Transactions and Occurrences there.
next day we set out, accompanied as on the former one, and proceeded by the grand
causeway, which is eight yards wide, and runs in a straight line to the city of
When we arrived at a place where a small causeway turns off, which goes to the city of Cuyoacan, we were met by a great number of the lords of the court in their richest dresses, sent as they laid before the great Montezuma, to bid us welcome. After waiting there sometime, the nephew of Montezuma and other noblemen went back to meet their monarch, who approached, carried in a most magnificent litter, which was supported by his principal nobility. When we came near certain towers which are almost close to the city, Montezuma who
was then there quitted his litter, and was borne in the arms of the princes of Tezcuco, Iztapalapa, Tacuba, and Cuyoacan, under a canopy of the richest materials, ornamented with green feathers, gold, and precious hones that hung in the manner of fringe; he was most richly dressed and adorned, and wore buskins of pure gold ornamented with jewels. The princes who supported him were dressed in rich habits, different from those in which they came to meet us, and others who preceded the monarch spread mantles on the ground, lest his feet should touch it. All who attended him, except the four princes, kept their eyes fixed upon the earth, not daring to look him in the face.
When Cortes was told that the great Montezuma approached, he dismounted from his horse, and advanced towards him with much respect; Montezuma bid him welcome, and Cortes replied with a compliment, and it appeared to me, that he offered to yield the right hand to Montezuma, who declined it, and put Cortes on his right. Our general then produced a collar of those artificial jewels called margajitas, which are of various colours, set in gold, and threw it upon the neck of Montezuma; after which, he advanced to embrace him, but the lords who surrounded the monarch, taking him by the arm, prevented him, it appearing to them not sufficiently respectful. Cortes then said, that he rejoiced in having seen so great a monarch, and that he was highly honored by his coming out to meet him, as well as by the many other marks of his favor. To this Montezuma made a gracious reply, and gave orders to the princes of Tezcuco and Cuyoacan to attend us to our quarters. Attended by his nobility, he then returned to the city, all the people standing close to the walls, without daring to lift up their eyes, and thus we palled, without obstruction from the crowd. Who could count the multitude of men, women, and children, which thronged the streets, the canals, and terraces on the tops of the houses, on that day! The whole of what I saw on this occasion is so strongly imprinted in my memory, that it appears to me as if it had happened only yesterday; glory to our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave us courage to venture upon such dangers, and brought us safely through them!
And praised be he, that he has suffered me to live, to write this my true history, although not so fully and satisfactorily as the subject deserves.
Our lodgings were provided in the buildings which had been inhabited by the father of Montezuma; here the monarch had the temples of his gods, and a secret treasure of gold and valuables, which he had derived from his father Axayaca. We were lodged here, because being considered as Teules, they thought we were in our proper place amongst their idols. Be it how it may however, here they brought us to lodge in large apartments, a railed platform being assigned for our general, and mats for each of us, with little canopies over them, such as are used in that country. The whole of this palace was very light, airy, clean, and pleasant, the entry being through a great court. Montezuma here led Cortes by the hand to the apartment destined for him, and taking a large collar of gold, placed it round the general’s neck. Cortes declared his gratitude for these favors, and Montezuma said, “Malintzin, here you and your friends are at home; now repose yourselves.” With these words he departed. We were allotted to our quarters by Companies, our artillery was posted in a convenient place, and all was arranged in such a manner as to be prepared for any contingency; a very sumptuous entertainment was provided for us, which we sat down to with great satisfaction, and here ends the true and full account of our adventurous and magnanimous entry into Mexico, on the eighth day of November, in the year of our Lord 1519. Glory be to Jesus Christ for all!
When the great Montezuma had made his repast, and understood that we had done the same, attended by a great body of his nobility he came to our apartments. Cortes went out to the middle of the hall to receive him, where Montezuma took him by the hand, and seats richly ornamented being brought, they both sat down, by the desire of the king, who then began a very pertinent speech, wherein he observed, that he rejoiced to have in his dominions captains so brave as Cortes and
his associates; that he had before heard of one who had arrived at Champoton, and also of another who had come with four ships in the preceding year; that he had been anxious to see them, but had been disappointed: now however that we were arrived, he was happy to offer us all the favor he had in his power to bestow, for we were undoubtedly those who had been mentioned by his ancestors, who had predicted, that there would come certain men, from that part where the sun rises, to govern these countries; and it could mean no other but us, who had fought so valiantly since our arrival in their country; a representation of each of our battles having been sent to him. Cortes replied, that he and all of us never could repay the great favors we every day received from his hands: that we certainly were those of whom it had been prophecied, and that we were vassals of a potent monarch named Don Carlos, who had many and great princes subject to him, and had sent us, hearing of the fame and grandeur of king Montezuma, to request in his name, that the great Montezuma and his subjects would embrace the holy christian faith, which is the faith possessed by our monarch, by doing which he would preserve the souls of him, his family, and subjects; and that he should in good time be informed of more particulars, such as that we worshipped the only true God, with many other things highly edifying to the hearers. This conversation being concluded, Montezuma presented our general with a quantity of valuable ornaments of wrought gold; to each of the captains he made a present of some gold and three loads of mantles, and to each soldier of two loads of richly wrought mantles; and all this he did in the most free and gracious mariner, or to speak more properly, like a great monarch as he was. Montezuma then asked Cortes if his soldiers were all brothers, and vassals of our emperor. To which Cortes replied, that we were all brothers in love and friendship, persons of consequence in our own country, and servants of our sovereign lord the king. With mutual compliments Montezuma then departed, having given orders to his officers to provide us amply according to our demands, with corn, stone mills, and women to make bread, together with fowls, and fruit, and plenty of grass for the horses.
The next day was fixed on by Cortes, for his visit to Montezuma. Accordingly, attended by Captains Pedro de Alvarado, Juan Velasquez de Leon, Diego de Ordas, Gonzalo de Sandoval, and five soldiers, he went to his palace, which as soon as Montezuma was informed of, he came as far as the middle of the hall to meet us, attended by his relations, no other persons being allowed to enter where he was, except on most important business. With great ceremony on each side, the king took Cortes by the hand, and leading him to the elevated part of the saloon, placed him upon his right, and with much affability, desired the rest of us to be seated. Cortes then proceeded to say, that he came to him for the service of the Lord God whom the christians adored, who was named Jesus Christ, and who suffered death for our sakes. He also explained to him, that we adored the cross as the emblem of the Crucifixion for our salvation, whereby the human race was redeemed, and that our Lord on the third day rose, and is in heaven, and that it is he who created heaven, and earth, and sea, and is adored by us as our Creator, but that those things which he held to be gods, were not such, but devils, which are very bad things, of evil countenances, and worse deeds; and that he might judge, how wicked they were, and how little power they had, in as much as where ever we placed crosses, they dare not shew their faces. He therefore requested, that he would attend to what he had told him, which was, that we were all brothers, the children of Adam and Eve, and that as such, our emperor lamenting the lots of souls in such numbers as those which were brought by his idols into everlasting flames, had sent us to apply a remedy thereto, by putting an end to the worship of these false gods, to human sacrifices, and all other crimes; and that he now came to notify his Majesty’s intentions, but our emperor would at a future period send holy men, fully capable of explaining them.
Here Cortes stopped, and Montezuma seemed to shew an inclination to reply, but Cortes observing that this was enough for the first time, proposed to us to retire, and we were preparing to do so, when we were prevented by Montezuma who spoke to him as follows.
“Malintzin, I have already heard through my ambassadors of those things which you now mention, and to which hitherto we have made no reply, because we have from the first worshipped the gods we now do, and consider them as just and good. So no doubt are yours. In regard to the creation of the world, our beliefs are the same, and we also believe you to be the people who were to come to us from where the sun rises. To your great king I am indebted. There have been already persons on our coasts, from your country; I wish to know if you are all the same people.” To which Cortes having replied that they were all subjects of the same prince, Montezuma said, that from the first time he heard of them, it had been his wish to see them, which his gods had now granted him; that we should therefore consider ourselves as at home, and if ever we were refused entrance into any of his cities, it was not his fault, but that of his subjects, who were terrified by the reports they heard of us, such as that we carried with us thunder and lightning, that our horses killed men, and that we were furious Teules, with other follies of that kind; adding, that he saw we were men, that we were valiant and wise, for which he esteemed us, and would give us proofs thereof. For this condescension we all expressed our gratitude. He then addressed himself to Cortes in a laughing manner, for he was very gay in conversation when he was in his state, saying, “Malintzin, the Tlascalans your new friends have I know told you that I am like a god, and that all about me is gold, and silver, and precious stones; but you now see that I am mere flesh and blood, and that my houses are built like other houses, of lime and stone, and timber. It is true that I am a great king, and inherit riches from my ancestors; but for these ridiculous falsehoods, you treat them with the same contempt, that I do the stories I was told of your commanding the elements.” To which Cortes good-humouredly replied, that the accounts of enemies were not to be relied on, paying him at the same time a handsome compliment, upon his power and grandeur. During this conversation Montezuma had made a sign to one of his principal attendants, to order his officers to bring him certain pieces of gold, which he had laid apart
to give to Cortes, together with ten loads of fine stuff’s, which he divided between Cortes and his captains, and to every soldier he gave two collars of gold, each worth ten crowns, and two loads of mantles. The gold amounted in value to upwards of a thousand crowns; and he gave it with an affability, and indifference, which made him appear a truly magnificent prince. It being now past , Cortes took his leave, observing that it was his Majesty’s hour of dinner, and that he heaped obligations upon us; to which Montezuma replied, that on the contrary we had obliged him. We then retired, impressed with respect for the great Montezuma, from his princely manners and liberality.
The great Montezuma was at this time aged about forty years, of good nature, well proportioned, and thin: his complexion was much fairer than that of the Indians; he wore his hair short, just covering his ears, with very little beard, well arranged, thin, and black. His face was rather long, with a pleasant countenance, and good eyes; gravity and good humour were blended together when he spoke. He was very delicate and clean in his person, bathing himself every evening. He had a number of mistresses, of the first families, and two princesses his lawful wives: when he visited them, it was with such secrecy, that none could know it except his own servants. He was clear of all suspicion of unnatural vices. The clothes which he wore one day, he did not put on for four days after. He had two hundred of his nobility as a guard, in apartments adjoining his own. Of there, certain persons only, could speak to him, and when they went to wait upon him they took off their rich mantles, and put on others of less ornament, but clean. They entered his apartment barefooted, their eyes fixed on the ground, and making three inclinations of the body as they approached him. In addressing the king they said, “Lord, my lord, great lord.” When they had finished he dismissed them with a few words, and they retired, with their faces towards him, and their eyes fixed upon the ground. I also observed, that when great men came from a distance about business, they entered his palace barefooted, and in a plain habit;
and also, that they did not enter the gate directly, but took a circuit in going towards it.
His cooks had upwards of thirty different ways of dressing meats, and they had earthen vessels so contrived as to keep them always hot. For the table of Montezuma himself, above three hundred dishes were dressed, and for his guards, above a thousand. Before dinner, Montezuma would sometimes go out and inspect the preparations, and his officers would point out to him which were the best, and explained of what birds and flesh they were composed; and of those he would eat. But this was more for amusement than any thing else. It is said that at times the flesh of young children was dressed for him; but the ordinary meats were, domestic fowls, pheasants, geese, partridges, quails, venison, Indian hogs, pigeons, hares, and rabbits, with many other animals and birds peculiar to the country. This is certain; that after Cortes had spoken to him relative to the dressing human flesh, it was not practised in his palace. At his meals, in the cold weather, a number of torches of the bark of a wood which makes no smoke and has an aromatic smell, were lighted, and that they should not throw too much heat, screens, ornamented with gold, and painted with figures of idols, were placed before them. Montezuma was seated on a low throne, or chair, at a table proportioned to the height of his seat. The table was covered with white cloths and napkins, and four beautiful women presented him with water for his hands, in vessels which they call Xicales, with other vessels under them like plates, to catch the water; they alto presented him with towels. Then, two other women brought small cakes of bread, and when the king began to eat, a large screen of wood, gilt, was placed before him, so that people should not during that time see him. The women having retired to a little distance, four ancient lords stood by the throne, to whom Montezuma from time to time spoke or addressed questions, and as a mark of particular favor, gave to each of them a plate of that which he was eating. I was told that these old lords, who were his near relations, were also counsellors and judges. The plates which Montezuma presented to them, they
received with high respect, eating what was in them without
taking their eyes off the ground. He was served on earthenware of
chocolate, and fruit in an immense quantity. For his women and various inferior servants, his establishment was of a prodigious expence; and we were astonished, amidst such a profusion, at the vast regularity that prevailed. His major domo was at this time a prince named Tapiea; he kept the accounts of Montezuma’s rents, in books which occupied an entire house. Montezuma had two buildings filled with every kind of arms, richly ornamented with gold and jewels, such as shields large and small, clubs like two-handed swords, and lances much larger than ours, with blades six feet in length, so strong that if they fix in a shield they do not break, and sharp enough to use as razors. There was also an immense quantity of bows and arrows, and darts, together with slings, and shields which roll up into a small compass, and in action are let fall and thereby cover the whole body. He had also much defensive armour of quilted cotton ornamented with feathers in different devices, and casques for the head, made of wood and bone, with plumes of feathers, and many other articles too tedious to mention.
palace was a most magnificent aviary, which contained every description of
birds that continent afforded, namely, royal eagles,
and a smaller species, with many other birds, down to the smallest parroquets, of beautiful colours.
It was here that the ornaments of green feathers were fabricated. The feathers
were taken from birds which are of the size of our pyes
We likewise saw another great building, which was a temple, and which contained those which were called the valiant or fighting gods, and here were many kinds of furious beasts, tygers, and lions of two species, one of which resembles a wolf, called here Adive. Also foxes, and other smaller animals, but all carnivorous. Most of these were bred in the place, being fed with game, fowls, dogs, and as I have heard the bodies of Indians who were sacrificed, the manner of which as I have been informed is this. They open the body of the victim while living, with large knives of stone; they take out his heart, and blood, which they offer to their gods, and then they cut off the limbs, and the head, upon which they feast, giving the body to be devoured by the wild beasts, and the skulls they hang up in their temples. In this accursed place were many vipers, and poisonous serpents which have in their tails somewhat that sounds like castanets; these are the most dangerous of all, and were kept in vessels filled with feathers, where they reared their young, and were fed with the flesh of human beings, and dogs; and I have been allured, that after our expulsion from Mexico, all these animals lived for many days upon the bodies of our comrades who were killed on that occasion. These beasts and horrid reptiles were retained to keep company with their infernal gods, and when these animals yelled and hissed, the palace seemed like hell itself.
where the artists principally resided was named Escapuzalco,
and was at the distance of about a league from the city. Here were the shops
and manufactories of all their gold and silver smiths, whose works in these
metals, and in jewellery, when they were brought to
the family of the great Montezuma also, of all ranks, were extremely ingenious in these works, and constantly employed; as was a certain description of females who lived together in the manner of nuns.
of the city was entirely occupied by Montezuma’s dancers, of different kinds,
some of whom bore a stick on their feet, others flew in the air, and some
danced like those in
had been four days in
regularity which prevailed, as well as at the vast quantities of merchandise, which those who attended us were assiduous, in pointing out. Each kind had its particular place, which was distinguished by a sign. The articles consisted of gold, silver, jewels, feathers, mantles, chocolate, skins dressed and undressed, sandals, and other manufactures of the roots and fibres of nequen, and great numbers of male and female slaves, some of whom were fastened by the neck, in collars, to long poles. The meat market was stocked with fowls, game, and dogs. Vegetables, fruits, articles of food ready dressed, salt, bread, honey, and sweet pastry made in various ways, were also sold here. Other places in the square were appointed to the sate of earthenware, wooden household furniture suck as tables and benches, firewood, paper, sweet canes filled with tobacco mixed with liquid amber, copper axes and working tools, and wooden vessels highly painted. Numbers of women sold fish, and little loaves made of a certain mud which they find in the lake, and which resembles cheese. The makers of stone blades were busily employed shaping them out of the rough material, and the merchants who dealt in gold, had the metal in grains as it came from the mines, in transparent tubes, so that they could be reckoned, and the gold was valued at so many, mantles, or so many xiquipils of cocoa, according to the size of the quills. The entire square was inclosed in piazzas, under which great quantities of grain were stored, and where were also shops for various kinds of goods. I must apologize for adding, that boat loads of human ordure were on the borders of the adjoining canals, for the purpose of tanning leather, which they said could not be done without it. Some may laugh at this, but I assert the fact is as I have stated it, and moreover, upon all the public roads, places for passengers to resort to, were built of canes, and thatched with straw or grass, in order to collect this material.
The courts of justice, where three judges sat, occupied a part of the square, their under officers being in the market, inspecting the merchandise.
From the square we proceeded to the great temple, but before we entered it we made a circuit through a number of large courts, the smallest of which appeared to me to contain, more ground than the great square in Salamanca, with double inclosures built of lime and stone, and the courts paved with large white cut stone, very clean; or where not paved, they were plaistered and polished. When we approached the gate of the great temple, to the flat summit of which the ascent was by a hundred and fourteen steps, and before we had mounted one of them, Montezuma sent down to us six priests, and two of his noblemen, to carry Cortes up, as they had done their sovereign, which he politely declined. When we had ascended to the summit of the temple, we observed on the platform as we passed, the large stones whereon were placed the victims who were to be sacrificed. Here was a great figure which resembled a dragon, and much blood fresh spilt. Montezuma came out from an adoratory in which his accursed idols were placed, attended by two priests, and addressing himself to Cortes, expressed his apprehension that he was fatigued; to which Cortes replied, that fatigue was unknown to us.
then took him by the hand, and pointed out to him the different parts of the
city, and its vicinity, all of which were commanded from that place. Here we
had a clear prospect of the three causeways by which
germ, and origin of all created things, and was the god of harvest, and fruits. The walls and altars were bestained like the rest, and so offensive, that we thought we never could get out soon enough.
In this place they had a drum of most enormous size, the head of which was made of the skins of large serpents: this instrument when struck resounded with a noise that could be heard to the distance of two leagues, and so doleful that it deserved to be named the music of the infernal regions; and with their horrible sounding horns and trumpets, their great knives for sacrifice, their human victims, and their blood besprinkled altars, I devoted them, and all their wickedness to God’s vengeance, and thought that the time would never arrive, that I should escape from this scene of human butchery, horrible smells, and more detestable sights.
half in jest, addressing himself to Montezuma, expressed his wonder how so wise
a prince could worship such absurd and wicked powers; and proposed to him to
place on the summit of that tower a cross, and in these adoratories
the image of the holy Virgin, and he assured him that he should then be soon
convinced of the vanity and deception of his idols. Montezuma shewed marks of displeasure at these expressions, saying,
that he would not have admitted us into the temple, had he thought that we
would have insulted their gods, who were kind to them, who gave them health and
seasonable rains, good harvests, fine weather, victories and whatever else they
desired, and whom they were in duty, and in gratitude, bound to worship. Cortes
dropped the discourse, observing that it was time for us to go; and Montezuma
assenting, said, it was necessary for him to remain, to expiate by sacrifice
the sin which he had committed, in admitting us there. Cortes then took leave,
and thus we concluded our visit to the great
I will now proceed to relate other matters, in which, if I am not so correct as I ought to be, let it be remembered that my situation was
that of a soldier, who was obliged to be more attentive to
the orders of his officer, than to the objects of curiosity around him. The
ground whereon this temple stood, was as much as six
of the largest buildings of this country occupy. From the base it diminished to
the summit, whereon was a tower, in which the idols were placed, and from the
middle of the ascent, to the top, were five concavities, like barbicans, but
without parapets. However there are many paintings of temples in the possession
of the conquerors, one whereof I have, and those who have seen them will easily
form an idea of the outside of this temple. I have
heard that at the time they laid the foundations of it, the natives of all that
country made offerings of their gold, silver, and jewels, of the seeds of the
earth, and of prisoners, all which were buried in the foundations of the
building. The inquisitive reader will naturally ask,
how I came to know any thing of this, which happened upwards of a thousand
years ago. I will inform him. When we got possession of this great city, and
that it was to be built upon a new plan, it was determined to place the church
of St. Jago on the ground where this temple stood;
and in sinking the foundations, we found great quantities of gold, silver, and
other valuables, and a Mexican who obtained part of the same ground, discovered
more treasure, about which there was a law-suit in support of his Majesty’s
right, the result of which I am ignorant of. The account was also confirmed by Guatimotzin
who was then alive, and who said that the transaction was recorded in their ancient
historical paintings. The church which now stands here is called St. Jago el Taltelulco. This temple I
have before observed, was surrounded by courts as
large as the
spilt on those occasions. The furniture was like that of a butcher’s stall, and I never gave this accursed building any name except that of hell. Having passed this, we saw great piles of wood, and a reservoir of water, supplied by a pipe from the great aqueduct; and crossing a court, we came to another temple, wherein were the tombs of the Mexican nobility; it was begrimed with soot and blood. Next to this was another, full of skeletons, and piles of bones, each kept apart, but regularly arranged. In each temple were idols, and each had also its particular priests, who wore long vestments of black, somewhat between the dress of the dominicans and our canons; their long hair was clotted together, and their ears lacerated in honor of their gods.
At a certain
distance from the buildings of which I have last spoken were others, the idols
of which were, as they laid, the advocates, or superintendent deities of human
marriages, and all round the great court were many houses, which were not very
lofty, and wherein resided the priests, and others who had charge of the idols.
Here was also a great reservoir of water, supplied with pipes, exclusively for the
service of the two idols Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatepuca,
and hard by, a large building, where were a number of the young Mexican women,
who resided there as in a nunnery, until they were married. They worshipped two
female deities, who presided over marriages, and to them they offered
sacrifices, in order to obtain good husbands. I have been thus diffuse in my
description of this great temple, because it was the most considerable in that
city, amongst the many sumptuous buildings of that kind which it contained. The
with the examination of these scenes, so new to us, we retired to our quarters.
Cortes perceiving how adverse the king was to the conversion of his temple into a christian church, applied to one of the principal officers of his palace, for materials to construct a chapel and altar, within our quarters. His desire being made known to Montezuma, it was instantly complied with, and timber and workmen being provided, in three days we had it completed. Here we said mass every day; we had however to lament the total want of wine, for the holy sacrament, it having been all used in the illness of Cortes, the reverend father, and others, during the wars in Tlascala. However we were constant in our devotions, as well on account of our duty, as in order to impress a proper idea of our holy religion, on the minds of Montezuma and the natives. Being employed in looking out for a proper place to fix the holy cross, one of our carpenters observed an appearance on the wall, as if a door had been there, and lately closed up. When this was made known to Cortes, it was privately opened, and on entering the apartment, they found riches without end! The secret soon transpired, and we went, all of us, to view them. I was then a young man, and I thought that if all the treasures of the earth had been brought into one place, they could not have amounted to so much. It was agreed to close up the door again, and we determined to conceal the knowledge of it until the proper time should offer.
A council was now called, composed of Cortes as president, with four captains, and twelve soldiers whereof I was one, and having duly considered how evidently the Lord guided us, and what wise and valiant captains and brave soldiers we had, as also the fickle disposition of the Indians, who though now kind to us, might change, there was no laying how soon, and that notwithstanding the hospitality with which Montezuma treated us, he might at any moment fall into an opposite line of conduct, we resolved to follow the opinion of Cortes, by adopting the most effectual measure, which was, to seize, and make that
monarch our prisoner; as we could not know at what moment we might be perhaps poisoned in our food, and as no gift of his, nor all his father’s treasure, could make compensation to us for the alarms, and distressing thoughts, which filled the minds of those of any reflection. For these reasons it was therefore agreed to adopt the measure without delay. The captains who were present proposed, that Montezuma should be induced by a plausible pretext to come into our quarters, and when there, to seize him, and if he resisted, to make his person answer it: and they urged, that of the two great dangers, this was much the least. It was then observed by some of our soldiers, that Montezuma’s officers did not provide us so plentifully as at the first, and two of our Tlascalan allies had told our interpreter; Aguilar, in confidence, that they observed a bad disposition, on the part of the Mexicans towards us, for the two last days. This debate lasted a full hour; at length it was agreed to adjourn until the next day, and in the mean time we insulted our reverend father of the order of mercy, praying to God to guide us in this difficulty. On the day after this debate, arrived two Indians of Tlascala very secretly, with letters from Villa Mica, whereby we were informed, that Juan de Escalante had fallen, together with six soldiers, in a battle with the Mexicans,* and that the inhabitants of the mountains and of Cempoal were in commotion; and refused to supply provisions, or to work, so that the garrison knew not what to do. These letters added, that the opinion of the Indians were much altered since they found that the Spaniards could be killed like other men. God knows this intelligence afflicted us; it was the first defeat that we had experienced since we landed on that continent; and here let the reflecting reader ponder upon the changes which fate makes in the affairs of men. We who yesterday were honored by Montezuma, in possession of wealth, and considered invulnerable like demigods, to day found ourselves lowered in the consideration of the natives to a level with them in whose power we were. We now
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therefore saw in a stronger point of view than ever, how necessary it was for our very existence to seize Montezuma, and that if we failed, we might as well perish in the attempt as meet our certain fate in any other way. But before I go farther I will give an account of the misfortune which befel Juan de Escalante.
already related, that in a town named Quiabuistlan, about thirty chiefs of the neighbouring districts had voluntarily come under our
government. A Mexican garrison, it appears, attempted to levy contributions
upon some of these people. When this was represented to Escalante the
commandant in Villa Rica, he sent word to the officers of Montezuma to desist,
threatening them in case they did not, but at the same time expressing his
wishes to be on friendly terms, with them. To this an abrupt reply was
returned, that he should find them in the field. Escalante was a man who had
blood in his eye, and on receiving this answer he immediately prepared forty of
his own, people, and two thousand of his allies, and put himself in march against the Mexicans, whom he met out upon a pillaging
expedition, and attacked. Our allies who were always afraid of the Mexicans,
fled at the first shower of arrows, and left the poor Spaniards to get out of
the business as well as they could. With great difficulty they arrived at
The Mexican captains reported the affair to Montezuma, and presented him with the head of the Spanish soldier, who died of his
wounds, as they were bringing him prisoner. It is said that Montezuma trembled when he beheld it, and ordered it to be sent elsewhere. He asked his captains why, being so numerous, they had not conquered such a handful of men; they replied, that the reason was, because they beheld a supernatural being, who encouraged the Spaniards, and struck terror into their people; and this Montezuma believed could be no other than the holy Virgin Mary, with her son in her arms, as we had explained to him that she was our patroness. This I cannot testify to, not having been there myself, but some of those who were there assured me of the truth of it, and it was the universal belief amongst us. Would to God that it were so! Certain however it is, that the divine mercy was with us throughout, for which praised be God!
been decided that we should seize the person of the king; we passed the whole
of the preceding night in praying to our Lord, that he would be pleased to
guide us so that what we were about to do would redound to his holy service,
and in the morning* we proceeded to arrange the manner in which our
determination was to be carried into effect. Our cavalry and infantry were as
usual in readiness to turn but if called upon, and as it was always our custom
to go fully armed, the appearance in that manner gave no suspicion. Cortes
having left our whole force in readiness, proceeded to
the palace; attended by the captains, P. de Alvarado, Gonzalo de Sandoval, J.
V. de Leon, Fra. de Lugo,
and A. de Avila, with the interpreters Donna Marina and Aguilar; sending before
him to acquaint the king, that he was on his way to pay him a visit. This he
did in order to prevent any effect arising from an unexpected appearance. The
king concluded that it was on account of the affair of
* Eight days after the arrival of the Spaniards in
general, and we who attended him, having entered into the presence of Montezuma, after paying him his respects, he addressed the king through his interpreters, saying, he was astonished that a monarch who was so brave, and who had shewn himself so friendly to us, should have given orders to his troops in Tuzapan to attack the Spaniards, kill one of them, and his horse, and pillage and destroy our allies. Cortes wished to conceal the death of Escalante and the six others. He then charged the king with the treacherous attempt against us in Cholula, which he said he had hitherto been deterred from speaking of, by motives of esteem and regard; but that now, in addition to these provocations, his officers were plotting our immediate destruction, and he concluded by saying, that, in order to prevent the ruin of the city, it was necessary that his Majesty should, peaceably, and without making any opposition or remonstrance, immediately go with us to our quarters, where he should be treated with the greatest respect; but that if he said one word, or gave the least alarm, the five captains then present would instantly put him to death. On hearing this Montezuma was at first so terrified that he appeared to have lost all sensation. Having recovered himself a little, he denied his having ever given any order to his troops to attack our countrymen, and taking from his wrist the signet of Huitzilopochtli with which he was used to confirm any order of great importance, he caused the officer of whom complaint had been made, to be sent for. He then replied to the proposal of leaving his palace, and summoning up his dignity said, that he was not the person to be forced to take such a step, contrary to his inclination. The conversation was prolonged, Cortes giving him good reasons for what he proposed, and the king replying to him with better, insomuch that above half an hour had now elapsed. The captains who were standing by began at last to grow very impatient, and J. V. de Leon cried out to Cortes in his rough voice, “Why Sir do you waste so many words? Let him yield himself our prisoner, or we will this instant plunge our swords into his body. Tell him this, and also, that if he says a word, he dies for it. Better for us to allure our lives now, or perish at once.” The manner in which this was spoken struck the king, and he
asked Donna Marina the meaning of it. She with her usual readiness answered by requesting that he would immediately consent to what was proposed to him, and go where he should meet all respect and honor, as she perceived that if he hesitated, they were resolved to put him to instant death. He then addressed Cortes and said, “I have a legitimate son, and two legitimate daughters; take them as hostages for me, but do not expose me as a prisoner to my own people.” Cortes however replied saying nothing but what was originally proposed could do, and that remonstrances were unavailing. At length he was forced to consent, upon which our captains addressed him with every declaration of esteem and respect, earnestly desiring that he would not be offended at what had passed, and that he would tell his officers and guards that he went by his own free will, and by the advice of his gods and priests. His magnificent mate litters were now brought, and attended by his usual guards he proceeded to our quarters, where our posts and centinels being duly placed, he was received and entertained with every mark of respect. He was soon waited on by the princes of his family and the chief nobility of Mexico, who came to know the cause of the step that he had taken, and also if it was his wish that they should attack us; but he replied, that it was his intention to stay with us for a few days, and that whatever further commands he had for them, he would signify in due time; but charged them to do nothing to disturb the city.
Thus was the seizure of the great Montezuma effected. He was attended while with us in the same manner as in his own palace, his wives, family, and officers, were with him, and he bathed every day: he appeared calm and resigned, and had always in his presence twenty counsellors or chiefs. Ambassadors came to him on affairs of importance from distant countries, either to deliver tribute, or with business which he dispatched. I recollect that however great the prince or chief might be, before he entered the king’s presence he took of his rich dress, and put on a plain one of the coarse manufacture of nequen, and in this habit, and barefooted, approached the royal apartments,
which he entered, not directly, but making a circuit by the wall: and having come, with his eyes cast down upon the ground, into the presence of the king, he made three profound bows, and addressed him, calling him, “Lord, my lord, great lord.” He then displayed before him a cloth, whereon was painted and represented the business on which he came, the particulars of which he pointed out to him with little rods, or wands, delicately wrought and polished. During this time two old lords stood by the king, and as soon as they had attentively considered all the particulars, they gave their opinions upon it to Montezuma, who dispatched the affair with a few words. The person who had brought it, then, without making any reply, withdrew from the king’s presence, making three profound bows, and keeping his face towards the throne till out of sight; and as soon as he was out of the royal apartments, he put on his rich dress, and walked about the city.
The messengers, who, as it has been mentioned, were dispatched
with the royal signet, to arrest and bring to
As to the officers, Cortes sentenced them to be burnt alive in front
of the palace of their king; this was immediately proceeded upon, and
during the time of its taking place, and in order to prevent any impediment
occurring, he also ordered that Montezuma should be put in irons. When this was
doing, the unfortunate king could no longer suppress his emotions at the
indignity, but wept aloud. In this situation he remained until the execution
was over, at which time Cortes, attended by his five captains, went to his
apartment, and with his own hands freed him from the irons, alluring him that
he was dearer to him than even a brother, and that he trusted loon to be able
to make his dominions exceed double their present extent; and also, that if he
wished to go to his palace, he was at perfect liberty to do so. Montezuma’s
spirit was now broke, and the tears ran down his cheeks while Cortes was
speaking he declined the offer with thanks, knowing well the emptiness of his
words, and added, that he considered it most prudent to remain where he was, in
order to prevent disturbance and insurrection in the city. What we understood
and certainly was the case, was, that Cortes had
caused the interpreters to say that though he was inclined to release him, the
other officers never would allow it. As soon as Montezuma had given his answer,
Cortes threw his arms round his neck, and protested that he loved him as
himself. The king then asked of him his page Orteguilla,
a youth who had already learned the language, and Cortes immediately complied
with his request, whereby Orteguilla afterwards
remained about the person of the king, a circumstance very useful both to him
and to us. Montezuma was very partial to the youth, from whom he was constantly
used to enquire particulars relative to
The officers of Montezuma who were publicly executed as I have
related, were four in number.† Their names were Quetzalpopoca, who was the principal, Coatl,
Quiabuitle, and another whom I have forgotten, nor is
it of much importance. As soon as this chastisement was known through the
different provinces of
now thought it necessary to appoint a commandant at Villa Rica. For this
purpose he chose Alonzo de Grado, an indifferent
soldier, but a person of good understanding, who spoke well, and was of a
handsome appearance; he was also a musician, and an excellent penman. He was
always in opposition to Cortes relative to our advance to
† They were seventeen in all: Quetzalpopoca lord of Nauhtlan, his son, and fifteen other noblemen.
when he gave him the appointment good-humouredly said to him, “Now Senior de Grado, go and possess your wishes; you are commandant of Villa Rica, and see that you fortify it well; and mind I charge you on no account to go out and fight the wicked Indians, nor let them kill you as they did Juan de Escalante.” This Cortes said ironically, knowing the condition of the man, and that all the world could not have got him to put his nose out of the town. We who were listening to this, and perceived his drift, could hardly forbear laughing aloud. He then gave him his instructions to behave kindly to his Indian neighbours, and not permit them to be robbed or oppressed: he also desired him to cause the smiths who were in that settlement to make two large chains, out of the old iron of the ships, and send them to him immediately, and to lose no time in proceeding with the construction of the wooden fort. When De Grado arrived at his government, he affected to carry on business with a lofty demeanour, and sent to the neighbouring Indians who were at peace with us, requiring them to give him gold, and female slaves; paying no attention whatever to the fortifications, but passing his time in feasting and play. What was worse, he combined with the adherents of Velasquez, offering to put him in possession of the post he was entrusted with. These things being soon communicated to Cortes, he repented of his imprudent step in appointing to such a place a man whole bad disposition he well knew: he also foresaw that Velasquez must boner or later find out that he had lent agents to Old Castille, and would probably send a force against us. For these reasons it was necessary that he should have a person of confidence in the command at Villa Rica; he therefore sent Sandoval, who was now alguazil mayor, with whom went Pedro de Ircio already mentioned, who gained the confidence of Sandoval, a goodnatured man, by diverting him with anecdotes of the families of the Count de Urena, and Don Pedro Giron, in which he had served. De Ircio by these means gained his favor so completely, that he never ceased promoting him, till he had got him the rank of captain: instead of which promotion, for the licenses he gave his tongue, and for which Sandoval at times reprehended him, he deserved
to have been well punished. Sandoval on his arrival at Villa Rica
immediately arrested De Grado and sent him prisoner
Cortes, regularly every day after mass, went to wait on Montezuma, attended by all his officers, and asked him what he would be pleased to order that they could execute; to which the king used to answer, thanking him, that he found himself perfectly to his satisfaction. Thus, from one subject to another they usually fell into discourse about our holy faith, and the power of our emperor. At other times, Montezuma and Cortes used to play at a certain game which they call Totoloque, in which they take aim with golden balls at certain objects made also of gold. I remember once in particular, when Cortes and Alvarado were playing against Montezuma and his nephew, Montezuma jocularly said that he would not allow Tonatiu, meaning Alvarado, so called on account of his handsome person, that word meaning the sun, to mark, expressing himself in such a manner as to imply, that Alvarado did not say that which was true; at which we all burst out laughing, because Alvarado was a little addicted to exaggeration. When Cortes gained, he gave his winnings to those about Montezuma, and when the king gained he did the same to our soldiers of the guard. Indeed he never let a day pass, without making presents of some kind
to all of us, but more particularly to Velasquez de Leon who was the captain of his guard, and always paid him great attention. One night a soldier named Truxillo, was guilty of a certain piece of disrespect within his hearing, at which Montezuma was highly offended, and enquired of the page who the person was. The page told him that he was a man of low birth, who knew no better. He then proceeded to tell him of our different ranks and qualities, about which he was very curious. On the next day he ordered Truxillo to be brought into his presence, and after having reproved him, he made him a present worth about five crowns. The words of Montezuma made less impression on the soldier than his gold, and on the next night the fellow was guilty of the same piece of impoliteness, in order to get more. Of this Montezuma complained to Velasquez, who ordered the man to be relieved, and severely reprimanded him. Another soldier one night complained that he was ill, cursing this dog of an Indian, meaning Montezuma, who gave them so much trouble. This being overheard by the king, who discovered what he had said, he complained thereof to Cortes, by whose command the man was immediately whipped, notwithstanding he was a very good soldier; his name was Pedro Lopez. After this example strict discipline and silence were kept by the guard, to the great satisfaction of the king, who was very kind to us, knew us all, and spoke to us by our names. I was at this time a stripling, and always behaved to him with great respect; his page had told him that I had been twice upon his coasts before the arrival of Cortes, and I had desired the page to mention to him, that instead of gold or mantles, he would oblige by giving me a handsome Indian girl. This request he graciously complied with, calling me to him and saying, “Bernal Diaz del Castillo, the young woman I present to you is the daughter of one of my principal nobility; treat her well, and her friends will give you gold and mantles, as much as you can desire.” I kissed his Majesty’s hand, thanking him for his favors, and praying God to prosper him; to which Montezuma replied saying, “It seems to me that Del Castillo is of noble condition.” Wherewith he ordered me three plates of gold, and two loads of mantles.
I will now relate some more particulars of his course of life. In the morning, having paid his devotions, he eat a slight breakfast, not of meats but vegetables, such as agi or pepper, and then remained a full hour hearing business, in the manner I have already described. The number of judges or counsellors who attended upon him at those times amounted to twenty. His numerous mistresses he used to marry to his officers and particular friends; some of them fell to our lot; mine was called Donna Francisca; a lady of high birth, as she shewed by her manners. Thus sometimes amusing himself, and sometimes meditating on his situation, the great Montezuma passed the days of his confinement amongst us.
The materials being arrived, Cortes requested that the king would give him permission to construct two vessels, for the purpose of amusing himself upon the water, and also that he would order his carpenters to assist. The oak timber was only at the distance of about four leagues, and Montezuma having given his content, the work went on so expeditiously, by the number of Indian carpenters, and was so ably conducted by our principal builder Martin Lopez, that in a very short space of time, they were built, launched, and rigged, with an awning over each.
Montezuma at this time requested permission from Cortes to pay his devotions, and perform sacrifices, in order that his friends and subjects might see that he lived among us by the order of his gods, and own choice. Cortes returned for answer, that in so doing, it was his business to beware how he did any thing whereby to lose his life; for that he would send a guard of officers and soldiers with him, giving them strict orders to kill him instantly in case there appeared any thing like a commotion. With this caution he gave him his permission to visit his temple. It was also at the same time signified to him, that no human sacrifice would be permitted; to which Montezuma having agreed, he set out in his usual pomp, and accompanied by four of our captains, Velasquez do Leon, Alvarado, Avila, and De Lugo, with a
hundred and fifty soldiers. Our reverend father of the order of mercy alto attended for the purpose of preventing human sacrifice. Montezuma on his arrival near the temple came out of his litter, and was supported up to it as usual, being met by a number of priests. They had on the preceding night sacrificed four Indians, nor could all our endeavours prevent that inhuman practice, which we were for the present obliged to connive at, searing to do any thing which would cause an insurrection. After Montezuma had staid a short time at his devotions he came down from the temple, and returned to our quarters in great good humour, making presents to all of us who attended him upon the occasion.
The vessels were now afloat upon the lake, fully equipped, and manned with expert sailors, and they obeyed both sail and oar, so as to answer our utmost expedition. When Montezuma was informed of it, he requested Cortes to permit him to go hunting in a certain district, which was prohibited to all others on pain of death. Cortes assented, warning him that his life paid the forfeit of any attempt at a rescue, and he offered him the use of his ships to go there, which Montezuma was greatly pleased with, and accepted.
swiftest sailing vessel conveyed the king and his suite,
the other was occupied by his son and a number of the nobility. They were
attended also by a vast number of boats, great and small. Cortes ordered out a
party composed of Velasquez de Leon, Alvarado, De Oli,
The wind blew very fresh, our sailors took delight in exhibiting their skill, and the ships seemed to fly across the lake, leaving the vessels of the natives far behind. Montezuma being arrived where he was to hunt, landed for that purpose, and as the place abounded with game,
he had soon killed a great quantity of various kinds, such as deer, hares,
and rabbits. After having amused himself for some time in this manner, he
returned on board the vessel, and set sail for
Cacamatzin the king’s nephew, and prince of the city of Tezcuco, the largest next to Mexico in the empire, having
received information that the king had been now many days kept prisoner by the
Spaniards, and that they had also opened the treasury of his ancestors, in
order to secure it by a timely effort, convoked his vassals, and also the neighbouring princes. Amongst them was the lord of Matalcingo, a great warrior, and near relation of
Montezuma, who was said to have pretension to the throne. These princes and
chiefs he summoned, in order to induce them to assemble their forces, and fall
upon us in a body. When they were met in consultation upon
this proposition, the prince whom I before mentioned to have had pretensions to
the throne, made the support of them the condition of his entering into the
confederacy. Cacamatzin then brought forward a
similar claim, declaring that he would go through the business with his own
force, for which purpose he made arrangements with his friends in the city of
such steps being taken, and communicated to Cortes the
information which he had received. The transaction was already in a certain
degree known to us, but not to the full extent. Cortes in consequence thereof
proposed to take with him a body of Mexicans to attack and destroy the city of
He had at
this time a brother in
monarch, and no better than a hen, for not having attacked us as
he advised him at the pass of Chalco. That for his
part he was determined to avenge the wrongs that had been committed by us upon
Montezuma and the country, and that if in so doing the throne of
the chiefs who heard these declarations had scruples upon the subject,
objecting to go to war without the orders of their sovereign. This filled the
prince with rage, especially when they proposed to send to him for his
instructions; he caused three of them to be taken prisoners, and the others who
were present intimidated thereby, declared their determination to support him.
He then sent a message to Montezuma, representing the disgrace in which he was fallen, by connecting himself with wizards and magicians,
and that he would come and put us all to death. Montezuma was highly offended
at this, and taking off his seal, he entrusted it to the care of six of his
captains, commanding them to go and shew it to
certain persons whom he named, as knowing they were not on terms of friendship
with the prince, and to signify to them his orders, that they should seize Cacamatzin and send him into his presence. Accordingly they
entered where the prince was, discoursing with some of his chiefs, relative to
his expedition, and having secured him, together with five others, embarking
them in a piragua, they brought them to
tinued still paying our court to Montezuma, in the manner so great and generous a prince deserved, never sitting down, not even Cortes himself, in his presence, until the king commanded it. The conversation frequently turned upon our holy religion, and the truths thereof seemed to be every day making more impression upon the king’s mind.
Cortes now entered again upon the subject of Montezuma’s acknowledging the sovereignty of our Emperor, to which Montezuma replied, that he would summon the princes his vassals, which he accordingly did, and nearly the whole of them attended within the space of ten days. Among the few who absented themselves was that relation of Montezuma’s already spoken of, as of extraordinary prowess in war, who returned for answer, that he would neither come, or pay any more tribute. The king was incensed at this, and sent officers to apprehend him, but without success. The princes being assembled and the little page present, Montezuma reminded them of the ancient prophecies, whereby they were told that from those parts where the sun rises, men were to come to rule the country, and that with their arrival should cease the empire of the Mexicans. The king added, that for his part he believed we were the people spoken of; that he had sacrificed to his gods, requesting in vain an answer from them, but they referred him to the former ones, and commanded him to ask no more, whereby he concluded their will to be that obedience should be yielded to the king of Castille, to whom these strangers were vassals. “I now,” continued he, “beseech you to give them some token of submission; they require it of me, let no one refuse. For eighteen years that I have reigned, I have been a kind monarch to you, you have been faithful subjects to me; since my gods will have it so, indulge me by this one instance of obedience.” The princes, with many sighs and tears, promised Montezuma, who was still more affected than them, that they would do whatever he desired. He then sent a message to Cortes, telling him, that on the ensuing day, he and his princes would tender their allegiance to his Majesty our Emperor. This they accordingly did at the time appointed, in the presence of all
our officers, and many of our soldiers, not one of whom could refrain from weeping, in beholding the agitation and distress of the great and generous Montezuma.
and his captains being in the presence of Montezuma, conversing about
indifferent subjects, the general took an opportunity to ask some questions
relative to the gold mines. Montezuma told him that the richest were in the
province of Zacatula, and he gave an account of the
manner in which the gold was obtained, which was, by washing the earth, the
small grains of metal sinking to the bottom. He also informed Cortes that they
obtained it in two rivers in the
who returned was Gonzalo de Umbria. He brought with him gold to the value of
three hundred crowns, and reported that the mines would be very valuable, if
they were as expert at the business there, as in St. Domingo or
about a hundred crowns value, offering to become his Majesty’s
subjects. The having ascertained the situation of the mines was matter of great
satisfaction to Cortes.
Diego de Ordas reported that he had passed through very populous districts, and had been universally well received; that he had met with bodies of the troops of Montezuma on the frontiers, of whose outrages the inhabitants made heavy complaints, for which De Ordas severely reprehended the military chiefs, threatening them with the punishment of the lord of Nauhtlan. Proceeding towards the river he was hospitably received, by the caciques and inhabitants of the neighbouring country. On sounding the mouth of the river they found three fathom water at low-tide, in the shallowest part, and within the bar, water sufficient for large ships, it still deepening as they went higher up. He also found a place fit for a naval establishment, where the natives came to him, and offered themselves as vassals to his Majesty, complaining bitterly of Montezuma and his officers; they also pointed out to our people the place, where, in a late action they had killed many of his troops, and which they had in consequence named “Cuilonemequi,” that is to say the place of the slaughter of the Mexicans, giving them a most opprobrious epithet. He further represented the soil of the country as fit for cattle and tillage, and the port as well situated for trade with Cuba, St. Domingo, and Jamaica, but disadvantageous in regard to its distance from Mexico, and the Morasses in its neighbourhood. Pizarro mourned from Tustepeque with gold in grains to the value of a thousand crowns. He related how he ascended into the mountains inhabited by the Chinantecans, who sallied out under arms, and refused to suffer the Mexicans to come among them, vowing that they would kill them all if they attempted it; but our people were admitted willingly, and they there obtained gold in its native hate with a rough surface. Pizarro
brought with him certain of the chiefs of the country, who wished to renounce the Mexican yoke, and become subjects of his Majesty. These Cortes received most kindly, and dismissed to their homes with a promise of support and protection. He then enquired for the other soldiers; to which Pizarro replied that the country being rich, and the people well inclined to us, he had left them to make a plantation of cocoa and to collect stock and birds; as also for the purpose of exploring the rivers and mines. Cortes said nothing at the time, but severely reprimanded him in private, for going beyond his orders, and employing the soldiers in such ridiculous pursuits. He also immediately sent off a messenger, with orders to them to return to their head quarters.
now demanded of Montezuma a general contribution of gold to be made through the
whole extent of his territories, to our, emperor, and also that the king should
deliver to us his treasure for the same purpose. Montezuma immediately sent
officers to those districts where the mines were, requiring a quantity of
plates of gold, of the usual size paid in tribute, two of these being sent as a
standard. He at this time however remarked to Cortes, that from many of his
districts gold was not to be expected in any considerable quantity, the people
only possessing such toys as had been transmitted to them from their ancestors.
Much gold was immediately transmitted from the rich provinces, but when the
order was received by the refractory lord who was nearly related to Montezuma,
the answer, which he returned was, that he would pay no tribute, for that he
had as good a right to the throne of
and endeavoured to make a friend of him, offering him his liberty, which however Montezuma would not accede to, but destined he should be put in chains as the others had been.
In twenty days from the time of the orders being issued, the tribute was collected. The king then summoned Cortes, with the captains and soldiers who usually formed his guard, and addressed us saying, “Know, that I am indebted to your great king, and esteem him, for having sent an embassy to me from such a distance, and also because I am convinced that according to what we have heard from our ancestors, he is to rule us; a prophecy which is confirmed by the declarations of our gods. Take this gold, which is all that could be collected on so short a notice, and also the treasure which I derive from my ancestors, and which I know you have seen; send it to your monarch, and let it be recorded in your annals, that this was the tribute of his vassal Montezuma. I will give you for your emperor some most valuable jewels named calchihuis, each of which is worth two loads of gold; I will also send three tubes used for shooting darts or pellets, so richly adorned with jewels that he will be pleased to see them, and this which I now give is the last of the treasure which has remained with me.” We all took off our helmets, and returned thanks to the great Montezuma for his liberality and munificence, which Cortes promised that he would represent in the strongest terms to his Majesty.
After some more conversation, Montezuma commanded his officers to deliver to us the treasure which was in the concealed apartment. This was accordingly done, and we were for the space of three days constantly employed in taking it to pieces, from the various manners in which it was worked up; in this we were also assisted by the royal goldsmiths from Escapuzalco. When thus separated, the articles of gold were formed in three heaps, weighing upwards of six hundred thousand crowns, exclusive of the various other valuables, the gold in plates and bars, and the metal in its rough state from the mines. The
goldsmiths melted down the metal which was in the heaps, and ran it into bars of the breadth of three fingers. When this was done, another present was received from Montezuma, so rich that it was worthy of admiration, exclusive of the jewels called calchihuis, the ornamented tubes covered with jewels and pearls, the beautiful embroideries of pearls and feathers, and the penaches, and plumage, a recital whereof would be endless. The bars of gold were stamped with the imperial arms by the approbation of us all, and as to the rich ornaments, it, was judged belt that they should not be taken to pieces. We also caused weights to be made of iron for the purpose of ascertaining the quantity of gold in the bars. They were not perfectly exact, but perhaps an ounce more or less, being arrobas, half arrobas, and down to four ounces. The officers of his Majesty valued the gold, altogether, and exclusive of silver and ornaments, at hundred thousand crowns; but some said that it amounted to more. Nothing farther was then thought necessary, than to deduct his Majesty’s fifth, and distribute the shares to the officers and soldiers; Cortes however proposed that the division should be postponed until more treasure was brought in, and more exact weights made, but the soldiers were clamorous for an immediate division, for they perceived that since the various articles had been taken to pieces, above a third part was already gone; for Cortes, the captains, and others, were conveying it off and concealing it. At length it was determined to weigh it, and to postpone the division until the ensuing day. It was accordingly so done, and exclusive of the ornaments and plates of gold, it was found to amount to upwards of six hundred thousand crowns. I will now relate how it was divided, and how the most of it remained with Cortes and certain others.
In the partition of the treasure Cortes first laid aside his Majesty’s fifth; secondly, for himself, another fifth; thirdly, a portion of the gold to reimburse the expenses in the Island of Cuba, and also for the naval expenditure incurred by Velasquez, and the destruction of the ships; fourthly, for the expenses of our agents in Spain; fifthly, for our soldiers in Villa Rica; sixthly, for the loss of killed horses; se-
venthly, for the reverend father and the captains; eighthly, double shares for the cavalry, musketeers, and crossbow-men. Thus by the time all these drafts were made, what remained for each soldier was hardly worth stooping for!! Many refused to take their shares, and the whole, nearly, remained with Cortes. We were obliged to be silent, for to whom could we appeal for justice? Some at length took their shares at a hundred crowns, and then cried out for more; these men’s mouths Cortes stopped, giving privately a little to one, and a little to another, with promises in abundance on condition that they kept themselves quiet. That which was allotted to the soldiers in Villa Rica went no better, as shall be related in its place, and such was the result of the division of Montezuma’s treasure.
captains got chains of gold made for them by the king’s workmen; Cortes had
also similar works executed for him, together with a service of plate. Many of
our soldiers who had lined their pockets well did the same, and deep gaming
went on, day and night, with cards made out of the heads of drums; and thus we
passed our time in
Quitting for the present the subject of Montezuma’s gold, badly divided, and worse employed, I will relate what happened to a poor fellow, one Cardenas a pilot and a native of Triana. He had a wife and children, and like many others of us little or nothing to give them. When he perceived that all this immense treasure of Montezuma’s had dwindled into a share of a hundred crowns, and that he, after all his battles, had nothing to expect in future but hard blows, it made such an impression on him, and he expressed himself so loudly, that it could not but come to the ears of Cortes. Accordingly when he heard all that, and much more, which had been said, he called us together, and in a long set speech gave us a great many honied words, which he had an extraordinary facility of doing, wondering how we could be so solicitous about a little paltry gold, when the whole country would soon be ours, with all its rich mines, wherewith there was enough to make
us great lords and princes and I know not what. To the more loud he gave some small presents, and to
men are avaricious, as with most the desire of acquiring increases with what
they possess, and as it was well known that a great quantity of valuable pieces
of gold was taken out of the treasury, suspicion naturally fell on several.
Juan Velasquez de Leon had then some large, chains of gold, and trinkets and
ornaments of that metal, in the hands of the king’s workmen, and the treasurer Mexia knowing of it, and also how he had procured the gold,
laid claim to them; but De Leon resisted, saying it had been given him by
Cortes, before it was ran into bars; to which the treasurer replied, that
Cortes had concealed enough, and taken enough from his soldiers already;
without giving him so great a quantity. The quarrel rose so high between them,
being both valiant men, that they drew their swords,
and before they could be parted each had received two wounds. Cortes on hearing
it ordered them to be put in arrest, and in chains; this he did to keep up
appearances, having privately spoken to De Leon who was his particular friend,
and desired him to submit quietly; and the other he released in consideration
of his office as treasurer. Velasquez was a strong man, and used to walk much
backwards and forwards in the apartment where he was confined. Montezuma
hearing the rattling of his chains, enquired who it was; and being told, he
interceded with Cortes for him, on the first opportunity. Cortes laughing
replied that Velasquez was a mad fellow, who if he did not keep him confined,
would go up and down the country robbing his majesty’s subjects of their gold.
The good king said, if it was only on that account he was detained, he would
.supply his wants, and begged that he might be released. Cortes affected to
make a favor of it, but at length agreed, declaring that he
world banish him from head quarters. Accordingly he went as far as
The king at this time made a proposal of marriage to Cortes, offering him one of the princesses his daughters. This offer Cortes received as it merited, and suggested the propriety of her being previously initiated into the mysteries of our holy religion, by being baptized; to which the king who was on all occasions compliant, immediately assented. He however continued as attached as ever to his worship and sacrifices, which put Cortes and his captains to a dilemma; but it was thought most consistent with their duties as christians to incur the danger of insurrection, and destroy the idols of the Mexicans, in order to plant the true cross in their place, or if that was found impossible, we resolved to content ourselves for the present with making a chapel for the christian worship in the temple. Seven officers and soldiers attended Cortes, when he waited on Montezuma to signify to him our resolution. When it was made known to him, and he saw the violence with which the measure was determined to be carried into effect, he earnestly begged permission to consult his priests, and Cortes appearing touched with his situation, made signs to the officers and soldiers to retire, and leave the king with him and the reverend father. He then told him, that in order to accommodate the matter more to his satisfaction, he would endeavour to prevail with his officers, for the present to offer no violence to the idols, provided a part of the great temple was appropriated to the purpose of a chapel, and an altar and crucifix allowed to be placed there; which being once done, his Majesty would in a short time be convinced of the errors and falsehood of his worship. To this Montezuma with much agitation, and the appearance of deep sorrow, heavily consented; and in consequence, an altar and crucifix being erected, mass was solemnly said, and a person was appointed to take care of the chapel.
The time of our stay in this city was one series of alarms, sufficient in themselves to have destroyed the lives of those who were not supported by the divine interposition. It appeared, that in consequence of our late measure, and the representations of the priests acting upon the prejudices of the people, our dangers were now thickening on us.
gods threatened to leave them unless we were put to death, for having violated
their temple, and it was the determination to obey their will. This resolution
was communicated to Montezuma by his priests, and all his chief warriors, who,
added to their religious subject of come plaint, every other which they could
collect, relative to our conduct find we arrived in
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to appease his gods, provided it were not by human sacrifices.
immediately proceeded to execute his determination of building the three ships,
contrary to what is related by Gomara, who says that
the whole was a feint, in order to lull Montezuma and his subjects. But on the
contrary, Martin Lopez, the principal carpenter who is now living, has assured
me that he really, and in good earnest, did set about the work, and that the
vessels were actually on the stocks. During this time we remained very pensive
and sad, in the city of
meaning to boast I may say of myself, that my armour
was to me as easy as the softest down, and such is my custom, that when I now
go the rounds of my district, I never take a bed with me unless I happen indeed
to be attended by strange cavaliers, in which case I do it only in order to
avoid the appearance of poverty, or penuriousness,
but by my faith, even when I have one I always throw my self on it in my
clothes, such it is to be a true soldier! another
peculiarity I have is, that I cannot sleep through the night, but always awaken
and get up in order to contemplate the heavens and stars, and thus I amuse
myself, walking backwards and forwards, as I used to do when on guard, for a
good space of time, without hat or cap; and glory be to God, I never yet caught
cold, nor was a jot the worse for it. And this the
reader must pardon me for mentioning, it not being from vanity, but that I wish
him to know what kind of men we, the true bred soldiers, and real conquerors of