CONQUEST OF MEXICO. 81 young man of about twenty-fiv6 years of age, to whom all showed particular marks of respect ; and after he had alighted from a litter in which he came, the others began to remove stones out of his path, and to clear up the ground before him.* As soon as they arrived they an- nounced that they had come on the part of Muteczuma, their liege lord, who had sent them to accompany me, and begged that I would pardon him for not coming him- self to receive me, which he was unable to do on account of indisposition ; but that the city was now near at hand, and as I was still determined to visit it, he would receive us there, when I should learn his willingness to do homage to your Highness. But, nevertheless, he entreated that if it was possible, I would not go to the city, for I should meet with much trouble and want, and he would be ashamed not to be able to provide for me there in the manner he wished. The envoys also earnestly insisted on the same thing, and were extremely importunate ; at the same time assuring me that they would protect us on the route if I persisted in proceeding. I made them a courteous reply, and calmed their anxiety by the mildest language in my power, giving them to under- stand that my visit would not be attended with injury, but advantage to Muteczuma. And thus they took their leave, after I had made them presents of some things that I had brought with me. I soon followed them, being accompanied by many persons who appeared to be of great consideration, as I afterwards learned was the case. As I was pursuing the road that led along the shore of the great lake, at the distance of a league from the place of our departure, I discovered upon the surface
- At the present day the Indians preserve the custom of removing stones from
the road when preceding any person of elevated rank, as I have noticed when going into the country attended by them — L.