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to offer him what assistance he might need, in order to continue his voyage. Cortes, struck with the appearance of those people as well as the tenor of the message, assured them that he a proached their country with the most friendly sentiments, and came to propose matters of great importance to the welfare of their prince and his kingdom, which he would unfold more fully in person to the governor and general. Next morning he landed his troops, his horses and artillery. The natives, instead of opposing the entrance of these fatal guests into their country, assisted them in all their operations with an alacrity of which they had soon reason to repent.
When the Mexican ministers entered the Spanish camp, Cortes received them with 1519. much formal ceremony, assuring them that his business with the monarch was of so high importance, that he could impart it to none but the sovereign himself. This they knew would be extremely disagreeable to Montezuma: in hopes therefore of being able to dissuade the Spaniards from their purpose, they brought a great quantity of cotton cloth, plumes of various colours, and ornaments of gold and silver to a considerable value. The display of these produced a very different effect from what the Mexicans intended. Cortes insisted upon a personal interview with their sovereign, which they endeavoured by every means in their power to prevent. During this interview, some painters in the train of the Mexican chiefs had been diligently employed in delineating, upon white cotton cloths, figures of the ships, horses, artillery, soldiers, and whatever else attracted their eyes as singular. As soon as Cortes knew that these pictures were to be sent to Montezuma, he resolved to render the representation
presentation more animated and interesting, by exhibiting such a spectacle as might give both them and their monarch an awful impression of the prowess of his followers, and the irresistible force of their arms. The trumpets sounded, the troops formed in order of battle, the artillery, pointed towards the thick woods which surrounded the camp, were fired, and made dreadful havock among the trees. The Mexicans looked on with silent amazement; but at the explosion of the cannon many of them fled, some fell to the ground, and all were so confounded at the sight of men whose power so nearly resembled that of the gods, that Cortes found it difficult to compose and re-animate them.
Messengers were immediately dispatched to Montezuma with the pictures, and a full account of every thing that had passed since the arrival of the Spaniards, and with presents from Cortes. Though the capital in which Montezuma resided was 180 miles from St. Juan de Ulua, the news was carried and an answer received in a few days. Another negotiation was set on foot, which was commenced by introducing a hundred Indians. loaded with presents, sent to him by Montezuma. The magnificence of those far exceeded any idea which the Spaniards had hitherto formed of his wealth. They were spread on mats, and exhibited to the greatest advantage. Cortes and his officers viewed with admiration the various manufactures of the country, cotton stuffs so fine and of a texture so delicate as to resemble silk, pictures of animals, trees, and other natural objects, formed with feathers of different colours, disposed and mingled with such skill and elegance as to rival the works of the pencil in truth and beauty of
imitation: but what chiefly attracted their admiration were two large plates of a circular form, one of massive gold, representing the sun, the other of silver, an emblem of the moon. These were accompanied with bracelets, collars, rings, and other trinkets of gold; and, that nothing might be wanting that could give the Spaniards a complete idea of what the country afforded, with some boxes filled with pearls, precious stones, and grains of gold wrought, or as they had been found in the mines or rivers. Cortes received all these with an appearance of profound veneration for the monarch by whom they were bestowed; but wher he was informed that it was Montezuma's intention that foreign troops should not approach nearer to his capital, he declared, in a resolute and peremptory tone, that he could not, without dishonour, return to his own country until he was admitted into the presence of the prince whom he was appointed to visit in the name of his sovereign.
We cannot enter into a detail of all the minute circumstances which attended the negotiation. By consummate address Cortes made himself absolute and independent of the governor of Cuba: he then alienated from Montezuma several of the petty states, with their caziques; others he fought, conquered, and attached to himself by force of arms. By degrees he marched up the country, and with the addition of the nativès he found himself at the head of a large army consisting of several thousand persons.
When they drew near the city, about a thousand persons, who appeared to be of distinction, came forth to meet them, adorned with plumes, and clad in mantles of fine cotton. Each of these, in his order, passed by Cortes, and saluted him in the
most respectful manner. They announced the approach of Montezuma himself, and soon after the harbingers came in sight. There appeared first two hundred persons in an uniform dress, marching two and two, in deep silence, barefooted, with their eyes fixed to the ground. These were followed by a company of higher rank in their most showy apparel, in the midst of whom was Montezuma, in a litter richly ornamented with gold, and feathers of various colours. Four of his principal favourites carried him on their shoulders, others supported a canopy of curious workmanship over his head. Before him marched three officers with rods of gold in their hands, which they lifted up on high at certain intervals; and at that signal all the people bowed their heads and hid their faces, as unworthy to look on so great a monarch. When he drew near, Cortes dismounted, advancing towards him with officious haste, and in a respectful posture. At the same time Montezuma alighted from his chair, and, leaning on the arms of two of his near relations, approached with a slow and stately pace, his attendants covering the street with cotton cloths, that he might not touch the ground. Cortes accosted him with profound reverence, after the European fashion. He returned the salutation, according to the mode of his country, by touching the earth with his hand and then kissing it. Nothing material passed in this first interview. Montezuma conducted Cortes to the quarters that he had prepared for his reception, and took leave of him, saying, "You are now with your brothers in your own house; refresh yourselves after your fatigue, and be happy until I return." The first care of Cortes was to take precautions for his security, by planting the artillery
so as to command the different avenues which led to the place allotted for their reception, by appointing a large division of his troops to be always on guard, and by posting sentinels at proper stations, with injunctions to observe the same vigilant discipline as if they were within sight of an enemy's camp.
In the evening Montezuma returned to visit his guests, and brought presents of such value as proved the liberality of the monarch to be suitable to the opulence of his kingdom. A long conference ensued, in which Montezuma told him that it was an established tradition among the Mexicans, that their ancestors came originally from a remote region, and conquered the provinces now subject to his dominion; that after they were settled there, the great captain who conducted this colony returned to his own country, promising that at some future period his descendants should visit them, assume the government, and reform their constitution and laws; that from what he had heard and seen of Cortes and his followers, he was convinced that they were the very persons whose appearance the Mexican traditions and prophecies taught them to expect; and accordingly he had received them not as strangers, but as relations of the same blood and parentage, and desired that they might consider themselves as masters in his dominions, as both he and his subjects should be ready to comply with their will. Cortes made a reply in his usual style, and the next day he and some of his principal attendants were admitted again to an audience of the emperor. The three subsequent days were employed in viewing the city, the appearance of which, so far superior in the order of its buildings and the number of its inhabitants to