Page:Romance of History, Mexico.djvu/111

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A KINGDOM DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF

master a handsome Venetian glass cup, some Holland shirts, and a few worthless trinkets.

All thoughts of discipline were lost as the adventurers crowded to the general's tent to gaze on the treasure which they had seen borne through the camp by the long train of Aztec slaves. Roused to a frenzy of greed and daring the bolder spirits cried, "Let us strike inland at once and seize this treasure-house!" With others caution prevailed. "How civilised, how powerful must be this rich empire whose subjects are so skilled," they said soberly; "it will be madness to attempt the conquest with our small force. Let us return and report what we have seen to Velasquez."

Difficulties now gathered round the general, dissensions broke out among his followers, and the secret friends of Velasquez began to show their hand. Cortes had never intended to be a cat's-paw for the Governor of Cuba, nor even to share with him the rewards of this expedition. He realised that until he was independent he could not really cope with the situation, so he determined to found a crown colony and cause himself to be elected commandant, answerable to the king of Spain alone.

After ten days the Aztec envoys returned with more gifts, but curter and briefer was their message. Montezuma forbade the strangers to advance farther, and requested them to leave his shores without delay. "This is a rich and powerful prince indeed," said Cortés to his officers, "yet it shall go hard, but we will one day pay him a visit in his capital!" At this moment the vesper bell rang out and the Spanish

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