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The next day the boy and his parents were sent for to come to the palace. They obeyed with wonder and dread, and the boy was filled with terror on seeing the king and recognizing him as the man with whom he had talked so freely. But the goodnatured monarch bade him not to fear, and thanked him for the lesson he had given his king, praising his respect for the laws and commending his parents for bringing up their son so wisely. He dismissed them with liberal presents, and afterwards gave orders that any one might gather fallen wood in the forest, if they did not interfere with the standing timber.
Another adventure was with a poor woodman and his wife. The man, as he stood in the marketplace with his little store, complained bitterly of his lot, as compared with that of those who lived idly amid luxuries in the palace. The wife bade him be careful, as he might be overheard in his complaints. The king, looking down on the market from a latticed window, and amusing himself with the chatter of the market people, heard the words of the couple, and ordered them to be brought into his presence.
He asked the frightened pair what they had said, and was pleased to find that they answered him truly. Then he bade them reflect that if he had great wealth, he had great demands upon it; that he who had a nation to govern could not lead an idle life ; and told them to be more cautious in future, as walls had ears.' He then dismissed them, after giving them a quantity of cloth and a good supply
of cacao,—the coin of the country. "Go," he said ;
with the little you now have, you will be rich ; while, with all my riches, I shall still be poor."
Of all the stories told of this famous monarch, there is only one not to his credit, and of this we may speak in passing, as it bears a remarkable rememblance to that told in the Bible of David and Uriah. He fell in love with a beautiful maiden, who was betrothed to an old lord of his kingdom, and to obtain her hand he bade the old man take command of a warlike expedition against the Tlascalans. Two chiefs were bidden to keep near him and bring him into the thick of the fight, that he might lose his life, which the king said he had forfeited by a great crime. The old man suspected what was meant, and said so in a farewell entertainment to his friends. He was correct in his prophecy ; like Uriah, he soon fell in battle, and the royal lover's path was clear.
The king now secretly offered his hand and heart to the maiden, who was by no means inconsolable for the loss of her old lover, and willingly accepted. To prevent any suspicion of what he had done, he had the maiden brought to his villa to witness some ceremony there. Standing on a balcony of the palace, the king pretended to be struck with her beauty, and asked, "Who is the lovely young woman, yonder in the garden ?' Some of those present soon learned her name and rank, which was that of a princess of the royal house of Mexico. She was asked to enter the palace and receive the attention due to her station, and the king was not long in publicly declaring his love. The marriage soon after took place, in the presence of his brother monarchs of Mexico and Tlacopan, and with great pomp and ceremony.
Such was the one blot in the history of this famous monarch. Aside from this act of treachery, it is remarkable to find so great and high-minded a monarch in the early annals of the nations of Mexico, and one whose history is so full of romantic adventure.
THE FAMOUS RETREAT OF COR
TEZ AND THE SPANIARDS.
THERE is no chapter in all history more crowded with interesting and romantic events than the story of the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards under Cortez. And of all these records of desperate daring and wonderful success, the most extraordinary is the tale of the Noche Triste, the terrible nightretreat of the Spaniards from the Aztec capital. No one can read this story, and that of the remarkable victory of Otumba which followed it, without feeling that Cortez and his men were warriors worthy of the most warlike age. This oft-told story we shall here again relate.
In a preceding tale we described how Cortez set out from Cuba on his great expedition, with a few hundred soldiers and a small number of cannon, muskets, and horses. It may briefly be stated here that he sought to conquer a warlike and powerful nation with this insignificant force, less than a modern regiment. We might relate how he landed in Mexico; won, with the terror of his horses and guns and the valor of his men, victory in every battle; gained allies among the foes of the Aztecs; made his way into their capital; seized and held prisoner their emperor, Montezuma, and for a time seemed to be full master of the land. We might go on to tell how at length the Mexicans rose in fury, attacked the Spaniards with the courage of desperation, mortally wounded their own emperor, and at length brought the invaders into such terrible straits that they were forced to fight their way out of the city as their last hope of life.
To understand what followed, it must be stated that the city of Mexico lay, not in the open country, but on an island in the centre of a large lake, and that all the roads leading to it passed over narrow causeways of earth across this lake. Each of these causeways was broken at intervals by wide ditches, with bridges crossing them. But the Aztecs had removed these bridges, and thus added immensely to the difficulty of the night-march which the desperate Spaniards were obliged to make.
It was at midnight on the 1st of July, 1520, that Cortez and his men threw open the gates of the palace fortress in which they had long defended themselves against the furious assaults of thousands of daring foes. The night was dark and cloudy, and a drizzling rain was falling. Not an enemy was to be seen, and as they made their way with as little noise as possible along the great street of Tlacopan, all was hushed in silence. Hope rose in their hearts. The tramp of the horses and the rumble of the guns and baggage-wagons passed unheard, and they reached the head of the causeway without waking a sleeping Aztec warrior.
Here was the first break in the causeway, and they had brought with them a bridge to lay across