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Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/77

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CONQUEST OF MEXICO. 55 and assured me that their visit was for no other purpose^ I then caused one of them to be taken aside without the knowledge of the others, and retiring with him and the interpreters, I endeavored to compel him by threats to disclose the truth. He then confessed that Sintengal, [Xicotencatl] who was the Captain General of this Pro- vince, had taken a position behind the hills that were in front of the camp, with a numerous force, for the purpose of attacking us that night ; as they said that they had already tried an attack by day without any good effect, and they now desired to make the attempt by night, when their people would not have occasion to fear our horses, guns, or swords,; that he had accordingly sent them to observe our camp and the means of access to it, and how they could best destroy the huts of straw. Afterwards I took aside another of the Indians, and made similar inquiries, when he confessed almost in the same words as the other ; and I did the same with five or six others, all of whom confirmed the former state- ments. Seeing this, I ordered the fifty to be seized, and their hands to be cut off, and sent them back to their leader with this message : that both by night and day, and whenever he might come, they would see what we were- I then fortified my tent according to the best of my power, and placed my men within the works in the best manner possible, and thus was on my guard until sunset. As soon as it was dark the enemy began to de- scend through two valleys, thinking that they would come upon us unawares, and surround us, in order to execute their purpose, not knowing that I was so well informed of their movements. It seemed to me that to suffer them to reach the camp might be attended with danger, because at night they would be less intimidated