Page:Romance of History, Mexico.djvu/215

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THE DEATH OF MONTEZUMA

on the battling multitudes below as they gazed on the monarch they had so long revered.

For a moment Montezuma was speechless with emotion, then, in a tone of kingly dignity, he said: "Why are you here in arms against the palace of my fathers? Is it that you think your sovereign a prisoner? If so, you have acted rightly. But you are mistaken. The strangers are my guests. I remain with them only from choice, and can leave them when I list. Have you come to drive them from the city? They will depart of their own accord if you will open a way for them. Return to your homes, lay down your arms, and the white men shall go back to their own land, and all shall be well again within the walls of Tenochtitlan."

But when the people heard their emperor declare that the ruthless invaders of their city were his guests and friends, a frenzy of patriotic wrath swept through the multitude. "Base Aztec!" they cried, "coward! woman! fit only to weave and spin!" and, before the Spaniards could shield him, Montezuma was struck senseless to the ground by a shower of stones and arrows. A sudden horror at their own deed instantly smote the Aztecs, who scattered in every direction with groans of bitter mourning, leaving the great square silent and deserted. The emperor, restored to consciousness, lay speechless in his apartments, refusing steadfastly to eat, and when his attendants strove to heal his wounds he tore away the bandages. His one longing was for death.

The Aztec warriors soon rushed back to their posts, thirsting for vengeance. The great teocalli of

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