146 LETTERS OF CORTES. was the chief seat of the empire, to which all the rest yielded obedience — I therefore forthwith despatched messengers to the officers I had sent away with parties of men, informing them what I had heard from the capi- tal, and directing that wherever they might be, they should turn about at once, and make their way back by the shortest possible route to Tlascaltecal, where I would join them with all the artillery in my power and with seventy horse ; and when they had arrived, on reviewing my force, I found it consisted of seventy horse and five hundred foot. With these troops I departed in the great- est haste for the capital ; on the whole route, not a single person owing allegiance to Muteczuma came out to re- ceive me, as was the case on former occasions ; the en- tire country seeming to have lost its population on ac- count of some disaster. My suspicions were excited by this appearance of things ; I feared that our country- men who were left in the city had all been murdered, and that the people of the country had assembled in one mass, waiting to attack me in some narrow pass, where they might have the advantage of me. Under these apprehensions I proceeded with great precaution until I reached the city of Tesnacan, [Tes- cuco,] which, as I have already informed your Majesty, lies on the coast of that great lake. Here I inquired of some of the people concerning the Spaniards who were left in the capital, and I learned that they were alive. I then bade them bring me a canoe, as I wished to despatch one of my men to ascertain the truth, and that in the mean while, during his absence, they should leave with me one of their citizens who appeared to exercise some autho- rity, as the principal men of the place whom I had seen on former occasions had all disappeared. This person
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