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When the Mexicans approached next morning to renew the assault, that unfortunate prince, was reduced to the sad necessity of becoming the instrument of his own disorace; he advanced to the battlements in his royal robes, and with all the pomp in which he used to appear on solemn occasions. At the sight of their sovereign, the weapons dropped from their hands, every tongue was silent, all bowed their heads, and many prostrated themselves on the ground. He tried to assuage their rage by every soothing argument. When he had ended his discourse, a sullen murmur ran through the crowd; to this succeeded reproaches and threats; and their fury rising in a moment above every restraint and respect, flights of arrows, and vollies of stones, poured in so violently from the ramparts, that before the Spanish soldisrs(had time to shield Montezuma with their bucklers, two arrows wounded the unhappy monarch, and a stone which struck him on the temple, brought him to the ground.
On seeing him fall, the Mexicans were so much astonished, that they passed in a moment from one extreme to another; remorse succeeded to insult, and they fled with terror, as if the vengeance of heaven was.pursuing them for the crime which they had committed. The Spaniards without molestation carried Montezumaio his apartments; and Cortes hastened thitherto console him under his affliction. But the haughty spirit of that unhappy monarch, which seemed to have been long extinct, returning, he seemed to survive this, last humiliation, and protract a life of ignominy. In a transport of rage, he tore the bandages from his wounds, and obstinately refused to take any nourishment, that his wretched days might be soon ended: rejecting with disdain all the solicitations of the Spaniards to embrace the christian faith.;
The fate of Montezuma, deprived Cortes of all hopes,of bringing the Mexicans to any accommodation; and he saw no hopes of safety, but in attempting a retreat; and he began to prepare for it. But a sudden motion of the Mexicans, involved him in fresh difficulties. They took possession of ahigh tower ofthe great temple, which overlooked the Spanish quarters, and placing there some of their principal warriors, not a Spaniard could stir without being exposed to their missile weapons.
From this post it was necessary, at every hazard to dir
lodge them, and Juan tie Escobar, with a numerous detachment of chosen soldiers, was ordered to make the attack. But Escobar, though a 'gallant officer, and at the head of troops accustomed to conquer, was thrice repulsed. Cortes sensible that the reputation and safety of his army depended upon this assault, ordered a buckler to be tied to his arm, as he could not manage it with his wounded hand, and rushed with his drawn sword into the thickest of the combatants. Encouraged by the presence of their general, the Spaniards returned to the charge with such vigour, that they gradually forced their way up the steps, and drove the Mexicans to the platform at the top of the tower. There a dreadful carnage began, when two young Mexicans of high rank, observing Cortes as he animated his soldiers by his voice and example, generously resolved to sacrifice their own lives, that they might cut off the author of all their calamities.
They approached him in a suppliant posture, as if they intended to lay down their arms, and seizing him in a moment, hurried him towards the battlements, over which they threw themselves headlong in hopes of dragging him along with them, to be dashed in pieces by the same fall. But Cortes by his strength and agility, disengaged himself from the grasp, and the gallant youths perished in this unsuccessful attempt to save their country. The Spaniards after they became masters of the tower, set fire to it, and without farther molestation continued their preparations for their retreat.
The point to be determined upon was, whether they should march out openly in the face of day, or whether they should retire secretly in the night? The latter was preferred. They began to move towards midnight, in three divisions. Sandoval led the van; Pedro Alvarado, and Velasquez de Leon conducted the rear; and Cortes commanded in the centre, where he placed the prisoners; among whom were a son and two daughters of Montezuma, together with several Mexicans of distinction, the artillery, baggage, and a portable bridge of timber, to be laid over the breaches in the causeway. They marched in profound silence along the causeway, which led to Tacuba. They reached the first breach in it without disturbance, hoping their retreat was undiscovered. But the
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Mexicans unperceived had watched their motions and had made proper dispositions, for a formidable attack.
While the Spaniards were employed in placing their bridge, and conducting their horses and artillery, along the causeway, they were suddenly alarmed with the tremendous sound of warlike instruments, and a general shout from an innumerable multitude of their enemies.
The lake was covered with canoes; and flights of arrows, and other missile weapons, poured in from every quarter: the Mexicans rushing forward with fearless impetuosity. Unfortunately, the wooden bridge was wedged by the weight of the artillery so fast into the stones and mud that it was impossible to remove it.
Dismayed at this accident, the Spaniards advanced to the second breach with precipitation. . The Mexicans hemmed them in on every side; and though they defended themselves with their usual courage, crowded as they were, their military skill was of little avail, nor did the obscurity of the night permit them to derive any great advantage from the use of their fire-arms, or the superiority of their other weapons. All Mexico was now in arms, eager on the destruction of their oppressors. Those who were not near enough to annoy them in person, impatient of delay, drove on their countrymen in front with irresistible violence. Other warriors instantly filled the place of those who fell. The Spaniards, weary with slaughter, and unable to sustain the weight of the torrent that poured in upon them, began to give way. In a moment the confusion was universal; horse and foot, officers and soldiers, friends and enemies, were mingled together; and while all were engaged, and many fell, they could hardly distinguish from what hand the blow came. Cortes, with about one hundred foot soldiers, and a few horse, forced his way over the two remaining breaches in the causeway; the bodies of the dead served to fill up the chasms; and reached the main land.
Having formed them as soon as they arrived, he returned with such as were capable of service, to assist his friends in their retreat, and to encourage them by his presence and example, to persevere in attempting their escape. He met with part of his soldiers, who had broke through the enemy, but found many more overwhelmed by the multitude of their aggressors, or perishing in the lake; and heard the piteous lamentations of others, whom the Mexicans having taken alive, were carrying offin triumph to be sacrificed to the god of war. Before day all who had escaped assembled at Tacuba.
But when the morning dawned, and discovered to the view of Cortes his shattered forces reduced to less than half their number; the survivor i dejected, and most of them covered with wounds, the thoughts of what they had suffered, and the remembrance of so many faithful friends, and gallant men, who had fallen the preceding night, pierced his soul with such anguish, that while he-was forming their ranks, and giving some necessary orders, the soldiers observed the tears trickle down his cheeks; and remarked with much satisfaction, that while attentive to his duty as general, he«was not insensible to the feelings of a man.
In this fatal retreat, many officers of distinction perishamongst these Velasquez de Leon, who had join-lf to Cortes in opposition to the interests of his the governor of Cuba, and who was respected Mid. person in the army. All the artillery, bagmnition were lost, and according to the above six hundred private men, and above Tlascalans, were killed, and only a very ion of the treasure they had amassed was
„.nding some consolation, that Aguilar and Marina had made their escape; their functions as interpreters rendered them of essential service.
The first care of Cortes was to find some shelter for his wearied troops; the people of Tacuba had began to take arms, and the Mexicans continued to infest them on every side, so that he could no longer continue in his present station. He fortunately discovered a temple on a rising ground, which he took possession of, he found the shelter he wanted, and also some provisions to refresh his men.
During his stay here, he was engaged in deep consultation with his officers, concerning the route which they should take in their retreat. A Tlascalan soldier undertook to be their guide: Tlascala, the only place where they could hope to receive a friendly reception, la)' sixty-four miles to the east of Mexico; towards this place they shaped their course: they marched six days with little respite, and under continual alarms, through a country, in some places marshy and some mountainous, numerous bodies of Mexicans hovering around them; sometimes harassing them at a distance, and sometimes attacking them openly in front, in rear, and in flank, with great boldness; as they were now convinced that they were not invincible.
These were not all the evils they had to undergo: the country through which they passed was barren, yielding but little provisions; they were therefore reduced to feed upon such berries and roots as they could find by the way. At the very time when famine was depressing their spirits, and wasting their strength, their situation required the most vigorous and unremitting exertions of courage and activity. One circumstance alone animated thej?paniardsi their commander sustained the sad reverse of fortune with unshaken magnanimity. His presence of mirfd never forsook him; his sagacity saw and provided for cvery-eVent .; he was foremost in every danger, and endured every hardship with cheerfulness. . •' %'-'
The difficulties with which he was surrounded, seemed to call forth new talents; and his soldiers, though despairing themselves, continued to follow him with increasing confidence in his abilities.
On the sixth day they reached Otumba, not far from the road leading from Mexico to Tlascala. Early next morning they began to advance towards it; flying parties of the enemy still hanging on their rear; and amidst the insults which they uttered, Marina remarked that they often exclaimed with exultation, 1* Go on robbers; go "to the place where you shall quickly meet the vengeance "due to your crimes." The meaning of this threat they understood, when they had reached the summit of an eminence before them. There a spacious valley opened to their view, covered with a vast army extending as far as the eye could reach.
The Mexicans had assembled their principal force in this place, through which they knew Cortes must pass, At the sight of this incredible multitude, the Spaniards began to despair. But Cortes, without allowing their fearo