And so the months went on, till at length spies came in with the tidings that the Spaniards were advancing in numbers, and with them countless hosts of allies.
Now I would have sent Otomie to seek safety among her own people, but she laughed me to scorn, and said:
’Where you are, there I will be, husband. What, shall it be suffered that you face death, perhaps to find him, when I am not at your side to die with you? If that is the fashion of white women, I leave it to them, beloved, and here with you I stay.’
THE FALL OF TENOCTITLAN
Now shortly after Christmas, having marched from the coast with a great array of Spaniards, for many had joined his banner from over sea, and tens of thousands of native allies, Cortes took up his head quarters at Tezcuco in the valley of Mexico. This town is situated near the borders of the lake, at a distance of several leagues from Tenoctitlan, and being on the edge of the territory of the Tlascalans his allies, it was most suitable to Cortes as a base of action. And then began one of the most terrible wars that the world has seen. For eight months it raged, and when it ceased at length, Tenoctitlan, and with it many other beautiful and populous towns, were blackened ruins, the most of the Aztecs were dead by sword and famine, and their nation was crushed for ever. Of all the details of this war I do not purpose to write, for were I to do so, there would be no end to this book, and I have my own tale to tell. These, therefore, I leave to the maker of histories. Let it be enough to say that the plan of Cortes was to destroy all her vassal and allied cities and peoples before he grappled with Mexico, queen of the valley, and this he set himself to do with a skill, a valour, and a straightness of purpose, such as have scarcely been shown by a general since the days of Caesar.
Iztapalapan was the first to fall, and here ten thousand men, women, and children were put to the sword or burned alive. Then came the turn of the others; one by one Cortes reduced the cities till the whole girdle of them was in his hand, and Tenoctitlan alone remained untouched. Many indeed surrendered, for the nations of Anahuac being of various blood were but as a bundle of reeds and not as a tree. Thus when the power of Spain cut the band of empire that bound them together, they fell this way and that, having no unity. So it came about that as the power of Guatemoc weakened that of Cortes increased, for he garnered these loosened reeds into his basket. And, indeed, now that the people saw that Mexico had met her match, many an ancient hate and smouldering rivalry broke into flame, and they fell upon her and tore her, like half-tamed wolves upon their master when his scourge is broken. It was this that brought about the fall of Anahuac. Had she remained true to herself, had she forgotten her feuds and jealousies and stood against the Spaniards as one man, then Tenoctitlan would never have fallen, and Cortes with every Teule in his company had been stretched upon the stone of sacrifice.