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sooner did the Mexicans hear its doleful solemn sound, calculated to inspire them with a contempt of death, than they rushed upon the enemy with frantic rage. The Spaniards, unable to resist men urged on by religious fury, began to retire at first in good order ; but, as the enemy pressed on, the terror and confusion became general ; so that when they arrived at the gap in the causeway, Spaniards and Tlascalans, horsemen and infantry, plunged in promiscuously, while the Mexicans rushed in upon them fiercely from every side, their light canoes carrying them over shoals where the brigantines could not approach. In vain did Cortes attempt to rally his forces : fear rendered them regardless of bis entreaties or commands.
Finding all his endeavours to renew the combat fruitless, his next care was to save those who had thrown themselves into the water ; but while he was thus employed with more attention to their situation than his own, six Mexican captains suddenly laid hold of him, and were hurrying him off in triumph ; and, though two of his officers rescued him at the expense of their lives, he received several dangerous wounds, before he could disengage himself. About sixty Spaniards perished in this encounter: and, what rendered the disaster still more afflicting, forty of these fell alive into the hands of an enemy never known to shew mercy to a captive.
Night, though it delivered the Spaniards from the attacks of the enemy, ushered in what was no less grievous : the noise of their barbarous triumph, and the horrid fes. tival with which they celebrated their victory. Every quarter of the city was illuminated : the great temple shone with peculiar splendour; so that the Spaniards could plainly see the people in motion, and the priests busy in hastening the death of the prisoners. They fancied they could discover their companions by the whiteness of their skins, as they were stripped naked to dance before the image of the god, to whom they were offered.
They heard the shrieks of those who were sacrificed, and thought they could distinguish each unhappy victim by the sound of his voice. Imagination added to, and aug. mented the horror. The most unfeeling melted into tears of compassion, and the stoutest heart trembled at the dreadful spectacle which they beheld.
Cortes, who felt in common with his soldiers, was oppressed with an additional load of anxious reflections, natural to a general on such an unexpected calamity; he could not like them, relieve his mind by giving vent to its anguish. He was obliged to assume an air of tranquillity, in order to revive the drooping spirits and hopes of his followers. The juncture, indeed, required an extraordinary exertion of courage.
The Mexicans elated with their victory, sallied out next morning to attack him in his quarters. But they did not rely on the efforts of their own arms alone. They sent the heads of the Spaniards whom they had sacrificed, to the leading men in the adjacent provinces, and assured them that the god of war, appeased by the blood of the invaders, which had been shed so plentifully on his altars, had de clared, with an audible voice, that in eight days time, those hated enemies should be finally destroyed, and peace and prosperity established in the empire.
This prediction being uttered without any ambiguity, gained universal credit among the natives; several of the provinces, which had hitherto remained inactive, took up arms with enthusiastic ardour; even the Tlascalans were led to relax in their fidelity, and Cortes and his Spaniards were almost left alone in their stations. Cortes, finding that he attempted in vain to dispel the superstitious fears of his confederates, took advantage of the imprudence of those who had framed the prophecy, in fixing its accomplishment so near at hand, to give them a striking demonstration of its falsity. He suspended all military operations during the period marked out by the oracle; and, under cover of the brigantines, his troops lay in safety : the enea my was kept at a distance, and the fatal term expired without any disaster.
His allies, ashamed of their own credulity, returned to their station. Other tribes now veered about, from a belief that the gods had deceived the Mexicans, and had decreed finally to withdraw their protection from them: such was the levity of this simple race of men.
In a short time, according to the account of Cortes, he was at the head of a hundred and fifty thousand Indians. Notwithstanding this large addition of strength, he found it necessary to adopt a more wary system of operations.
He now made his advances gradually, and was more cautious of exposing his men to similar calamities which they still bewailed.
As soon as they got possession of any part of the town, the houses were instantly destroyed. Famine now began to rage amongst the Mexicans: the brigantines prevented all supplies coming to their relief by water, and the Indian auxiliaries enabled Cortes to shut up the avenues of the city; not only the common people, but persons of the highest rank felt the utmost distresses of want. These sufferings were succeeded by infectious and mortal distempers: the last calamity that visits besieged cities, and which filled up the measure of their woes. .
Guatimozin notwithstanding all these various and pressing evils, remained firm and unsubdued. He rejected with scorn every overture of peace with Cortes ; disdaining the idea of submitting to the oppressors of his country, and was determined not to survive its ruin. The Spaniards at length with all their divisions, made a secure lodgement in the centre of the city. Three fourths were now laid in ruins. The remaining quarter was so closely pressed that it could not long withstand assailants, who now attacked them with superior advantage, and a more assured prospect of success.
The Mexican nobles, solicitous to save the life of a moDarch whom they revered, prevailed on Guatimozin to retire from a place, where resistance was now in vain ; that he might rouze the more distant provinces, and maintain there a more successful war, with the public enemy. To facilitate the execution of this measure, they sought to gain time by endeavouring to amuse Cortes with overtures of peace. But they made this attempt upon a leader of greater sagacity and discernment than to be deceived by their arts.
Cortes suspecting their intention, and aware of what moment it was best to defeat it, appointed Sandoval, on whose vigilance he could most perfectly rely, to take the command of the brigantines, with strict injunctions to watch every motion of the enemy.
Sandoval, attentive to the charge, observing some large canots crowded with people, rowing across the lake, with uncommon rapidity, instantly gave the signal to chace. Garcia Holguin who commanded the neeiest brigantine, soon overtook them, and was preparing to fire on the fore.
most canoe, which seemed to carry some person whom all the rest followed and obeyed. At once the rowers dropped their oars, and throwing down their arms, conjured bim with cries and tears to forbear, as the emperor was there. Holguin eagerly seized his prize, and Guatimozin with a dignified composure gave himself up into his hands, requesting only that no insult might be offered to the empress or hi
ildren. Wlien conducted to Cortes, he appeared worthy of a better fate : he discovered none of the sullen fierceness of the barbarian, nor the dejection of a supplicant. “I have done," said he addressing himself to the Spanish general, “ what became a monarch; I have de“ fended my people to the last extremity: nothing now « remains but to die ;....take this dagger,” laying his band on one Cortes wore, “ plant it in my breast, and put an « end to a life that can no longer be of use."
As soon as the fate of their sovereign was known, all resistance on the part of the Mexicans ceased; and Cortes took possession of the remaining part of the city. Thus terminated the siege of Mexico, the most memorable event in the conquest of America. It continued seventy-five days, not one of which passed without some extraordinary effort of one party in attacking, or of the other in defending, a city, on the fate of which both parties knew that of the empire depended. As the struggle here was more obstinate, it was likewise more equal, than any between the inhabitants of the Old and New Worlds.
The great abilities of Guatimozin, the number of his troops, the peculiar situation of his capital, so far counterbalanced the superiority of the Spaniards in arms, and discipline, that they must have relinquished the enterprize if they had trusted to themselves alone. But Mexico was overturned by the jealousy of neighbours, who dreaded its power, and by the revolt of subjects impatient to throw off the yoke. By their effectual aid Cortes was enabled to accomplish what, without such support, he would hardly have ventured to attempt. Great merit is due to the abilities of Cortes, who under every disadvantage, acquired such an ascendancy over unknown nations, as to render them instruments towards carrying his schemes into execution.
The exultation of the Spaniards, on accomplishing this arduous enterprize was at first excessive. But this was
quickly damped by the disappointment of those sanguine hopes, which had animated them amidst so many hardships and dangers. Instead of the inexhaustible wealth which they expected from becoming masters of Montezuma’s treasures, and the ornaments of so many temples, they could only collect an inconsiderable booty, amidst ruins and desolation. According to the account of Cortes, the whole amount was only 120,000 pesos, a sum far inferior to that which the Spaniards had formerly divided in Mexico. This sum, when divided among the conquerors, was so small, that many of them disdained the pittance that fell to their share.
Guatimozin aware of his impending fate, had ordered what had remained of the riches amassed by his ancestors, to be thrown into the lake. Cortes from an anxious desire to check the growing discontent among his followers, gave way to a deed which stained the glory of all his great actions. Without regarding the former dignity of Guatimozin, or feeling any reverence for those virtues which he had displayed, he subjected the unhappy monarch, together with bis chief favourite, to torture, in order to enforce them to a discovery of the royal treasures, which it was supposed they had concealed. Guatimozin bore whatever the refined cruelty of his tormentors could inflict, with invincible fortitude.
His fellow sufferer, overcome by the violence of the anguish, turneul a dejected inquiring eye towards his master, and seemed to implore his permission to reveal all that he knew. But the high spirited prince, darting on him a look of authority, mingled with scorn, checked his weakness, by asking, “ Am I now reposing on a bed of “ flowers?” Overawed by the reproach, he persevered in his dutiful silence, and expired. Cortes ashamed of a scene so horrid, rescued the royal victim from the hands of his torturers, and prolonged a life reserved for new indignities, and sufferings.
The provinces now submitted to the conquerors. Small detachments of Spaniards marched through them, without interruption, and penetrated in different quarters, to the great southern ocean, which according to the ideas of Columbus, they imagined would open a short and easy passage to the East Indies.