In the beautiful, terrible city Cortes moved alert and silent, courteous to all, every nerve as sensitive to new impressions as a leaf to the wind. He knew that strong as the priesthood of the fierce gods undoubtedly was, there was surely an undercurrent of rebellion against their cruelty and their unlimited power. In a fruitless attempt to keep the Spaniards out of the city by the aid of the gods, three hundred little children had been sacrificed. If Cortes failed to conquer, by peaceful means or otherwise, nothing was more certain than that he and all of his followers not killed in the fighting would be butchered on the top of those terrible pyramids sooner or later. Yet he looked about him and said, under his breath,
“This is the most beautiful city in the world.”
“And you think we shall win it for the Cross and the King?” asked Saavedra in the same quiet tone.
“We must win,” said Cortes, with a spark in his eyes like the flame in the heart of a black opal. “There is nothing else to do.”
In the spelling of the Aztec Emperor’s name Cortes’ own form is used,—“Moteczuma,” instead of the commoner “Montezuma.” One must read Prescott’s “Conquest of Mexico” for even an approximately adequate account of this extraordinary campaign.
the last and least,
Bidden to dance at his farewell feast,
Under the great moon’s wizard light,
Over the mountain’s drifted white,
The Winag’mesuk, the wood-folk small,
Came to the feasting the last of all!
Magic snowshoes they wore
Woven of frostwork and sunset light,
Round and trim like the Master’s own,—
Their lances of reed, with a point of bone,
Their oval shields of the woven grass,
Their leader the mighty Kaktugwaas.
The Winag’mesuk, the
They fled from the words that the white man spoke.
They were so tired, they were so small,
They hardly could find their way back at all,
Yet bravely they rallied with shield and lance
To dance for Klooskap their Snowshoe Dance!
Light and swift as the whirling
They leaped and fluttered aloft, alow.
Silent as owls in the white moonlight
They pounced and grappled in mimic fight.
When they chanted to Klooskap their last farewell
He laid on the forest a fairy spell.
From Little Thunder, from
He took the buckler of woven grass,
The lance of reed with a point of bone,
The rounded footgear like his own,
And bade them grow there under the pines
While the snowdrifts melt and the sunlight shines!