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Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/42

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24 INTRODUCTION. league above, where the water was only two or three feet deep. They also discovered a thicket of trees under shelter of which they could approach very near the town without being seen. Cortes on obtaining this information immediately directed two officers, Alonzo de Avila and Pedro de Alvarado, with each 150 men, to occupy the woods the same night, in order to be in readiness, on hearing a signal, to attack the town on the land side in the morning. As soon as it was day, eight boats filled with armed men, more numerous than before, came to the island, bringing a very small quantity of provisions, saying that they could not fetch more, as the inhabitants had all fled from the town from fear ; and they therefore begged that the Spaniards would take this supply, and return to the sea, and not disturb the peace of the countiy. The interpreter answered that it was shameful to leave them to perish with hunger, and that they would soon repent it. They replied that they knew them not, and as they had a fright- ful appearance, they feared to admit them to their houses ; and if they wanted water, they could take it out of the river or dig wells, as they did when they wanted it. Cortes then said, that he could by no means depart without entering the town and seeing the country, for the purpose of giving an account of it to the greatest lord in the world, who had sent him there ; and that they might give him a favorable reception or not, as they pleased ; if not, he should commend himself to the power of God and his own strength. The Indians retorted, that he had better go away, and not boast in other people's country ; and that as to entering the town, they would never permit it, and if attempted, they would destroy them all. Cortes still per- sisted in his endeavor to obtain an amicable reception, but finding it all in vain, gave the signal for the attack on the land- side, and he himself at the head of 200 men approached in boats near the town wall, where he discharged his ordnance and then leaped into the water to the knees, and began the assault on the walls and bulwarks. The Indians fought with desperation, wounding several Spaniards with" their arrows and darts ; and although terrified at the strange noise of the ordnance, made a courageous resistance and fled not from the walls. But the