conquered by Ferdinand and Isabella, on the 6th of January, 1491.' Allowing five persons to a house, Grenada must have contained three bundred thousand souls.-Lettre Americane.

quality to that of Spain, wood, coal, herbs and medicinal plants. Here are houses for baths, and places for washing and shearing goats; in short this city exhibits great regularity, and has a good police; the inhabitants are peculiarly neat and far superior to the most industrious of the Africans. The territory of this republie is about eighty leagues in circumference; it abounds with fine valleys, in a high state of cultivation, for no part of the ground is permitted to lie untilled. In its constitution it resembles those of Venice, Genoa, and Pisa, as there is no chief invested with the supreme authority. Most of the caciques reside in the city; the labouring peasants are their vassals, they are nevertheless allowed to possess land in greater or less quantities. In time of war they all assemble, and the captain general arranges his plan for the campaign. Their government is conducted on the principles of justice, and they punish those who are convicted of crimes; for on a complaint which I made to Magiscatzin, the governor, of an Indian having stolen some gold from a Spaniard, a search was immediately instituted, and the thief, together with the article stolen, taken and brought to me, that I might determine his punishment. I thanked them for their vigilance, but told them that I did not wish to execute justice upon their subjects in their own country, but preferred that the offender should be punished by their own laws. They were pleased with this mark of respect, and ordered the criminal to be conducted into the great market by the public crier, who there proclaimed his crime. After having done this he ascended a sort of stage, leaving the criminal at the foot, from whence he again recapitulated his offence, when the spectators immediately dispatched him with clubs.

From the most accurate information, this province contains about five hundred thousand inhabitants who are perfectly submissive to your majesty's rule, as well as those of another small province adjoining it, called Guajozingo, which in its constitution resembles that of Tascalteca.

Whilst I was yet at war with the Indians of Tascalteca, six caciques of high consideration, vassals of Montezuma, with a suite of two hundred persons at least, came in his name to acknowledge themselves your majesty's subjects and to claim my friendship. They desired me to fix the tribute I wished them to pay, in gold, silver, precious stones, slaves, and pieces of cotton, assuring me that I might dispose as I pleased of all that they possessed, provided that I would not enter their territories, which were barren, and where, they were sorry to inform me, I should run great hazards and experience every kind of distress. These ambassadors were with me almost the whole of the time during the war with the Tascaltecans, and saw what the Spaniards were capable of performing; they were also present when I granted peace to the people of that province, and witnessed the offers of the principal caciques. I perceived that they were not pleased with our reconciliation, and employed every method to embroil us, and in

spire me with distrust. They told me that those caciques were rogues and traitors, who only sought to appease me in order to betray me with less danger. On the other side the 'Tascaltecans cautioned me to be on my guard against these subjects of Montezuma, who had subjugated the country entirely by the means of craft and treachery. This discord and mutual enmity appeared favourable to my plan of subduing them both, and I accepted as a favourable omen, that passage of scripture which says, " A kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to ruin.” I dissembled with both, thanked them for their advice, and always manifested the utmost confidence in each, whenever they spoke to me.

After having been twenty-one days at Tascalteca, the ambassadors of Montezuma urged me to go to Cholula, which was six leagues distant, to learn the determination of their monarch, from some new envoys, and to be in a more convenient situation to negociate with him. I promised to go with them, and had even appointed the day, when the caciques of Tascalteca hearing of myintention, came to me, and with much solicitude conjured me not to go, for that a plot was formed to destroy me and my companions. They said that Montezuma had collected fifty thousand soldiers at Cholula, who had shut up the former road and opened a new one, which they had filled with holes, cultrops, and pointed stakes, in order to destroy or lame the horses. That they had also barricadoed many of the streets, and had collected great quantities of stones on the tops of the houses, in order to throw them upon us when we had entered the city. To confirm these assertions they observed that the caciques of that city, though at so small a distance, had never been to see me, whilst I had received visits from those of Guacincango which was much farther, and advised me to send for them, assuring me that they would refuse to come. I sincerely thanked them, and desired them to procure me messengers to send to these caciques, to come to Tascalteca. They did as I desired them, and I despatched the messengers to Cholula, with an invitation to the caciques to visit me; acquainting them with my reasons for coming among them, and your majesty's intentions. My envoys returned with two or three of the inhabitants, who informed me that their caciques were sick, and had sent them to know what I wanted. The Tascaltecans told me that this was a contemptuous answer, that these deputies were of the lowest order of the peopl., and that I ought by no means to set out until the caciques themselves should come to request me. In consequence of this information, I told the messengers that it was not to such men as them that I should communicate your majesty's orders; that their caciques themselves would be too highly honoured in being made acquainted with them, and that if in three days, they did not appear to rec ve them, and submit themselves, I would come and attack them as rebels, and treat

them with the greatest rigour, whereas I would treat them with kindness if they fulfilled their duty.

The next day almost all the caciques came, and said that their reason for not visiting me sooner was, that I was among their enemies, in whose territory they did not consider themselves secure. That they had no doubt of their enemies having endeavoured by false insinuations to prejudice me against them, but that when I came to their city, I should be convinced of their fidelity and of the falsehood of such suggestions; that they submitted themselves to your majesty, and from that time should consider themselves as your subjects; that they would always continue so to be, and in every thing conform themselves to the orders which you should be pleased to signify to them.

I resolved to go to Cholula with these caciques in order to be in a more favourable situation for pursuing my designs upon Montezuma, and lest a refusal should discover any timidity.

The Tascaltecans were very sorry to see me adopt this resolution. They repeatedly assured me that their enemies were deceiving me, and that as they had submitted to your majesty it was their duty to aid me, and share in my dangers. I desired them not to go with me as it would not be necessary: but my remonstrances were to no purpose, for more than a hundred thousand effective men accompanied me within two leagues of the city, where with much difficulty, by entreaties and commands, I at length prevailed on them to return; except five or six thousand who continued with me. I halted at this distance, and passed the night by the side of a rivulet, in order to dismiss the greater part of this multitude, who I was fearful would commit some disorders, as well as to avoid entering the city by night. The next day the inhabitants came to meet me, with trumpets and timbrels, and the priests of the several temples, clothed in their dresses of ceremony and singing. In this manner they conducted us to very good quarters, where we were well accommodated, and supplied with provisions, though in a very moderate quantity. On the way I noticed some of the indications of treachery, which the Tascaltecans had mentioned. I perceived that the great road was shut up, that another was opened, which were full of holes, that many of the streets were barricadoed, and that there were scites of stones, on the roofs of the houses, which determined me to keep strictly on my guard.

At Cholula I found messengers from Montezuma, who had come to gain information of my intentions from those who had been with me, and communicate it to their master. As soon as they had performed their commission, they returned, taking with them the most distinguished persons of the first embassy.

For the three days succeeding my arrival, I could not but notice the little regard and attention that was paid me. ceived that the respect of the citizens diminished daily, and that the caciques and chief men came to visit me but seldom. This

I per

« IndietroContinua »