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Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/231

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CONQUEST OP MEXICO. ' 209 session of this palace, assembling all our people, I caused . it to be proclaimed, that " no one, under pain of death, should go out of the quarters assigned to us without ex- press permission from me." The building was so large that it would have accommodated us in the most con- venient manner, had the number of Spaniards been twice as great. I took this precaution in order that the in- habitants of the city might feel secure, and remain in their abodes ; for it seemed to me that we did not see a tenth part of the people usually found in the city, nor any women or children — which was a sure mark of a state of alarm and paitic. The day we entered that city, which was New-Year's eve, after having been employed in establishing ourselves in our quarters, notwithstanding we were somewhat sur- prised to see so few people, and those we did see so dull and stupid, we thought it was from fear that they did not show themselves about the streets of the city ; and with this reflection we were somewhat relieved from our apprehensions. Scarcely had the evening arrived, however, when certain Spaniards ascended several lofty terraces, from whence they could survey the whole city, and observed that all the inhabitants were leaving it, some taking with them their effects to embark in their canoes (which they call atcales) on the lake, and others climbing the mountains. I instantly ordered their de- parture to be stopped, but as it was already evening, and would soon be dark, and they made great haste in their movements, nothing was effected. The lord of the city, whom I desired to have in my hands as a pledge of our safety, fled with many of his nobles to the city of Temixtitan, which is six leagues distant by the way of the lake, and they took with them whatever they could