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Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/351

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CONQUEST OF MEXICO. 329 when I saw that this was his settled purpose, I told the noble messenger to return to his friends, and prepare for the renewal of the war, which I was resolved to continue until their destruction was complete. So he departed. More than five hours had been spent in these confe- rences, during which time many of the inhabitants were crowded together upon piles of the dead, some were on the water, and others were seen swimming about, or drowning in the part of the lake where the canoes were lying, which was of considerable extent. Indeed, so excessive were the sufferings of the people, that no one could imagine how they were able to sustain them ; and an immense multitude of men, women and children were compelled to seek refuge with us ; many of whom in their eagerness to reach us threw themselves into the water, and were drowned amongst the mass of dead bodies. It appeared that the number of persons who had perished, either from drinking salt water, from fa- mine or pestilence, amounted altogether to more than fifty thousand souls. In order to conceal their necessi- tous condition from our knowledge, the bodies of the dead were not thrown into the water, lest the brigantines should come in contact with them ; nor were they taken away from the places where they had died, lest we should see them about the city. But in those streets where they had perished, we found heaps of dead bodies so frequent that a person passing could not avoid stepping on them ; and when the people of the city flocked towards us, I caused Spaniards to be stationed through all the streets to prevent our allies from destroying the wretched per- sons who came out in such multitudes. I also charged the captains of our allies to forbid, by all means in their power, the slaughter of these fugitives ; yet all my pre-