Open main menu

Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/341

This page needs to be proofread.


CONQUEST OF MEXICO. 319 had been killed, and of the Tlascallan Indians, our allies, between whom and the Mexicans a very old and deadly feud existed. From that tower I surveyed the portions of the city that had fallen into our hands, comprising without doubt seven eighths of the whole ; and seeing that it was not possible for so many people to subsist in such a narrow space, especially as the houses that re- mained to them were small, and every one placed by it- self on the water ; and above all, considering the great famine that prevailed amongst them of which the half- eaten roots and bark of trees that we found in the streets afforded ample proof; I determined to discontinue hos- tilities for some days, and to offer some conditions by which so great a multitude might be saved from destruc- tion ; and as it certainly occasioned me much sorrow and regret to continue to harass them, I constantly urged them to make terms of peace. But they declared that they would not by any means accept them, and that the only thing left for them was to die with arms in their hands ; that we should have nothing of all they possessed, but they would burn and sink in the water every thing they had, whence it should never reappear. Thereupon, not being disposed to render evil for evil, I dissembled my feelings by forbearing to attack them. As we had but little powder left, we had been plan- ning for more than fifteen days the construction of a battering engine ; and though I had no mechanics who knew how to make one, some carpenters undertook to construct a small machine, which I had no idea we should be able to use. In the course of a few days, during which we held the Indians in straitened quarters, we completed it, and brought it to be placed in the square of the market, on a building resembling a theatre,