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Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/342

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320 LETTERS OF CORTES* which is in the centre of the square, made of stone and mortar, about fifteen feet in height and thirty paces from angle to angle. This structure is intended to be used at their festivals and sports, so that the actors on those oc- casions being placed upon it may be easily seen by all the people in the market-place, both above and below the arcades. When the machine was brought there, a delay of several days took place in adapting it to its situation, during which time our Indian allies threatened the inhabitants that by means of it we should destroy them all. Had no other effect been produced by this engine but to alarm the people, which we hoped would have led to a surrender, it would have been sufficient ; but no such result flowed from it, for neither the carpen- ters completed their design, nor were the enemy, although they feared it, induced to make any proposals of sub- mission, and we concealed from them the defects of the machine by pretending that out of compassion towards them we forbore to use it for their destruction. The day after depositing the battering engine in the market-place, on entering the city, as three or four days had elapsed since the cessation of hostilities, we found the streets through which we passed filled with women, children, and other wretched objects, dying of hunger, and wandering about with distressed and haggard looks, presenting the most melancholy spectacle in the world ; and 1 ordered our allies to do them no harm. But none of the warriors made their appearance where it was possible for them to receive any injury, though we saw them on the terraces, covered with the mantles they are accustomed to wear, and without arms. I sent them this day proposals of peace, but their answers were de- ceptive ; and as they had wasted the greater part of the