There was no alternative, then, but to go forward in their career. And he besought them to silence their pusillanimous scruples, and, instead of turning their eyes towards Cuba, to fix them on Mexico, the great object of their enterprise. Another such victory as the last would be their ruin. They were going to Mexico only to be slaughtered. Until, at length, the general's patience being exhausted, he cut the argument short by quoting a verse from an old song, implying that it was better to die with honour, than to live disgraced; a sentiment which was loudly echoed by the greater part of his audience, who, notwithstanding their occasional murmurs, had no design to abandon the expedition, still less the commander, to whom they were passionately devoted.
The malcontents, disconcerted by this rebuke, slunk back to their own quarters, muttering half-smothered execrations on the leader who had projected the enterprise, the Indians who had guided him, and their own countrymen who supported him in it. On the morning following this event, the camp was surprised by the appearance of a small body of Tlascalans, decorated with badges, the white colour of which intimated peace. They brought a quantity of provisions, and some trifling ornaments, which, they said, were sent by the Tlascalan general, who was weary of the war, and desired an accommodation with the Spaniards.
He would soon present himself to arrange this in person. The intelligence diffused general joy, and the emissaries received a friendly welcome. A day or two elapsed, and while a few of the party left the Spanish quarters, the others, about fifty in number, who remained, excited some distrust in the bosom of Marina. He caused several of them, in consequence, to be arrested, examined them separately, and ascertained that they were employed by Xicotencatl to inform him of the state of the Christian camp, preparatory to a meditated assault, for which he was mustering his forces. He ordered their hands to be cut off, and in that condition sent them back to their countrymen, with the message, "that the Tlascalans might come by day or night; they would find the Spaniards ready for them.
The doleful spectacle of their comrades returning in this mutilated state filled the Indian camp with horror and consternation. The haughty crest of their chief was humbled. From that moment, he lost his wonted buoyancy and confidence.
His soldiers, filled with superstitious fear, refused to serve longer against a foe who could read their very thoughts, and divine their plans before they were ripe for execution. But it should be considered in mitigation, that the victims of it were spies, and, as such, by the laws of war, whether. The amputation of the limbs was a milder punishment, and reserved for inferior offences. If we revolt at the barbarous nature of the sentence, we should reflect that it was no uncommon one at that day; not more uncommon, indeed, than whipping and branding with a hot iron were in our own country at the beginning of the present century, or than cropping the ears was in the preceding one.
A higher civilisation, indeed, rejects such punishments as pernicious in themselves, and degrading to humanity. But in the sixteenth century, they were openly recognised by the laws of the most polished nations in Europe. And it is too much to ask of any man, still less one bred to the iron trade of war, to be in advance of the refinement of his age.
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We may be content, if, in circumstances so unfavourable to humanity, he does not fall below it. All thoughts of further resistance being abandoned, the four delegates of the Tlascalan republic were now allowed to proceed on their mission. They were speedily followed by Xicotencatl himself, attended by a numerous train of military retainers. As they drew near the Spanish lines, they were easily recognised by the white and yellow colours of their uniforms, the livery of the house of Titcala.
The Spaniards gazed with curious eye on the valiant chief who had so long kept his enemies at bay, and who now advanced with the firm and fearless step of one who was coming rather to bid defiance than to sue for peace. He was rather above the middle size, with broad shoulders, and a muscular frame intimating great activity and strength.
His head was large, and his countenance marked with the lines of hard service rather than of age, for he was but thirty-five. Far from a pusillanimous attempt to throw the blame on the senate, he assumed the whole responsibility of the war. He had considered the white men, he said, as enemies, for they came with the allies and vassals of Montezuma. He had been beaten. They might be the strangers who, it had been so long predicted, would come from the east, to take possession of the country.
He hoped they would use their victory with moderation, and not trample on the liberties of the republic. He came now in the name of his nation, to tender their obedience to the Spaniards, assuring them they would find his countrymen as faithful in peace as they had been firm in war. The brave man knows how to respect bravery in another. He assumed, however, a severe aspect, as he rebuked the chief for having so long persisted in hostilities. Had Xicotcncatl believed the word of the Spaniards, and accepted their proffered friendship sooner, he would have spared his people much suffering, which they well merited by their obstinacy.
But it was impossible, continued the general, to retrieve the past. He was willing to bury it in oblivion, and to receive the Tlascalans as vassals to the emperor, his master. If they proved true, they should find him a sure column of support; if false, he would take such vengeance on them as he had intended to take on their capital, had they not speedily given in their submission. The cacique then ordered his slaves to bring forward some trifling ornaments of gold and feather embroidery, designed as presents. They were of little value, he said, with a smile, for the Tlascalans were poor.
They had little gold, not even cotton, nor salt; the Aztec emperor had left them nothing but their freedom and their arms. He came too late to share in it, but as he ran down to the water-side,he beheld four brigantines making their way with oars, for theatmosphere was breathless, towards the dike of Tepejacac, which wasitself a scene of furious conflict. The vessels were surrounded bycountless canoes and piraguas, some of which seemed to be manned byTlascalans; for while the brigantines were seen contending with thisaquatic army, it was equally manifest that a battle was raging alsoamong the canoes themselves.
He gave but little heed to this spectacle, nor did he scarcely note thatamong the many human corses which strewed the lower part of the garden,there were several with the visages of Spaniards. His attention was arrested by a yelping cry; and looking round, hebeheld the dog Befo lying upon the ground, with an iron sword-blade,broken off near the hilt, sticking quite through his body.
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But thispainful sight was forgotten, when, having approached, he beheld three orfour barbarians raising from the earth what seemed the dead body ofMagdalena. Distracted himself, as indeed were all the infidels, he could learnnothing but that the Teuctlis, or Spaniards, had suddenly burst into thegarden, and besides slaughtering all that opposed them, in their attemptto reach the palace, had killed, or carried off, as seemed much moreprobable, the princess Zelahualla. The misery that took possession of his heart at these evil tidings, hesmothered within its secret recesses, or strove to forget it in thecontemplation of his sister--for so his heart acknowledged her.
He boreher to the palace, and gave her in charge to the maidens, who, whateverwas their fright, were not unmindful of the duties of humanity. He then,in much of that sullen despair that had oppressed him in the prison ofTezcuco, returned to the garden and to Befo, whom he had left insuffering, and drawing the sword-blade from his body, he examined itwith stern curiosity, as if hoping to penetrate the mystery of the wholeunhappy transaction, from such records as it might furnish. His scrutinywas vain: it was a blade without any name, by which he might be enabledto guess at its owner.
Historia Chichimeca, MS.
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Essai politique sur le Royaume de NouvelleEspagne Paris, i , tom. This last, however, was all. In this wilderness of sweets lurks the fatal malaria, engendered, probably, by the decomposition of rank vegetable substances in a hot and humid soil. The season of the bilious fever,-vOmito, as it is called,which scourges these coasts, continues from the spring to the autumnal equinox, when it is checked by the cold winds that descend from Hudson's Bay. These winds in the winter season frequently freshen into tempests, and, sweeping down the Atlantic coast and the winding Gulf of Mexico, burst with the fury of a hurricane on its unprotected shores, and on the neighboring West India islands.
Such are the mighty spells with which Nature has surrounded this land of enchantment, as if to guard the golden treasures locked up within its bosom. The genius and enterprise of man have proved more potent than her spells. After passing some twenty leagues across this burning region, the traveller finds himself rising- into a purer atmosphere.
His limbs recover their elasticity.
He breathes more freely, for his senses are not now oppressed by the sultry heats and intoxicating perfumes of the valley. The aspect of nature, too, has changed, and his eye no longer revels among the gay variety of colors with which the landscape was painted there. The vanilla, the indigo, and the flowering cacao-groves disappear as he advances. The sugar-cane and the glossy-leaved banana still accompany him; and, when he has' ascended about four thousand feet, he sees in the unchanging verdure, and the rich foliage of the liquid-amber tree, that he has reached the height where clouds and mists settle, in their passage from the Mex.
The Infidel, Vol. II. or, the Fall of Mexico
This is the region of perpetual humidity; but he welcomes it with pleasure, as announcing his escape from the influence of the deadly vnmito. The features of the scenery become grand, and even terrible. His road sweeps along the base of mighty mountains, once gleaming with volcanic fires, and still resplendent in their mantles of snow, which serve as beacons to the mariner, for many a league at sea. All around he beholds traces of their ancient combustion, as his road passes along vast tracts of lava, bristling in the innumerable fantastic- forms into which the fiery torrent has been thrown by the obstacles in its career.
Perhaps, at the same moment, as he casts his eye down some steep slope, or almost unfathomable ravine, on the margin of the road, he sees their depths glowing with the rich blooms and enamelled vegetation of the tropics. Such are the singular contrasts presented, at the same time, to the senses, in this picturesque region! Still pressing upwards, the traveller mounts into other climates, favorable to other kinds of cultivation. He must look for it in other parts of the tierra caliente.
Of recent tourists, no one has given a more gorgeous picture of the impressions made on his senses by these sunny regions than Latrobe, who came on shore at Tampico Rambler in Mexico New York, , chap. I ,-a traveller, it may be added, whose descriptions of man and nature in our own country, where we can judge, are distinguished by a sobriety and fairness that entitle him to confidence in his delineation of other countries.
The yellow maize, or Indian corn, as we usually call it, has continued to follow him up from the lowest level; but he now first sees fields of wheat, and the other European grains brought into the country by the Conquerors. Mingled with them, he views the plantations of the aloe or maguey agave Americana , applied to such various and important uses by the Aztecs. When he has climbed to the height of between seven and eight thousand feet, the weary traveller sets his foot on the summit of the Cordillera of the Andes,the colossal range that, after traversing South America and the Isthmus of Darien, spreads out, as it enters Mexico, into that vast sheet of table-land which maintains an elevation of more than six thousand feet, for the distance of nearly two hundred leagues, until it gradually declines in the higher latitudes of the north.
Their peaks, entering the limits of perpetual snow, diffuse a grateful coolness over the elevated plateaus below; for these last, though termed "cold," enjoy a climate the mean temperature of which is not lower than that of the central parts of 5'This long extent of country varies in elevation from to feet,-equal to the height of the passes of Mount Cenis or the Great St.
The table-land stretches still three hundred leagues farther, before it declihes to a level of feet. Humboldt, Essai. I57, It frequently, indeed, has a parched and barren aspect, owing partly to the greater evaporation which takes place on these lofty plains, through the diminished pressure of the atmosphere, and partly, no doubt, to the want of trees to shelter the soil from the fierce influence of the summer sun.
In the time of the Aztecs, the table-land was thickly covered with larch, oak, cypress, and other forest trees, the extraordinary dimensions of some of which, remaining to the present day, show that the curse of barrenness in later times is chargeable more on man than on nature. Indeed, the early Spaniards made as indiscriminate war on the forest as did our Puritan ancestors, though with much less reason.