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The followers of Narvaez, unaccustomed to the severity of military lise, murmured at being thus fruitlessly exposed : this, together with the contempt he had of his enemy, induced him to permit them to l'etire to Zempoalla. The very circumstance that made them quit the
field, encouraged Cortes to form a scheme by which he · hoped at once to terminate the war. His hardy veterans, · though standing under the torrents without a single tent, or any shelter to cover them, were so far from repining at bardships which were become familiar to them, that they were still fresh and alert for service. He knew that the enemy would give themselves up to repose after their fatigue, and deem themselves perfectly secure at a season so unfit for action. Ile resolved therefore to surprize them by an unexpected attack in the night. His soldiers, knowng that there was no resource but in some desperate cifort of courage, approved of the measure with such warnıth, that Cortes in an oration which he delivered to them was more careful to temper, than to inflame, their ardour.
He divided them into three parties : Sandoval commanded the first; this gallant officer was entrusted with the most dangerous and important service, that of seizing the enemy's artillery, which was planted before the prin. cipal towers of the temple, where Narvaez had fixed his head quarters. Christoval de Olid commanded the second, with orders to assault the tower and lay hold on the general. Cortes himself conducted the last and smallest division, which was to act as a body of reserve, and to support the other two as there should be occasion.
Having passed the river di Canoas, which was so swelled with the rains, that the water reached their chins, they advanced in profound silence, each man armed with his sword, his dagger, and his Chinantlan spear. Narvaez remiss in proportion to his security, had posted only two centinels to watch the notions of an enemy, whom he had such good cause to dread. One of these was seized by the advance guard of Cortes's troops, the other made lis escape, and, hurrying to the town, spread the alarm of the enerny's approach, so that there was full time to prepare for their reception. But through the arrogance and intatuation of Narvaez, the important interval was lost. He charged the centinel with cowardice, and treated with de
rision the idea of being attacked by forces so unequal to: his own. The shouts of Cortes's soldiers, however, convinced him at last of his mistake. )
The rapidity with which they advanced was such, that they fired but one cannon, before Sandoval's party closed with them, and drove them from their guns, and had begun to force their way up the steps of the tower. Nar. vaez, as brave in action as presumptuous in conduct, armed himself in haste, and by his voice and example endeavoured to animate his men to the combat. Olid advanced to sustain his companions ; and Cortes himself, rushing to
the front, conducted and added new vigour to the attack. - The compact order of this small body, and the impenetrable front they presented with their long spears, bore down all opposition.
They had now reached the gate, and as they were endcavouring to force it open, a soldier set fire to the reeds with which the tower was covered, and forced Narvaez to sally, out. In the first encounter he was wounded in the eye, with a spear, and falling to the ground, he was in a moment clapped in fetters.
The shout of victory resounded among the troops of Core tes. Those who had sallied out with their leader, feebly maintained the conflict, or began to surrender. Terror and confusion prevailed. Their own artillery was pointed a-gainst them; wherever they turned their eyes, they beheld with astonishment, lights gleaming through the obscurity of the night; which, although proceeding from what is now well known by the name of the fire-fly, which abounds in sultry climates, their affiighted imaginations represented as numerous bands of musqueteers, advancing with lighted, matches to the attack. After a short resistance, the soldiers compelled their officers to capitulate; and before morn. ing all had laid down their arms, and quietly submitted to their conquerors.
This complete victory was the more acceptable, as it was gained with little bloodshed ; only two of the soldiers of Cortes being slain ; as were also two officers and fifteen privates of the adverse party. Cortes treated the vanquish ed as friends : offered to send them immediately back to Cuba, or take them into his service, as partners of his fortune, and on the same terms as his own soldiers. They eagerly embraced the latter proposal, and vied with each
other in professions of fidelity and atachment to a general, who had given them such a convincing proof of his abilities for command.
Cortes was now placed at the head of a thousand Spaniards, eager to follow wherever he should lead them. Doubly fortunate was this victory for Cortes, as he received intelligence a few days afterwards, that the Mexicans had destroyed his brigantines, and had fallen upon the small party he had left with Alvarado. Had reduced to ashes their magazine of provisions, and carried on hostilities with such fury, that although the Spaniards defended themselve 3 with uncommon bravery, yet without succour, they must soon have been cut off by fainine, or sink under the multitude of their enemies..
The Mexicans had flattered themselves, that now when their invaders were divided, was the time to deliver themselves from the odtous dominion of strangers, and release their sovereign.“ Alyarado, though a gallant officer, had Dot that capacity and dignity of inanners, by which Cor. tes had acquired such an ascendancy over the minds of the natives. Instead of employing address to disconcert the plans, or soothe the spirits of the Mexicans, he waited the return of one of their solemn festivals, and when the principal persons of the empire were dancing in the court of the great temple, he seized all the avenues which led to it, and allured partly by the rich ornaments which they wore in honour of their gods, partly by the facility of cut. ting off at once the authors of a conspiracy which he dreaded, he fell upon them unarmed, and unexpected, and massacred a great number, those only escaping who made thei. way over the battlements of the temple.
This treacherous and cruel action filled the city and the whole empire, with indignation and rage. All called aloud for vengeance; and regardless of the life or safety of their monarch, or of their own danger in assaulting an enemy, who had been so long the object of their terror, they committed all those acts of violence, of which Cortes had received an account.
To him the danger appeared so imminent as to admit of no delay. He set out instantly with all his forces. At Tlascala he was joined by two thousand chosen warriors. On entering the Mexican territories, he found disaffection to the Spaniards was not confined to the capital. The
principal inhabitants had deserted the towns túrough which he passed ; no person of note appeared to meet him with the expected respect; no provision made for the subsist. ence of his troops, as usual ; and though he was permitted to advance without opposition, solitude and silence reigned in every place : a deep rooted antipathy had taken place, which excited the most just alarm.
Notwithstanding their enmity was become so implacable, they knew not how to take proper measures for their own safety, or the destruction of their enemies. Instead of breaking down the bridges and causeways, by which they might have enclosed Alvarado and his party, and stopped the career of Cories, they again suffered him to march quietly; and, on the twenty-fourth of June, 1520, he took peaceable possession of his former quarters.
The transports of joy, with which Alvarado received Cortes and his companions, cannot be described; but the gc neral seemed to have forgotten that sagacity and caution, which had hitherto accompanied him. Ho not only neglected to visit Montezuma, but added expressiohs full of contempt for that prince and his people.
. . The forces of which he had now the command, appeared to him irresistible ; so that he began to assume a higher tone, and lay aside the mask of moderation, under which he had hitherto concealed his designs. Some Mexicans who understood the Spanish language, reported the contemptuous words and conduct of Cortes, to their countrymen, which renewed their rage. They resumed their arms, with additional fury, and attacked a body of Spaniards, as they were marching to the great square, where the public market was held ; who were compelled to retire with loss. Delighted to find that their oppressors were not invincible, they advanced next day with extraordinay martial pomp, to assault the Spanish quarters.
Their number was formidable, and their courage great. Though the artillery was pointed against them, when they were crowded in narrow streets, and swept off mulit:ides at every discharge, their impetuosity did not abate. Their broken ranks were continully filled up with fresh men ; these were succeeded by other's no less intrepid and eager on vengeance.
The abilities and experience of Cortes, seconded by the disciplined valour of his troops, was hardly sufficient to i defend the fortifications, into which the enemy were several times on the point of entering,
Some immediate and extraordinary effort was now requisite, to extricate themselves out of their present situation. As soon as the evening induced the Mexicans to retire, in compliance with their custom of ceasing from hostilities with the setting sun, Cortes began to prepare for a sally, with such a force as might either drive the enemy out of the city, or compel them to listen to terms of accommodation. ; ... ..
He conducted in person the troops destined for this im. portant enterprize. Every invention known at that time in the European art of war, as well as every precaution, suggested by his long experience in the Indian mode of fighting, were employed to ensure success. The enemy, he found ready prepared, and determined to oppose him. The force of the Mexicans was greatly encreased by fresh troops which poured in continually from the country. Led by their nobles, inflamed by their priests, and fighting in defence of their families, under the eye, as they judged, of their gods, they made a desperate resistance, and fought with enthusiastic ardgur, in contempt of danger and death. Wherever the Spaniards could close with them, the superiority of their arms and disciplinė, -obliged the natives to give way ; but, in the narrow streets, and where the bridges of communication were broken down, they could seldom i come to a fair encounter, and the Spaniards, as they ad
vanced, were exposed to showers of arrows and stones from the tops of houses.
After a day of incessant exertion, though vast numbers of the Mexicans fell, and part of the city was burned, the Spaniards, weary with the slaughter, were at length disposed to retire, with the mortification of having accomplished nothing so decisive, as to compensate for the loss of twelve soldiers killed, and sixteen wounded : another sally was made with greater force, but with no better success ; and in it the general was wounded in the hand. Cortes perceived, when it was too late, his error in 'treating with contempt, the Mexicans. He became sensible that he
could neither maintain his present station in the city, or S retire from it without imminent danger. There was howJever, one resource left : Montezuma was still in his power.